Projecting the Padres' 2024 Opening Day roster

March 3rd, 2024

SAN DIEGO -- Ten days remain until the Padres depart for Korea -- and their roster remains full of question marks.

It's entirely possible they would look externally to fill some holes. But the Padres have also come away impressed with some of their internal outfield and rotation options this spring.

With the caveat that more changes may be coming, here's an early guess at what the Padres' first 26-man roster might look like:

Catcher (2): Luis Campusano,
It's likely the Padres will carrying three catchers on their Opening Day roster if MLB expands rosters for the Korea Series. But come Opening Day at Petco Park, Campusano and Higashioka should get the nod.

The 2024 season marks the first time that Campusano will enter big league camp as the projected No. 1 option behind the plate. The Padres found a serviceable, defense-first backup in Higashioka, so the specifics of their timeshare remain to be seen.

Ideally, Campusano is healthy and builds on his strong finish to the 2023 season, in which he batted .331/.375/.500 after his second-half return from injury.

Infield (6): , , , , ,
The projected starters remain the same until further notice -- Cronenworth at first, Bogaerts at second, Machado at third and Kim at short.

The ever-present trade speculation surrounding Cronenworth and Kim has lessened, though general manager A.J. Preller has swung his share of late-spring deals in the past. Meanwhile, Machado is recovering from elbow surgery and might open the year as a full-time DH.

Still, the likeliest starters are the same four as 2023. As for the bench, that's less clear. Rosario and Matthew Batten are probably vying for one utility spot. Pauley could hit his way into a corner-infield/DH/bench role. But there's probably another move or two still to come. When that happens, the number of available bench spots will shrink.

Outfield (5): , , José Azocar, ,
Nowhere is the Padres' incomplete roster more evident than in the outfield. Azocar has proven a serviceable fourth or fifth option, and the addition of Profar gives the Padres some depth and versatility. But Tatis is the only assured starter in the current group. That's the state of things, after the Padres dealt Juan Soto and Trent Grisham to the Yankees in December.

Enter Marsee and Merrill, two of the team's most highly regarded prospects. Merrill, the Padres No. 2 prospect and MLB Pipeline's No. 12 overall, has been sharp upon his transition to the outfield (though he's continuing to get reps at shortstop during workouts). Marsee ( the Padres' No. 13), meanwhile, is a true center fielder who has impressed early in camp after winning MVP of the Arizona Fall League in November.

An argument could be made for Merrill and Marsee needing a bit more seasoning in the Minors. But right now, the Padres don't have many other options -- though several non-roster invitees, including Calvin Mitchell and Óscar Mercado, have impressed this spring.

Rotation (5): , , , ,
Darvish, Musgrove and King are the only locks -- and even they come with question marks. Darvish (elbow) and Musgrove (shoulder) are coming off injuries -- though they appear healthy this spring. King, meanwhile, has never pitched more than 105 innings in a big league season.

Still, it’s a formidable enough top three. The bigger question marks emerge beyond that. As things stand, a group of Brito, Vásquez, Matt Waldron, Pedro Avila, Jairo Iriarte and Glenn Otto are competing for the final 2-3 places.

Bullpen (8): , Yuki Matsui, , Woo-Suk Go, , , ,
The Padres have given themselves options by adding Matsui, Peralta and Go. It’s a balanced group, with three lefties and pitchers with very different arsenals and deliveries. But it’s also a volatile group. Matsui and Go have never pitched in the Majors. Suarez, after a brilliant rookie season, dealt with injuries and struggled in 2023.

Waldron is currently in the rotation mix, but it's possible one of those starters serves as a long man in the bullpen. Matsui, meanwhile, is on the mend after dealing with back spasms, putting his status for the opener into some question, though he's already resumed throwing.