As soon as the MLB lockout was officially lifted, everybody breathed a collective sigh of relief. Then, massive signings started going down across the league. Yet, the San Diego Padres struck out time and time again on the big names, which is something general manager A.J. Preller isn’t used to.
On top of their lack of activity, star shortstop Fernando Tatis Jr. is set to miss a few months due to a fractured wrist, so the MLB offseason hasn’t been kind to the Padres. Nonetheless, there is a lot of hope in sunny Southern California, especially with the pitching rotation looking like one of the best in baseball.
If health permits, there is a chance that the starting five in San Diego could end the year as the most well-balanced group in the MLB.
Yu Darvish and Blake Snell are set to lead the Padres rotation in 2022
Last offseason, Preller and the Padres weren’t messing around. They traded for Yu Darvish and Blake Snell in a matter of days to load up the top portion of the rotation.
In 2022, those two are set to lead the way again in a talented five-man group. Darvish dazzled at the start of his Padres tenure but tripped down the stretch after the sticky substance rule was put into effect. Did that have an immediate correlation? Who knows, but it made some difference.
He finished the tear with a 4.22 ERA and an 8-11 record while striking out 199 batters. If Darvish can return to his early-season form, that will be music to the ears of Preller and company.
As for Snell, he was an interesting case in 2021. The former Tampa Bay Rays All-Star and Cy Young winner didn’t live up to his lofty expectations in his first season in California. But, he ended up finishing the year with a 7-6 record and a 4.20 ERA with 170 punchouts, and he has some of the best stuff in all of baseball.
The duo of Darvish-Snell is a tough two-day stretch for MLB teams, and if they can rekindle their All-Star form, the Padres will have a ton of success in 2022.
Joe Musgrove and Mike Clevinger are planted into the middle of the rotation for the Padres
Joe Musgrove was another offseason addition for Preller before the 2021 campaign, and he wasted no time making a name for himself.
The local San Diego County product dazzled in his first season for the Padres and made franchise history, recording the first-ever no-hitter at the beginning of April against the Texas Rangers.
That was just the start, and Musgrove exceeded his expectations in Year One. He finished with an 11-9 record and a 3.18 ERA. He struck out 203 batters and recorded just 54 walks on his way to a remarkable season. Musgrove could be the best No. 3 (or No. 4) starter in the entire MLB, and that speaks volumes to how dangerous these hurlers are for San Diego.
Then there comes Mike Clevinger. Did you forget he was on the Padres?
The former Cleveland Indians (now Guardians) sensation was traded to the Padres in 2020 at the MLB trade deadline. But, he missed the entire 2021 campaign after undergoing Tommy John surgery. Now, he is back, and the Padres can’t wait to see how that trade plays out for them finally.
Clevinger did get roughed up in his first game action in Spring Training, although that shouldn’t be surprising considering the long layoff.
In 2020, he made just four starts for the Padres, posting a 2.84 ERA and a 2-1 record but hurling a complete game shutout. His stuff is as filthy as it gets, and his nonstop twitching on the mound certainly disrupts the batters.
If Clevinger can return to his 2020 self, the rest of the MLB is in for a world of trouble. Just imagine a four-game series, and the four pitchers you face are Darvish, Snell, Musgrove, and Clevinger.
The fifth starter spot is up for grabs, but Nick Martinez might be running away with the job
This is where things get interesting for San Diego. To no surprise, the top four spots are locked up.
Despite that, that fifth spot is a toss-up, and in a good way. One of Ryan Weathers, Chris Paddack, Nick Martinez, and young phenom MacKenzie Gore could walk away with the spot.
Let’s start with Martinez, who last played baseball in Japan before signing a deal with the Padres. The veteran right-hander has wasted no time in Spring Training and seems to be in the lead for the job, at least for now.
Then, there are Weathers and Paddack. Both of these young hurlers have been on and off throughout their careers. Paddack shocked the MLB during his rookie year in 2019, going 9-7 with a 3.33 ERA and striking out 153 batters. Since then, he has combined to go just 11-12 and posted a 4.73 ERA in 2020 and a 5.07 clip in 2021.
Paddack seems better suited for a bullpen role, and he has been rumored as a potential trade piece, especially if the Padres end up landing Pittsburgh Pirates All-Star Bryan Reynolds. Still, when Paddack is dealing, he is one of the toughest outs.
Weathers is the same story, although his sample size is much smaller than Paddack’s. He made his first start in the MLB Playoffs in 2020 against the Los Angeles Dodgers due to injuries. Then, in 2021, he became a starter for the Padres. He finished the year with a 4-7 record and a 5.32 ERA, but keep in mind this was his first year in full MLB capacity and he has to face the Dodgers and San Francisco Giants repeatedly.
Weathers is also a trade candidate, but he could start the year off in the bullpen or as a sixth starter if San Diego decides to go that route.
At this point, Martinez looks to be the fifth starter for the Padres, although we haven’t even discussed Gore yet.
MacKenzie Gore is the wild card for the Padres
MacKenzie Gore is the biggest wild card of the group. The talented southpaw has been discussed with a world of hype ever since entering the Padres organization as the third overall selection in the 2017 MLB Draft.
He has yet to make it to the MLB level, although his time is right around the corner. He has some of the best stuff in all of baseball, and if his game can translate to the MLB level, the Padres are looking at a long, successful career from their prized prospect.
The Padres have repeatedly declined trade offers for Gore, and his tape shows precisely why they have done so. There is a path for him claiming the fifth spot in the rotation, and there is an argument for him as a sixth starter, which would alleviate some pressure on him and preserve the Padres rotation in 2022.
Nonetheless, Gore’s time is coming, and the league might be in for a world of trouble when it does.
Stats Courtesy of Baseball Reference