2020 was fun for Padres fans. 2021 is going to be better.
San Diego was already among the popular picks to win the World Series. Then they went out of their minds in the final week of the year.
According to Vegas oddsmakers the Padres were 12-1 shots to be champs on Christmas Day. That shot up to 7-1 on New Year’s Day, putting them behind only the Dodgers and Yankees as betting favorites.
That’s a bold move for a franchise that just won its first playoff series in 22 years but when a team has this much talent and juice the hype is warranted.
So, here’s a list of 10 predictions, some bold and some obvious, for the San Diego Padres in 2021.
(Note: all of these are based on MLB playing a full 162-game season):
10) Bebo Bops 40 Bombs
Let’s start off with some fairly simple stuff. In his first 143 big league games Fernando Tatis Jr. has hit 39 home runs. It seems like a foregone conclusion that he’ll reach the 40-dinger mark over a 162-game season. Why is that a big deal? Because in the 145-year history of Major League Baseball only three shortstops have hit 40 homers in a season: Alex Rodriguez, Ernie Banks, and Rico Petrocelli (don’t worry, I had to look him up, too, and he did it in 1969 for the Red Sox). El Nino is looking like a lock to join yet another exclusive club, one of many he’ll reach in his career.
9) A.J. Preller Will Not Be Quiet at the Trade Deadline
In about 36 hours the Padres added two frontline starting pitchers (Blake Snell and Yu Darvish), an experienced switch-hitting catcher (Victor Caratini), and a super-utility player from Korea (Ha-Seong Kim). They’re still going to bring in at least another pitcher or two and have a couple of spots on the bench to fill out (likely with Kirby Yates and/or Trevor Ronsenthal and Jurickson Profar). But if y’all think that means the Friars won’t be busy at the trade deadline, even if they’re sitting in 1st place in the National League West, you’re out of your minds. Preller is always tinkering with his organizational depth so he’s going to do something substantial close to the end of July.
8) The Padres Will Be Baseball’s United Nations
One of the cool things about the end-of-2020 binge was the Padres added players from four different countries. Soccer might be the world’s game but baseball is not that far behind. In fact, there will very likely be a time this season when the Friars have a starting lineup that looks like this:
Trent Grisham - CF
Fernando Tatis Jr. - SS
Manny Machado - 3B
Eric Hosmer - 1B
Wil Myers - RF
Ha-Seong Kim - LF
Jorge Ona - DH
Jake Cronenworth - 2B
Victor Caratini - C
Yu Darvish - P
What’s unique about that? It would feature players form six different countries in the 10 starting spots. Grisham, Machado, Hosmer, Myers, and Cronenworth are from the USA … Tatis Jr. is from the Dominican Republic … Kim hails from South Korea … Ona is Cuban … Caratini is from Puerto Rico … and Darvish is from Japan. Then bring in reliever Jose Castillo (Venezuela) and we have ourselves a true international ballclub, which is extremely neat.
7) San Diego Will Lead the League in Runs Scored
This is also not a big stretch, given the fact they were 3rd in the game in scoring in 2020. The addition of Kim and having an extremely motivated Tommy Pham available for a full season will provide more scoring punch. Plus, Grisham and Cronenworth just finished their first “full” big league seasons. I don’t foresee a drop off from either of them. A better starting eight plus a deeper bench means more runs on the board and the most exciting team in the game dugout dancing even more in 2021.
6) Blake Snell Will Throw the 1st No-Hitter in Padres History
I know, this is a strange one to choose here. Snell has started 108 big league games and not finished a single one of them. Tampa Bay borders on paranoia when it comes to work load and facing lineups more than twice. The Padres go with a looser approach. When he met the San Diego media Snell said he was looking forward to testing himself and seeing just how good he can be. That means he’ll be hungry to work deep into games. Couple that with his obvious no-hit stuff and it’s a recipe for Snell going into the Padres record books.
5) MacKenzie Gore Will be the National League Rookie of the Year
During 2020 we kept waiting and wondering when Gore, the top pitching prospect in baseball, would be called up from the alternate training site at USD. Luis Patino got promoted. Ryan Weathers got promoted. Gore never did. Turns out he was having some mechanical issues that got better towards the end of the season but not in time to earn his time in The Show. That is certainly going to change in 2021. Gore’s stuff is ridiculous and his minor league track record suggests he has ace-caliber ability. If (when) he wins the 5th starter job in Spring Training he’ll also be employing that stuff against a series of back-end of the rotation-types that will bulk up his traditional numbers and give him the NL ROY that Jake Cronenworth should have won in 2020.
4) Jayce Tingler Will Lead the League in Ejections
I absolutely love Jayce Tingler. He’s got a serious fire to him that resonates with one of the youngest clubs in baseball. He was tossed from two games in his rookie managerial season, including once in the playoffs. I think that’s going to be a growing trend for a guy who will fight for his players. Tingler will have to deal with Reds skipper David Bell, who’s led the league in early exits the last two seasons, but Tingler has the ability to take the mantle, especially if the club brings back Phillip Wellman for another season in some capacity. Wellman has been the Padres’ Double-A manager for a few years now and if anyone can teach Tingler the finer points of getting run from a game, it’s this guy:
3) At Least 3 Padres Will Record 10 Saves
Bullpen depth is not going to be an issue for this club. In fact, I’m not even sure which three (at least) guys it will be. If they bring back Yates and/or Rosenthal then at least one of them gets double-digit saves. Then you have guys who’ve been successful closers like Drew Pomeranz and Emilio Pagan, both of whom were used in 9th-inning duties a year ago. Also, I really like what I saw from Austin Adams. His slider is vicious and he’s got potential closer makeup. This season I see the Padres going with more matchup-based bullpen usage. Are you facing the Dodgers 2-3-4 hitters in the 8th inning of a close game? Yates gets the ball, leaving someone else to get the save. It’s going to be tough for Tingler to choose which power arm to use in which situation on any given night but that’s a nice problem to have.
2) Eric Hosmer, Manny Machado and Wil Myers Will Combine for 100 Home Runs
Remember 2011 when the entire San Diego roster hit 91 homers, led by Ryan Ludwick’s not-terribly-inspiring 11? That’s not going to be an issue a decade later. The owners of the three richest contracts the Padres have ever given out (pending Tatis Jr.’s extension, of course) had really good years in 2020. Myers remembered how good he really is. Hosmer learned what launch angle is. Machado had his fire re-lit by the kid next to him at short. In 2021 they’ll all be even better. Hosmer and Myers will both reach the 30-home run mark and Machado will bash 40, giving Bebo a run for the team lead in what will be the scariest lineup in the game.
1) The Padres Will Reach the World Series … But Not Win It
I know, the Dodgers aren’t going anywhere. But after eight years of winning divisions and not the whole thing they got their rings. Human nature usually dictates that means at least some kind of letdown and, given how close the Padres were to the Boys in Blue, that’s going to make the difference in who takes home the National League Pennant. However, much like the Dodgers had to go through a couple of World Series appearances to figure out how to win it, the Friars will experience the same growing pains, losing the Fall Classic to the Yankees. HOWEVER … that just fuels the fire even more and with Mike Clevinger back at full strength, San Diego will be planning a World Series victory parade down Harbor Blvd. in 2022. And 2023.
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