3 under-the-radar San Diego Padres players off to a good start in 2023

Arizona Diamondbacks v San Diego Padres
Arizona Diamondbacks v San Diego Padres / Matt Thomas/San Diego Padres/GettyImages
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The San Diego Padres have gotten off to a pretty underwhelming 8-10 start to the 2023 season. The Padres are expected to contend for their first World Series title, but are also without several key pieces.

While the key pieces are out, San Diego has seen many regulars expected to produce at a high level struggle out of the gate. Manny Machado has just one home run and a .600 OPS. Juan Soto has a .707 OPS. Blake Snell has an ERA approaching 7.00. While those players need to improve, the Padres have also gotten some nice starts out of players who weren't expected to be big pieces.

These three players have helped keep San Diego afloat in what's been an otherwise rough start to a crucial year.

1) San Diego Padres DH Nelson Cruz looks like a bargain signing

The Padres signed 42-year-old Nelson Cruz to a one-year deal worth just $1 million. Cruz is obviously one of the best designated hitters the game has ever seen, but he was coming off of an abysmal year in 2022.

I thought Cruz would retire following last season because he slashed .234/.313/.337 with 10 home runs and 64 RBI in 124 games for Washington. Cruz is proving he at least has something left in the tank as he's gotten off to a very nice start this season.

The veteran is slashing .295/.319/.500 with two home runs and 12 RBI in his first 12 games of the season. He leads this Padres team with Machado, Soto, and Xander Bogaerts on it in runs batted in, which is something nobody had on their bingo card most likely.

Cruz has five extra-base hits in his first 44 at-bats after managing just 26 in 448 at-bats last season.

I have no idea how long he can continue to hit like this. However, if Cruz continues to hit the way he's hit this season, the contract he signed might end up being one of the best in all of baseball.