Juan Soto's injury could bail out Dodgers as Padres struggle to put it all together
While the Los Angeles Dodgers have problems of their own, the presumptive favorite to win the NL West in 2023 isn't exactly having the best offseason either. The San Diego Padres already face an uphill battle with having to finally meet high expectations, and that quest has been interrupted by injuries.
First, Joe Musgrove broke his toe in early March to jeopardize his availability for the start of the 2023 season. Then starting catcher Austin Nola was hit in the nose by a fastball. He's not expected to land on the IL, but it could present a problem if he takes a foul ball or two off the mask while catching.
And finally, shortly after the Dominican Republic was eliminated from the World Baseball Classic, star outfielder Juan Soto suffered an oblique injury that forced him out of a "B" game at the Padres' Spring Training complex.
Though he underwent an MRI and the team remains optimistic about his Opening Day status, you can never be so sure with oblique issues, which tend to be some of the most difficult injuries baseball players deal with.
Nonetheless, the Padres are being cautious with Soto leading up until their March 30th opener against the Colorado Rockies.
Juan Soto injury: Dodgers could catch break with Padres woes
Should Soto either miss time or struggle to catch on at the top of the campaign while he deals with this injury, the Padres will once again be in a spot where they aren't at full strength despite going to great lengths to field an All-World roster.
Last year, they couldn't piece it together with Fernando Tatis Jr.'s season-long absence. The year prior, they absolutely melted down and finished below .500 after the addition of Adam Frazier was supposed to elevate them.
Xander Bogaerts is now in SD, which is huge, but they lost Josh Bell, Brandon Drury and Jurickson Profar and possess a weakened pitching staff. They'll be hoping Bogaerts, Matt Carpenter, Michael Wacha, Seth Lugo, and Nelson Cruz can replace the lost production and seamlessly transition in a new environment, while José Azócar ideally levels up in Year 2.
With Tatis Jr. suspended for the first three weeks of the season, the outfield picture potentially sans-Soto is fairly bleak for the Pads. The Dodgers don't have the rosiest projections, but any little bit helps here.
We could look back on the 2023 campaign and see that the start of the year ended up being the difference in the standings, depending on how the Soto situation shakes out.