When the San Diego Union-Tribune hired me in 2008, Petco Park was a fantasy wasteland.
Almost nobody rostered any Padres outside of Jake Peavy or San Diego’s own Adrian Gonzalez.
Relying on Tadahito Iguchi’s team-leading eight steals likely would have earned you ridicule from your entire league (assuming you weren’t in the deepest of NL-only formats).
Times have changed. Petco is now a fantasy wonderland, and you’re unlikely to hear a single disparaging word if you draft Juan Soto in the first round of your draft. Or if you take Manny Machado and Fernando Tatis Jr. in the second round.
Soto, Machado and Tatis are all currently ranked inside the top 20 in Average Draft Position, according to FantasyPros. Four other Padres rank inside the top 100.
For the first time this century, it could pay dividends to draft like you’re a card-carrying member of the Friar Faithful.
Here’s a breakdown of the San Diegan possibilities to help fill out your fake rosters:
— Soto, outfielder: Between the hoopla surrounding another eventful offseason, Machado’s contract extension and the return of Tatis Jr., I feel like the unassuming Soto gets lost in the shuffle. Remember, he’s only 69 days older than Tatis. Only Bryce Harper, Mel Ott, Ken Griffey Jr. and Edgar Renteria produced a higher WAR in their age-19 season than Soto did in 2018. An MVP season could be on deck. Average Draft Position: 6 (according to FantasyPros)
— Machado, third baseman: Machado remains in the top three at the hot corner and about as steady as they come in fantasy baseball. His per-162-game average in four seasons with the Padres: 34 HR, 106 RBIs, 99 runs, 10 steals and a .280 average. ADP: 14
— Tatis, outfielder/shortstop: Drafting a healthy Tatis in the second round is grand larceny. He only has 20 games left on his suspension. He produced 42 homers and 25 steals in only 130 games in 2021. ADP: 20
— Xander Bogaerts, shortstop: I’ll be surprised if Bogaerts surpasses 20 homers or hits over .300 in his transition to cavernous NL West ballparks, but he should bat cleanup enough in this loaded lineup to approach 100 RBIs for the first time since 2019. ADP: 77
— Jake Cronenworth, first baseman/second baseman/shortstop: The multi-position eligibility is a bonus in mixed leagues. I’d prefer he get that batting average closer to .270 after hitting .239 last year, but the run production has been solid. ADP: 164
— Ha-Seong Kim, second baseman/shortstop/third baseman: You’re not going to find many cheaper options capable of producing 15 homers with 15 steals at your middle infielder spot (who’s also eligible at 3B). ADP: 274
— The rest: OF Trent Grisham (ADP: 331) is too valuable defensively to not see at-bats and is still capable of double-digit home runs and steals. DH/1B Matt Carpenter (ADP: 375) resurrected his career by hitting a mind-bending 15 homers in only 154 plate appearances with the Yankees, but Petco isn’t as hospitable to lefties. DH Nelson Cruz (ADP: 386) could have a shot at a 15th straight season with double-digit home runs. Catcher Luis Campusano (ADP: 571) only has value if something happens to Austin Nola.
— Josh Hader, closer: You may get Hader at a discount after his early San Diego struggles, but I expect him to revert to his previously dominant form. He should be one of the first three closers selected in your draft. ADP: 54
— Yu Darvish, starting pitcher: Darvish hasn’t allowed a batting average above .235 since 2014 and has been quite stingy with the walks the past three seasons. ADP: 58
— Joe Musgrove, starting pitcher: Both Musgrove and Darvish were among the MLB-leaders in getting left-handed batters to hit into the shift in three separate categories in 2022 — pulled balls, line drives and ground balls. With the shift now outlawed, I’m more concerned about Musgrove (Darvish still has elite “stuff”). ADP: 92
— Blake Snell, starting pitcher: I just can’t quit Snell. He was lights out after the All-Star break, going 7-5 with a 2.19 ERA and 105 strikeouts across 78 innings. Remember, he only needed 1802/3 innings to win his Cy Young Award in 2018. ADP: 110
— The rest: Starter Michael Wacha (ADP: 332) hasn’t topped 130 innings since 2017, but he’s only 31 and proved to be a bargain for Boston in 2022. Relievers Robert Suarez (ADP: 368) and Luis Garcia (ADP: 443) should create a three-headed monster with Hader and provide solid ratios, decent strikeouts with plenty of holds (if you’re into that sort of thing). Both Nick Martinez (ADP: 457) and Seth Lugo (ADP: 522) will see a boost in value if they stick in the rotation, with Lugo’s curveball providing the higher upside.