Juan Soto trade: Padres' projected lineup, playoff hopes boosted by deal, return of Fernando Tatis Jr.

Tue, Aug 2, 2022
MLB News (AP)

Juan Soto trade: Padres' projected lineup, playoff hopes boosted by deal, return of Fernando Tatis Jr.

The San Diego Padres seized the baseball world by the lapels on Tuesday, as they swung a blockbuster trade with the Washington Nationals for superstar young slugger Juan Soto and power-hitting first baseman Josh Bell. While the trade deadline deal is yet to be finalized, in large measure because of Eric Hosmer's no-trade clause, it's not premature to ponder what kind of lineup the Padres can now assemble.'

But wait, there's more: Franchise shortstop Fernando Tatis Jr. is set to begin a minor-league rehab assignment soon. Tatis has missed the entire 2022 season to date after suffering an offseason wrist fracture, but once he returns he should resume being one of the most electrifying and productive offensive players in the game. So when we indulge in waking dreams of the Padres' new lineup, we will also account for Tatis' eventual presence. Now let's jump in.'

Soto has primarily batted in the No. 2 hole this season, and he's also spent significant time as the three hitter. For his career, he's batted No. 3 a plurality of the time, but we'll bow to more recent trends and call him the Padres' No 2 man. Bell, meantime, has in 2022 spent roughly equal time as the No. 3 hitter and cleanup hitter. As for Tatis, last season he spent almost all his time batting second, cleanup, and leadoff for the Pads, in that order. In light of all that - but not beholden to all that - San Diego's massively upgraded lineup could go a little something like this:'

  1. Fernando Tatis Jr., SS (Bats: R)
  2. Juan Soto, RF (Bats: L)
  3. Manny Machado, 3B (Bats: R)
  4. Josh Bell, 1B (Bats: L)
  5. Luke Voit, DH, (Bats: R)
  6. Jurickson Profar, LF (Bats: S)
  7. Jake Cronenworth, 2B (Bats: L)
  8. Austin Nola, C (Bats: R)
  9. Trent Grisham, CF (Bats: L)

Needless to say, that's an imposing lineup, and it's one that doesn't cede the platoon advantage for consecutive batters anywhere. Wil Myers is still around to spell Bell against tough lefties if manager Bob Melvin deems that wise, and Tatis' return means that Ha-Seong Kim returns to a utility role. Soto's arrival means that Nomar Mazara is now a lefty bench bat. Also of note is that Bell has out-produced Hosmer by a substantial margin both throughout recent history and over the course of their careers. Bell's major edge in batted-ball quality suggests that's going to continue being the case moving forward.'

The Padres' offense this season prior to the additions of Soto and Bell and the forthcoming return of Tatis ranked 17th in MLB in runs scored and 20th in OPS. However, the run-suppressing nature of their home yard, Petco Park, must be taken into account. Apply that necessary context and we find that the San Diego offense in terms of OPS has been 2.0 percent better than the league average. We refer to park- and league-adjusted OPS as OPS+, and the Padres this season are tied for 11th in MLB in that metric. That's a solid showing, and that's before potentially huge upgrades at three positions.'

Speaking of which, the SportsLine Projection System estimates that the additions of Soto and Bell have added 1.9 wins to the Padres' outlook for the rest of the season and improved their chances of making the postseason by 11.3 percent. Those are substantial figures given that we have just two months of regular season remaining.

There's almost zero chance the Padres will catch the Dodgers'(owners of a 12-game lead) in the National League West, but they vastly improved their playoff standing with their deadline deals and with the looming return of Tatis. Also recall that wild-card berths now come with the guarantee of at least three-game series as opposed to the bygone one-and-done format. The Padres have worked to improve their odds of going deep into October. That tantalizing new lineup laid out above makes them serious threats to do that this year.'

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