N.L. West Prediction: San Diego Padres

Are the Padres ready to take on the Dodgers? Hmmmm.

It’s hard to tell what the starters will look like in a non-pandemic year. Yu Darvish looked like he might be done a number of times over the last few years but he just keeps coming back for more. Last year, hitters could only muster a .211 average against and his ERA was a scant 2.01. After 2019, Joe Musgrove looked like a pretty good number five starter but then improved and had a 3.86 ERA in eight starts last year. That would put him in number three territory.

The big splash, of course, was the trade for Cy Young-winner Blake Snell. The Padres are banking that he will be the same pitcher who won 21 games and posted a 1.89 ERA in 2018. Adrian Morejon made the club, but he has only appeared in 15 games as a professional. The results are mixed. Sure, he has more strikeouts than innings-pitched but he’s also got a 1.5 walks and hits total per inning pitched. That’s abysmal. They also have Drew Pomeranz available as an emergency starter. Chris Paddack looked like a future star in 2019 when he had a 3.33 ERA in 28 starts, but he fell off significantly last year. As the old saying goes you’re never as good as your best and you’re never as bad as your worst. I can only guess he’s probably a number-four starter.

The pitching strength will more likely be in the bullpen. Mark Melancon, Emilio Pagan, Nabil Crismatt, Tim Hill and Ryan Weathers could all be really good… or they could all be gas on a fire. Or a mix of both.

In the batter’s box the team can flat rake, with Fernando Tatis Jr., Manny Machado, Eric Hosmer and Wil Myers. I really like Jake Cronenworth, their young shortstop. Granted, what he showed last year came in only 173 at bats but he looked solid. Like many teams the Padres are using that extra roster spot to try to get playing time to one of their minor leaguers who didn’t play last year. Catcher Luis Campusano hit really well in Advanced A ball. When did hitting .250 become the mark of a good hitting catcher? Victor Caratini had been the Chicago Cubs backup and gives them someone who get a hit every four at-bats. He’ll need to have his blocking skills in full effect with Snell and Darvish on the mound.

Simply put, reports of San Diego’s ascension to the top of the National League West are greatly exaggerated. Can they hit? Yep. Van they slump terribly? Is the pitching all that great? No. This team does not have the starting pitching even in a playoff series to go that far. They are still short at least one starter if not two (one if Dinelson Lamet returns to last year’s form) and there are offensive stars who have been prone to prolonged slumps in the past. Also of concern is Tatis’ left shoulder, which apparently has some kind of lingering injury (Editor’s note: On April 5, he was removed from a game after collapsing during an at-bat). Who’s going to pick up the slack? The outfield? Tommy Pham and Jurickson Profar are slated to be out there. Neither has ever really filled my sails, particularly. Will they win more than they lose? Maybe almost certainly… possibly. But will they come close to the Dodgers? No way in hell.

This looks like 78 wins with the team that’s on the field to start the season. With optimal results and everyone coming together, it could be significantly higher. That’s a lot of ifs though. Let’s peg them at 85 WINS.

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