SAN DIEGO PADRES 76-86 (Tied for third in NL West)
Projected Lineup/Batting Order:
SS Everth Cabrera
CF Will Venable
3B Chase Headley
LF Carlos Quentin
1B Yonder Alonso
RF Seth Smith
2B Jed Gyorko
C Nick Hundley
Projected Starting Rotation/Key Bullpen Arms:
SP Andrew Cashner
SP Ian Kennedy
SP Eric Stults
SP Josh Johnson
SP Tyson Ross
RP Huston Street
RP Joaquin Benoit
RP Dale Thayer
The Padres are a team almost through with their re-build. As such, they are often overlooked as not being horribly bad and not being good enough to get into the playoffs. This year some people have them as dark horse candidates to make some noise in the NL West, but we are talking finishing third, not contending for the playoffs. I think they have talent and it’s all young talent so that bodes well for their future. But I don’t think they are ready to contend just yet, and I also think this year may be a struggle for the Padres.
Their offense is made up of players who were anonymous a few years ago. Now they are names people recognize, but don’t think much about. They may know the names but not the faces. The leadoff guy is perhaps one of the better-known names, but he’s more infamous than famous. He was one of the players suspended for 50 games as part of the Biogenesis scandal, one of the many names overlooked due to the others involved like Nelson Cruz or Alex Rodriguez. But the shortstop served his time and is back to leadoff for the Padres this year. His main weapon is his speed as he’s got easy 50-steal ability, but he was never on base enough. But after a hot start to 2013 he hit 283 with 37 SB and a 355 OBP. That’s what they wanted to see from him and it led to 54 R in 95 games. Just imagine those totals over a full year. He’s not a power hitter so he was taking PEDs to stay healthy, something he’s struggled with over his career. But a full season of him should easily see 50 SBs. However he is once again injured and Alex Amarista is in his place. He’s not the same player and injuries continue to derail the career of the talented Evreth Cabrera. I put right fielder Will Venable in the number 2 hole. He had the quietest 20/20 season in baseball. Now this guy isn’t a star with his 268 AVG and 312 OBP last year, but is a quality player. He’s actually an ideal number 2 man with the speed to get on base and make some noise for the thunder behind him in the lineup, and the power to drive in the leadoff guy when he gets on in front of him. He’s not going to win you games on his own, but he has a unique skillset that is very helpful in a major league lineup. And that brings us to Chase Headley. No one knows what to expect from this guy. He broke out in 2012, leading the NL in RBI with 115 to go with his 286 AVG, 17 SB and 31 HR. Then he followed that up with a 250/13/50/59/8 campaign in 141 games. I think the true Chase Headley lies somewhere between those two guys. Think 260+ with 18 HR, 70 RBI and 12 SB. The real question is, do the Padres keep him to be their future team’s cornerstone, or sell him off for the final pieces of their future club? The answer will tell people a lot about what kind of player San Diego thinks he is. That’s the top of the order, and it’s pretty formidable as far as MLB lineups go. You’ve got a guy with great speed and OBP potential leading off, a power/speed player in the two hole and a guy who does a bit of everything well hitting third. But it drops off after those three. Carlos Quentin will be in the cleanup hole. Since his great year with Chicago in 2008, we’ve seen the same thing out of him every year. A middle of the road average and great power, to go with injury and limited games played. Last year’s edition was 13 HR in 82 games. The year before was 16 in 86. With 100 games we have the potential for 20 HR, 30 with 130+ games. But that’s a big if. And that’s all he really delivers now. Young first baseman Yonder Alonso is next in my lineup. He hasn’t reached his power potential yet, but hits for higher AVG than most other first basemen. He hit 281 with 6 HR and 45 RBI in 97 games. The year before saw 9 HR and 62 RBI. They like his AVG but want more run production. He’s still young and entering his power prime, so maybe it happens. But right now, I’m putting his HR ceiling at 12 and RBI ceiling at 70. Pair that with another 275 AVG and that’s what the Padres likely get from their first baseman this year. The got plenty of power from second base, though, with the even younger Jed Gyorko doing the majority of the damage. He popped 23 dingers to go with his 249 AVG. You usually expect that from the first baseman, but they’ll take it where they can. It was his first season in the big leagues, so we don’t know what he’ll do. But they like his power and need it. However Petco is a hard place to hit, and year two is always harder than year one on hitters. I’d expect a slight decrease, perhaps 15 HR this season with another 250 AVG. In addition, he’s lost time due to injury so that hurts his overall projection. I originally put speedy Cameron Maybin in the seventh spot. However he’s lost playing time to the talented Seth Smith. Smith currently leads the team with a 273 AVG, 9 HR and 26 RBI. Those numbers aren’t good enough to lead a team in anything, but it is good for a player that was considered a back up. He’s taken over in the lineup and I put him up hitting 6th. He’ll stay in the lineup unless he’s traded away. Grandal will hit 8th. Grandal was a big part of the Reds organization, but was traded a while ago to San Diego. He’s missed time due to injury and a PED suspension. The good news is he was in the first round of Biogenesis suspensions and is past everything. That’s the offense. It’s not great, but serviceable. There is depth with veterans Chris Denorfia and Cameron Maybin on the bench, not to mention Kyle Blanks, a longtime prospect with a huge ceiling that hasn’t yet lived up to his power potential. However the biggest impediment to offense in San Diego has been and will continue to be Petco Park, the most pitcher friendly haven in the game.
Defensively the park helps a lot. But the talent in the field isn’t bad either. Cameron Maybin and Will Venable are very good in center and right respectively. However Smith will move to right with his talent knocking Maybin out of the lineup. So while Smith’s defense is good in right, Venable is a step down in center. Carlos Quentin is pretty bad, but now that he’s in left it has mitigated his deficiencies some. Yonder Alonso isn’t a bad defensive first baseman. The rest of the infield is pretty good with Gyorko, Cabrera and Headly moving across the diamond from second to short to third. And Nick Hundley’s defense is very strong behind the plate.
The interesting thing about the Padres is that they have one of the best pitchers parks in baseball. And they have some good pitchers. But they aren’t great in that area of the game, despite how much that would help them in their home park. Their ace has become Andrew Cashner, a former reliever who found great success as a starter the last two years. His first year, 2012, was a little rocky but last year he was great. He went 10-9 with a 3.09 ERA. He’s not a big strikeout guy but turned in 175 IP with a good 1.13 WHIP and 233 BAA. Now those aren’t exactly ace numbers, especially in a great pitchers park like Petco, but he’s very effective. Unfortunately he’s been set down with an injury. There’s no shoulder structural damage, which is good news. But with the team trailing in the standings by so much, the Padres are doing the smart thing and not rushing him back. The newest Padre starter is free agent signee, Josh Johnson. Johnson is a former All Star who has fallen on hard times. After missing well over half his starts 2 of the last 3 years, Johnson really struggled through 16 bad starts in Toronto last year. He was 2-8 with a 6.20 ERA. His WHIP and BAA were atrocious, so there was concern he wouldn’t be able to turn it around. The good news is that Toronto is not a good place to pitch and he’s out of there. Also San Diego is a great place to pitch. So perhaps he can turn it around. That is the hope. He’s not the pitcher that he was last year, but he may not be the same pitcher he was when he was an All Star. The true Josh Johnson lies somewhere in between. However he’s another player that has been lost to injury and he’ll be gone the rest of the year as he undergoes Tommy John. That has led the Padres to relying heavily on their other reclamation project, Ian Kennedy. He went 21-4 in 2011 with a 2.88 ERA for Arizona. The last three years his ERA climbed to 4.02 after his career year and then all the way to 5.23 last year. He spent one of those three years in San Diego already with a 4.24 ERA in 10 starts. Hopefully a return to Petco will help those numbers improve, but with more bad years than good years in his career, the All Star season of 2011 is looking more and more like an outlier. The rest of the starting rotation is made up to Tyson Ross and Eric Stults. After being fairly unsuccessful as a spot starter in Oakland, Ross had a good year in San Diego last year. Both Oakland and San Diego are good places to pitch, so perhaps his growth was due to experience, which would be a good sign. In 16 starts and 19 relief appearances last year he went 3-8, but turned in a 3.17 ERA and 225 BAA. He still walks too many guys and tries to strikeout too many guys. But if he can pitch to contact and let his home park help him out, he’ll be in good shape. A full season as a starter could see 200 innings and 170 Ks to go with an ERA around 4. But we can’t know for sure as he’s still fairly inexperienced. Stutlts is also a former reliever who has been starting more recently. His career line is longer than Tyson Ross’, but his last two seasons starting have been better than any others in his career. Last season he made his full 33 starts with an 11-13 record and 3.93 ERA. The concern is that his WHIP and BAA were a little high, so you worry about regression. But in San Diego he may be okay. But the Padres have lost two starters and more will be counted on from Stults and Ross. They’ve turned to a number of other guys to fill out the rotation including Tim Stauffer and Robbie Erlin, but none has been that great. The bullpen is one of the strongest parts of this team with Huston Street as an experienced, albeit not great closer and Joaquin Benoit, a career setup man who succeeded as a closer in Detroit last year. However Street has been awesome this season and Benoit has been solid in his new setup role. Dale Thayer is a great setup man and the rest of the bullpen is made up of live arms that have some talent. It’s not the best bullpen in the game, but with three good arms and more with good stuff, the Padres should be okay.
The Padres have a lot of young players so their outlook for the future is bright. But perhaps not as bright as other re-building clubs. What we know is that this year they will struggle. They have young offensive players, who aren’t overly talented and play in a park that smothers offense. They have a young pitching staff that depends on their home park protecting them, but they don’t have the best stuff in the world. Overall this team has some potential, but isn’t ready yet. And this will not be their year. I think they will improve, but 500 is their ceiling. I’m putting them down for 60 Wins and a last place finish in the NL West.