NL West Espionage: Padres vs. Arizona Diamondbacks

Mandatory Credit: Joe Camporeale-USA TODAY Sports

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Mandatory Credit: Joe Rondone-Arizona Republic
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Ahead of the 2023, we take a look at how the Padres stack up against each of their NL West rivals. Let’s take a look at the Arizona Diamondbacks.

2022 season recap

On May 13, the Diamondbacks were three games above .500 at 18-15. They were just four games below .500 as late as September 5. They were, what we like to say, “pesky.” Even though more often than not, the Padres took care of business, they were tough to put away at times. Arizona finished with a winning record against the San Francisco Giants. They even split four games against the World Series champion Houston Astros. They had two full months where they played above .500 baseball.

Eventually, the lack of pitching depth and elite talent set in, and they faded to fourth place in the NL West, finishing 74-88. Christian Walker had something of a break-out season, with a career-high 36 homers, fourth-best in the National League. Zac Gallen was the true star, notching a 2.54 ERA and 158 ERA+, both rankings ninth in all of baseball, in 31 starts, meriting some NL Cy Young votes.

Padres 2022 record vs. Arizona: 14-5

Notable losses

Ian Kennedy

Caleb Smith

Daulton Varsho

Notable additions

Miguel Castro

Lourdes Gurriel Jr.

Jeurys Familia

Kyle Lewis

Evan Longoria

2023 outlook

With Gallen becoming a true ace, Arizona has their building block for their starting rotation. Merrill Kelly is a fine pitcher in his own right. His 3.37 ERA and 119 ERA+ in 33 starts last season are both better than average. After those two, there is a large drop-off. Madison Bumgarner is not what he once was. Over his last two seasons, in 56 starts, he owns a 4.78 ERA and 86 ERA+.

Their lineup added some talent. That also came with a big risk in dealing Varsho, who posted a 4.9 bWAR in 2022. However, most of that talent is either past their prime, unproven, or injury prone. If all the pieces come together and stay healthy, the 2023 D-backs squad will be a giant thorn in the side to the upper tier of the NL West. Gurriel is a solid contact hitter, with a .291 average and .343 on-base percentage for Toronto last season. Kyle Lewis is just three years removed from winning AL Rookie of the Year with the Seattle Mariners. However, he has only appeared in 54 MLB games in two seasons since.

Evan Longoria was among the best third basemen for the better part of a decade. However, he is now 37 years old and batted .244 last season. It remains to be seen how much he has left in the tank.

Aside from Walker, who is coming off of a power surge, Arizona also has former All-Star Ketel Marte. He finished fourth in NL MVP voting after the 2019 season. However, he has just 28 total home runs in three seasons since.

Corbin Carroll is currently the No.2 overall prospect, per MLB Pipeline. He had a strong, albeit brief, showing in the big leagues last season. He is an early favorite for NL Rookie of the Year. It’s safe to assume the Diamondbacks will give him an extended look this season and let him play his way into a regular role.

There is a mixture of young talent with aging veterans in the desert. They may even be in contention for a Wild Card spot after the All-Star break if luck is on their side. Their undoing might again be lack of pitching depth, especially in the bullpen. They were 25th in bullpen ERA last season. Their main bullpen additions were Miguel Castro (4.03 ERA, 98 ERA+ for NYY in 2022) and Familia, who is coming off the worst season of his career.

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How the Padres match up

The projections and experts certainly like the Padres’ chances of handling the Diamondbacks once again this season. However, it may be hard for San Diego to repeat their stellar 14-5 record against Arizona again in 2023. Gallen might give the Padres trouble, but it was actually Kelly who found the most success on the mound against the Friars in 2022 (three starts, 2.65 ERA). The Padres look to have the superior rotation, even with question marks themselves beyond the Yu DarvishJoe MusgroveBlake Snell trio.

At the plate, the lineups could not be more different. Just about any team in baseball will struggle to match up well with the Padres’ bats on paper. The Padres certainly would not mind a 30-plus homer first baseman like Walker, but beyond that, the Padres emphatically have the upper hand with the likes of Juan Soto, Manny Machado, Xander Bogaerts, and eventually, Fernando Tatis Jr.

The bullpens are also at opposite ends of the spectrum. As mentioned, Arizona had a bottom-tier bullpen last season and went without major upgrades. Meanwhile, the Padres have arguably the best closer in baseball in Josh Hader, with a bullpen that ranked ninth in FIP largely in tact.

Overall, the Padres are the superior team. However, the Friars cannot afford to take the Snakes lightly in 2023, or they will get bitten more than they bargained for.

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