What Should the Padres Lineup Look Like Before Tatis Returns?

Nobody in the baseball world is going to argue that the Padres lineup (1-4) will NOT be one of the scariest if not the scariest in the game once Tatis Jr. returns from his suspension. And as Padres writer A.J. Cassavell writes, "You could pick 1-2-3-4 out of a hat". Before fans look ahead to that fearsome foursome crushing opposing pitching though, a significant portion of the season (20 games) will be played without Tatis’ potent bat in the lineup.

So, how should the Padres veteran skipper, Bob Melvin, go about not only constructing his lineup 1-4 but also 5-9 to get the team off to a solid start?

By now Padres fans know that President of Baseball Operations, A.J. Preller is very much an analytics guy. And while not beholden to staying disciplined with what the analytics say the way he was during his tenure in Oakland, Bob Melvin also relies heavily on data and matchups based on that data.

With this knowledge of both Preller and Melvin’s decision-making tendencies, here’s how the Padres manager should construct the starting lineup against both righty and lefty pitchers along with reasons why he should do so.

Padres Lineup 1-9 vs. Right-Handed Starting Pitching

Leadoff - RF, Matt Carpenter

Carpenter brings a solid career .369 OBP trailing only Juan Soto on the team in career OBP. The veteran left-handed threat also brings a wealth of experience leading things off (2,235 plate appearances) and boasts an impressive .296 career batting average in that spot.

He’s also coming off a monster 47-game stint in 2022 before having his season derailed by a broken foot in August. And while not a speedster, he is an on-base threat who can get himself into scoring position as a traditionally good doubles hitter averaging almost 26 doubles/season over his 12-year career.

2nd - LF, Juan Soto

With a stellar .401 OBP in 2022 (which was actually below his career .424 OBP) and a 145wRC+, analytics data shows that Soto is an ideal fit for the second spot in the lineup. Plus, he prefers batting second and owns a career .474 OBP in the two-hole.

And like Carpenter, Soto is also a good doubles hitter (averaging over 23 doubles/season) and would give the top of the lineup a dynamic duo of on-base threats to get the offense kick-started.

3rd - SS, Xander Bogaerts

Now obviously Manny Machado hit 3rd the majority of the 2022 season and excelled in that spot. Manny has also gone on the record stating that he prefers batting 3rd. But as many Padres fans know, Manny has matured to become a team-first player who will make sacrifices to bring a championship to San Diego. And this is why Manny will be willing to let Melvin bat Bogaerts third since the Padres' new starting shortstop boasts better career numbers batting in that spot which helps the entire lineup.

With the highest career batting average on the team (.292 BA), third-highest career on-base percentage (.356 OBP), and fourth-highest career slugging percentage (.458 SLG), Bogaerts is arguably San Diego’s best hitter. And batting third is typically where you want a good all-around hitter batting in your lineup. Plus, Bogaerts boasts a career .309 BA hitting third, while Machado has a career .276 BA hitting in that same spot.

Cleanup - 3B, Manny Machado

Now El Ministro does not have a ton of career at bats in the cleanup spot throughout his career (only 198 ABs), but he has a career .313 BA in those at bats. In fact, in 2021, when he picked up most of those at bats (141), Manny had 47 hits, 11 HRs, and 39 RBI giving him a .333 BA with a .400 OBP and a .638 slugging percentage.

Additionally, throughout his career, Manny has had a much higher home run total averaging 25.7 HR/season vs. Bogaerts’ 15.6 HR/season and a higher career slugging percentage, .493 SLG vs. Bogaerts’ .458 SLG. Therefore, Machado’s career power numbers suggest that he is a better fit batting fourth for the Friars than any of his teammates not named Tatis Jr.

5th - 1B, Jake Cronenworth

With the first four players penciled in, Jake Cronenworth makes the most sense in the five spot because he has the next highest career slugging percentage of the remaining players (.431 SLG) and the next highest career wRC+ (114) on the team except for Nelson Cruz. But let’s face it, the Padres are not getting Nelson Cruz in his prime when he was putting up gaudy numbers season after season.

Now Jake had a down year last season regarding his slugging percentage, but he carries a career .288 BA and a .521 SLG when batting fifth during his Padres tenure. These numbers are also his most productive compared to other spots he has batted in the lineup. And it also helps that Jake is a lefty who will break up a string of righty hitters in the lineup.

6th - DH, Nelson Cruz

This potential Hall of Famer has raked practically everywhere he has played throughout his career, but he is coming off a down year with the Nationals. He is also coming off of eye surgery after the 2022 season, which he believes was the cause for his decline in numbers last year.

According to analytics, a player with a high on-base percentage and some speed is ideal for batting sixth, and Padres' second baseman Ha-Seong Kim would seem to be a good fit with his steady rise in production throughout last season. However, his career numbers thus far indicate that he has hit much better in the seventh spot, and due to Cruz’s career numbers, Melvin should consider giving Cruz an audition in the sixth spot while Tatis Jr. is out. Once Tatis Jr. is back though, Carpenter will likely be the DH more often anyways, especially if Cruz cannot rekindle some of his old hitting ways.

For now though, due to Cruz’s career numbers and recent eye surgery, he deserves a chance to try and drive in some runs from the sixth spot while Fernando is out.

7th - 2B, Ha-Seong Kim

Out of the three remaining spots in the lineup, Kim has slightly better numbers batting 8th (.250 BA vs. .248 BA in the seventh spot), and he has been dreadful batting 9th (.211 BA). But before Tatis Jr. returns, Kim should be batting 7th because he has been on a steady climb while Grisham has struggled, Nola has been average with little power, and Campusano does not have much experience yet.

8th - CF, Trent Grisham

The Padres defensive stalwart manning centerfield still has a lot of offensive potential at only age 26. And in most cases, analytics says to bat the worst hitter in the 9th spot. But, if Bob Melvin bats Grisham 9th before Tatis Jr.’s return, he risks having three left-handed hitters batting in a row with Carpenter and Soto batting behind him. So, until El Niño’s return, Grisham should bat 8th.

Batting Grisham 8th will also give the lineup two players with speed hitting back-to-back and may help the bottom of the Padres lineup get something going with baseball’s new rules which are designed to benefit the speed element of the game.

9th - C, Austin Nola/Luis Campusano

Finally, bringing up the bottom of the lineup should be the catching tandem of Nola and Campusano. For both catchers, they have the tools to bat higher up in the lineup when their bats are going well, but Nola has had relatively no pop in his bat since coming to the Padres in 2020 and Campusano has yet to show his potential in his brief stints at the major league level.

While not the two worst hitters in the lineup, this backstop duo can also serve as a right-handed gap between the lefty Grisham in front of them and the lefties Carpenter and Soto behind them should any opposing manager choose to bring in a lefty reliever late in games. In addition, both catchers have better career numbers when facing left-handed pitching.

Padres Lineup 1-9 vs. Left-Handed Starting Pitching

After looking at the current Padres career numbers versus righties and lefties, the stats indicate that the team has much better overall numbers against right-handed pitchers, especially with Fernando not in the lineup. And from looking at who Bob Melvin has at his disposal, this is the lineup he should be trying out for the first few weeks of the season.

Leadoff - 2B, Ha-Seong Kim

With the lack of a better option, leading off for the Friars should be second baseman Ha-Seong Kim, since his .369 OBP against lefties last season ranks as above average and was the third highest out of the current squad behind only Xander Bogaerts and Matt Carpenter’s shortened 2022 season. In addition, Kim has above-average speed, can steal a few bases, and is a good baserunner. Kim also improved offensively in his sophomore season, and he has been trending upward at the plate as he has grown more accustomed to big league pitching.

2nd - LF, Juan Soto

Batting behind Kim and remaining in the second spot is Juan Soto despite the down year that he had last year with his bat. Let’s face it; Soto did not hit well against lefties last year, but his career numbers suggest that his down year may have been an outlier. In every other season Soto has been in the league, he has averaged at least a .279 BA, an above-average .360 OBP, and a respectable .450 slugging percentage when facing lefty pitchers. With Soto's talent, it’s hard to believe he will have another poor season batting against southpaws.

3rd - SS, Xander Bogaerts

Throughout his 10-year career, Bogaerts has raked against left-handed pitching with a career .311 BA, 8 out of 10 seasons with an on-base percentage above .370, and 6 out of 10 seasons with a slugging percentage above .450. In addition, in the 6 seasons where he slugged above .450, Bogaerts had at least a .550 slugging percentage in 4 of those seasons.

In other words, Bogaerts’ numbers show that he is the best overall hitter in the Padres lineup against lefties, and the three spot is where you want your best hitter batting. And even though Manny has put up some good numbers against lefties, Machado’s lower batting average, lower on-base percentage, and higher slugging percentage make him a better fit batting cleanup in the Padres lineup.

Cleanup - 3B, Manny Machado

With a slugging percentage against lefties above .500 in 6 out of the last 7 seasons, Machado has put up some serious power numbers. Plus, he has a solid .282 career batting average against left-handed pitching and has been an RBI machine for the Padres in clutch situations. With few RBI producers against lefties on this team before Tatis returns, cleanup is where Manny’s bat can help the most.

5th - RF, Matt Carpenter

Throughout his career, Carpenter was merely average when batting against lefties, but his resurgent 2022 season where he had a . 333 BA with a .848 slugging percentage against left-handed pitchers should make Bob Melvin give Carpenter a shot at batting 5th. In addition, the fact that he hits left-handed himself breaks up a string of right-handed hitters in the Padres lineup.

6th - DH, Nelson Cruz

At 42 years old, Nelson Cruz is not producing how he used to and is obviously at the tail end of his career. However, the man has a history of mashing against left-handed pitchers, and he believes that his recent eye troubles that led to a down year in 2022 are behind him. If that is the case, he holds a career .295 BA against lefties and had a stat line against lefties of a .316 BA, .375 OBP, and a .538 SLG as recently as the 2021 season when he was an All-Star with the Twins.

7th - 1B, Jake Cronenworth

While both Nola and Campusano have put up decent numbers against left-handed pitching, both have yet to show the pop that Cronenworth has displayed in his three seasons with the Padres, and Bob Melvin should take a hard look at placing Cronenworth in the seventh spot against lefties to start the season.

Now, Cronenworth only holds a career .242 BA against lefties and had a stat line of a .232 BA, .327 OBP, and .387 SLG in 2022, but he did hit well against lefties as recently as 2021 when his stat line was a .270 BA, .337 OBP, and .433 SLG. Thus, it wouldn’t hurt Melvin to give his first baseman a shot to see if he can recapture some of that above-average hitting against lefties. It also doesn’t hurt that Cronenworth bats left-handed and would keep a righty-lefty situation going in the Padres lineup 4-9.

8th - C, Austin Nola/Luis Campusano

If either catcher could add some consistent above-average power to the Padres lineup against lefties, Melvin should bat them higher up in the order, but that has not been the case so far during their Padres tenure. Both catchers have hit at an above-average level (Nola - career .277 BA and Campusano - career .261 BA) against lefties, but neither has overly impressive numbers to justify unseating Cronenworth.

And as mentioned before, batting these two backstops 8th keeps the righty-lefty lineup going creating tough matchups for opposing managers late in games.

9th CF, Trent Grisham

After watching the Padres Gold Glove center fielder hit during the past three seasons with the club, it’s clear that Grisham has a smooth swing and the potential is there. It’s just that too many strikeouts have turned him into an unreliable at bat for his team. Until he can cut down on the strikeouts, be more aggressive at the plate in hitter’s counts, and put the ball in play with more frequency, the number nine spot is where he belongs.

If he can get squared away, the potential is there, even against lefties where he had over a .260 BA in both 2020 and 2021. Until he shows some improvement though, at least he brings some speed and baserunning ability when he does get on base as the lineup turns over to the big boppers.

Recap on the Lineup vs Righties

  1. RF, Matt Carpenter
  2. LF, Juan Soto
  3. SS, Xander Bogaerts
  4. 3B, Manny Machado
  5. 1B, Jake Cronenworth
  6. DH, Nelson Cruz
  7. 2B, Ha-Seong Kim
  8. CF, Trent Grisham
  9. C, Austin Nola/Luis Campusano

Recap on the Lineup vs Lefties

  1. 2B, Ha-Seong Kim
  2. LF, Juan Soto
  3. SS, Xander Bogaerts
  4. 3B, Manny Machado
  5. RF, Matt Carpenter
  6. DH, Nelson Cruz
  7. 1B, Jake Cronenworth
  8. C, Austin Nola/Luis Campusano
  9. CF, Trent Grisham

As Padres fans are well aware, Fernando’s bat at the top of the lineup will be missed, but luckily A.J. Preller brought in some great pieces to make this a formidable one with or without one of their best players. And from looking at the potential lineups above, there’s no doubt that these players have the potential to get the Padres off to a hot start and that this is going to be a fun season to watch.

Let me know what you think in the comments Gaslamp Ballers.

This FanPost was written by a member of the Gaslamp Ball community and does not necessarily reflect the views of the Gaslamp Ball staff or SB Nation.