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The Padres head to Mexico City sitting under .500. What’s up with Juan Soto, Fernando Tatis Jr. & Co.?

The San Diego Padres are taking their star-studded show to the international stage this weekend with a two-game set against the San Francisco Giants in Mexico City. Fresh off Team Mexico’s deep, thrilling run in the World Baseball Classic, the country will host MLB’s first international games since before the pandemic. While the league has played in Monterrey several times, this is its first venture to Mexico City.

Saturday’s game begins at 6:05PM ET, and Sunday’s game begins at 4:05PM ET. Both will be broadcast nationally on MLB Network as well as locally on the teams’ normal networks.

After toppling the Los Angeles Dodgers and reaching the NLCS in 2022, the Padres made another splash this offseason, signing star shortstop Xander Bogarts to an 11-year, $280 million deal and bolstering a lineup that includes Already included Manny Machado, Juan Soto. and Fernando Tatis Jr. (once he returned from suspension).

Many projections saw this as the season the Padres leapfrogged the Dodgers in the regular season and perhaps even claimed the title as the best team in baseball. However, this has not happened so far.

Let’s examine the constellation of the stars of the Padres and see if there is anything to see in Mexico City.

Padre is 13-14. What’s gone wrong so far?

Well, most notably, crime. The Padres Have the Bottom-10 Offense in MLB by the parks-adjusted WRC+, trailing giants like the Miami Marlins and Oakland Athletics. Patience and perhaps a strong reputation are the main factors that keep them from falling even further.

Their 10.3% walk rate as a team is one of baseball’s highest rates, while their team’s batting average is an MLB-worst (!) .215 entering Saturday.

Is The New Couple Hitting Xander Bogarts?

Yes. Bogarts has been by far the best everyday player for San Diego. The new shortstop is .316/.409/.510 in 115 plate appearances, good for 161 OPS+, while the next-best regular starter (Jake Kronworth) is at 106 OPS+.

The other hitter firing on all cylinders is Matt Carpenter, who has a team-high 14 RBI in just 62 plate appearances while splitting at DH.

So why haven’t Manny Machado, Juan Soto and other stars kept it up?

No. You’ve most probably heard about Soto’s struggles. His consistent, precocious excellence with the Washington Nationals didn’t fly after last summer’s blockbuster trade to San Diego. Something is off.

Soto has publicly diagnosed A swing issue has caused him to drag the ball a lot, but there’s also a sense of general anxiety moving around Soto. Later he flared up at the thought of batting — manager Bob Melvin and the wider baseball world’s favorite spot for the best on-base threat of any team — and more provocative questions keep coming about his extended slump in combination with the contract offer he reportedly Was turned down and his future free agency. This is a lot

All the while, it’s true that Soto’s trademark plate discipline remains sterling. Despite batting a gruesome .183, he’s maintaining his total production MLB’s 3rd highest walk rate (19.8%),

So it might surprise you to hear that Soto’s overall offensive numbers so far this year — he has 98 OPS+, meaning he’s been 2% worse than league-average hitters — are trailing Machado. The team’s third baseman and vocal leader, who signed an 11-year extension this spring, is going 66 OPS+ at the plate so far.

Perhaps putting on a little pressure, Machado is chasing more bad pitches and not swinging as much as he usually does at strikes. The result is a vicious cycle, preventing the 2022 NL MVP runner-up from reaching his usual regimen of hard line drives and moving on His worst offensive month in the big leagues by OPS since May 2014.

Fernando Tatis Jr. is back, though, isn’t he?

he is. The 24-year-old superstar’s saga of injury and steroid suspension came to an end when he returned to action on April 20. He wasn’t hot to begin with, but that’s probably to be expected. Tatis has played in only seven games since returning, and no amount of minor-league pitching can completely shake off the rust after such a long layoff.

He’s also adjusting to a new position, playing right field out of respect for Bogaerts and the other host of shortstops on executive AJ Preller’s crowded roster.

How is he handling the glare of his suspension? This week, Tatis responded to ridicule at Wrigley Field by busting a defiant dance move.

How is the beefed up rotation working?

Last year’s Padres boasted an obviously strong top three in Yu Darvish, Joe Musgrove and Blake Snell, but most of the questions arose after that. Add Snell’s troubling inconsistency, and you had a crazy pitching situation.

Preller spent the off-season making a number of additions, some of them unorthodox, to the pitching equation. First, they re-signed Nick Martinez – who excelled for San Diego in the postseason as a multi-inning reliever – to a new deal that provides incentives for starters. He then brought in free agent Seth Lugo, a longtime setup man for the New York Mets, with the intention of giving him a chance to start. Finally, he paired late with veteran starter Michael Wacha.

All the depth, including young, homegrown left-hander Ryan Weathers, came into action early after Musgrove was delayed in spring training by a toe injury. But now there are some questions behind Darvish and Musgrove.

In short, the pitching staff hasn’t been much better than the offense. Aside from a stellar start against the Braves, Wacha has had knocks all around. Snell is struggling mightily to walk again; He has yet to go over five innings, and the Padres have lost all five of his starts. Lugo has looked solid in five starts, logging a 3.58 ERA that backs up peripheral stats, making him the best performer outside of Darvish.

For now, Lugo is sticking in the rotation while Martinez and Withers are working the bullpen. It seems safe to say that if Wacha and Snell can’t turn things around then they may not be permanent placements.

Should Padres fans be worried?

Look, things aren’t great. This loaded team has the third-worst run differential in the National League, topped only by the hapless Colorado Rockies and the Miami Marlins (at -37, despite a winning record). But it’s only been a month, and the good news is that the NL West hasn’t kicked anyone out yet.

The young Arizona Diamondbacks are a nice surprise, but they are only leading the division with a 15-12 record. The Dodgers are defeated and are just one game ahead of San Diego at 14–13.

There are bright spots for the Padres. Closer Josh Hader looks more like himself after a torrid summer last season, and one-time top prospect Brent Honeywell has emerged as a bullpen weapon, often going more than one frame with him. wild array of pitches that includes, yes, a screwball,

Still, this team’s hopes reside squarely on the potential multiplier combo at the heart of the lineup: Machado, Soto, Tatis, Bogaerts. It’s by no means too late for them to reach their ceiling this year — and there’s no good reason to think that Machado and Soto are meaningfully different from their usual excellent selves — but the Padres have to go too soon. More than one of that quartet is needed.


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