Do the Padres have the best top 4 in MLB?

Oct 8, 2021; St. Petersburg, Florida, USA; Boston Red Sox shortstop Xander Bogaerts (2) hits a home run against the Tampa Bay Rays during the third inning in game two of the 2021 ALDS at Tropicana Field. Mandatory Credit: Kim Klement-USA TODAY Sports

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Mandatory Credit: Ray Acevedo-USA TODAY Sports

With the addition of Xander Bogaerts, the Padres have a terrifying quartet atop their lineup. Do they have the best top four of any team in baseball?

The Fab Four may be a popular Beatles tribute band, but the most popular quartet in San Diego is now on the baseball field. With the signing of Manny Machado in 2019, the emergence of Fernando Tatis Jr. (and his eventual return from suspension), the trade for Juan Soto, and now the signing of Bogaerts, Peter Seidler, and A.J. Preller assembled a fearsome foursome.

If this foursome realizes their full potential over the next few seasons, they will be known as the Four Horsemen of the Baseball Apocalypse.

Now, that’s all fun to think about and see on paper. The work still needs to be done. These guys can’t pitch. For now, all we can do is dream and wonder to keep us warm until Spring Training 2023.

That being said, we wonder, is this the best top four, in regards to hitters, on any team in baseball?

All four received MVP votes as recently as 2021. Machado and Bogaerts did so in 2022, with Machado as the NL MVP runner-up. Soto, Bogaerts, and Machado were all All-Stars this past season.

Let’s not forget in 2021, Fernando Tatis Jr. was the face of baseball and put together one of the best single seasons in Padres history (42 home runs, .975 OPS, 6.6 WAR).

Yes, yes, he certainly has a mountain to climb to overcome the scrutiny, doubters, and frankly, PR nightmare that was his 2022 season (or lack thereof). But let’s not kid ourselves, Tatis will be back to All-Star level in no time. He is eligible to return around April 20, just a few weeks after the season starts.

According to FanGraphs’ STEAMER projections, the Bogaerts-Machado-Soto-Tatis foursome is projected to have a collective fWAR of 21.9 in the 2023 season.

To answer this question fully, we need to look around the league. Who are the fierce competitors for the title of top-quality quartet?

In San Diego’s own division, the Dodgers come to mind. However, their third-most valuable player from last season is now in Philadelphia (Trea Turner). That leaves Gavin Lux, and his 2.5 WAR-2022 season, as their shortstop. According to FanGraphs’ STEAMER projections, Lux is the fourth-most valuable hitter at this point.

STEAMER has this group  of four with 17.5. Of course, that could change if they add another big bat. But as of now, they are behind.

Much like after the 2022 National League Division, they’re out of this race.

What about the Padres’ nemesis in the National League Championship Series, the Phillies? As mentioned, they added the speedy Turner to an already wicked lineup. He is one of the top athletes in the game, with the coveted combo of speed and power. He is projected for 4.7 fWAR.

Padres Fernando Tatis Jr.
Credit: Padres

The problem with Philadelphia is that Bryce Harper, the 2021 NL MVP and 2022 NLCS MVP, will not be available until maybe the All-Star break after having Tommy John surgery last month. That puts a dent in an otherwise scary top four.

Their other two sluggers, J.T. Realmuto and Kyle Schwarber are, contracted with the team for the next three seasons. They aren’t going away anytime soon.

However, with Harper set to miss over half the season, they fall short of this argument for now.

The 2021 World Series champion Braves would have a decent argument with Ronald Acuna Jr. and Austin Riley at the top. However, Dansby Swanson, fresh off of a 6.4-WAR campaign, remains a free agent.

Without Swanson in the equation, their current top four are projected for a combined 17.6 WAR.

On the American League side, the Yankees are top-heavy, with recent re-signee Aaron Judge on top. There is a large drop-off after him, with Gleyber Torres, Harrison Bader, and Anthony Rizzo set to round out their top four.

The Blue Jays have one of the best hitters in the game in Vlad Guerrero Jr., projected for 5.4 WAR. Throw in Bo Bichette, George Springer, and Alejandro Kirk, and that is as quality a foursome as you will find in Major League Baseball.

STEAMER has that group at 18.7 projected WAR.

Lastly, there is the reigning World Series champion Astros. Before diving in, the disclaimer is that the purpose of this piece is to look at the best top four, not necessarily the best overall lineup. There is little argument that the Astros have the deepest lineup in baseball. They are so deep that newly signed Jose Abreu does not even crack their top four regarding projected WAR.

That being said, Yordan Alvarez has a strong case as one of the favorites to win 2023 AL MVP. He is on the same team as 2017 AL MVP Jose Altuve, two-time All-Star Alex Bregman, and reigning World Series MVP Jeremy Peña.

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Both Altuve and Alvarez batted .300 with an OPS north of .920 last season. Kyle Tucker joined Alvarez in the 30-homer club.

STEAMER projects their top four of Alvarez, Altuve, Tucker, and Bregman to have 20.2 WAR.

That is 1.7 WAR short of the Padres’ foursome.

However, STEAMER is just one projection. There are many ways to dissect the top players in the game.

Both Houston and San Diego had two players in the top 10 in OPS+ last season. Tatis’ 166 mark in 2021 would have ranked fourth in all of baseball this past season.

Xander Bogaerts had a higher OPS and OPS+ than Houston’s Kyle Tucker last season.

While the Astros, and Phillies, with a healthy Harper, might have a deeper lineup, no one’s top four tops the one right here in San Diego.

The Padres have a legitimate argument that, for now, they have the best Fab Four in the game of baseball.

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