In choosing an early 2023 highlight, it's been difficult to pick between the Dodgers' youth movement paying off and the Padres' offseason championship turning into mediocre and under .500 regular-season play.
Xander Bogaerts has been tops in OAA? Oh, really? Well, he's hitting .250. Manny Machado was extended? Oh, word? Well, he's injured. Fernando Tatis Jr. returned from a prison of his own making? Alrighty, then. Well, he should probably climb out of the .240s sometime soon.
Unfortunately, according to MLB.com's Anthony Castrovince and his bold predictions for June, Dodgers fans might not be able to rely on the Padres' medicrity as a security blanket for very long, and Tatis Jr.'s return to form might be a major part of their comeback.
Despite an extended offensive malaise, historically poor RISP work, and a dose of Gary Sánchez, the muddled NL Wild Card picture still features San Diego near .500 and close to the driver's seat, only a few games back of the Mets and Marlins in a cluster. Their run differential is ... basically even. Things have broken wrong for them at every turn ... and Castrovince believes that's about to end, thanks to their most polarizing slugger.
Dodgers fans should be on alert for Fernando Tatis Jr., Padres surging
As Castrovince wrote, Tatis' batted ball data for the month of May portends far better things:
"Tatis is just the man to make that happen. Perhaps unsurprisingly, his impact has been muted after missing all of 2022, and the jeers coming from rival fans haven’t been muted at all. But Tatis’ .544 expected slugging percentage in the month of May is a window into what’s next – a true tear that reminds us what one of the most purely talented players in MLB can contribute in a sustained stretch. And while the Padres have a long way to go before they’re vying for the NL West, they’ll at least boost themselves back above .500 this month."- Anthony Castrovince
If he could only be taunted by the bleachers at Yankee Stadium every game, he might be able to make up that OPS gap in one fell swoop.
The best thing for the Dodgers here would be to keep on keeping on. They're still the class of their division, for now. They still have what some have called the NL's toughest lineup. They now have a new horse to ride in Bobby Miller as they look to shake off a full season's worth of injury demons in the rotation.
But don't say you weren't warned if the Padres come to life in the summer months. In fact, it might be bolder to predict they'll stay silent all year long.