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Series Preview #2 : Diamondbacks @ Padres

These two teams are better than last season.

Juan Soto takes the field.
Juan Soto takes the field.
Photo by Matt Thomas/San Diego Padres/Getty Images

The Padres stumbled to start the season.

The first two games of the season, they lost to the Rockies. They lost 2-7 and 1-4 to the team widely expected to place last in the NL West.

The difference in the first game was the 5 RBIs by CJ Cron. In the second game, Blackmon’s 2-out, 2-run homer was big.

What about Juan Soto? In the first two games his production was limited to zero hits and one walk in 8 PAs. I hope the Diamondbacks look at how the Rockies pitched to Juan Soto.

Last season, the Diamondbacks won 5 out of 19 games with the Padres. The bad news is that the Padres are a better team this season. The good news is that the Diamondbacks are a better team.

Largely because the Rockies beat the Padres, my optimistic projection is that the Diamondbacks will sweep the Padres in this two-game series.

In late June of last season, my preview of a series with the Padres emphasized the opportunity to watch the 21-years-old, top-100 prospect C.J Abrams in his debut season. He was drafted sixth in the first round of the 2019 draft. He played shortstop because Fernandez Tatis Jr. broke his wrist and had a corrective operation in March.

CJ Abrams was traded away to acquire Juan Soto.

“It’s one of the most impressive trades in MLB history, because players like Soto just don’t change teams being so good and young.” — Andres Chavez, August 2022

“It’s a stunning blockbuster, one of the most seismic trades in major league history. There’s almost no precedent for a player of Soto’s caliber being dealt, particularly not with multiple seasons of remaining club control. The lefty-hitting outfielder is among the game’s top handful of players, a superstar performer who has amazingly yet to turn 24 years old.” —Anthony Franco, August 2022

Juan Soto is a star.

Although it is not his debut season, Juan Soto is only 23 years old. He won a silver slugger award in each of the last three seasons. His superpower is On-Base-Percentage (OBP). In 2020 and 2021, his season OBP was .490 and .465. The value of OBP cannot be overstated.

This season’s Padres are a better team.

In August of last season the Padres were all-in because they spent prospects and dollars at the trade deadline to put together a winning team capable of reaching the World Series (which they did not reach). This season they took all-in to a higher level.

Position Players. In late April, Fernando Tatis Jr. will return after missing last season (he is a “like new” player). After acquiring Juan Soto late last season, he will play an entire season for the Padres (he is a “like new” player). The Padres acquired All-Star level players. The “new” players and the “like new” players are in purple in the following chart that compared their projected OPS to last season’s Padres team. The green numbers show that the Padres’ OPS is projected to be better at every position except second base.

Data from Baseball Reference and FanGraphs.

Rotation. Three new pitchers will join the rotation, each with a better projected ERA than the pitcher they replaced.

Data from Baseball Reference and FanGraphs.

The Pitching Matchups.

Monday 6:40 PM Arizona Time, Ryan Weathers vs Ryne Nelson

Ryan Weathers was the fifth player in MLB history to make his debut in the postseason. In 2020, he allowed zero runs in 1.1 innings of relief in game 1 of the NLDS.

On 1 February, Ryan Weathers said that he changed his windup in a way that had many positive impacts (gives him rhythm, adds a little pace, allows him to get out front, improves his off-speed pitches, and improves his pitch location.) Also, he is figuring out how to improve his spin by talking with Joe Musgrove.

Against Ryan Weathers six Diamondbacks (on the active roster) have an OPS of 1.000 or better (Josh Rojas, Nick Ahmed, Evan Longoria, Kyle Lewis, Ketel Marte, and Christian Walker). Although this spring left-handed Weathers changed his windup, it’s likely the Diamondbacks will score runs against him. Ryan Weathers may start only a couple games this season because Joe Musgrove could return by mid-April (broken toe in weight room).

Ryne Nelson won the competition for the fifth starter spot. Hopefully he will show himself worthy in his first start of the season.

Tuesday, 1:10 PM Arizona Time, Yu Darvish vs Zac Gallen

Yu Darvish is expected to start this game. After only 93 pitches in the entire WBC, he was building up his pitch count to prepare for his first start of the season. This game will be his first start of the season.

In February, Yu Darvish signed a $108 Million contract extension through 2028. He will be 42 years old at the end of the contract’s last season. That’s not necessarily the end of his career; Randy Johnson continued pitching beyond 42 years old.

In Zac Gallen’s first start of the season against the Dodgers, Zac Gallen did not allow any home runs. Five Padres’ batters have hit homers against Zac Gallen (Campusano, Soto, Cronenworth, Grisham, and Machado). Looking at PAs against Gallen from the entire lineup, they have 5 homers in 80 PAs. The keys to success will be either keeping Padres off the basepaths (especially Juan Soto) or home run suppression. Last season, Zac Gallen held batters to only 0.7 home runs per 9 innings, which is encouraging.