LOD’s 3 Players to Watch: San Diego Padres
For this series, LOD writers will pick three players from each MLB team that we feel are players to watch in the 2023 season.
The San Diego Padres shocked the world last postseason by knocking off the New York Mets in the Wild Card series, then taking down their division rivals, the Los Angeles Dodgers in the NLDS, before losing to the Philadelphia Phillies in the NLCS. They are now locked and loaded and ready to dethrone the Mighty Dodgers and win their first division crown since 2006.
In the offseason and leading up to Spring Training, they improved their already stacked squad, by singing free agents Xander Bogaerts, Matt Carpenter, Seth Lugo, Nelson Cruz, and Michael Wacha. And just recently as of Tuesday, they extended Manny Machado to a tune of 11-Years, $350 million.
Here are three Padres players to watch in 2023.
Seth Lugo was drafted in the 2011 June Draft by the New York Mets. During his minor league career, before making his MLB debut in 2016, he started 64 of the 85 games he appeared in. In 2016 with the Mets, he came out of the bullpen, but then started his last eight games on the season, finishing 5-1 in that role.
In 2017, he started in 18 of his 19 appearances and was 7-5, with a 4.71 ERA. But the Mets decided that he would transition into a reliever role, where they felt he could be of a greater help to the team. He strived in that role appearing in relief in 49 games in 2018, and 61 games in 2019 with an occasional role as a closer. In 2020, he did make seven starts in 16 appearances and was 2-2 in those games with three no decisions. Over the last two years, he only came out of the pen and combined he relieved 108 games, while recording four saves.
With an opportunity to become a full time starter again, and seeing that there was no chance with the Mets to start, Lugo decided to join the Padres rotation that will include Yu Darvish, Joe Musgrove (after he recovers from broken toe he suffered in the weight room on Tuesday), Blake Snell, and Wacha.
Lugo will be one to watch in the rotation to see if he is able to pitch in the starters role, and be a force for the Padres.
In the beginning of August 2022, Fernando Tatis Jr. was suspended by MLB for 80 games after testing positive for a banned substance. His suspension was felt throughout all of baseball as well as the Padres, as he was recovering from left wrist fracture and the hopes was that he would be ready for a postseason run.
In his absence, the shortstop, who occasionally played in center and right field, saw his position given away to Bogaerts. The big question will be, how will he adapt to his new outfield role and will it effect any part of his game, especially his power.
Tatis Jr exploded onto the MLB scene with 22 home runs and 53 RBIs, while batting .317 in his rookie season, while playing in just 84 games. In 2020, he played in 59 of the 60 games, a season cut short due to the Covid Pandemic, and he hit 17 home runs and drove in 45 runs. In 2021, he experienced a monster year by hitting 32 doubles, 42 home runs, drove in 97 runs and stole 25 bases.
The Left wrist fracture and suspension made him lose a year in 2022, but the hopes are with a healthy Tatis Jr, the Padres will surely have an extra power threat in their lineup to go along with Machado, Juan Soto, Jake Cronenworth, Matt Carpenter, Bogaerts, Trent Grisham, and Nelson Cruz. That is not a lineup that most pitchers will want to face, but the key will be how Tatis Jr adapts to his new role.
A big season from Tatis Jr is a huge win for the Padres.
With this already stacked lineup, there are many questions that come to mind, and the other obvious one is, Will Juan Soto have a big season with the Padres?
Soto entered the league in 2018 and since, leading up to 2022, he has been a power threat with the Washington Nationals. In his rookie season, he hit 25 doubles, 22 home runs and drove in 70 RBIs, while batting .292. That season, he finished second for the Rookie of the Year award. In his sophomore year, he topped his rookie season, by hitting 32 doubles, five triples, 34 home runs and drove in 110 RBIs, with a .282 batting average. Unfortunately, he was snubbed for the All Star team that season.
In the shortened 2020 season, he hit 14 doubles, 13 home runs and drove in 37 runs, while batting .351, through 47 games. He finally became an All Star in 2021 and was second in the voting for League MVP. He finished the season with 20 doubles, 29 home runs, 95 RBIs.
In 2022, after the Nationals traded their superstar to the Padres, he hit just six of this 27 home runs on the season with his new club and batted .236 through 52 games. In the postseason, he batted .239, with two home runs and seven RBIs, but was not much of a factor in his short go around with the Padres.
Now with a full season about to be played in San Diego, he will be a much watched player to see if he can be dominate as he did with the Nationals.