Los Angeles Dodger fans should be afraid — very afraid — of the San Diego Padres.
Not just this season, but for years to come.
Without question, the Padres turned their fortunes from good to great with the trade-deadline addition of Juan Soto, who at just 23 is considered the best young hitter in the game.
It should have a lasting effect in the National League West. For sure, the little brother Padres have grown up and won’t be pushed around by the Dodgers anymore.
Up until last season, the Dodgers had won the division eight times in a row.
Moving forward, there’s no way you can look at both rosters and not think that the Padres will change all of that in a hurry.
And while the Padres might not catch the Dodgers for the NL West crown this season — L.A. has an enormous 11½-game lead — they will be a threat in the postseason.
To boot, the Padres also landed Josh Bell from the Washington Nationals in the Soto trade. The first baseman is having a stellar season, batting .301 with 14 HRs and 57 RBI.
The Padres’ roster is scary good. It’s impossible not to notice and look in awe — even for people in L.A.
“We feel like we’re better,” Padres GM A.J. Preller said to the media after swinging the blockbuster deal. “Obviously, he’s Juan Soto — he speaks for himself. What he’s done at 23 years old and the type of talent he is, he’s arguably the best hitter in baseball. That should be a big help for our club.”
In fact, many believe that with the addition of Soto and with superstar shortstop Fernando Tatis Jr. — who is also just 23 — coming back from injury, the Padres have replaced the Dodgers as World Series favorites coming out of the National League.
And before you tell people to pump the breaks and not be a prisoner of the moment, those hot on the Padres have a right to believe this team can get there at the end.
Despite not having Tatis Jr. all season, the Padres didn’t fall apart and hung in the postseason race. Coming into Wednesday, they held the second wild-card spot in the NL.
That’s impressive. Manny Machado put together a monster first half.
Even so, not sure many teams could accomplish that if their top dog was down the entire season.
Where the New York Yankees be without Aaron Judge? Not sitting atop baseball with the best record in the game. That’s a fact.
Soto is a perennial MVP candidate. He broke out onto the scene in 2018 and led the Nationals to a World Series title in 2019. Soto was the Series MVP. In his career, Soto is known for his power and plate discipline. He will take walks if not pitched to. It’s hard to teach a young hitter that trait. His career slash line is .291/.427/.538.
The Padres were able to grab Soto after he turned down a 15-year, $440 million deal offered by the Nationals. Soto doesn’t become a free agent until after the 2024 season.
The Padres also picked up dominant closer Josh Hader from the Milwaukee Brewers. He has 29 saves on the season. Despite some bumps this year, he’s as good as it gets when he’s right.
And let’s not forget about the Padres’ starting rotation, which ranks fourth in the NL. Yu Darvish leads the staff with 10 wins. Joe Musgrove has a 2.65 ERA. This isn’t a beer league team where the Padres need to score 10 runs a night in order to win games.
The roster is balanced and capable of winning on the mound or at the plate.
“We definitely have the talent, and we have the team to do it,” Tatis Jr. said. “Now, it’s up to us to put the work out there and make it happen.”
On paper, the Padres have put together a team that will seriously contend for the franchise’s first World Series title in its 54-year existence.
But it’s not just an all-in last gasp at reaching their ultimate goal. Not by a long shot. If Soto is signed long-term like Tatis already is, they will be a problem for a long time. Dodger fans know that. That’s why they are finally scared of the Padres.