The San Diego Padres outfielders played an instrumental role in their success in 2022.
Just like the entire Padres team, the outfielders for San Diego thrived on solid defense and timely hitting throughout the season. Though the team used a lot of different pieces throughout the season, things eventually fell into place once the playoffs began.
The Padres made one of the biggest trades in MLB history when they landed superstar Juan Soto on August 2nd, giving the team one of the best bats in baseball, as well as an above-average glove in left field.
In all, the Padres finished the season with two of their three everyday outfielders earning Gold Glove finalist nominations. The offense definitely had room for improvement, but they all had big moments offensively in key moments in the playoffs, propelling the team to upsets over the New York Mets and Los Angeles Dodgers before eventually falling to the Philadelphia Phillies in the NLCS.
Here is a look at the Padres outfielders’ grades for the 2022 season.
LF Jurickson Profar .243/.331/.391 .723 OPS/3.1 WAR Grade- B
Profar had arguably his best season as a Padre in 2022, solidifying his spot at the top of the Padres’ lineup while playing a spectacular left field. In a career-high 152 games, Profar did exactly what the Padres expected out of him when they added him to the team before the 2020 season. He got on base at a .331 clip, walking more times (73) than he ever had in his career. Though his power numbers could have been better, he did hit 15 home runs and drove in 58 runs with an OPS+ of 111, which was the second-best of his career.
Defensively is where Profar shined in 2022. Profar continues to get better in the outfield, committing only four errors in 243 chances, all in left field. He was tied for fourth in baseball with ten outfield assists, none of which were bigger than his assist in game four of the NLCS that cut down a would-be double to keep the game tied, even though the Padres would go on to lose.
Profar has a $7.5 million player option heading into the offseason, and it is still up in the air as to whether he will come back to San Diego for the 2023 season. After becoming one of the Padres’ more reliable players in 2022 as their leadoff guy, as well as a left fielder that continues to get better the more he plays, the Padres need to find a way to re-sign the 29-year-old.
CF Trent Grisham .184/.284/.341 .626 OPS/2.4 WAR Grade- D+
Since coming to the Padres from the Milwaukee Brewers in a trade before the 2020 season, Trent Grisham has been known for his amazing defense, winning a Gold Glove in the Covid-shortened 2020 season. He has also been known for his ability to hit for power while also having a good eye, even though his batting average is usually not spectacular. While he has never been known as a hit-for-average guy, his ability to get on base and hit for power, along with elite defense, typically made up for his offensive holes.
2022 saw Grisham regress offensively in virtually every category. Grisham’s .184 batting average in 2022 was the worst among qualified position players in all of baseball. He had a career-high 150 strikeouts, pairing that with a career-low on-base percentage of .284. Grisham did hit a career-high 17 home runs in 2022 with 53 RBI, but he seemed to be looking for the long ball a lot more frequently, which eliminated a lot of opportunities for base hits. In all, it seemed as though Grisham was pressing at the plate, which made him into a pull-happy power hitter that lost the ability to keep the pitchers honest.
Defensively, Grisham was as good as he ever was. Grisham committed only two errors in 346 chances and had a fielding percentage of .994. He led all of baseball with 17 Outs Above Average and was named a finalist for a Gold Glove in center field. Grisham has a great chance to win his second Gold Glove award in three seasons, and assuming the voters don’t pay attention to his abysmal offensive season (which they shouldn’t), has a great chance to do so.
His bat is a major issue, so much so that there is talk of the Padres looking to move Grisham to make room for Fernando Tatis Jr. in center field.
While Grisham turned things around in a big way in the first two rounds of the playoffs, he came back down in the NLCS and essentially disappeared. Overall, Grisham had a horrific offensive season which overshadowed his Gold Glove-caliber year, and only time will tell what will become of Grisham in a Padres’ uniform heading into 2023.
RF Juan Soto .242/.401/.452 .853 OPS/5.6 WAR Grade- B-
Juan Soto came to the San Diego Padres with Josh Bell after a historic trade on August 2nd between the Padres and the Washington Nationals. He had just come off of a solid first half with Washington and came to San Diego to help the Padres in a playoff push without the team’s other superstar, Tatis Jr., who was scheduled to return later in the month.
After Tatis was ruled ineligible to play in 2022 due to a PED suspension, Soto became even more important to San Diego’s playoff hopes.
Though Soto didn’t produce as much as he or Padres’ fans would have liked in his brief stint with San Diego throughout the regular season and postseason, he showed plenty of glimpses into what kind of player the Padres have for another two seasons.
Soto finished the season with just a .242 batting average but got on base at a .401 clip. In the playoffs, Soto was up and down but had a number of big hits in each series and finished the ALCS with home runs in two straight games. Out of the two-hole with Manny Machado behind him to provide protection, Soto provided Padres’ fans a glimpse into how special 2023 can be with Tatis Jr. inserted into the lineup and a full off-season to get acclimated with the San Diego team.
Defensively, Soto was solid in 2022. He finished as a Gold Glove finalist in right field, though there is debate about how good he actually is as a defender. He certainly has an above-average arm and makes all of the casual plays that come his way.
Regardless of your opinion of Soto as a defender, he is a really good player in the outfielder and a generational talent at the plate. While his 2022 season was not quite his usual season, especially once he got to San Diego, there is no question he made a major impact for the Padres. He was a major reason why the Padres made the playoffs in 2022 and had numerous important hits in the playoffs. He changed the way that pitchers approached the Padres’ lineup and should be even better in 2023 after starting the season fresh in brown and gold.
CF Jose Azocar .257/.298/.332 .629 OPS/0.1 WAR Grade- C+
Jose Azocar had a very good rookie season for the Padres in a limited capacity. He was used as a replacement for the struggling Grisham quite a bit, providing a right-handed bat with a lot of speed. He only had 202 at-bats, but he did exactly what the Padres needed from him when he did play.
He provided the Padres speed on the base paths, an area which they were severely lacking in 2022. Azocar finished the season with five stolen bases and 24 runs. Though he finished with only 12 extra-base hits on the season, he did get three triples and nine doubles.
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Azocar wasn’t a big factor on the Padres in 2022, but he did what he was asked to do and provided a spark for the Padres many times when the team needed it. He also pinch-ran in the payoffs at a time when the Padres desperately needed someone to provide a spark. He eventually scored on a wild pitch to give the Padres the lead late in an NLCS game. His speed undoubtedly played a factor in the pitch that he scored on.
It will be interesting to see how he fits into the 2023 Padres’ team, but he will likely get an opportunity to make a bigger impact in his second season in the majors.
Kevin is a San Diego Native covering the San Diego Padres and their affiliates