San Diego Padres
2022 Record: 89-73
2nd place: NL West
Team ERA: 3.81 (11th in MLB)
Team OPS: .700 (15th in MLB)
What Went Right
Interestingly, for a team with so much star power, the whole was greater than the sum of its parts for San Diego this year. The Padres had an OPS a bit below the league average yet scored more runs per game (4.35) than the league average. The team actually played worse after picking up Juan Soto, Josh Bell, Josh Hader and Brandon Drury at the trade deadline, going 29-27 the rest of the way. Still, the Padres made the postseason by going 30-17 in one-run games and 12-5 in extra-inning affairs. They then advanced to the NLCS before falling to the Phillies. The six postseason wins this October were twice as many as they had over the previous 23 seasons combined (one in 2006, two in 2020). Manny Machado was one of the NL's top-three players, hitting .298/.366/.531, and Ha-Seong Kim proved to be more than just a stopgap at shortstop. Yu Darvish, Joe Musgrove and Blake Snell carried the rotation, and while the club got shaky results from their closers, the rest of the bullpen was very good.
What Went Wrong
Fernando Tatis Jr. suffered a fractured wrist in a motorcycle accident and later got busted for PEDs as he was nearing his return, costing him the entire season. Trent Grisham managed to hit .184 in 525 plate appearances, the lowest average for anyone with so many plate appearances since Dan Uggla came in at .179 in 2013. Unexpectedly, the team took quite a downgrade in first base production after trading Eric Hosmer and Luke Voit and picking up Bell. Sean Manaea and Mike Clevinger disappointed in the rotation. Also, Fernando Tatis Jr. suffered a fractured wrist in a motorcycle accident and later got busted for PEDs as he was nearing his return, costing him the entire season.
**Because those postseason games the Padres played counted towards his suspension, Tatis will be able to rejoin the Padres on Apr. 20. Whether he'll do so as a shortstop is unclear. He played some outfield in 2021, and he could also be an option at second base, with Jake Cronenworth moving to first. Tatis's durability is very much up for debate at the moment, and the Padres might want to keep him out of harm's way as much as possible by using him as a corner outfielder and occasional DH. Still, with his price tag set to be well down from the last couple of years, Tatis will likely be a worthy risk in spring drafts. He hit an NL-leading 42 homers and swiped 25 bases in 130 games in 2021, when he was just 22 years old.
**The 149 OPS+ isn't so bad, but Soto was a fantasy bust in hitting .242/.401/.452 with 27 HR, 93 R, 62 RBI and 6 SB in 2022. His production fell in every category from 2021. Statcast thinks he was somewhat unlucky, but it still had his hard-hit rate falling from 52.4% to 47.3%. On the plus side, Soto didn't strike out any more than usual. It'd be nice to think he got some of his mojo back in homering in each of his final two postseason games. There doesn't seem like much reason to think permanent decline set in here at age 23, but now that he's in a worse ballpark for left-handed power and the baseball isn't traveling as far, projections do need to come down some for 2023.
**The Padres were able to get Musgrove re-signed during the season, but that still leaves them with just three starting pitchers at the moment. While Darvish and Snell will be back, Manaea, Clevinger and Nick Martinez are all free agents. The guess here is that the Padres will re-sign Martinez and bring in a moderately priced free agent to round out the rotation. Still, they'll likely want to groom Adrian Morejón as a starter next year. Morejón returned from Tommy John as a reliever last season, posting a 4.24 ERA in 34 innings. That he's thrown a total of 245 innings since 2017 means he's certainly not going to be a candidate to make 30 big-league starts next year. Still, he's quite the intriguing talent with his 94-98 mph fastball and four-pitch mix.
**Grisham's lack of offense got him reduced to a part-time role in September, but he was back playing every day in an odd October that saw him go 4-for-8 with two homers in the Wild Card, 4-for-13 with one homer in the NLDS and 0-for-19 in the NLCS. The glove is still plenty good, so he'll keep his starting job. It doesn't seem like he'll be much of a fantasy outfielder, though, and if he's going to stick as a long-term major league regular, he has to get the strikeout total back down some; his 28.6% K rate last season was a big increase from a career-best 22.6% in 2021.
** It's rather surprising that the Padres have chosen to hold on to catcher Luis Campusano through all of their deals but also not given him a chance yet. He's shown plenty of promise with the bat in hitting .296/.364/.511 with 29 homers in 162 games in Triple-A the last two years. His defense isn't as strong, but the catchers in front of him (Austin Nola and Jorge Alfaro) aren't particularly good there, either. Campusano still has an option year left, so the Padres could send him down yet again, if they'd like. Alternatively, they could non-tender Alfaro and let Campusano and Nola battle for playing time. Upgrading from the entire set of catchers would be nice, too, but it's probably not realistic given the other needs on the roster.
Key Free Agents
(Robert Suarez was a free agent, but he's already been re-signed to a five-year, $46 million contract.)
The Padres can't afford to bring back everyone with a payroll that's already barely shy of $200 million. If they spend to address the two rotation holes, they'll probably have to cut corners when it comes to the lineup. Fortunately, they are already pretty well set up the middle, and the positions where they do have needs -- probably two of first base, left field and DH -- are places where bargains can be found. 2023 might well be this franchise's best chance to win a World Series. Darvish, Hader and Snell are all free agents after next year, and Soto is going to get paid closer to what he's worth in 2024, limiting the team's financial flexibility.