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NLCS 2022: Positional Preview

How do the Phillies and Padres matchup ahead of the 2022 NLCS?

Atlanta Braves v. Philadelphia Phillies Photo by Drew Hallowell/MLB Photos via Getty Images

The Philadelphia Phillies are just hours away from taking on the San Diego Padres in the 2022 NLCS. Who would’ve thought that this would be the outcome of the 2022 season. After an up and down September for both teams, each squad has come together to make improbable runs to the Championship Series.

As the two teams prepare to do battle in the first best of seven series of the postseason, we wanted to take a deeper dive into how these two wagons matchup. Let’s go position by position and compare the numbers, players, and extracurriculars that has driven these two squads to dramatic postseason runs.

Division Series - Atlanta Braves v Philadelphia Phillies - Game Three Photo by Patrick Smith/Getty Images

Catcher: J.T. Realmuto vs Austin Nola

Realmuto 2022 stats: .276/.342/.478, .820 OPS, 22 HR, 84 RBI, 6.5 fWAR

Nola 2022 stats: .251/.321/.329, .650 OPS, 4 HR, 40 RBI, 0.2 fWAR

The first of many storylines for the NLCS comes by way of the catcher’s spot. Yes, we know Aaron Nola and Austin Nola are bothers, not that. J.T. Realmuto seems to break records every time he touches the diamond as he continues to be the best catcher in baseball. Realmuto’s historic regular season carried over into the postseason as he has started each of the Phillies six games to this point. He became the first catcher in postseason history to hit an inside the park home run.

It’s hard to compare anyone with the best catcher in the sport, but Austin Nola is no slouch. The older Nola brother has started each of the Padres seven playoff games so far, and has recorded a hit in six of them. The Phillies clearly have the advantage at the backstop position but Nola is a tough out, and he happens to know his brother’s repertoire pretty well.

First base: Rhys Hoskins vs Wil Myers

Hoskins 2022 stats: .246/.332/.462, .794 OPS, 30 HR, 79 RBI, 2.2 fWAR

Myers 2022 stats: .261/.315/.398, .713 OPS, 7 HR, 41 RBI, 1.0 fWAR

As the NLDS progressed, numerous Phillies players seemed to have their October moments. Rhys Hoskins’s October moment came in Game Three by way of his mammoth three-run homer to catapult the Phillies rally. The first basemen’s 2022 season has been hot and cold, much like his postseason run.

His timely hitting has been key, as the homer in Game Three and a big RBI single in Game Four, have been crucial hits in this Phillies playoff run. He’s struggled in the field, committing a pair of misplays at first, but has made up for it with the bat. Although the strikeouts are high and he has only walked once, Rhys is likely to remain in the two spot as he makes pitchers work, and continues to see a ton of pitches.

Sitting at 2/23 this postseason, Wil Myers has not had the ideal playoff run. He doesn’t have the same power that once saw him blast thirty homers in a season, and Myers is an average defender at best. Josh Bell has performed about as poor as Myers, not providing much of an upgrade at first either way. He does have a home run and is one of the leaders of the San Diego clubhouse, so that counts for something.

Hoskins has the offensive advantage over Myers, but the former Rays prospect is a better defender than Rhys. Expect some Brandon Drury at first if Bob Melvin chooses to rest Myers at some point.

Second base: Jean Segura vs Jake Cronenworth

Segura 2022 stats: .277/.336/.387, .723 OPS, 10 HR, 33 RBI, 1.7 fWAR

Cronenworth 2022 stats: .240/.333/.394, .727 OPS, 17 HR, 88 RBI, 4.2 fWAR

Jean Segura is finally in the postseason and he’s made the most of it. The veteran second baseman is 7/18 to this point with two doubles, three RBI, and a stolen base. Segura is a steady presence in the Phillies lineup as well as in the field.

On the San Diego side, Jake Cronenworth has been reliable since debuting with the Pads. The 2015-seventh round pick has played in all seven postseason games for his crew, slamming one homer, five RBI, and scoring three runs. Cronenworth has contributed when it’s mattered and was solid all regular season. The 28-year-old posted a 110 wRC+ this season and finished the year with a 4.2 fWAR. Both these second basemen are solid and will make an impact on the NLCS

Third base: Alec Bohm vs Manny Machado

Bohm 2022 stats: .280/.315/.398, .713 OPS, 13 HR, 72 RBI, 1.5 fWAR

Machado 2022 stats: .298/.366/.531, .897 OPS, 32 HR, 102 RBI, 7.4 fWAR

If nothing else, 2022 is the year that Alec Bohm saved his Phillies career. Following a demotion to AAA in 2021 and a rough start to the 2022 season, Bohm pulled himself out of the dumps and compiled a respectable season. His defense has slowly improved to the point where he is playable at the hot corner, even late in games. Bohm has continued to show signs of his improved plate discipline throughout the playoffs, posting an even K% and BB%.

Unfortunately for Alec, his positional opposition is one of the best of the game in Manny Machado. The 2010 third overall pick has already tallied two homers this postseason, showing the moment is clearly not too big. Although Machado’s regular season K% of 20.7 is the highest of his career, he has also recorded 30-plus HRs for the sixth time in since reaching the bigs in 2012. With Fernando Tatis Jr. still on the shelf, Machado is their superstar and leader. If the Phillies want to advance past the NLCS, then they must contain Machado.

Shortstop: Bryson Stott vs Ha-seong Kim

Stott 2022 stats: .234/.295/.358, .653 OPS, 10 HR, 49 RBI, 1.4 fWAR

Kim 2022 stats: .251/.325/.383, .708 OPS, 11 HR, 59 RBI, 3.7 fWAR

Bryson Stott has come into his own and developed into a reliable and intriguing rookie shortstop, since the departure of Didi Gregorius. He’s composed, steady, and has come up with big hits in the playoff clincher in Houston, as well as Game Three against Atlanta. Edmundo Sosa could see a start or two against Blake Snell and Sean Manaea depending on how things play out. However, expect plenty of Bryson and his postgame antics if things go well.

Ha-seong Kim’s story is more similar to Stott’s than you may imagine. After not providing the immediate impact the Pads were hoping for since his signing, Kim was a utility player for a bulk of the 2021 season. Since Fernando Tatis Jr. could not find the field this season, Kim took over and played 150 games. Like Stott, Kim has been relatively productive since being given an everyday role. He’s even been good enough to lead off against left-handed pitching. While he may not wow the everyday fan, the 27-year-old does everything well, and is the type of player you want on your team. The slight edge goes to Kim in this matchup, although it is not a sizable difference.

Kyle Schwarber vs Jurickson Profar

Schwarber 2022 stats: .218/.323/.504, .827 OPS, 46 HR, 94 RBI, 2.7 fWAR

Profar 2022 stats: .243/.331/.391, .722 OPS, 15 HR, 58 RBI, 2.6 fWAR

Fresh off of the heels of leading the National League in home runs, expectations were understandably high for postseason Schwarber. It has not been the start Schwarbs was hoping for as he is just one-for-twenty through the first two rounds.

He had multiple meaningful hits in the 2021 postseason with Boston, so stay patient, Schwarber’s October moment as a Phillie coming.

While Jurickson Profar is not an overly exciting name in the San Diego lineup, he’s a productive player. Profar already has two-multi-hit-games this postseason and has seen some time in the lead off spot. He may not be the guy to beat the Phillies this series, but he’s reliable and will be on base throughout the best of seven.

Brandon Marsh vs Trent Grisham

Marsh 2022 stats: .245/.295/.384, .679 OPS, 11 HR, 52 RBI, 1.6 fWAR

Grisham 2022 stats: .184/.284/.341, .625 OPS, 17 HR, 53 RBI, 2.4 fWAR

Another Phillies day care member to have their postseason moment against the Braves was Brandon Marsh. The trade deadline acquisition blasted a three run home run as part of a crucial rally to win Game Four. Marsh may still sit versus left-handed pitching, but could be the first bat off the bench against righties. Marsh has struck out six times in thirteen at bats, but does have four hits. His defense does not need explaining as it’s been as good as advertised since his arrival to Philly.

Trent Grisham had a poor regular season, any way you split it. Hitting just .184 in 451 ABs with 17 home runs is not going to cut it. However, when you play plus defense and show up in the playoffs, that helps keep your job. He did lose the starting gig to Jose Azocar for a brief stint, but quickly regained it at the end of September. The 25-year-old centerfielder who struck out 150 times in the regular season, has already homered three times this postseason, and driven in five runs. Hot hitters in the postseason are dangerous and the Phils must be careful with Grisham who has recently found his stroke.

Right field: Nick Castellanos vs Juan Soto

Castellanos 2022 stats: .263/.305/.389, .694 OPS, 13 HR, 62 RBI, -0.8 fWAR

Soto 2022 stats: .242/.401/.452, .853 OPS, 27 HR, 62 RBI, 3.6 fWAR

Nick Castellanos’s 2022 season was not as impactful as Phillies fans may have envisioned. However, he’s battled adversity and has come through in the 2022 postseason. The former Red has driven in five runs in six playoff games and has been solid defensively. The power has yet to show itself, but his recent at bats have been much more competitive.

The other starting right fielder in this series is some guy by the name of Juan Soto. The ultra-talented outfielder did not shine as much as expected since becoming a Californian. That doesn’t really matter. It’s Juan Soto. The former National has been steady in the postseason hitting .250 to this point while driving in a trio of runs. The Phillies have to be extremely careful with Soto, especially since he bats directly in front of Manny Machado. The Padres have the advantage in right and we will see how much the Phils can limit the megastar.

Designated Hitter: Bryce Harper vs Josh Bell

Harper 2022 stats: .286/.364/.514, .878 OPS, 18 HR, 65 RBI, 2.4 fWAR

Bell 2022 stats: .266/.362/.422, .784 OPS, 17 HR, 71 RBI, 2.0 fWAR

The 2021 MVP does not need an introduction. The days of Harper struggling at the plate in the aftermath of his return from injury are long gone. Harper has an OPS of .957 through six postseason games, while mashing three homers and driving in six runs. MV3 is healthy, locked in, and on a mission.

Josh Bell on the other hand, has not settled in as San Diego’s every day designated hitter since arriving alongside Juan Soto. Bell has hit just .192/.316/.271 with three long balls in 53 games since becoming a Padre. Bell has added one homer in the postseason, but did not start Game Two or Game Four of the Dodgers series. He did start all three games of the Wild Card round, so how he will be managed against Philly is anyone’s guess.

Padres Rotation

A strength of both of these squads has been their starting pitching in the postseason. Entering the 2022 playoffs, Yu Darvish had a less than impressive postseason track record, holding a career ERA of over five. He’s done a much better job this go around, tossing seven shutout innings against the Mets, and five-three-run-innings in the NLDS. The Phillies faced Yu twice during the regular season and did not fair particularly well, scoring just three runs in thirteen innings, while striking out fourteen times.

Alongside Darvish in the rotation is right-hander Joe Musgrove, who has been nothing short of spectacular. The former Pirate has tossed thirteen innings, allowing just two runs, while striking out thirteen. Musgrove and his shinny ears dominated the Mets, got through the Dodgers, and now will have to face a red hot Phillies team that hit him around back in June. In his lone start versus the Fightins, he was shelled for six runs in six innings.

At some point in the series, the Phillies will face Blake Snell, the man responsible for the injury that knocked Bryce Harper out for months. Snell has made two respectable starts this postseason, tossing a combined 8.2 innings pitched, allowing three earned runs. He had a steady regular season through twenty-four starts, posting a 3.38 ERA and 1.20 WHIP. He’s allowed seven runs in two starts against the Phils in 2022.

Depending on how the early games of the series shake out, the Padres will likely turn to Mike Clevinger after their top three. The righty was not sharp in his lone postseason start against the Dodgers, allowing four runs in 2.2 innings pitched. If Bob Melvin opts to go in a different direction, Sean Manaea could take the ball, although his 4.96 ERA in the regular season may make the Padres choose otherwise.

Phillies Rotation

On the Philadelphia side of things, Zack Wheeler and Aaron Nola have been top guys and silenced any doubts about their pitching in big games. Wheeler has hurled 12.1 innings allowing three earned runs and giving the Phillies a chance to win both of his starts. Nola has tossed 12.2 innings pitched, allowing no earned runs. What else do you need to hear?

Behind the two-headed monster is Ranger Suarez, who we will likely get the ball for Game Three. Suarez was not sharp against Atlanta in the NLDS, allowing one run in 3.1 IP, but walking five. Now that the postseason jitters are out of the way, we could see an improved performance against the Pads. Ranger faced the brown and yellow once this season, hurling 7.1 IP, while only allowing two runs.

Thor will likely get the ball in Game Four, as he tossed three innings of one run ball, to give the Phillies a chance in the NLDS.

Padres Bullpen

The backbone of the Padres run to the NLCS has been their bullpen, specifically Josh Hader, Robert Suarez, and Luis Garcia. The back-end-trio has not allowed an earned run in 12.1 combined innings pitched. Of course, the last time the Phillies saw Josh Hader, this happened:

Oh, and this.

So..yeah. We’ll see what happens.

Phillies Bullpen

Strike one, strike two, and good luck. Jose Alvarado has been one of the top relievers in all of baseball since his discovery of a cutter and return from AAA. He has continued to shut down opponents this postseason, but has allowed a pair of home runs. Jose is rested and will be the key weapon out of the Philly pen in San Diego.

Seranthony Dominguez has not been far behind, tossing 3.2 shutout innings, while striking out eight batters. That’ll play.

Additionally, Zach Eflin had a get right performance in Game Four of the NLDS, striking out three of four batters, in a perfect outing.

At the time of this writing, it is yet to be seen if David Robertson will be on the roster as he recovers from a calf injury. Nevertheless, Alvarado, Dominguez, and Eflin could go toe-to-toe with the Padres back end.

Is it game time yet?