Neither Colorado nor San Diego entered the season as teams expected to contend for playoff berths, but both the Rockies and Padres have been among the National League’s best teams a week-plus into what will go down as a strange 2020 campaign. The NL West rivals met over the weekend, and the Rockies took two of three to vault them into first place in the division – yes, even ahead of the mighty Dodgers – with a 6-2 record. The Padres, who are trying to snap a 13-year playoff drought, are now a game back at 6-4.
When the dust settles at year’s end (if a full season actually happens), there’s little doubt that the Dodgers will be the top team standing in the NL West. Frankly, they’re too loaded to expect otherwise. But it would still be a major accomplishment for the Rockies or Padres to earn wild-card berths. Colorado’s not far removed from back-to-back playoff spots, having played meaningful October ball in 2017-18, though the team fell on hard times during a 71-win effort last season and did little to nothing to improve during the offseason. San Diego was pretty aggressive, meanwhile, though it entered the winter as a 70-win team with a similarly high hill to climb.
The fact that the league added three extra playoff teams in each league for 2020 obviously helps the causes of every club, especially those that have started well this year. The Rockies have charged to first in their division on the strength of some of the usual suspects (Trevor Story, Charlie Blackmon, German Marquez and Jon Gray), and they’ve done so despite struggles from team MVP Nolan Arenado. Surprisingly, though, veterans Daniel Murphy, Matt Kemp and Daniel Bard – whose best days seemed long gone when the season started – have picked up some of the slack.
The Padres are playing .600 ball in the early going thanks in no small part to continued marvelous performances from second-year stars Fernando Tatis Jr. and Chris Paddack, but they’ve also gotten excellent production from other sources. Outfielder and offseason acquisition Trent Grisham has been fantastic; so have currently injured first baseman Eric Hosmer and outfielder Wil Myers, both disappointments in recent years, as well as righty Dinelson Lamet. To the surprise of no one who has paid attention to his career, newcomer and outfielder Tommy Pham has also thrived. The Padres also sport an impressive bullpen on paper, though the unit’s off to a surprisingly poor start. Regardless, in order to upgrade their cast of pitchers, the Padres could pick from a deep well of prospects (MacKenzie Gore? Luis Patino?) if they need to bolster their roster in the next couple months.
It’s going to be interesting to see if either of these rival clubs will emerge as playoff teams in 2020. They’ve certainly begun well, but which one is more likely to keep up its current pace?