With such a small sample size in the postseason, there’s almost always a player who breaks out for a month, supporting their superstars.
Last year it was Jorge Soler who homered three times in the World Series to help Atlanta win a title. Two years ago, Randy Arozarena homered ten times in the playoffs, blasting Tampa Bay into the World Series.
If the San Diego Padres are going to find success, they’re going to need massive Octobers from Manny Machado and Juan Soto. However, they’re also going to need one or two other players to step up and support the superstar duo.
That was made evident immediately in the Padres’ win over the Mets to start the Wild Card series. While Manny Machado did smack a home run, he and Soto combined to go 1-for-8 on the night. Machado’s solo shot proved to be nothing more than insurance, with the damage being done by others. Josh Bell kickstarted the offense with a two-run shot before Trent Grisham added one of his own. The game was blown open by Jurickson Profar’s three-run shot, which helped San Diego to a six-run lead. Profar reached base three times in the win, as did Ha-Seong Kim. Kim, who singled and doubled, along with a walk, started the fifth inning, which proved to be the nail in the coffin for the Mets.
During the game with New York, Manny Machado posted a -0.02 WPA (Win Probability Added), while Juan Soto had a team-worst -0.05 WPA. The Padres didn’t win because of Soto and Machado; they won despite them. That’s not a recipe that can work for all of October, but San Diego will have to make it work at times. San Diego could play as many as 22 games in their postseason run, and there are going to be nights where Soto and Machado struggle. If players like Profar, Bell, and more can step up on those nights, the Padres will be a dangerous team in the playoffs.
Wil Myers and Jake Cronenworth had hitless nights, striking out five times in eight at-bats. Myers picked up a surprising start over Brandon Drury, who started at first base for much of the second half. Drury will almost certainly start against Jacob DeGrom in Game Two, and he’s another player who could step up and become a third star in October. Cronenworth ended the regular season on a six-game hitting streak, which ended in the first game of the series. San Diego does not have any other real options at second base, so Cronenworth will have plenty of chances to contribute at the plate.
Only time will tell who the Padres hero may be over the course of the playoffs, but San Diego will need one. The role has already been made. It’s just time to cast the player who will play the part.