Padres built to withstand Machado's absence

June 22nd, 2022

This story was excerpted from AJ Cassavell’s Padres Beat newsletter. To read the full newsletter, click here. And subscribe to get it regularly in your inbox.

In March, when the Padres stared down life without one superstar from the left side of their infield, it felt like a particularly daunting proposition.

So now that they're facing life without both superstars on the left side of their infield, why is it that things don't feel quite as bleak?

At least that's my read on the situation. Make no mistake, the Padres will miss Manny Machado for as long as he's out. (It certainly helps that Machado appears to have avoided significant injury after he landed awkwardly on his left leg beyond the first-base bag on Sunday in Colorado.)

But even if Machado lands on the injured list -- and the team has yet to make a decision on that front -- the Padres have already proven they're a resilient group that can get by without Fernando Tatis Jr.

Here are four reasons to believe they can withstand the absence of Machado as well.

1. Jake Cronenworth and Luke Voit are heating up

In an ideal world, Machado and Tatis are the big bats in your lineup. From there, you put Cronenworth in front of them to set the table and Voit behind them to drive in runs. That's a potent offense.

But Cronenworth and Voit have proven they can be excellent hitters in their own right. Check out their numbers this month, entering play Tuesday:

Cronenworth: .377/.473/.662, 4 HRs, 22 RBIs

Voit: .271/.315/.588, 6 HRs, 21 RBIs

No player in baseball has driven in more runs in June than those two.

Said Cronenworth: "The biggest thing is hopefully getting Manny back as soon as possible. It's tough to be without [Machado or Tatis], but we've had guys who have stepped up in those roles."

2. We can expect more from C.J. Abrams

There's a reason Abrams is the Padres' top prospect and No. 6 in all of baseball, according to MLB Pipeline, even though he struggled in his first month in the big leagues. Abrams didn’t get much regular playing time, and he hadn't faced much pitching in the upper levels of the Minors beforehand.

Now Abrams has spent a month and a half in the Minors, where he batted .314 with an .871 OPS at Triple-A El Paso. He says that rocky first stint in the big leagues only helped him get better.

"It put things in perspective," said Abrams, who was recalled back to San Diego on Monday. "This is the big leagues, a lot of good pitching, they command well, and I kind of got myself out. ... It was a little bit of nerves, a little bit of everything. It was a learning experience."

In hindsight, Abrams says he was probably a bit over-eager at the plate during his first stint in the big leagues. He wanted to swing at everything (and he has the quick hands that are capable of hitting just about anything). But that led to too much weak contact. Said Abrams: “I’ve focused on hitting pitches that I can drive. Swinging at balls is probably the biggest thing, how I got myself out.”

3. The ultra-reliable rotation

Joe Musgrove is set to return Thursday from the COVID-19 IL. He's been the ace of this Padres staff and perhaps the best pitcher in baseball.

But even without Musgrove, the Padres boast an effective six-deep rotation. No group of starters in baseball has covered more innings than the Padres, and their 3.45 ERA ranks second in the National League entering play Tuesday night, behind only Los Angeles.

In short, the Padres can generally count on that night's starting pitcher to keep them in the game. From there, they've generally been able to find just enough offense to win games.

4. The Bob Melvin effect

Manager Bob Melvin is expected to return from COVID protocols at some point this week. But without Melvin in the clubhouse, the Padres feel the effects of his presence.

It was Melvin, after all, who addressed the team on the first day of Spring Training with a particularly calming message. When news broke that Tatis would be out for months with a fractured wrist, Melvin told his team that there would be no singular player who needed to step up and fill that void. It could only be accomplished collectively. That message still applies.

"Leadership starts at the top obviously, and it trickles down," said Padres left-hander Sean Manaea. “When you see a leader be even-keel through the tough times, it definitely steers everybody toward that direction. So, yeah, it sucks that Manny sprained his ankle, but I think we'll be in a good position to bounce back."