In this hypothetical look at the 2020 season for the San Diego Padres, our writer gives us a glimpse into his potential opening day starting lineup for that year. Keep in mind that this is just a fun prediction for the 2020 Friars and nothing more.
As much as the Padres faithful want things to happen immediately out of sheer gratification and repudiation of a team that has had failed promise after failed promise become commonplace over the years, the fan base itself must be patient. Patience is a virtue, they say, and in this case, a necessity. To be so close to the given goal and to lose faith, would be a very Padre thing to do, but not this time.
When the new ownership group took over the club in August of 2012, they vowed to run an organization that San Diego would be proud of and compete on a consistent basis. After getting settled in and hiring a new GM, A.J. Preller, in August of 2014, they set forth a plan to relevance as quickly as possible, which led to the dynamic moves in the winter of 2014-15. They were a part of the lexicon again of San Diego small talk and this new ownership group with their “Rock Star GM” was at the very least stirring the pot and waking the San Diego baseball scene up from their slumber.
20/20 hindsight makes every Monday morning quarterback sound like Bill Walsh, but the city of San Diego was finally talking about the Padres again in the winter of 2014-15. Things didn’t necessarily work out as planned, which is obvious, but even the downside of that failed “shock and awe” strategy helped set the foundation for the current and future rosters.
Let’s take a look at the next playoff squad in Friar history, the 2020 San Diego Padres.
After the 2019 squad made some moves and were able to break .500, the expectations of a winning culture culminated with the additions needed in the offseason.
It’s early April and the buzz at Petco is unrecognizable for many young Padres fans. This kind of buzz about this ball club hasn’t been felt since the beginning of the 1998 season, when a front-of-the-rotation mercenary was brought in by the name of Kevin Brown. The buzz in the air is something that national pundits have cautiously predicted over the last two years or so due to the highest-ranked farm system in the league for two years and growing payrolls to supplement that young talent.
Taking the mound on Opening Day is San Diego native Stephen Strasburg. After opting out of his contract in the offseason following his Cy Young-caliber season, he decides what better place to spend the rest of his career, than to play in the place his mentor, Tony Gwynn, built.
Surrounding him is a plethora of homegrown talent acquired over the last handful of years in all different ways. Following a bounce-back season in 2019, Eric Hosmer is back at first. Seeming to understand that on this roster, he needs to be a leader and not the star, Hosmer feels comfortable in his role and place in the lineup.
Around the horn, you see the playful nature of Luis Urias at second base, whose passion for the game is evident. Playing with his double-play partner for a full season this year, he looks to push for an NL batting title, which he barely missed in 2019. Speaking of that partner, Fernando Tatis Jr. is already laying claim as one of the most exciting players in San Diego Padre history. His amazing play at shortstop, his timely hitting, and majestic moon shots into the Western Metal Building make Tatis a clear cut fan favorite and the most exciting player the team has to offer. The team has not had a generational physical talent like this since Dave Winfield in the early 70’s. Everything he does looks so easy and smooth.
Hitting third in the lineup is the Padres’ new shiny toy, Nolan Arenado. Arenado himself put pen to paper and signed with the Pads in the offseason with two things on his mind. He wants to play on a team that can surround him with talent over the course of his contract and allows him to play in front of friends and family back in his roots of Southern California. Ownership looked at him as that last piece of the puzzle for this budding young group of talent – a hungry and fiery leader to light a spark under them and push them towards October. These large additions have in part been allowed to happen due to a couple of reasons, most notably the belief in the team from ownership, and the developed outfield, which includes three players who all took steps to solidify themselves last year and beyond, and most importantly, all still cost-controlled.
Starting from left to right, Hunter Renfroe, Franchy Cordero, and Franmil Reyes. After the 2018-19 offseason, when the team decided to move on from Wil Myers, it made a loud statement that performance keeps your roster spot, not your contract. All three young players took steps forward and with the current infield, help sport a dynamic and powerful lineup.
Catching Mr. Strasburg in this 2020 inaugural game would be Francisco Mejia, the 2019 NL Rookie of the Year. Mejia carries over his advanced bat with the organization’s belief that he could improve behind the plate even more than he showed in 2019. He looks out to the mound and sees his pitcher’s odd number, #91, a tribute to his college coach’s retired number, 19.
2020 will be a different year, an interesting year, a winning year.