Friday, February 15, 2013

2013 Preview: San Diego Padres

San Diego Padres
(2012: 76-86, 4th place NL West)
(2013: FC Prediction, 4th Place NL West)

Being in the Midwest, I don't get to see a whole lot of Padres games.  Thankfully, due to MLBtv (sign up for it, seriously, it's awesome), I got to watch a couple last year.  I noticed two things while watching; Chase Headley is insanely good, and the Padres have a good young core of players.  PetCo Park has traditionally been a pitcher's paradise, but the fences are being moved in 10 feet this year, perhaps making it a little easier to hit in.  

The Padres only made minor changes in the off-season, but if the young players can improve upon their 2012 seasons, the Padres might be able to make a little bit of noise in the NL West. Problem for them is that the West is very strong, with the Dodgers, Giants, and Diamondbacks all being quality teams.  

Let's take a look at the 2013 Padres a little more in depth:

PITCHERS:
The Padres have a questionable starting rotation, but that doesn't mean there isn't some talent in there.  Ace and former Chicago White Sox lefty Clayton Richard leads the charge and I expect him to continue to improve.  Edinson Volquez, acquired in the Mat Latos trade, is also at the top of the rotation.  The rotation is expected to be rounded out by Eric Stults, Tyson Ross, and Anthony Bass.  There are a couple of names that could push for a spot, including veteran journeyman Jason Marquis and highly touted prospect Casey Kelly.  He had a minor elbow injury in 2012, but I look for him to push very hard for a rotation spot this year, given how good his stuff is.

The bullpen is definitely one of the Padres' strengths heading into 2013.  Closer Huston Street, even with his injury, was one of the best closers in the MLB in 2013.  He is supported by fill in closer Dale Thayer, who has some of the best facial hair in the big leagues.  Youngster Brad Boxberger has a power arm and has the makeup to be a very good late inning reliever for the Friars.  Lastly, Luke Gregerson has been one of the best relievers in baseball in the last couple of years.  Gregerson has one of the best sliders in baseball and has parlayed that into a couple great season.

The Padres top pitching prospect is 2012 first round pick Max Fried.  Fried was successful in his 2012 debut and looks to build upon that campaign in 2013.  However, he is still at least a year or two away from contributing at the big league level.  This leaves the aforementioned Kelly with the best chance among the Padres prospects to crack the roster.

LINEUP:

The Paders have a well balanced lineup, but not one area pops out at you as outstanding.  They have speed with Maybin and Cabrera, contact hitters with Alonso and Headley, and power with Quentin.  There might not be enough pop in this lineup, but the Padres have a good base of hitters.  They should head into opening day looking a little something like this:



1. Cameron Maybin (CF)-Maybin is an elite talent in center who has plenty of speed and can cover a lot of ground, but he will have to put a full season with the bat together in 2013.
2. Wil Venable (RF)-Venable is a serviceable outfielder, but he might be in a platoon with Chris Denorfia, who has a solid history against lefties.
3. Chase Headley (3B)-Headley put up MVP type numbers at the plate in addition to playing gold glove quality defense at the hot corner.  I look for Headley to repeat upon his wildly successful campaign, though he might not reach the numbers that he had in 2012. 
4. Carlos Quentin (LF)-Quentin has a ton of power, so he should greatly benefit from the moving in of the fences.  If he can stay healthy, look for some big power numbers from Quentin in 2013.
5. Yonder Alonso (1B)-Alonso might not have the power of a typical first baseman, but the guy can flat out hit.  He sprays the ball to all fields and should hit for a high average.
6. Logan Forsyte (2B)-Forsythe is a well rounded player who can hit for average, steal a couple bases, and play solid defense.
7. Nick Hundley (C)-The 50 game suspension to catcher Yasmani Grandal hurts, but backup Hundley has been the Padres starter in recent years, so he should be able to step right in.  Hundley is a bit behind Grandal with the bat, but he can really handle a pitching staff.
8. Everth Cabrera (SS)-Cabrera might struggle with the bat, but he is a great defender and has tons of speed.  

Jedd Gyorko is the best Padres prospect, and he appears to be ready for Major League duty, but the problem might be finding a spot for him.  Gyorko is a third baseman by trade, but Headley is not going anywhere.  The next logical spot is second base, so if Logan Forsythe struggles at all in 2013, look for Gyorko to be called up to fill his spot.  Outfielder Rymer Liriano is also very talented, but he might be better off with another year of seasoning in the minors.


NON-ROSTER INVITEE TO WATCH:
There are a ton of names you have probably never heard of on this list, but starter Freddy Garcia has a legitimate shot to make this team out of Spring Training.  With some question marks in the rotation, the reliable Garcia could crack the roster with a strong spring.  He was decent last year for the Yankees, so unless he has a major regression, he stills appears to have something left in the tank.

PROGNOSIS:
The Padres actually have a lot of talent in their lineup, but given their weakness in the starting rotation, I find it hard to believe that the Padres can compete in the strong NL West.  However, if the Padres rotation can put together a solid campaign, I could see the Padres pushing the top teams in this division given the strength of their bullpen and the consistency in their lineup.  The reality is that this team might simply be another year away from competing.


TWITTER ACCOUNT OF THE DAY:
He was who we used for the 2012 season review, but given that he actually retweeted what we wrote, I have to give the nod here to Yonder Alonso.  So follow him @YonderalonsoU and send him some well wishes for the 2013 season.