The San Diego Padres won 89 games last season to finish second in the National League West and make the playoffs as a Wild Card. They made it all the way to the NLCS, knocking off the New York Mets and Los Angeles Dodgers, before falling to the Philadelphia Phillies in five games. Beating the Dodgers was an outstanding achievement, as that team finished with 111 wins and beat the Padres into second place. Running them down is going to be tough.
The Padres begin the season at home, welcoming the Colorado Rockies to Petco Park for a four-game series that begins on Thursday, March 30. The Arizona Diamondbacks then travel to the West Coast, with the Padres hosting the Milwaukee Brewers, Atlanta Braves, and San Franciso Giants before the end of April.
Here are three questions for the Padres ahead of the 2023 season.
Three Key Questions
Does the lineup hit as expected?
This is the most feared lineup in the league. It might be the most feared lineup in the league in decades. The power-hitting quartet of Fendnao Tatis Jr., Juan Soto, Manny Machado, and Xander Bogaerts is – frankly – ridiculous. If Tatis comes back from his PED suspension ready to hit, and if Bogaerts is at it from the off at the plate in San Diego, then it is hard to see how opposing pitchers get through the meat of this ordering without giving up runs every single time.
Can Tatis stay on the field?
Tatis is one of the biggest keys to that sugging depth. His slash line of .292/.369/.596 in his three years in the league is outstanding. The issue is that he struggled to stay on the field even before his 80-game suspension for PED use. Of the 498 Padres games he could have played in his career pre-suspension, he made it onto the field in just 273. That is just 55% of possible games played, with Tatis suffering from hamstring, back, shoulder, and wrist injuries that have forced him out of the lineup. The optimist would say that other than perhaps the shoulder, none of these injuries have been recurring. The pessimist would say that expecting 75% of games out of a 55% career guy is laughable.
Has the itching depth improved?
The Padres got great years out of Yu Darvish, Blake Snell, and Joe Musgrove in 2022. The three combined for a 3.11 ERA and pitched just over 500 innings in 84 starts. The rest of the pitchers – so the other 78 games combined – saw a 4.69 ERA and much worse advanced metrics. The good news for the Padres is that the major contributors – specifically Sean Manaea and Mike Clecvinger are gone, so if only one other pitcher – from a bunch of options – can step up and get close to the level of their top trio, the pitching will be better.