Loaded Padres not without roster decisions

September 24th, 2020

SAN DIEGO -- The Padres left themselves ample time to sort out their postseason roster by clinching 10 days before the National League Wild Card Series is set to begin.

"For the most part, we've got a pretty good idea about the main players that are going to be on the roster, assuming that we can end the year healthy," general manager A.J. Preller said.

But there are question marks on the fringes of that roster -- which will consist of 28 players and can be reshuffled at the beginning of every round.

With a week until the Padres finalize it, here's a look at four questions they’ll need to answer:

Who's in the bullpen?

As Preller said, most of the roster selections are fairly straightforward. But if there's competition anywhere, it's in the bullpen. It's worth wondering how many relievers the Padres would carry for a first-round series consisting of three games, at most. But when you've got 28 spots, why skimp?

Here's the list of players presumably in the Padres' bullpen:

Trevor Rosenthal
Drew Pomeranz
Emilio Pagán
Tim Hill
Matt Strahm
Pierce Johnson
Garrett Richards
Adrian Morejon

That group is balanced, it has specialists, and it has a long men. It's not missing anything specific, so the Padres merely need to decide which two or three arms they trust the most.

On the surface, Dan Altavilla and Craig Stammen are roster favorites. But Austin Adams, who recently returned from left knee surgery, could throw a wrench into those plans with a strong finish. If José Castillo (left lat strain) gets healthy, he could make a case, too.

Of course, there's one question that could impact all of this …

Where does Chris Paddack fit?

This is largely contingent upon the health status of Mike Clevinger, who exited his start on Wednesday with right biceps tightness.

If Clevinger is available, he would join Dinelson Lamet at the front of the rotation. Zach Davies probably secured his place as a Wild Card Series starter with another solid outing on Tuesday night.

So where, exactly, does that leave Paddack in the Padres' playoff plans? He's their No. 4 starter. But with only three games in the first round, there's not an obvious place for him on the roster.

Paddack hasn't pitched in relief since Rookie ball. If the Padres intended to use him that way, they'd probably have gotten him some experience in the 'pen by now (like they did with Richards).

It’s possible Paddack’s only path to a place on the Wild Card Series roster would be as a potential replacement for Clevinger.

Are there enough righty bats?

Most of San Diego's potential first-round opponents are heavy on right-handed starting pitching. That's good news for the Padres. They've got plenty of lefty-hitting options and would even leave themselves pinch-hit weapons from both sides.

Against lefties, the Padres are still strong. (They’ve got Manny Machado, Fernando Tatis Jr. and Wil Myers, after all.) But they’re not quite as deep. Eric Hosmer, Jake Cronenworth, Mitch Moreland and Jason Castro are all significantly worse against left-handers.

This is where they miss Ty France. Hosmer and Cronenworth are going to start against lefties. But assuming Jurickson Profar and Austin Nola are in the lineup, the Padres don't have an impact righty bat on their bench.

They might not need one. But in a late-and-close situation against a tough left-hander, it could be worth having that option. Jorge Oña, Francisco Mejía and Luis Campusano (if healthy) are candidates.

How do they fill out the bench?

This answer depends on how many bullpen arms the Padres choose to carry.

Let's say they split the roster 50/50 among pitchers and position players. That leaves two places available at the back of the bench. As noted above, one of the options for that spot is a right-handed bat. Oña has played in only five games, but he came through in some big situations.

Still, the Padres’ offense is solid, even without that extra righty bat. Here’s where they might get creative, using the last two places on specialized roles.

Jorge Mateo is an elite speedster and a perfect fit as a late-game pinch-running option. (He's a safe bet for the roster in precisely that capacity.) The Padres might also have room for a strong outfielder like Greg Allen as a defensive replacement, even though Allen has played in only one game since his arrival at the Trade Deadline. He would be a speed threat, too.

"There are a lot of competitions, and that’s a good thing," said Padres manager Jayce Tingler. "Because we believe we're a really good team."