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What awaits Padres in '20? Key dates and info

@AJCassavell
December 30, 2019

SAN DIEGO -- The Padres are eager to flip the calendar on a disappointing year -- and, frankly, a disappointing decade. Clearly, the future of baseball in San Diego looks a lot brighter than the recent past. With one of the youngest rosters in baseball, San Diego us set to

SAN DIEGO -- The Padres are eager to flip the calendar on a disappointing year -- and, frankly, a disappointing decade. Clearly, the future of baseball in San Diego looks a lot brighter than the recent past.

With one of the youngest rosters in baseball, San Diego us set to build around a core featuring Fernando Tatis Jr., Manny Machado and Chris Paddack. Those pieces will soon be supplemented with one of the sport's best farm systems.

"Honestly, I feel like with what we set out to do four years ago, we're in a good position to be successful here over the course of the next five years plus," said Padres general manager A.J. Preller.

San Diego hopes 2020 marks a breakthrough season that could begin a sustained run of contention in the National League West. Here's a breakdown of the key dates, key players and key questions for the upcoming year:

KEY DATES

Padres Fanfest: Jan. 11 (More info)

Pitchers and catchers report: Feb. 12

First full-squad workout: Feb. 18

First Spring Training game: Feb. 22 vs. Mariners at Peoria Sports Complex

Final Spring Training game: March 23 vs. Cubs at Sloan Park

Opening Day: March 26 vs. Rockies, 1:10 p.m. PT at Petco Park

Inaugural MLB series in Mexico City: April 18-19 vs. D-backs at Alfredo Harp Helú Stadium

Draft: June 10-12 in Omaha, Neb.

First half ends: July 12 vs. Giants at Oracle Park

Home Run Derby: July 13 at Dodger Stadium

All-Star Game: July 14 at Dodger Stadium

Second half begins: July 17 vs. Brewers at Petco Park

Regular season ends: Sept. 27 vs. Dodgers at Petco Park

KEY PLAYERS

1. Fernando Tatis Jr.
The phenom is back to full health and is poised to build on one of the most successful rookie seasons in franchise history. Tatis, whose season ended early due to a back injury, batted .317/.379/.590 while showcasing otherworldly athleticism on the bases and in the field. Now, imagine if he gets better. Tatis won't turn 21 until Thursday, after all.

2. Manny Machado
Machado's first season in San Diego was something of a roller coaster. He started slowly, then played like an elite third baseman from May through July, before tailing off over the season’s final two months. Suffice it to say, the Padres need more production and more consistency from their $300 million man next year. Machado's career gives every reason to believe he'll bounce back. (He's already amassed 36.9 Wins Above Replacement, and he's just now entering his age-27 season.)

3. Tommy Pham
The Padres entered the offseason in need of an everyday outfielder and an on-base threat. They got both when they landed Pham in a December deal with Tampa Bay. Pham boasts a career .373 on-base percentage -- a mark no Padre has reached in a single season since Chase Headley in 2012 (.376). He's also expected to bring a no-nonsense demeanor, which team officials believe will benefit the clubhouse in a big way.

KEY QUESTIONS

1. When do MacKenzie Gore and Luis Patiño arrive?
The Padres' rotation is littered with question marks, but Preller has seemingly chosen to sit out the free-agent market for high-end starters. Clearly, Preller has immense confidence in the young arms in his system. Gore and Patiño are the organization's top two pitching prospects, and they'll presumably get a chance to compete for a rotation spot next spring. A year ago, Paddack was fast-tracked to the big leagues. Is there a chance Gore and Patiño are placed on a similar path? Well, Preller has never been shy about promoting his best players.

Padres' Top 30 Prospects list

2. Can the Padres get more from their big-money bats?
First baseman Eric Hosmer, Machado and Wil Myers will combine to make $71 million next season. In 2019, they were worth a combined 2.5 WAR, according to Baseball-Reference. It's still possible the Padres could move Myers this offseason. But as long as he's around, they clearly need more production from him. The same holds true for Machado and Hosmer. Regarding Machado, there's plenty of reason for optimism for a strong 2020 season. But the question marks are much more prominent with Myers and Hosmer, both of whom finished in the red in bWAR last season.

3. Is this the year the Padres finally push for contention?
Preller has always maintained his belief that progress isn't linear in Major League Baseball. The Padres wouldn't be the first team to jump from 70 wins straight into contention. Their roster is still filled with question marks. But a lot of those question marks are young players with serious upside. If Preller can find the right pieces to fill in around the edges, San Diego thinks it might have the core in place to push for a Wild Card spot in 2020 -- then regular playoff appearances after that. If Preller's plan works -- and his job might hinge on the Padres' success next year -- '20 could mark a significant turning point in the franchise's history.

AJ Cassavell covers the Padres for MLB.com. Follow him on Twitter @ajcassavell.