SAN DIEGO (KGTV) - A $300 million 3rd baseman doesn’t automatically turn the Padres into a World Series contender, but it does buy a lot of Opening Day excitement at Petco Park.
The 2019 Major League Baseball season is underway, and for once, Padres fans have reason to hope for something better than a last place finish in the National League West.
Manny Machado’s arrival at the start of Spring Training, along with his 9-figure free agent deal (a North American sports record since eclipsed by Bryce Harper and the Phillies) marked a turning point for the San Diego Padres, an end of irrelevancy and the cornerstone of a potentially bright future.
Of course, it takes 9 to play baseball, and Machado cannot carry the entire franchise by himself. Eric Hosmer is back for his second season with the Padres, hoping to put up better offensive numbers than he did last year. Wil Myers also returns, along with catcher Austin Hedges, but much of the excitement at Petco Park is being generated by the team’s rookies.
Considered the top prospect in all of baseball by ESPN, 20-year old Fernando Tatis, Jr. is a potential superstar in the making, forcing his way onto the Opening Day roster thanks to his raw talent and baseball instincts.
On the mound, the story is a similar one for rookie pitcher Chris Paddack, who was too good in Spring Training to leave out of the starting rotation. Fellow rookie Nick Margevicius also makes the squad, despite never pitching above A ball in the minor leagues. They’ll be joined by second-year lefties Eric Lauer and Joey Lucchesi, as well as converted reliever Matt Strahm, another left-handed who also is coming off a stellar spring in Arizona.
Kirby Yates returns at closer to anchor a bullpen that was considered one of the best in baseball last season, loaded with flamethrowers touching 100 mph on the radar gun.
Could the Padres shock the world and make the playoffs? Most baseball experts don’t think so, predicting the team to finish somewhere around .500 for the season. Still, most are pegging the Padres as a team on the rise and one to keep a close eye on in 2019.