Heading into the postseason, very few people predicted a Padres-Phillies NLCS. Despite being the two lowest seeds in the National League, they will face each other with a trip to the World Series on the line.
In the Wild Card round, the Padres were tasked with the 101-win New York Mets while the Phillies faced the NL Central champion St. Louis Cardinals. In a tight series with an especially interesting elimination game 3, the Padres triumphed over the Mets to move on and face their division foes in the Los Angeles Dodgers. On the other hand, the Phillies stormed in and out of St. Louis after a miraculous come-from-behind win in game 1 and a commanding game 2 victory to sweep the Cardinals. Like the Padres, the Phillies matched up with a division rival as the defending World Series champion Atlanta Braves awaited them.
Despite both being heavy underdogs, the Padres and Phillies both won their series in four games. After both teams split their games on the road, they returned home to fans that haven’t seen their team play a home playoff game with fans since 2006 (Padres) and 2011 (Phillies). As home teams are supposed to do in the postseason, the Padres and Phillies both defended their home fields and booked their ticket to the NLCS.
With two teams soaring as high as ever based on their momentum, we’re set to watch an extremely entertaining best-of-seven series.
San Diego Padres
Depending on who is pitching for the open team, the Padres’ lineup varies, but only slightly. No matter who pitches Juan Soto and Manny Machado are looming in the two and three spots of the lineup. Had Fernando Tatis Jr. been a little bit smarter, the Padres could have had the best offensive trio in recent memory, but settling with just Soto and Machado, for now, is a pretty good consolation.
Additionally, the Padres have Jake Cronenworth, who has put up back-to-back 4+ fWAR seasons, looming in the five-hole.
Depending on if a lefty or righty pitches, the Padres alternate between Jurickson Profar and Ha-Seong Kim leading off. Profar is a solid option no matter the handedness of the pitcher, but Kim is much better against lefties than he is righties; Kim’s 123 wRC+ against lefties was much better than his below-average 96 wRC+ against righties. When a righty starts Profar leads off while Kim hits seventh and the same is true but vice versa when a lefty starts.
Likewise, the Padres will start 2/3 of Brandon Drury, Wil Myers, and Josh Bell depending on the opposing team’s starting pitcher. Throughout the postseason, Bob Melvin has opted to go primarily with Wil Myers at first base, Bell as the DH with a righty on the mound, and Drury as the DH with a lefty on the mound. Drury and Bell were both bug pickups by San Diego at the trade deadline, but both have performed significantly worse since being traded.
Lastly, Trent Grisham and Austin Nola round out the rest of the lineup. Despite down seasons from both players, Grisham and Nola have been postseason heroes so far as they have a 1.329 and .916 OPS respectively.
Like the Padres, the Phillies have star power of their to anchor their lineup. Game in and game out, the Phillies 1-4 in the lineup are Kyle Schwarber, Rhys Hoskins, J.T. Realmuto, and Bryce Harper.
Although he’s struggled so far in the postseason, Schwarber is always an offensive threat as his 46 home runs led the National League this season.
In addition to Schwarber’s powerful left-handed bat, the Phillies also have superstar Bryce Harper. Harper had a “down” season with a 138 wRC+ after winning the NL MVP in 2021. However, Harper’s offensive decline can be attributed to a mid-season thumb injury that held him out of action for two months. In the postseason, Harper has looked every bit like his MVP self as he’s already hit three home runs.
Sandwiched in between the two lefties are Rhys Hoskins and J.T. Realmuto.
Hoskins has consistently been a superb power threat as in each of his four full MLB seasons, he’s hit 27 or more home runs in every season.
In 2022 Realmuto proved why he’s the best catcher in baseball as his 6.5 fWAR was the best at the position by a landslide and his 128 wRC+ was the best of his career.
However, after the top four in the Phillies lineup, there is a significant drop-off.
Despite giving him a massive five-year $100 million contract in free agency, Nick Castellanos had the third-lowest fWAR among all qualified position players in 2022. Although he had arguably the worst year of his career, Castellanos is more than capable of being a threat at the plate as he had a fantastic All-Star season with the Cincinnati Reds just last year.
The other two regulars in the Phillies lineup are Alec Bohm and Jean Segura. Both Bohm and Segura are high-contact, low-power threats at the plate and should be considered league-average offensive players.
Finally, like the Padres, the Phillies have platoons in center field and shortstop. When a lefty pitches, the Phillies roll out Matt Vierling in center and Edmundo Sosa at short while Brandon Marsh and Bryson Stott step in against righties. Both positions are a perfect way to utilize platoons because all four players are above average against opposite-handed pitchers, but horrible against same-handed pitchers.
San Diego Padres
The Padres rotation is headlined by the big three of Yu Darvish, Blake Snell, and Joe Musgrove. While Mike Clevinger is in line to be the fourth starter, the Padres would like to not have to lean on him in a potentially pivotal game as he has struggled in his return from Tommy John Surgery.
Although they’ve had many question marks surrounding themselves throughout the season, the Padres bullpen has hit its stride at the perfect time. Josh Hader looks like the dominant closer the Padres brought him in to be, Robert Suarez has built off of his excellent regular season and has been a shutdown reliever throughout the postseason, and Luis Garcia has been a stable piece for Bob Melvin throughout the entirety of the season. Additionally, the Padres have Nick Martinez and southpaws Tim Hill and Adrien Morejon ready to be put into big spots.
As for the Phillies, their dominant duo of Zack Wheeler and Aaron Nola are set to start up to five games of this series depending on how manager Rob Thompson decides to utilize his starting pitchers. Behind their aces, Ranger Suarez is set to start game 3 and Noah Syndergaard is an additional option if the Phillies decide to go with him as a starting pitcher.
The Phillies’ bullpen has gained an infamous reputation for being a terrible unit, but their current bullpen is pretty good. They don’t have a set closer like the Padres, but Zach Eflin, David Robertson, Jose Alvarado, and Seranthony Dominguez have all proved to be successful high-leverage relievers. Additionally, Brad Hand, Bailey Falter, Kyle Gibson, Connor Brogdon, and Andrew Bellatti are all viable options.
There’s no doubt that this is going to be an extremely fun series to watch. With both teams flying high on momentum and two eager fan bases, this could be one of the better postseason series we’ve seen in recent memory. However, only one team can go to the World Series, and I have the San Diego Padres winning the series in six games.