We know, they lost their best hitter. Adrian Gonzalez is now with the Bosox. We are all aware that they folded in the pennant race last year with an ill-timed 10 game losing streak. But do you think they consider last season’s performance a failure? I would think not. Nobody expected the the San Diego Padres to be anywhere near first place on the last day of the season at the beginning of the 2010 campaign. But there they were, one game back going into the 162nd game of the season. The Padres were the surprise team of the National League last year.
They were carried by an excellent starting staff and stellar bullpen. They caught the ball and played fine defense. They utilized their cavernous ballpark to their advantage with great pitching and speedy outfielders. So what has happened this off-season? The Padre roster has changed significantly and lost some significant contributors:
1st baseman Adrian Gonzalez, Shortstop Miguel Tejada, Starting Pitcher Jon Garland, 2nd baseman David Eckstein, Catcher Yorvit Torrealba, Reserve Outfielder Tony Gwynn Jr., Reserve Outfielder Jerry Hairston Jr., Reserve Infielder Scott Hairston, Starting Pitcher Kevin Correia, Relief Pitcher Ryan Webb, Relief Pitcher Edward Mujica
|The Padres 37 year-old General Manager, Jed Hoyer|
We all know who the Padres gave up in Adrian Gonzalez. What did they get in return from Boston? Nobody that will impact the big club for probably two years. Very young talent was received. Talent that Jed Hoyer the new Padre GM, is well aware of since he worked in Boston with Theo Epstein when these young players were drafted. That is probably good news for Padre fans, since it is unlikely that Epstein wants to fleece his buddy in the first major trade he has ever made. So who are these young prospects the Padres received in exchange for their best player?
First there is Casey Kelly, a 20 year old right handed starting pitcher that had a tough year in AA Portland, ME (Eastern League) last year. Kelly was the 30th player drafted overall in the 1st round of the 2008 draft. The hiccup of this year can be attributed to adjustments to better competition in the Eastern League, the inexperience and the age of the prospect. Scouts still rave about Kelly’s stuff and believe he’s a grade A prospect.
Next, the Padres obtained 1st baseman, Anthony Rizzo, a power hitting 20 year-old that also played last year in AA Portland. Rizzo is developing home run power. He drove in 100 runs in 132 games last season as he hit 25 dingers. AS he gets older, he'll get stronger. It'll be interesting to see how he progresses this year.
The third player attained in the deal is 19 year old Reymond Fuentes, the 28th pick in the first round of the 2009 draft. Fuentes is a speedster that stole 42 bases in A ball, Greenville, SC of the South Atlantic League. A centerfielder that projects to be a speedy leadoff hitter that has a good on base percentage.
Orlando Hudson is a big upgrade at second over David Eckstein. His defensive range, overall speed, quick bat and attitude will be a big lift to the Padres. We saw what an impact he is when healthy during his year with the Dodgers.
Additionally, Jason Bartlett at shortstop brings a much better glove than the near no range Miguel Tejada. Bartlett returns to the organization that originally drafted him on 2001.
Brad Hawpe, a true Dodger killer over his career, is going to find Petco to be a tough ballpark to hit in. His skills have been deteriorating over the last few seasons. A change of scenery is probably needed, but San Diego isn't the place for him. The heavy coastal air in San Diego Bay won’t help his offensive numbers.
San Diego native Aaron Harang comes over from Cincinnati and should benefit from the home cooking and pitcher friendly park. The Padres hope that Harang steps up as a number two starter. He’ll have to rebound substantially from his subpar, injury plagued numbers in 2010, (6-7, 5.32 ERA, 111 IP). His health is the big question mark.
Chad Qualls joins the Padres after a number of years in Arizona. He will benefit from the ballpark and often times in-house competition amongst other teammates begets better performances. In other words, success breeds success and I think that Qualls will benefit from that. That Padre bullpen is good and can help Qualls in regain his confidence. He needs to because he was awful last year (3-4, 7.32 ERA, 59 IP)
|San Francisco fan favorite, Mat Latos|
Staff ace Mat Latos pitches with incredible confidence. He isn’t shy about speaking his mind and backing up his words. During the pennant race last year he didn’t hesitate telling the world that he hated the Giants, giving them plenty of bulletin board material.
Latos was a solid ace of the Friars last year, (14-10, 2.92 ERA, 184 IP, 189 K’s). He has continued the controversy this off-season, auctioning off baseballs he signed with his autograph and an inscribed “I hate SF!” below, (I knew I liked this guy).
|Latos' "I hate SF!" signed ball, auctioned off for charity.|
The remainder of the starting staff is made up of Clayton Richard (14-9, 3.75ERA, 201 IP), Wade LeBlanc (8-12, 4;25 ERA, 146 IP).
With Garland and Correia departing, Dustin Moseley, (4-4, 4.96 ERA, 65 IP), a free agent signer that was with the Yankees last year is vying for the 5th starter spot.
With the departure of Webb and Mujica in off-season trades, the Padres lost 128 innings of quality relief pitching. Chad Qualls was obtained as help to replace those two. Solid returnees to the pen are Luke Gregerson, Mike Adams, Ernesto Freiri and left handed specialist Joe Thatcher. Of course, most importantly, the Padres return with one of the best closers in the game, Heath Bell. I see no reason that he'll drop off in performance considering he's in a free agent walk year.
The Others Position Players
A very average Chase Headley starts at thirdbase, but Padre brass believe that he’s an up and coming player that is due to breakout and have a fine season. This corner infield spot proivided very little pop last season. At the other corner, Brad Hawpe most likely starts at first. Hawpe, a notorious Dodger killer, is coming off his worst season to date. His numbers at Petco should continue to decline. This is where the Padres will really feel a loss of production. From 40 homers and 120+ RBI to 10 homers and 50 RBI.
|New Padre Centerfielder Cameron Maybin, a fine defensive addition|
Newly acquired Cameron Maybin from Florida brings a fleet footed centerfielder to the NL West. Padre brass are hopeful that the vast field dimensions of Petco Park will help Maybin’s average rise and a lot of his batted balls fall in. Chris Denorfia will see his share of playing time, as he did last year where he had a respectable campaign with 9 homers and a .271 avg. over 284 ABs and stellar defense.
Ryan Ludwick in left field will need to step up his power number to compensate for the loss of Gonzales. Two season’s removed from a 37 homer campaign, Ludwick hit only 17 last season.
Right Field appears to belong to Will Venable, with Hawpe stepping back into RF on occasion when he doesn’t start in the infield. Venable has good speed and can take a pitch, but he’s no masher offensively.
Nick Hundley has been handed the catching duties in San Diego. He will truly be tested in 2010 as the Padres really don’t have another catching option. An injury at the catching position would be cause for deep concern in San Diego as weak hitting Rob Johnson with his career .200 average is the backup and 64 year old Gregg Zaun, (okay, he's only 40) is trying to make the roster.
|Manager Bud Black|
Management and the Coaching Staff
Bud Black returns from his Manager of the Year award winning 2010 season. A 90-72 record with that roster was deserving of that award. He kept this club together even after the losing streak. There was no panic in this team, and give credit to Black for that. Following the 10 game losing streak they rebounded and finished 15-13, not an easy task for a young team completely destroyed emotionally after blowing that 6 game lead. The kids held their own in the pennant stretch drive, showing some fortitude in that final 3 game must sweep series in Frisco. They scared the Giant faithful, taking the first two games before falling short on the final day of the season, (the Padres finished 12-6 against San Francisco).
New additions to the coaching staff include former Dodger and San Diego native Dave Roberts. Rick Renteria moves to bench coach with the departure of Ted Simmons following the 2010 season. The remaining coaches stay in place, Darren Balsely as pitching coach and Glenn Hoffmann as 3rd base coach.
The loss of Adrian Gonzalez will be too much to overcome. That's too much offensive pop lost. Two of the five starters are gone now, including innings eater Jon Garland. I don't see Harang and Mosely replacing that. As a result, the bullpen will be overworked. I see the Padres at a break even 81-81. Hudson and Bartlett will be solid up the middle. Maybin's defense will impress many, but Brad Hawpe will disappoint. This team lacks power and I predict that they will not even hit 100 homers for the season.
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