Initial Opening Day lineup? Padres had options

March 26th, 2020

SAN DIEGO -- The Padres envisioned Thursday as the start of a new era in San Diego. They would take the field at Petco Park in fresh brown and gold threads for the first time. New manager Jayce Tingler would deliver his first lineup card.

None of that is happening, of course. The coronavirus pandemic has pushed back Opening Day indefinitely. The focus has rightly been shifted to the public's health.

But it's still worth wondering: If Tingler filled out his first lineup card Thursday, what would it look like? Assuming the Padres were facing a Rockies right-hander, here's a guess:

1. Fernando Tatis Jr., SS
Some have made a case for dropping Tatis out of the top spot in the lineup. Given that he's arguably the Padres' most potent bat, maybe he’d be better served with a chance to drive in a few runs. That move seems unlikely, however. For one, Tatis wreaks more havoc on the bases than nearly any other player in baseball. He's one of the Padres' top on-base threats. And perhaps most importantly, it's Tatis' preferred spot in the lineup. It’s clearly been working, so why change it?

2. Tommy Pham, LF
Pham was about to make his first appearance in the outfield when Spring Training was cut short two weeks ago. He spent most of the offseason recovering from a UCL sprain in his right elbow, but appeared on track to be ready by Opening Day. In Pham and Tatis, the Padres have arguably their best 1-2 on-base threats in franchise history.

"Love it," Tingler said of that 1-2 punch. "If they're on their game and they're getting on base at a very high clip, that would be optimal for this offense."

3. Manny Machado, 3B
Of all the spots on Tingler's first lineup card, this one was probably the most obvious. The Padres' $300 million man made all but one of his starts last season in the No. 3 spot in the order.

4. Eric Hosmer, 1B
The cleanup spot might get interesting when the Padres face their first left-hander. Since arriving in San Diego, Hosmer has notoriously struggled to hit lefties. It's hard to envision him staying at No. 4 with a sub-.600 OPS against left-handers. Heck, with splits like that, it's worth wondering if he should stay in the lineup at all. But against righties, Hosmer is probably the best option to slot behind a pretty potent 1-2-3 in the order.

"You're going to have opportunities to drive in runs," Hosmer said earlier this month. "Those are guys that get on base.”

5. Wil Myers, RF
Myers entered Spring Training as a trade candidate and something of a platoon piece. Instead, he emerged as the obvious starter in right field. Sure, there's still a battle between Josh Naylor and Franchy Cordero for a roster spot, and whoever wins it will receive a few starts against right-handers. But Myers, despite his inconsistency, is a more proven option than both Naylor and Cordero. And he raked all spring -- against righties and lefties.

6. Trent Grisham, CF
When the Padres dealt Manuel Margot to Tampa Bay in February, they cleared a path for Grisham to assume everyday reps in center field. Even in a shortened Spring Training, Grisham showcased his full skill set. He played a solid center field, while showing off some wheels and a penchant for reaching base.

7. Jurickson Profar, 2B
There's not a single spot in the lineup more in flux than this one. It could’ve been Profar. It could’ve been Greg Garcia -- who stood out all spring and excels at hitting righties. It could’ve been Brian Dozier -- who didn't really get enough time to make his case. Ultimately, Profar is probably the safest bet. But he's far from a sure thing, given his defensive concerns and his struggles last season while hitting from the left side.

8. Austin Hedges, C
The Hedges vs. Francisco Mejía debate would've raged well past Opening Day. There's playing time available for both, but it's still unclear what their split might be. After a rough spring on both sides of the ball for Mejía, Hedges became the obvious favorite for an Opening Day start. From there, the battle for playing time would've unfolded on a day-to-day basis.

9. Chris Paddack, SP
The Padres didn't get deep enough into Spring Training to name an Opening Day starter. But Paddack was lined up to do so -- and it's hard to envision anybody else getting the ball in this spot. Dinelson Lamet put forth a very strong spring, and Garrett Richards has quite the track record. But whenever the Padres play their next game, you can expect Paddack to get the ball first.