No matter the role, Pauley wants to be here

May 2nd, 2024

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.

This is all new for .

For one, he’s a rookie playing his first month in the big leagues. For another, he’s doing so in a role he’s never filled before.

“Even going back to college, I played every game,” said Pauley, the Padres’ No. 8 prospect. “I got drafted, in Rookie ball, then [Single-A], I played every game. Last year, I played just about every game … even into the Fall League. So yeah, it’s something new. The hardest part is staying in rhythm.”

In his first month in the big leagues, Pauley finds himself playing sporadically. A left-handed hitter, he starts against some righties and he comes off the bench against others. Now that Manny Machado is back at third base, Pauley is primarily a DH, but he’s getting consistent pregame reps at first and third.

His numbers are indicative of the challenge. Pauley is hitting just .125 through 13 games. That’s coming off a season in which he led the Padres’ system with a 23 homers while posting a .308/.393/.539 slash line.

Pauley doesn’t blame the role. He embraces it. Content to soak up the game at the highest level, he noted recently, “I wish I had 100 pairs of eyes, so I could see the whole field.”

There’s a fair question to be asked whether Pauley would be better served getting regular reps in the Minors. He’s not even two years removed from being selected out of Duke in the 13th round of the 2022 MLB Draft.

But Pauley knows where he wants to be. He’s also staunch in his belief that he’ll settle into this role -- and perhaps even earn his way into more playing time.

“When I got drafted by the San Diego Padres, my goal was to help the San Diego Padres win a World Series,” said Pauley, who took Aaron Nola deep on Friday (and nearly did so twice). “That still is the goal. For as long as I’m here, I want to contribute any way I can. … That’s my role right now. It’s a tough role. There’s not a lot of guys that can handle that role. I think I’m mature enough, and I think I’m one of the hardest workers out here. I think I can handle it.”

Here's a recap of the April performances from other prospects around the system:

Triple-A El Paso: Right-hander Kevin Kopps is off to a nice start, posting a 3.38 ERA across 13 relief outings. Fellow righty Lake Bachar was also excellent, with a 1.23 ERA in 10 appearances.

Double-A San Antonio: Among the biggest reasons for optimism in the Padres' system: the pitching at San Antonio. The rotation has been anchored by strong showings from Robby Snelling (the Padres' No. 3 prospect), Adam Mazur (No. 7) and Ryan Bergert (No. 10). In the bullpen, Jayvien Sandridge has 18 strikeouts in 8 1/3 innings and is establishing himself as a candidate for a callup this season.

High-A Fort Wayne: No. 1 prospect Ethan Salas is off to a slow start, hitting .203 through April, though he was still reaching base at a .325 clip. On the mound, No. 4 prospect Dylan Lesko has started out similarly slowly with a 6.14 ERA in four outings.

Single-A Lake Elsinore: The Padres are pleased with the start from Dillon Head, playing his first full professional season after being selected in the first round of last year's Draft. Head is hitting .241/.320/.379 with three steals. On the mound, Bradgley Rodriguez turned heads with a 1.69 ERA that earned him a promotion to Fort Wayne on April 23.