Check out Devon Stein’s 2022 Season Preview Article for the San Diego Padres here.
2022 Record: 89-73 (.549 win%, 2nd in Division)
2022 Payroll: $236,176,566 (5th)
1. LF Jurickson Profar, .243 AVG/.331 OBP/.391 SLG, 3.1 fWAR
2. RF Juan Soto, .242 AVG/.401 OBP/.452 SLG, 5.6 fWAR *
3. 3B Manny Machado, .298 AVG/.366 OBP/.531 SLG, 6.8 fWAR
4. 2B Jake Cronenworth, .240 AVG/.333 OBP/.394 SLG, 4.1 fWAR
5. 1B Brandon Drury, .263 AVG/.320 OBP/.492 SLG, 2.6 fWAR *
6. DH Josh Bell, .266 AVG/.362 OBP/.422 SLG, 3.0 fWAR *
7. SS Ha-Seong Kim, .251 AVG/.325 OBP/.383 SLG, 4.9 fWAR
8. C Austin Nola, .251 AVG/.321 OBP/.329 SLG, 1.9 fWAR
9. CF Trent Grisham, .184 AVG/.284 OBP/.341 SLG, 2.4 fWAR
10. UTL Wil Myers, .261 AVG/.315 OBP/.398 SLG, 1.1 fWAR
*(total combined statistics)
1. Yu Darvish, 194.2 IP/3.10 ERA/0.95 WHIP, 4.5 fWAR
2. Joe Musgrove, 181.0 IP/2.93 ERA/1.08 WHIP, 3.2 fWAR
3. Blake Snell, 128.0 IP/3.38 ERA/1.20 WHIP, 2.1 fWAR
4. Mike Clevinger, 114.1 IP/4.33 ERA/1.20 WHIP, 0.7 fWAR
5. Sean Manaea, 158.0 IP/4.96 ERA/1.30 WHIP, -0.8 fWAR
2022 Top 4 Relievers:
1. Josh Hader, 50.0 IP/5.22 ERA/1.28 WHIP, -1.0 fWAR *
2. Robert Suarez, 47.2 IP/2.27 ERA/1.05 WHIP, 1.4 fWAR
3. Luis Garcia, 61.0 IP/3.39 ERA/1.21 WHIP, 0.2 fWAR
4. Nick Martinez, 106.1 IP/3.47 ERA/1.29 WHIP, 1.1 fWAR
*(total combined statistics)
Regular Season Recap:
General Manager A.J. Preller went all in this season. Offseason trades lead to the acquisitions of Taylor Rogers and Luke Voit (both of whom would later get dealt) with the blockbuster name being Sean Manaea. Believing that Manaea would fit right alongside Darvish and Musgrove at the top of this rotation was a mistake, but the Padres can’t complain about their 3.82 team ERA, a 0.28 improvement from a dismal 2021.
At age 36, Yu Darvish is showing no signs of slowing down. While most pitchers tend to regress once they reach their early-to-mid thirties, 36 year-old Darvish’s pitch velocities all slightly increased relative to 2021 and his walk percentage fell off a cliff to a miniscule 4.8%, good for 8th in the league (min. 150 innings). His efficiency, alongside Joe Musgrove’s power approach, made for a formidable one-two punch.
As for the offense, the Padres struggled coming out of the gate, with team AVGs of .231 and .235 in the first two months respectively. The only bright spot in their lineup was MVP candidate Manny Machado. Before suffering a gruesome ankle injury in mid-June, Machado had compiled a stat line of .329 AVG, 12 HR, and 48 RBI. Despite slipping for some time after returning from rehab, Machado picked the pace back up, making him good for 4th in NL MVP odds at the conclusion of the regular season.
While players like Jurickson Profar, Ha-Seong Kim, and Jake Cronenworth were consistent producers throughout the season, it was the three bats San Diego traded for which took their offense to a different height. While it had been rumored for some time that the slipping Nationals would be trading their star slugger Juan Soto, the sports world believed it impossible. Of course A.J. Preller made the move, though (likely the only GM with the guts to pull it off).
In one of the largest deals in American sports history (rivaling those of Herschel Walker, Kareem Abdul-Jabbar, and Wayne Gretzky), at the trade deadline, the San Diego Padres acquired Juan Soto and Josh Bell from the Nats in exchange for Luke Voit, MacKenzie Gore, and four prospects (Robert Hassell, C.J. Abrams, James Wood, and Jarlin Susana).
In the days following, with the media in a frenzy, Petco Park was filled to the brim with fans eager to witness their new star. A.J. Preller and co. had done it; they had pulled off the largest trade in MLB history and were immediately reaping the rewards.
Thinking Preller was finished, though, he still had enough time to acquire Brandon Drury from the Reds, who proved (alongside Soto and Bell) to be a significant part of the Pads offense down the stretch.
Despite being one of the streakiest teams in 2021, San Diego found their stroke of consistency this year. Only in July did they have a record below .500 while also compiling 16 wins in each of May, June, and August. Much of this can be attributed to the steady figure of Bob Melvin. Following Andy Green’s inability to come up with the big win and Jayce Tingler’s overall lack of experience, “Bo-Mel” was able to cool down a rather chaotic clubhouse.
Much of this chaos can be attributed to Fernando Tatis, Jr., the star of Slam Diego whose 2022 has only involved controversy. In the offseason, last year’s national league home run leader dealt with a fractured bone in his wrist, the result of a December motorcycle accident. Stirring up the media with his allusion to having been in multiple accidents, Tatis, Jr. went forth with surgery which was to sideline him for half of the season.
A frustrated Tatis, in the midst of rehab setbacks and media backlash, proceeded to test positive for PEDs in early September. Criticized for his response’s lack of maturity, while also losing the trust of his teammates, the young Padres star has put himself in a difficult situation. Not only do these circumstances shine a bad light on Tatis himself, but A.J. Preller’s impulse decision to extend him to a 14-year, $340 million deal has brought him under media fire as well.
Down the stretch, the Padres remained consistent. With clutch pitching performances and a slightly sliding offense (and the Brewers forgetting how to hit against the 92-loss Marlins and the 88-loss Diamondbacks at the end of the year), the Padres clinched the playoffs for the seventh time in their 54-year franchise history.
If the Pads regular season could be summed up in any one way, it would be as uncharacteristically consistent. For so long, San Diego fans have been forced to bottle up their excitement as every winning streak would be quickly followed by a spurt of losing. Finally, this fan base was treated to the type of season they had been waiting for since the retirement of Tony Gwynn.
M-SABR Predicted Record (89-72) vs. Actual (89-73):
If only the Padres had played one less game. If only it actually rained in San Diego for once. If that were the case, there would have been a 54.9% chance that the Padres would have one less loss on the season. 54.9%. That was the Padres winning percentage this year. That is tied for the fifth highest win rate in franchise history (excluding the 2020 shortened season).
Now let’s take the number 89. That’s the number of wins M-SABR’s own Devon Stein predicted the Padres would have in 2022. It also happens to be the number of wins the Padres actually had in 2022. Although San Diego was expected to improve drastically from 2021, trading for Juan Soto, Josh Bell, and Brandon Drury (who added a few wins to that total) couldn’t have been accounted for.
In either case, it was largely a successful regular season for the San Diego Padres and an outstanding year for Stein.
Spoiler alert: the San Diego Padres did not make the 2022 World Series. After having swiftly defeated the teams with the two highest payrolls in the MLB, the media favored the five-seed Pads to defeat the six-seed Phillies swiftly. Rather, Philadelphia made quick work of them and a season which, for a moment, seemed destined to result in a World Series appearance was brought to a meager finish.
Rather than having had to play one game in New York against either the likes of Max Scherzer or Jacob DeGrom, under the new playoff format, they were lucky enough to face both. Knowing they would have the electric Joe Musgrove pitching game three against a Mets starter who likely won’t be in the hall of fame, San Diego just needed to scrap out one win within the first two games. They did just that against three-time Cy Young Award winner Max Scherzer, whose career postseason 3.22 ERA was undeniably daunting.
Instead, unlikely hero Trent Grisham and the Slam Diego offense posted seven runs in four and two-thirds innings pitched by the future hall of famer. This was then followed by a disappointing game two in which the bullpen blew an opportunity at a sweep of the Mets. The Padres swiped their ticket to the NLDS, though, in a 6-0 torching, holding New York to just a single hit in what would be an abrupt end to a promising 2022 season.
Next up, in the divisional series, was the 111-win Los Angeles Dodgers. Mike Clevinger took the bump game one against Julio Urias. One of the only consistently disappointing performers in the postseason for the Pads, Clevinger allowed the Dodgers to get off to a hot start.
Following the third inning of game one, though, the statistically best offense in the MLB scratched across just seven runs over the next 33 innings. This resulted in three straight losses and the Padres first championship series berth since 1998. Of particular note was San Diego’s bullpen, giving up just one earned run in 17 innings pitched over the four game span.
Pitching four scoreless innings in a four day span was journeyman rookie Robert Suarez. At age 31 and following six years of professional pitching in Japan, Suarez was the Pads most consistent late game producer in 2022. With a 98 MPH running fastball, this rising star was untouchable, striking out 11.5 batters/nine innings pitched.
If odds makers had been told before the playoffs began that the NLCS would consist of the five-seed San Diego Padres and the six-seed Philadelphia Phillies, they likely wouldn’t have believed it.
Nonetheless, each of these unlikely teams arrived in San Diego for game one with something to prove: the Phillies had to convince the sports world that defense doesn’t actually win championships, and the Padres simply had to win to meet expectations. Game one went as predicted, as aces Yu Darvish and Zach Wheeler showed down in what would end in a 2-0 Phillies victory.
A struggling Padres offense which hadn’t exploded for a 6+ run total since game three of the wild card series against the Mets was due for their eight-run game two. Josh Bell led the way with three hits and two RBIs, and the Padres went into game three in Philadelphia on a high.
Coming off this emotional game, though, Slam Diego was drained; three games later, their season was over. An inability to stop the power threats of Rhys Hoskins and Bryce Harper in clutch moments proved most costly, as the Padres struggled to produce in crunch time.
While 2022 could undoubtedly be considered a success for San Diego, this disappointing end to an extremely emotional playoff run has left a bad taste in the mouths of Padres fans.
Surprise of the Season:
Although overshadowed by the Soto trade, arguably one of the most surprising and ineffective trades came on August 1st. In the first of three blockbuster trades A.J. Preller executed, closer Josh Hader was acquired from the Milwaukee Brewers in exchange for Taylor Rogers, Dinelson Lamet, and high-end prospects Esteury Ruiz and Robert Gasser.
This deal, questionable from its inception, worsened as Josh Hader accumulated a 7.31 ERA, 1.63 WHIP, and -1.0 fWAR after joining the Padres. Although the potential of five-time all star Hader has shown itself in past years (3.4 fWAR in 2021), dealing a more efficient and reliable Taylor Rogers along with talented prospects was a highly questionable move for a playoff bound team.
In a more optimistic light, though, Josh Hader hadn’t allowed a run in his last 15 appearances dating back to the regular season. While this doesn’t reflect the entirety of his season, it does shine an optimistic light on San Diego’s decision to trade for him moving forward. If Hader can continue to produce at a high level, while limiting his worse appearances, he is likely to be a key contributor to the Pads moving forward.
Players We Watched:
It was pretty easy to watch Manny Machado play baseball. He was your leading NL MVP candidate through the first two months and may still have been so had he not gotten injured. He picks it over at the hot corner with the best in baseball, and he fits in the middle of this Slam Diego lineup with just a mere 32 HR/102 RBI/.298 AVG slash line.
We set high expectations for Manny, hoping for him to continue at his historic career pace or better. Believing that Machado could actually have a season better than his 5.0 fWAR of 2021 seemed blasphemous at the time, but he always comes through, finishing with an fWAR of 6.8. He blew 2021 through the water. One could say it’s just the new age of Manny being Manny, and it really is time for us to start recognizing him as a top ten player in this league.
SP MacKenzie Gore
MacKenzie Gore was really a mystery going into this season. His name has been in and around the league since he was drafted third overall in 2017, but his minor league struggles and consistent injury concerns heavily delayed his major league debut. This year, though, Gore received his shot.
With one of the highest leg kicks in the league since Warren Spahn (look him up if you don’t know him!), this young prospect stood out coming up through the system. This offseason, though, the big league staff worked on eliminating the magnitude of that kick in search of a more controlled delivery and a better means to control runners when in the stretch. Gore struggled.
His adjustment to major league batters took some time, and it never really appeared as if he were comfortable prior to dealing with multiple injuries and being part of the return package to the Nats in the Soto trade. Once traded, Gore made four minor league starts without much success.
Despite the many questions had for this young pitcher going into 2022, it’s fair to say there’s even more intrigue surrounding his outlook for the 2023 season. As Gore takes time during the offseason to become more comfortable with his new mechanics, how heavily could he potentially improve? Could we be looking at the future Nats ace?
SP Mike Clevinger
As Padres season preview author Devon Stein noted, six players were in the return package to Cleveland in the Clevinger deal. Five of whom were all significant contributors down the stretch for this up and coming Guardians squad (Josh Naylor, Gabriel Arias, Cal Quantrill, Austin Hedges, and Owen Miller). Due to this, it is safe to say A.J. Preller was expecting an all-star caliber pitcher to be added to his staff upon return from injury.
While Clevinger hasn’t quite met those expectations yet, his production was optimistic enough to believe he has a future as a mid-to-high level starter in this league. Despite this, though, he has a bleak offseason outlook due to his two frankly awful playoff starts being fresh on the mind of GMs.
As he enters free agency, it is likely San Diego will not be looking to return Clevinger to their roster. The hope for a mechanically fidgety Clevinger is the potential significance of his high-level production from 2017-2019. With regards to San Diego, though, Clevinger was a costly failed experiment.
No, Padres fans, Aaron Judge will not be on your roster in 2023. Likely, the first plan of action for GM A.J. Preller (assuming he retains his job) is to extend Juan Soto beyond the coming season. We have to believe that it was not worth the sum of prospects to have Soto for merely a two-year rental. It is in Preller’s best interest to lock up this 24 year-old star for the foreseeable future. The only drawbacks are the Machado and Tatis contracts already in the books through 2029 and 2035 respectively.
Offensively, San Diego will be more than happy to finally send off Wil Myers and his $20 million AAV to free agency. While it is expected that the majority of the money spent this offseason goes toward Soto and the starting rotation, two positions of need must be addressed. Whether it is decided that Trent Grisham is the future center fielder of this team or not, outfield depth and defensive help would serve as assets for this future contender.
With Tatis, Jr. and Soto potentially playing poor defense in the corners, the Padres are in need of outfield gloves. An intriguing name in free agency this offseason is 29 year-old left-handed speedster, Brandon Nimmo. Nimmo could fill three Slam Diego needs in one (above average defender, speed threat, and a left-handed bat).
The Padres will also be in the market for a first baseman. Returning Brandon Drury might be the most cost-friendly option for Preller and co., but it lacks the zest that this managing group usually has. Expect Preller to work in a trade to acquire one of these two positions of need.
As for the pitching staff, the Padres will be returning their top three starters (Darvish, Musgrove, and Snell). Due to this, it is unlikely that San Diego will be shopping in the premium arms market. Nonetheless, having an innings-eating pitcher (preferably left-handed as a Manaea replacement) at the back end of this rotation would be beneficial if the Pads choose to go with Nick Martinez or an opener in the five spot.
Potential free agent candidates who fit this bill include Jose Quintana, Rich Hill, and Mike Minor. Returning Sean Manaea could also be an option for the Pads as well. The bullpen should fill out well, and retaining key pieces like Robert Suarez, Pierce Johnson, and Tim Hill is ideal. Josh Hader will more than likely retain the closing role at the back end of this pitching staff, so the Padres shouldn’t be in the market for a closer.
Ideally, beyond talks with Soto, A.J. Preller shouldn’t have much work to do this offseason to put a World Series contending team on the field in 2023. Knowing this management group, though, the Padres might be looking to make yet another splash in free agency or in the trade market.
After dealing roughly all of their top prospects away, right now is the best opportunity for a title to be brought to San Diego. With a core of Soto, Machado, and Tatis, Jr., it is safe to say the San Diego Padres will be one of the most exciting teams to watch in 2023 regardless of what moves are made this offseason.
Something to Watch:
Moving forward, the largest question the San Diego Padres face is whether or not Fernando Tatis, Jr. will actually perform at the level his contract expects of him and if he will be able to recapture the hearts of hometown fans and those across the country.
This phenom found himself on the cover of MLB the Show 21 after only a year and a half in the league, and his in-your-face style of play recaptured a dwindling youth audience. Although baseball traditionalists might not like it, bat flips, gold chains, and flashiness are the future of baseball.
Without the style of players like Tatis, baseball will be unable to produce viewership and keep up with the likes of the other major American sports. We need El Niño!