Padres-Dodgers position-by-position breakdown

October 11th, 2022

For the second time in three years, the Dodgers and Padres will meet in the National League Division Series when the two SoCal rivals open their best-of-five set at Dodger Stadium on Tuesday night.

Much has been made of the upstart Padres trying to unseat the perennial powerhouse Dodgers atop the NL West in recent years, but Los Angeles has consistently quashed any San Diego surge. During the regular season, the Dodgers won 14 of 19 meetings between the clubs. But San Diego is hot, coming off a Wild Card Series victory over the 101-win Mets to reach the showdown with the 111-win Dodgers.

Postseason ticket information: Dodgers | Padres

So how do the Dodgers and Padres match up? Here’s a position-by-position breakdown:


Will Smith proved this season that last season was no fluke when it came to his offensive production. In 2021, Smith had a breakout campaign in which he posted an .860 OPS with 25 home runs. This year, he turned in an .807 OPS with 24 homers to help the Dodgers’ lineup keep rolling despite the struggles of Max Muncy and Cody Bellinger for much of the season.

The Padres’ catching tandem of Austin Nola and Jorge Alfaro, with Nola getting the bulk of the time behind the plate, hasn’t produced nearly as much as Smith has at the plate, and behind it, the duo has combined for -10 defensive runs saved per FanGraphs. By contrast, Smith had +7 DRS during the regular season.

Edge: Dodgers

First base

When the Dodgers signed Freddie Freeman last offseason, they knew what they were getting. And did he ever deliver -- the veteran first baseman and 2020 NL MVP Award winner put up MVP-worthy numbers again in ’22. He hit .325 -- one point shy of leading the league -- and slugged .511 while leading the NL with a .407 on-base percentage, 117 runs scored, 199 hits (led the Majors) and 47 doubles. Freeman’s 7.1 wins above replacement per FanGraphs was tied with fellow MVP candidate Paul Goldschmidt for third in the league.

The Padres acquired first baseman/designated hitter Josh Bell from the Nationals in the blockbuster deal that brought superstar slugger Juan Soto to San Diego. Bell had a resurgence at the plate for Washington, but struggled down the stretch with the Padres before homering off the Mets' Max Scherzer in the NL Wild Card Series. Wil Myers also saw time at first base for the Friars this year, but he was limited by injury and posted a .713 OPS with seven homers in 286 plate appearances.

Edge: Dodgers

Second base

Gavin Lux put together his best big league season to this point in his young career, leading the league with seven triples and posting a .745 OPS for the Dodgers during the 2022 regular season. But the Padres’ Jake Cronenworth was better at the plate, hitting 17 homers and driving in 88 runs while posting a 113 OPS+. Cronenworth (4.2) and Lux (3.0) finished third and fourth, respectively, among NL second basemen in FanGraphs WAR.

Edge: Padres


Trea Turner got off to a slow start at the plate this year, but began heating up over the summer, finishing second to teammate Freeman in hits among all MLB players (194) to go along with 21 homers and 27 steals. Had Fernando Tatis Jr. been in the equation here, the calculus would certainly be different. And while Ha-Seong Kim has filled in admirably at short for Tatis and the Padres, Turner is the superior talent at the position.

Edge: Dodgers

Third base

Just as the Dodgers have an MVP candidate at first base, the Padres have one at the other corner of the infield. Manny Machado had a tremendous year, surging late in the season to elevate himself into the NL MVP conversation. From Aug. 1 through the end of the regular season, he hit .304/.367/.564 with 14 homers while playing his signature stellar defense at the hot corner. He finished with 7.4 FanGraphs WAR, best in the NL, just edging Paul Goldschmidt and fellow third baseman Nolan Arenado of the Cardinals.

The Dodgers have a pair of very experienced veterans at third base who have been stars in postseasons past for Los Angeles. Justin Turner and Max Muncy have great playoff resumes, but their performances this season were a far cry from the production Machado gave San Diego. Turner battled injury during the regular season, still finishing with a .788 OPS with 13 homers in 532 plate appearances. Muncy, meanwhile, slumped for much of the 2022 campaign but finished strong, posting an .858 OPS with 12 homers over the final two months.

Edge: Padres

Left field

The Dodgers traded for Joey Gallo in August, hoping a change of scenery after a difficult time in New York with the Yankees would rejuvenate a player who had 25 homers with an .869 OPS for the Rangers before Texas traded him prior to the Trade Deadline in 2021. Things started off well enough, with Gallo slugging .629 in his first 14 games wearing Dodger blue. But from there on, he hit just .122 with a .524 OPS the rest of the regular season.

Trayce Thompson has been a pleasant surprise for the Dodgers since they brought him on for his second stint with the club. He appeared in 74 games for Los Angeles -- 35 of them in left field -- posting a .901 OPS with 13 homers after being released by the Dodgers’ NLDS opponents, the Padres.

For its part, San Diego has gotten solid production both offensively and defensively by Jurickson Profar in left -- he posted a .723 OPS with 15 homers and finished the regular season with 2.5 FanGraphs WAR. And Profar was a big contributor in the NL Wild Card Series against the Mets, going 4-for-12 with a homer in Game 1.

Edge: Padres

Center field

If this was a few years ago, it’d be an easy call to just go with Cody Bellinger, who was the 2019 NL MVP after a monster season at the plate and steadily excellent defense in the field. But a lot has changed for Bellinger since then, and he’s nowhere near the offensive threat he used to be. He slumped for most of the ’22 regular season, hitting .210/.265/.389 with 19 homers.

Meanwhile, his counterpart in the NLDS didn’t fare much better. In fact, he was a little bit worse. Trent Grisham’s .626 OPS was 28 points lower than Bellinger’s, but he did hit 17 homers and provided strong defense in center. What puts him over the top in this exercise is his incredible performance in the NL Wild Card Series, in which he became the fourth player in postseason history to homer in back-to-back games against former Cy Young Award winners, doing so against Scherzer in Game 1 and Jacob deGrom in Game 2. Overall, he went 4-for-8 in the series.

Edge: Padres

Right field

The third former MVP Award winner in the Dodgers’ everyday lineup resides in right field. Mookie Betts had another prolific campaign at the plate and in right in 2022, posting an .873 OPS with a career-high 35 home runs and 6.6 FanGraphs WAR, which ranked sixth in the NL. He also had 15 defensive runs saved, second among all right fielders.

But wait just a minute. The Padres’ right fielder is one of the game’s elite hitters and San Diego made one of the biggest blockbuster trades in history to land him from the Nationals prior to this year’s Trade Deadline. Juan Soto’s career is on a trajectory that compares to legends like Ted Williams at a similar age, and he patrols right field for the Friars. He had a “down” regular season by his standards, “only” producing an .894 OPS with 21 homers. His OPS+ was still a robust 159, but given Betts’ superior defense, we’ll give the nod to him. Just barely.

Edge: Dodgers

Designated hitter

When the Padres acquired Soto, they also acquired Bell, who has paired with Myers to form the DH tandem for San Diego. Bell really struggled at the plate after the trade, but showed some life in the NL Wild Card Series, homering off Scherzer in Game 1 and going 3-for-13 overall. Myers went hitless in eight Wild Card Series at-bats.

The Dodgers have the experienced combination of Muncy and Justin Turner at the DH position -- generally, whoever isn’t playing third is going to be the DH on any given day. Given their production, though not what it once used to be, and their playoff resumes, the nod goes to Los Angeles here.

Edge: Dodgers

Starting pitching

This is a tough one because on one hand, you’ve got the starting rotation with the lowest regular-season ERA in baseball, while on the other, you’ve got a group that features a master craftsman who held the Mets to one run over seven innings in Game 1 of the NL Wild Card Series, a former Cy Young Award winner who struck out 35 percent of the batters he faced during the regular season and a guy who just went out and delivered one of the greatest winner-take-all starts in postseason history in the Game 3 clincher Sunday night.

The Dodgers’ Julio Urías is a Cy Young Award candidate this year, along with rotation mate Tony Gonsolin. Clayton Kershaw is a three-time Cy Young Award winner who can still dominate on the mound. And fellow lefty Tyler Anderson is coming off the best season of his career. But the Padres’ Yu Darvish, Blake Snell and Joe Musgrove, as well as Mike Clevinger, who was not on the Wild Card roster due to illness but has been cleared to rejoin the club, themselves comprise a formidable group.

Even though they’re missing Walker Buehler, the nod here goes to the Dodgers since their group is well-rested and lined up while the Padres will likely go with Clevinger in Game 1 after having Darvish, Snell and Musgrove get them through the Wild Card round.

Edge: Dodgers

Relief pitching

Along with the aforementioned absence of Buehler due to injury, the Dodgers have also had to contend with several key relief arms being sidelined for much of the regular season. But Los Angeles’ relief corps has weathered the storm and still managed to finish with the second-lowest bullpen ERA (2.87) of any team in baseball, behind only the Astros.

Blake Treinen may not be ready to return from the injured list for the NLDS and Craig Kimbrel lost the closer role in September. For most teams, these would be big issues. But, at least to this point, the Dodgers have demonstrated that they have the arms to make another World Series run.

The Padres’ bullpen finished in the middle of the pack in the regular season with a 3.83 ERA, though it got a boost when San Diego acquired one of the best closers in the game, Josh Hader, from the Brewers on Aug. 1. The only problem was, Hader wasn’t exactly pitching like one of the elite closers in baseball -- he had an uncharacteristic 4.24 ERA with Milwaukee and then saw his Padres tenure begin disastrously. In 19 appearances for San Diego down the stretch, his ERA was 7.31. The flame-throwing lefthander has shown improvement lately, though, including when he closed out Game 3 with a 1-2-3 ninth at Citi Field on Sunday.

Still, the Dodgers have the advantage here.

Edge: Dodgers


This should be a fun series. Can the "little brothers" in the NL West, the Padres, finally knock off the mighty Dodgers? Or do the Dodgers continue their dominance over San Diego and advance to the NL Championship Series for the sixth time in the last seven years?

The Padres are flying high after their upset series win over the Mets, and they certainly have the starting pitching to match up well with the Dodgers. But Los Angeles has been able to line up its rotation, while San Diego will likely turn to Clevinger after its three frontline arms were utilized in the Wild Card Series. The Dodgers also have the superior lineup, top to bottom, and the vast experience that comes with having been in the postseason every year since 2013.

Dodgers in 4