Alonso and Lindor against Machado and Soto. deGrom and Scherzer against Darvish and Snell.
There will be no shortage of star power in the Wild Card Series between the Mets and Padres at Citi Field this weekend, with Game 1 of the best-of-three sets beginning Friday at 8 p.m. ET/5 p.m. PT.
The Mets were forced into the Wild Card Series by an even stronger Braves team that swept them at the very end of the regular season and won the National League East title despite both teams winning in 101 games. . The Padres, regulars in elite division competition, finished second to the Dodgers’ 111 wins in the NL West, sending them to New York for the first round of the playoffs. Let’s break down all the matchups ahead of the series.
Here’s a position-by-position overview of the Mets-Padres Wild Card Series.
Neither team is particularly strong at receiver. For the Mets, Tomás Nido has been a good defensive receiver, with +5 fielding runs and a fast average pop time of 1.96 seconds; he just doesn’t provide much offense (.239 batting average, .600 OPS, three homers). James McCann was supposed to provide the offense, but he did even less, batting .195 with a .538 OPS. The Padres have a trio of catching options in Austin Nola, Luis Campusano and Jorge Alfaro, none of whom have been great defensively or offensively. But the three of them probably give the plate a little more juice than the Mets’ catchers. Maybe Francisco Álvarez, MLB’s No. 1 overall prospect, makes the playoff roster for New York and tips the receiver battle over to the Mets, but for now, a small advantage for the padres.
The Padres went for a combination of Brandon Drury and Wil Myers at first base; they could also use Josh Bell there. None of them are Pete Alonso. The rock of the Mets roster, Alonso hit 40 home runs and led the major leagues with 131 RBIs. He started 133 games at first base and 150 in the cleanout. He posted a 146 OPS+. On the other side, Myers had 108 OPS+ this season, Drury had 109 OPS+ after the Padres traded him, and Bell crashed mightily, with 75 OPS+ for San Diego.
The Mets, ideally, will have the MLB batting champion at second base in Jeff McNeil. McNeil, who hit .326 in the regular season, also gets starts in the outfield, but Tyler Naquin can handle the right field against the Padres’ right-handed starters, and if Starling Marte and/or Darin Ruf are healthy and on the Wild Card series to face Blake Snell, McNeil could stay second in all series. Otherwise, Luis Guillorme has been capable for New York all year, especially defensively. Jake Cronenworth (17 homers, 88 RBI) was an All-Star for a second straight year in 2022, but if it’s him against McNeil at second base, this one goes to McNeil.
Sorry, Eduardo Escobar. Manny Machado is a big plus for the Padres here — possibly their biggest at any position (but read on). Machado is one of the top contenders for the NL MVP title along with the Cardinals’ Paul Goldschmidt and Nolan Arenado, batting .296 with 32 homers, 102 RBIs and +8 strikeouts over average on defense. His 7.4 fWAR led the National League and ranked behind only Aaron Judge and Shohei Ohtani in all of MLB. Escobar has hit 20 homers for the Mets this season, but he’s nowhere near Machado’s level.
Francisco Lindor vs. Fernando Tatis Jr. would have been one of the first showdown battles of any playoff series. But Tatis won’t be playing this season, so instead it’s Lindor, who conquered New York with a resurgent second season there, against Ha-Seong Kim. Kim has done a good job maintaining the shortstop position in Tatis’ absence (150 games played, 11 home runs, 12 stolen bases) but just isn’t the difference maker that Tatis is – or Lindor is. The Mets star finished the season with 26 home runs, 16 interceptions and a career-high 107 RBI while playing an excellent shortstop with +13 over-average strikeouts.
Mark Canha had another productive season in his freshman year in New York, posting a .367 on-base percentage and 122 OPS+ with a Major League-leading 28 shots per shot for a Mets team that set the shot. by modern stroke. pitch record. Jurickson Profar was also solid for the Padres, with 15 homers and 111 OPS+, so this one is nearly even, but Canha was a little better.
The Padres’ biggest question heading into the playoffs is what they’ll do in center field. Trent Grisham is a great defenseman, with +13 strikeouts above average, and is in theory a home run threat, with 17 long runs on the season. But his offense has been non-existent in the last game – he beat 0.107 in September and October, dropping his season average to 0.184, well below the Mendoza line. But if not Grisham, the Padres should go either to Jose Azocar, who is very much a squad player to take on left-handers — and Mets starters are all right-handers — or Myers, who is definitely not a true center back. The Mets, meanwhile, have the opposite of a question mark in center field: Brandon Nimmo. New York’s No. 1 everyday homer hit 16 homers with 130 OPS+ on the season and was more than capable at center (+6 strikeouts above par).
If Juan Soto is the Juan Soto who carried the Nationals to the 2017 World Series title, he’s as big an advantage as Machado. Even in a “down” season by his standards in 2022, when his batting average fell to .242, Soto still led the Majors with 135 walks to just 96 strikeouts, and hit 27 homers with a 149 OPS+ . If he hits like he has in every other season of his career, he could also lead the Padres to the World Series. For the Mets, if Marte can return, they have at least one All-Star right fielder, but even Marte is far outmatched by Soto’s peak. If Naquin is there, the gap is even greater.
DH is also a question for the Padres due to Bell’s struggles — he only hit .192 post-trade in San Diego — which could tempt them to use Myers at DH instead. But the Mets also have their questions there, on the right side of their field. Left-handed slugger Daniel Vogelbach will start against the Padres’ right-handers, and he’s been very good in New York, with 139 OPS+ in 55 games (not to mention his high potential for cult playoff hero status). But against a southpaw like Snell, the Mets’ options are either Ruf, who struggled and finished the regular season on the injured list, or a rookie like Álvarez or Mark Vientos. Because two of San Diego’s top three starters are right-handers (Yu Darvish and Joe Musgrove), Vogelbach’s presence in the roster for several games in the series gives the Mets the edge at DH.
You’d think the Mets’ elite rotation, led by Jacob deGrom, Max Scherzer and Chris Bassitt, would have the edge against anyone. But the Braves just proved that even those three can be beaten — and the Padres, along with Darvish, Snell and Musgrove, are one of the few teams with a top three that can compete with New York. Still, defeating deGrom (3.08 ERA, 14.3K/9) and Scherzer (2.29 ERA, 10.7K/9) in front of the New York home crowd will be a daunting task in a short series. You have to give this one to the Mets, even if it’s close.
This battle is as good as the one between starting rotations. Edwin Diaz versus Josh Hader. Two elite closers. Hader made 36 saves this season and struck out 14.6 in nine innings — but he was also surprisingly vulnerable at times, with a 5.22 overall ERA and 7.31 ERA since the Padres signed him up. exchange. And Diaz? Díaz is the best closer in the world right now. He made 32 saves with a 1.31 ERA… and an impressive 17.1 K/9. He retired more than half of the batters he faced this season. As for the bridges to the two closest, San Diego and New York have several capable setup men, but a few medium relief issues. With Díaz, however, the Mets take this one.