Wishing you all a happy and healthy New Year!
2022 was a roller coaster for the Padres. So what do they have in store next year? Here are 23 predictions for ‘23:
1. The Padres will win the West.
I’m getting the boldest prediction out of the way first. But on paper, the Padres stack up nicely with L.A. They already proved they can hang with their primary division rivals with their performance in October. Now they’ll welcome Xander Bogaerts to the rivalry -- and they’ll welcome back Fernando Tatis Jr.
2. Juan Soto will be an MVP candidate again.
Perhaps it was a bit unfair to heap such immense expectations on Soto immediately after his move from D.C. He’d spent his entire baseball life in the Nationals organization. Soto struggled a bit in August and September, but began to turn it on in October. With an offseason and a Spring Training under his belt, expect Soto to return to the ultra-productive version of himself in 2023.
3. Manny Machado sticks around.
He can opt out of his contract after next season. But Machado clearly loves San Diego, and the city loves him back. I’m not sure whether he returns because he opts in or because he signs an extension. But the guess here is that he’ll be back.
4. Tatis plays most of his games in right field.
With Bogaerts at short and a deep Padres infield elsewhere, Tatis seems destined for the outfield. Petco Park’s spacious right field feels like the perfect spot to maximize his talents.
5. The rotation regresses.
The Padres’ starting staff was just so consistent and so deep last season, particularly during the first half. Right now, that depth isn’t quite there.
6. Josh Hader leads the Majors in saves.
Hader figures to see quite a few save situations. If the Padres get the version of Hader that dominated opposing hitters in the postseason, he might even challenge Trevor Hoffman’s franchise record of 53 saves from 1998.
7. The Padres trade for a catcher.
The tandem of Austin Nola/Luis Campusano is adequate, but perhaps lacking just a bit for a team with World Series aspirations. Maybe they carry three catchers (a possibility with a vacancy at DH). Or maybe one of those two is sent packing.
8. Yu Darvish starts Opening Day.
He'd be the first pitcher to start three straight Padres openers since Jake Peavy, who started four straight from 2006-09.
9. Joe Musgrove gets booed in New York -- and beats the Mets again.
The Padres’ first road trip of the season goes through Citi Field. For some reason, Musgrove's shiny ears are still a point of contention among Mets fans. Even though, you know, the umpires found nothing to point to any wrongdoing.
10. Tatis homers in his first game back.
(He has a knack for doing that.)
11. The Padres have seven All-Stars.
That would tie a franchise record set in 1985. Now, don't ask me to predict those seven, but there's enough star power on this roster to equal that record.
12. A.J. Preller does something big at the Trade Deadline.
13. Machado sets the Petco Park home run record -- against the Dodgers.
Machado only needs four homers in his home ballpark to pass Adrián González on the all-time list. The Dodgers come to town the first weekend in May.
14. Machado hits No. 300 against the Orioles.
It would be fitting, wouldn’t it? He's sitting on 283 career home runs, with Baltimore coming to town in August.
15. Bogaerts is worth at least 5 WAR.
Which would mark three straight 5 WAR seasons by three different Padres shortstops.
16. Ha-Seong Kim wins a Gold Glove.
He's already proven he's an elite defensive shortstop. No reason he shouldn't be equally solid defensively at second.
17. Blake Snell has his best full season as a Padre.
He's put together some solid half-seasons, typically dominating after the All-Star break. Here's guessing Snell figures it out earlier this year and flirts with a sub-3 ERA (before getting paid handsomely as a free agent next winter).
18. Adrian Morejon is this year's Nick Martinez.
Last year, Martinez did it all, moving from the rotation to the bullpen, and filling just about every role imaginable. This year, he’s secured a spot as a starter. The Padres say they're stretching Morejon toward a starter's workload, too, but I have a hunch he’d be best served as a jack-of-all-trades reliever.
20. Soto breaks the Padres' single-season walks record.
Jack Clark holds the current mark, with 132 in 1989. Soto has topped that number in each of his past two seasons.
21. "All the Small Things" becomes a tradition.
What started during the playoffs last year -- the Blink-182 hit played after the seventh inning -- will become a Petco Park staple.
22. The Padres get a bye into the NL Division Series.
Look, playoff baseball is too volatile for me to predict 10 months in advance. But the Padres certainly have the talent to finish as one of the NL’s top two division winners.
23. San Diego shatters its home attendance record.
The city has fully embraced this team, and with a likely playoff push on the horizon, the Padres should surpass their 2004 record of 3,016,752 fans from their first season at Petco Park.