The Padres revealed their pool of 60 players who will be eligible to take part in a Major League game in 2020. Well, they had a chance to pick 60 players. They only put 52 on it with a chance to expand as other teams make their players available.
Of course, since this is baseball, things get a lot more complicated than that.
In early July, 30 players will report to Petco Park as part of the big league training camp while the other 30 will go to an alternate training site, potentially their complex in Peoria, AZ, or The Diamond at their California League affiliate in Lake Elsinore.
The Friars will open the season with 30 players on their Major League club, most likely the same 30 that report to the East Village. The other 30 guys will be a sort of taxi squad of reserves that will basically take the place of the minor league system and can be brought up in case of injuries or positive COVID-19 tests. Three of those players will be allowed on every road trip to avoid the potential of having to put players on a commercial flight in the middle of a series.
The full list of eligible players looks like this:
Right-Handed Pitchers (18)
Left-Handed Pitchers (8)
Fernando Tatis Jr.
Robert Hassell III
We'll get to the construction of this roster in a moment because it is interesting. First, more clerical work.
After two weeks of the regular season the Padres will trim their roster to 28 players and two weeks after that they'll cut it again to 26, where it will stay for the rest of the season ... unless there's a scheduled doubleheader, which allows them to bring up a 27th active player. There are no limits on how many pitchers can be on the roster.
Obviously, health is the most important factor during this (and really any other) season. The Padres kept that in mind when they constructed their list but they didn't try to do too much tinkering based on the novelty of a 60-game season.
"Every team's probably a little different, honestly, in terms of how they're set up. You're still going to play to your strengths as a group and as a team," says Preller. "Depth will be important. Whether your starting pitchers are going to be able to go nine innings Day 1, probably not, so I think having multiple options will be important."
That's likely a reason San Diego has ?? pitchers in its pool, including ??. But Preller says the team didn't look as much as starters vs. relievers or infielders vs. outfielders so much as they wanted guys who can get their jobs done on a consistent basis.
"I think just quality performance always dictates if you're going to be successful or not," says Preller. "Whether that's starters, relievers, position players. You've just gotta get guys that are going to achieve and overachieve. I don't think anything really changes on that front."
One thing of note is something the Padres have never had to deal with as a National League team. This year everyone will have a designated hitter, a spot where the Friars have multiple options.
"We have some bats that we feel like can give guys more opportunity to compete and get more at-bats, have a regular place in the lineup," says Preller. "Also you can use the position guys on the field and give a day off for some of the guys that regularly play the field. We have some good options that are out there, guys like Josh Naylor or Ty France, some of the guys that have been competing for spots on the field and have been swinging the bat well."
They could also put stars like Manny Machado and Fernando Tatis, Jr. in the DH spot and keep their bats in the lineup while letting them take a break from playing defense.
As for the development of younger prospects, there is likely not going to be a full minor league season in 2020. If that's the case each team will have to figure out a way to get its farmhands time on the field but the Padres seem to be using their taxi squad as a way to get top prospects ready.
MacKenzie Gore, Taylor Trammell and Luis Patino are not surprising additions to the roster. Although none of them have played above Double-A they all performed well enough in Spring Training: Episode One that they will likely see MLB time this year.
The surprises are names like C.J. Abrams, Ryan Weathers, Joey Cantillo, Hudson Head and Robert Hassell III. None of those players have spent more than three games above the low-A Midwest League in Fort Wayne and all three of those games are appearances by the 20-year-old Cantillo.
Weathers and Abrams were the Padres 1st round picks in 2018 and 2019 out of high school and have never played above low-A. Hassell III was the Padres 1st round pick out of high school, like, a week ago and just signed his first professional contract five days ago. Head was the team's 3rd round pick in 2019. He's just 19 years old and has only played in the rookie Arizona League.
Their additions to the roster suggest one of three things:
- The Friars don't expect to contend in 2020 even with a short season and this is a way to get their youngest but most promising prospects some seriously advanced experience.
- The Padres do expect to contend in 2020 with the short season and are going to bet their main players can stay healthy enough over a shorter stretch to allow their youngsters to be around seasoned vets and accelerate their learning curves.
- They're getting ready to add other players with more of a veteran pedigree. Infielder Brian Dozier and outfielder Juan Lagares, two guys signed on minor league deals entering the first Spring Training, are not on the list but there's room to add them if they show they can be contributors.
Whatever the plan is, the Padres are going to have a very interesting few weeks in a couple of different places with some absurdly talented players trying to rebuild a franchise that hasn't had a winning record since 2010.