SAN DIEGO (KGTV) — There's no denying it — Padres fan or not — 2021 is the most anticipated MLB season for San Diego in years.
Following a year in which the Friars made their first postseason since 2010 and advanced to the National League Division Series, San Diego is ready to see the team in action for a full season.
Thanks to several additions to the pitching staff and the return of MVP finalists Fernando Tatis Jr. and Manny Machado, the team has firmly planted itself as a contender among all MLB teams.
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Here are four fast facts why this season is one of the most exciting ever for San Diego fans. As Tatis Jr. said following last season: "We’re just getting started."
New pitchers on the block: General Manager A.J. Preller wasted no time making a splash this offseason, bringing big-name arms to the Friars to bolster a rotation that will be without Mike Clevinger this season. Last season's NL Cy Young runner-up Yu Darvish and 2018 AL Cy Young winner Blake Snell each came to town in trades with the Cubs and Rays. But it didn't stop there. A three-team trade also brought in Joe Musgrove from the Pirates and deals are reportedly on the table for free-agent relievers Keone Kela and Mark Melancon. The additions join a rotation already expecting to see Dinelson Lamet and Chris Paddock in the mix and a bullpen featuring several worthy arms with Emilio Pagán, Drew Pomeranz, and Dan Altavilla.
Fernando Tatis Jr.: The Padres have certainly signaled they believe in the impact Tatis Jr. will have in San Diego, reportedly inking a 14-year, $340 million contract with the young star. Off his MVP-run in 2020, he's expected to continue having a strong impact at the plate and in the field for the team. The team's star shortstop finished second in NL homers (17) and runs scored, and fourth in RBIs (45) and stolen bases (11). Tatis finished fourth in NL MVP voting behind teammate Machado. While injury interrupted his 2019 rookie year and pandemic shortened 2020, fans are excited to see one of the most electrifying faces of the game today get a crack at 2021.
Sluggers on deck: Speaking of Machado, the third baseman will help lead a bolstered lineup of Tatis Jr., first baseman Eric Hosmer (.287 avg. in 2020), NL Rookie of the Year runner-up Jake Cronenworth, Jurickson Profar (.278 avg. in 2020), and Wil Myers (.288 avg. in 2020). Preller being Preller, the team also signed South Korean slugger Ha-seong Kim, who batted .306 in South Korea last year. The team is looking to keep the hits coming after the season of "Slam Diego," in which the team batted a combined .257 avg. with 95 home runs and 312 RBIs on the way to their second place finish in the NL West and NL Division Series appearance.
Race for the West: The Padres have their sights set on taking the West this year, with Los Angeles being the only team in their path. Last season, the Dodgers bested the Padres in the NLDS in a three-game sweep. This year, several roster additions have signaled that San Diego is intent on passing LA this time around, with FanGraphs projecting the Pads to finish the regular season with 94 wins — just behind the Dodgers' 97 wins. Those statistics say San Diego has a 92.7% chance of making the playoffs, a 34.8% chance of winning the NL West, and an 11.6% chance of taking the World Series, the third-highest behind the Dodgers (19.9%) and New York Yankees (18.6%).