3. Continued Success of the Bullpen
Arguably the strong suit of the Padres last year, the bullpen was very impressive throughout the 2018 campaign.
Even after the departure of Brad Hand, young relievers continued to step up and get big outs in big situations. Kirby Yates and Craig Stammen are the established veterans, but youngsters Jose Castillo (until his recent injury) and Matt Strahm have promise. While Castillo will miss a chunk of the season with forearm tightness and Strahm potentially moving to the rotation, the Padres have a glut of young flamethrowers ready to fill in.
Gerardo Reyes and Trey Wingenter have thrown solid innings this spring, and Miguel Diaz figures to be an X-Factor type of player throughout the season. Toss in a possible Dinelson Lamet return to the bullpen later in the season, and the Padres could have one of the best relief corps in all of baseball. That continued success will be paramount should they scrape contention this year.
4. A Breakout Year From a Rookie/Young Player
We see this all the time with clubs that are on the verge of contending, and then a young star comes up and sets the world ablaze, pushing a fringe team into the thick of contention. We saw this last year with Ronald Acuña, Jr. on the Braves, a polarizing and dynamic talent who vaulted Atlanta to the NL East Division title.
The good news for the Padres is that they have no shortage of potential Rookie of the Year or breakout candidates. The obvious bets right now are Tatis Jr., Paddack, and Urias, but Francisco Mejia, Logan Allen, and Franchy Cordero all have the potential makings of superstars.
While many prospects go through the predicted bumps and bruises that come with a first major league stint, at least one of these kids is going to have to hit the ground running. With the Padres banking on prospects taking them deep into October in future seasons, there’s no time like the present for them to get their feet wet and see what they can do.
5. The Veterans Need to Play Like Veterans
Sure this one may be a bit obvious, but it’s definitely the case here. When the Padres inked Hosmer to an eight-year deal worth $144 million last year, they weren’t banking on him turning in one of the worst years of his career. He’s going to need to have a solid to above average year towards the top of the order if the Padres are going to contend.
On top of that, Manny Machado’s going to have to play like the superstar they paid him to be. As the new face of the franchise for the next half-decade (at least), he can’t afford to be mediocre. He has to anchor this lineup and produce.
As mentioned earlier, Wil Myers is going to have to start playing as he did in 2016, as well as his rookie form. While some argue that he may never find that form again, Myers is still just scratching the prime of his career, so there’s optimism that he can turn into a solid player as long as he stays healthy.