San Diego Padres
G.M.: Kevin Towers
Manager: Bud Black
Payroll: $40-45 million
2008: 63-99, last place in NL west
2009 Baseball Prospectus projection: 74-88
I think I had the last or next-to last pick for these previews, so naturally I get perhaps one of the more vanilla teams in the National League in the Padres. But vanilla can taste good too! Anyway, two things come to mind when I think of the Padres: Hall-of Famer Tony Gwynn, and these:
Yep those '70s Padres uniforms were almost as ugly as the team’s performance in those years. The Padres joined the NL as part of the 1969 expansion, and here’s what they did the first few years in the league:
Year Record Pct. GB
1969 52-110 .321 41.0
1970 63-99 . 389 39.0
1971 61-100 .379 28.5
1972 58-95 .379 36.5
1973 60-102 .370 39.0
1974 60-102 .370 42.0
Wow. That’s a pretty dismal start. The Padres didn’t have their first winning season until 1978 (84-78), and waited until 1984 to win their first division title. Of course, they kept up the Cubs curse in the NLCS before getting swept by Sparky Anderson’s Tigers in the World Series. In their only other appearance in the Fall Classic in 1998, the Padres were swept by the Yankees.
Which brings us to the present day. The Padres won NL West titles in 2005 and 2006, but the team fell apart last season, going 63-99. And the outlook for 2009 is equally as bleak, with the cloud of team owner John Moores ugly divorce (shoulda gotten that pre-nup!) forcing the sale of the team, and a mandated payroll of $40 million. A pending sale to a group led by former player agent Jeff Moorad could be finalized by Opening Day. In fact, it was reported last night that Padres CEO Sandy Alderson could step down today as part of the sale process. Moorad's group will eventually own 100 percent of the team, but the process will take five years..
Offense: The Padres play in Petco Park, the most extreme pitchers park in baseball, so it’s little wonder that they finished last in the NL in runs scored (637), doubles (264), and on-base percentage (.317). And there’s little, if any improvement, with SS Khalil Greene gone to the Cardinals.
Projected lineup (with BP Pecota projections)
CF Jody Gerut .302/.365/.500
2B David Eckstein .267/.330/.339
RF Brian Giles .279/376/.414
1B Adrian Gonzalez .277/.356/.480
3B Kevin Kouzmanoff .275/.331/.465
LF Chase Headley .258/.345/.437
C Nick Hundley .219/.287/.373
SS Luis Rodriguez .255/.318/.325
OF Scott Hairston .254/.335/.455
OF Cliff Floyd ’s carcass .263/.344/.412
INF Chris Burke .232/.311/.339
Jody Gerut --- Gerut, who finished 4th in the AL Rookie of the Year voting with the Indians in 2003, enjoyed a resurgence last season with the Padres, after missing two full seasons of baseball due to a knee injury, and lack of interest in his services. In 328 at-bats, Gerut batted .296 with 14 homers, and put up a 130 OPS+. Yes, he’s a far superior option at the lead-off spot to Willy T-Virus.
David Eckstein --- Here’s all you need to know about that ALS:
Brian Giles ---- Back at the turn of the century, Giles would blast close to 40 homers a year, but he hasn’t hit more than 15 homers in a season since 2004. Is Petco Park the reason for the power outage, or is there another, umm, medical reason for the lack of power? Either way, Giles is still the kind of disciplined hitter the Reds could use. He should again walk more than he strikes out and get on base at close to a .400 clip. He’s also the most likely Padre to be traded. Moving his contract will help them make payroll. But will he go? He refused a trade to the Red Sox last season.
Adrian Gonzalez --- Considering the home park, Gonzalez has developed into a damn good slugger. I’ll take 36 homers and a 130 OPS+ out of my first baseman any day of the week. Too bad this talent is being wasted here. Gonzalez also could be traded to meet payroll, as the Padres have other options on the way (more on that later).
Kevin Kouzmanoff --- Acquired from the Indians before the 2007 season, Kouzmanoff is your basic average streaky slugger. 23 homers in 2008 was solid, but that is matched by 23 walks. Not so good. Kouzmanoff is also my nomination for the Padres’ lone Bill Hall All-Star. In 13 games, Kouz has 5 homers, 15 RBIs and slash stats of .404/.444/.787 against Reds pitching.
Chase Headley --- Baseball America’s No. 1 Padres prospect heading into 2008, Headley was a mid-season callup, and he held his own in his rookie season. Walks were a bit low (30) and strikeouts were a bit high (104 in 331 at-bats), but he still had an OPS+ of 108. Could develop into a consistent 20-25 home run hitting with batting averages close to .300. Would move to his natural position of 3B if the Padres decide to unload Kouzmanoff. Headley would be my favorite Padre, if I actually liked the Padres, which I don’t.
Nick Hundley ---- Made big-league debut last season. Flashed a little pop in his bat (5 homers in 198 at-bats), but has questionable on-base skills (.285 OBP in AAA, .278 OBP in MLB). Threw out 25 percent of base runners trying to steal (14 of 56). Padres other catcher is Henry Blanco, who sucks as well.
Luis Rodriguez--- From an offensive standpoint, could be the worst regular shortstop in the National League. In 647 career at-bats spread over four seasons, L-Rod has 6 homers, 4 steals, and a .257 batting average (inflated by a career-high .287 last season). The switch "hitter" doesn’t walk much and doesn’t strike out much either. His projected Wins Above Replacement Player? 0.1. Nice.
Scott Hairston, Cliff Floyd's carcass, Chris Burke. Pretty uninspiring group here. Scott Hairston is of course our own Cherry’s brother. Hairston isn’t a terrible platoon outfielder, but he’d have a lot more value if he could get a manager to think he was "versatile" so he could get at-bats at 2B or 3B or something. Floyd is pinch-hitter material these days, and Burke is one of the great prospects who never panned out. There’s been plenty of fantasy cash thrown away hoping that Burke would bust out. Nope. He’s just a bust.
Pitching: With such an extreme pitchers’ park, you’d think the 2008 Padres would have solid pitching numbers. Think again. The Padres were 10th in ERA (4.41) and allowed the 6th most hits (1466). Only key change is the team waving good-bye to long-time closer (and former Reds farmhand) Trevor Hoffman, which at this point in his career, may be a slight upgrade, considering he has some injury concerns right now.
1. Jake Peavy --- The 2007 Cy Young award winner battled missed about a month last season due to injury, resulting in 50 less innings pitched. The run support evaporated as Peavy went from 19-6 to 10-11. Still had a sub-3.00 ERA and 134 ERA+. An absolute stud pitcher, and one who may not be a Padre for much longer. Peavy was subjected to constant trade rumors in the offseason as the team attempted to trade him to the Braves and Cubs, among other. Peavy was reportedly a bit unhappy with how the situation was handled.
2. Chris Young --- Flyball pitcher helped immensely by Petco. 6-foot-10 righthander was on his way to another slightly above league-average season before an Albert Pujols line drive blasted him in the face. Should be OK this year, but his velocity has been a bit down in camp.
3. Cha Seung Baek --- Has a 9.95 ERA in the spring. According to Geoff Young at ducksnorts.com, Baek will be "the worst No. 3 starter in MLB. And that analysis from someone who actually roots for the Padres!
4. Kevin Correia --- Former Giant. San Diego native. Moderate success as a reliever, but not so much as a starter. Makes me think of Matt Belisle.
Other rotation candidates
Walter Silva --- Padres acquired him on loan from Monterrey of the Mexican League, Here’s his 2008 statistics, which just scream "Elmer Dessens," to me: 7-8, 4.21 ERA, 115 IP, 60K/49BB, 1.45 WHIP. Anyhow, was slowed by an injury at the beginning of spring, but was solid in a recent outing.
Shawn Hill --- Dumped on the scrap heap by the Nationals, of all teams, Hill was signed Monday by the Padres. Hill is also potentially the third-best starter in this mess if healthy. But he’s never healthy. Hill’s best season was 2006, when he was 4-5 with a 3.42 ERA and about a 2.5:1 strikeout-to-walk ratio in 16 starts.
Heath Bell --- Absolutely dominant setup man in 2007 (102 Ks in 93 innings, 200 ERA+) slipped a bit in 2008, but now steps into vacated closer role. It remains to be seen how the Padre will get to him in the ninth, as the rest of this group is an absolute mess.
Absolute mess --- Cla Meredith has had some success in the past, but the rest of the bullpen (Justin Hampson, Duaner Sanchez, among others) is an uninspiring bunch. Mark Worrell, who the Padres got when they traded Greene to the Cards, will undergo Tommy John surgery. Team has reportedly figured out that focusing on developing soft-tossers with "pitchability" isn’t conducive to winning and is desperately hunting for any power arms with a pulse. UPDATE: They found a power arm yesterday, getting Eulogio De La Cruz from the Marlins. I"m underwhelmed.
With the team looking to be rebuilding mode, a number of minor-leaguers could see some action this season. A quick look:
2B Matt Antonelli --- Last year’s No. 2 prospect, Antonelli had a miserable 2008, hitting .215 last season. Could bounce back, as he still showed good patience (76 walks with 451 at-bats). Hitting well in spring, but will start in minors. Midseason callup likely, with Mr. Scraptacular perhaps moving from 2B to SS, or being designated for assignment.
1B Kyle Blanks --- Team’s top prospect is huge (6-6, 285 pounds), but not just a masher. Hit .325 with 20 homers in AA in 2008 and he‘s tearing it up in spring. There has even been some chatter of moving him to the outfield to get his bat in the lineup. Hmm. 6-6, 285 in the OF? He might make Adam Dunn look graceful. A number of teams are inquring about him in trade, as he’s blocked by Gonzalez. But Padres would be better served by trading the incumbent.
OF Will Venable --- Here’s your lone current Reds connection, and a weak one at that. Venable is the son of former Red Max Venable. A bit of a tweener, Venable could at least have a career as a fourth outfielder. Fun fact! Max Venable’s real name is William McKinley Venable. Named after our 25th president. Wow, that WAS fun.
Let’s see. The offense, other than a lack of speed, has some ok pieces, but it’s extremely hampered by Petco. The pitching, after Peavy, Bell and perhaps Young, does stink. Overall, the Padres are a strong candidate to have the worst record in the National League, especially if veterans are moved. I would be extremely depressed if I were a Padres fan, which I’m not, so I’ve got that going for me. As for what the real Padres fans are saying, here’s some samples from a Duaner Sanchez discussion at Gaslampball.com, a SB nation site!
Padres 2009 -- hopin' for the best!
by Billy Almon on Mar 16, 2009 7:04 AM PDT
Hope in one hand, and crap in the other!
by Dalton on Mar 16, 2009 12:21 PM PDT