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Padres' projected 2021 Opening Day roster

@AJCassavell
November 6, 2020

SAN DIEGO -- It's never too early to start looking forward to Opening Day. This offseason, the Padres have fewer questions to answer than they did last year, when they overhauled their roster (then overhauled it again at the Trade Deadline). But they're still looking to upgrade a few key

SAN DIEGO -- It's never too early to start looking forward to Opening Day.

This offseason, the Padres have fewer questions to answer than they did last year, when they overhauled their roster (then overhauled it again at the Trade Deadline). But they're still looking to upgrade a few key areas -- most notably the bench, the rotation and the bullpen.

As things currently stand, here's an early projection of the Padres' Opening Day roster (using the current parameters of a 26-man roster with no designated hitter, though it's possible that changes).

Catcher (3): Austin Nola, Luis Campusano, Francisco Mejía
The Padres acquired Nola at the Trade Deadline to serve as their regular catcher. They love his glove, and they love his bat -- and for good reason. But Nola is also capable of playing multiple infield spots, which could free up time for another option behind the plate. Behind Nola, there are question marks. Campusano and Mejía are both young and have both been considered the "catcher of the future" in San Diego. But Campusano is dealing with legal trouble after an October arrest, and Mejía is coming off another disappointing season in San Diego. Don't be surprised if the Padres look externally for a backup catcher in 2021.

First base (1): Eric Hosmer
Hosmer's bounceback season mitigated concerns that he'd be best suited as a platoon first-base option in San Diego. He batted .287/.333/.517, albeit in only 38 games. Still, if the Padres want to limit Hosmer against a tricky left-hander, they could slot Nola in at first base.

Second base (1): Jake Cronenworth
When the Padres traded Luis Urías last offseason, their most pressing question on offense was second base. Cronenworth answered it in a big way. Sure, he's capable of playing high-level defense at all four infield spots, but the Padres don't have much need at the other three. If Cronenworth can build on his excellent rookie season, he will have found himself a long-term home at second base in San Diego.

Shortstop (1): Fernando Tatis Jr.
Last offseason, there were questions about whether Tatis could handle playing shortstop in the big leagues. This offseason, the only lingering question about Tatis' defense is why he wasn't a finalist for a Gold Glove Award.

Third base (1): Manny Machado
The biggest reason the Padres' future is so bright: They can pencil Machado and Tatis into the left side of their infield for a long time.

Outfield (5): Trent Grisham, Wil Myers, Tommy Pham, Greg Allen, Jorge Oña
From left to right, Pham, Grisham and Myers project as everyday regulars against both left- and right-handed pitching. But the Padres might still actively search for a fourth outfielder.

Utility (1): Greg Garcia
Garcia's versatility and his knack for big hits off the bench make him a solid bench piece, but he struggled for most of 2020, and entering his final year of arbitration, he is a non-tender candidate. Jurickson Profar filled the utility role admirably in 2020, and the Padres are interested in a reunion with him. If that proves too pricey, they'd probably scour the market for a utility option elsewhere, putting Garcia's roster status in some jeopardy.

Starting pitchers (5): Dinelson Lamet, Mike Clevinger, Chris Paddack, Zach Davies, Luis Patiño
On paper, that's a solid group -- arguably one of the best in the National League, but there's good reason for general manager A.J. Preller to add to it this offseason. Lamet and Clevinger are coming off arm injuries. Meanwhile, Paddack struggled immensely with his fastball and Patiño with his command in 2020. The Padres would love to see these five righties all thriving (with prospects MacKenzie Gore and Ryan Weathers perhaps also making a push). But some insurance at the back of the rotation wouldn't hurt.

Relievers (8): Drew Pomeranz, Emilio Pagán, Adrian Morejon, Matt Strahm, Pierce Johnson, José Castillo, Austin Adams, Craig Stammen
If there's one area the Padres might overhaul this offseason, it's their bullpen. They've already lost Kirby Yates and Trevor Rosenthal to free agency, so it's fair to expect at least one closer-caliber weapon to be brought in. If, indeed, Castillo is healthy after missing most of two seasons with various injuries, that would be a major boost. But Castillo's impending return shouldn't stop Preller from scouring the free-agent relief market anyway.

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