Padres lineup analysis: Juan Soto joins long-term juggernaut with Fernando Tatis Jr., Manny Machado


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There are six teams currently in MLB that have never won a World Series. The Padres are doing all they can to get off that list. If not this year, then at least over the next few seasons.

On Tuesday, the Padres shocked the MLB world by acquiring Juan Soto in one of the most impactful trades in MLB history. And as if he wasn’t enough, they also added first baseman Josh Bell to immediately upgrade first base and tacked on super-utility bat Brandon Drury from the Reds.

In making the trade with the Nationals, the Padres add a player often compared with Ted Williams to a lineup that already features NL MVP candidate Manny Machado and 23-year-old phenom Fernando Tatis Jr., who is expected to return to the majors shortly after an offseason wrist injury has sidelined him for much of 2022.

This deal is for more than just 2022. The Padres have several years of control on Soto, and the rest of their star-studded lineup. What will this beast of a lineup look like? The Sporting News takes a look.

MORE: Breaking down Nationals’ return in Juan Soto trade

Padres lineup 2022

How Bob Melvin decides to shape the lineup remains to be seen. But once Soto, Bell and Drury are in San Diego and Tatis returns from the injured list, the starting nine should look something like this:

Jurickson Profar, LF
Juan Soto, RF
Fernando Tatis Jr., SS
Manny Machado, 3B
Josh Bell, 1B
Brandon Drury, DH
Jake Cronenworth, 2B
Austin Nola, C
Trent Grisham, CF

What to expect from the Padres’ star trio

It’s difficult to overstate how impressive the Padres’ core is. Soto and Tatis are two of the best young players in the sport and Machado has been the eighth-most-valuable hitter in baseball since 2013, according to Fangraphs. That is a dangerous trio to have to face.

There have been three batters with at least 450 walks and fewer than 450 strikeouts in MLB history, per Stathead: Soto, Ted Williams and Mel Ott. Tatis is one of six players with at least 80 home runs and 50 stolen bases before turning 23, joining Mike Trout, Ken Griffey Jr., Ronald Acuna Jr., Alex Rodriguez and Andruw Jones, according to Stathead. Among that group, no one did it in fewer games. And his OPS+ of 160 is second-best only to Trout.

FAGAN: By winning Soto trade derby, A.J. Preller cements aggressive, daring legacy

Soto hasn’t posted an OPS+ below 150 since 2019, when he was only 20 years old. Tatis has never been below a 150 OPS+. For historical context, here are the only times in the live-ball era a team has had multiple, qualifying batters younger than 25 post an OPS+ of 150 or better, according to Stathead.

Year
Team
Players (Age, OPS+)
1936
Cardinals
Joe Medwick (24, 158), Johnny Mize (23, 162)
1937
Cardinals
Joe Medwick (25, 182), Johnny Mize (24, 174)
1957
Braves
Hank Aaron (23, 166), Eddie Mathews (25, 154)
1963
Giants
Orlando Cepeda (25, 165), Willie McCovey (25, 161)
1969
Athletics
Sal Bando (25, 153), Reggie Jackson (23, 189)

First of all, it’s an impressive group of names. The only player on that list not in the Hall of Fame is Sal Bando. Second, what is striking is that only the 1936-37 Cardinals had the same duo in two years. The Padres will have both Soto and Tatis in the same lineup for 2.5 years.

MORE: Juan Soto trade grades

And that’s before the lineup gets to Machado. Machado might be the best third-best hitter for any team. He is one of the game’s best power-hitters, with the seventh-most home runs since 2013 (262) and the 113th-lowest strikeout rate of 524 qualifying batters (16.8 percent). And in two of the past three seasons, he, too, has had an OPS+ better than 150.

In the modern era, Stathead lists only eight teams as having had three batters in the lineup all post an OPS+ of 150 or better.

Year
Team
Batters
1925
Tigers
Ty Cobb, Harry Heilmann, Al Wingo
1929
Yankees
Lou Gehrig, Tony Lazzeri, Babe Ruth
1963
Giants
Orlando Cepeda, Willie Mays, Willie McCovey
1964
Twins
Bob Allison, Harmon Killebrew, Tony Oliva
1996
Mariners
Ken Griffey Jr., Edgar Martinez, Alex Rodriguez
2004
Cardinals
Jim Edmonds, Albert Pujols, Scott Rolen
2020
Padres
Manny Machado, Wil Myers, Fernando Tatis Jr.
2020
Braves
Ronald Acuna Jr., Freddie Freeman, Marcell Ozuna

Again, an impressive group of names and teams. This new Padres’ core feels most similar to the 1996 Mariners, given the players involved. The young, slugging outfielder (Soto and Griffey), the younger, power-speed shortstop (Tatis and Rodriguez) and the more experienced middle-of-the-order bat (Machado and Martinez).

Padres lineup contracts

What really makes this lineup so scary is the fact that the core won’t be intact only for the remainder of 2022: Soto, Tatis and Machado are going to be around for a long time.

Here’s a look at several notable players in San Diego with the last year in which they are currently slated to be under contract, along with the age at which they would hit free agency, according to Spotrac.

Player
Last year
Age at free agency
Fernando Tatis Jr.
2034
36
Manny Machado
2028
36
Joe Musgrove
2027
35
Austin Nola
2025
36
Jake Cronenworth
2025
32
Ha-seong Kim
2025
30
Trent Grisham
2025
28
Juan Soto
2024
26
Yu Darvish
2023
37
Blake Snell
2023
31
Josh Hader
2023
30
Jurickson Profar
2022*
30
Mike Clevinger
2022
32
Sean Manaea
2022
31
Josh Bell
2022
30
Brandon Drury
2022
30

*Profar has a player option for 2023 and a mutual option for 2024

There are a few pivotal pieces to the team that will be free agents after this season and next, but to have six of the team’s current nine starting batters under contract through 2024 — seven if Profar has both options exercised — is a rare amount of stability for a playoff contender. That’s not even including Musgrove, fresh off an extension, who figures to anchor the rotation for years to come.

MORE: When will Fernando Tatis Jr. be cleared to rejoin Padres?

Perhaps even more impressive is that all the deals the Padres have players signed to are team-friendly in that none of these players are under contract in their 40s, and only four players are even under contract after age 34.

Scared of facing the Padres? It won’t be getting easier any time soon.


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