San Diego Padres' Top Bounce-Back Candidate For 2023

It seems crazy to say that a player who's already established himself on a Hall of Fame trajectory at the age of 23 would need to be a "bounce-back" candidate. But that's the situation San Diego Padres' star Juan Soto finds himself in.

As we consider one bounce-back player from each team around the majors, we turn our attention to the Friars, who gave up an awful lot to get Soto in that trade deadline blockbuster last August with the Washington Nationals. But what they got in return, instead of that generational hitter he'd always been, was a man who batted just .236 in 52 games in San Diego, with a .778 OPS. 

A large number of players in the majors would kill for a .778 OPS, but for Soto, it was down nearly 200 points from his insane career mark in the high .900s. 

His batting eye is still second-to-none, as he walked a major league-leading 135 times on the season, to a mere 96 strikeouts. He also still got on base at a .401 clip, only slightly less than his remarkable .434 lifetime mark. And his OPS+ of 149 tells us he was just about 50% better than the average hitter. In an off year. 

After four straight off-the-charts legendary years for a player in his age 19 through 23 seasons, it's pretty safe to bet that Juan Soto will figure out what went wrong, and bounce back big time in 2023. 

Photo: Orlando Ramirez-USA TODAY Sports