Friday 9 March 2012
2012 Previews: San Diego Padres
I probably know less about this team than any other, save for maybe Houston, since nobody knows dick about their cornucopia of AAA lifers. What I do know is that last year, they lost an astounding eight games more than their pythagorean record would suggest. I also happen to know that they amount of young talent that they've stockpiled over the last few years is outrageous, and that this team is on their way up.
I'll be honest, I paid 0 attention to this team last year, and they're one of the few teams that I have to look up to compare their 2011 and 2012 rosters. I don't see a ton of turnaround, beyond the obvious elephant in the room in the form of Mat Latos/Yonder Alonso.
Unless I'm missing something major, Orlando Hudson and Jason Bartlett will continue to both get everyday playing time, and suck. Yonder Alonso and Yasmani Grandal are both mainstays of the future that can be added to their already excellent batch of youngsters (Headley, Maybin, Leubke), so we can certainly expect the Padres to be solid in a few years, but I think it's too soon to expect either Grandal or Alonso to be good enough to turn this team in to a contender for at least one more season. Having said that, they play in a ballpark that really supresses offense, which makes games a lot more volatile (i.e. their 8-game differential between actual and pythagorean records last year), so they could be a surprise. They certainly have a lot of payroll flexibility and they don't play in an overly difficult division, so if they're close at the deadline, expect them to be buyers.
The Bartlett and Hudson contracts expire after this season, and Carlos Quentin is a free agent-to-be as well, assuming they don't lock him up, so there will certainly be some work to do moving forward. They could also stand to find another halfway decent pitcher. If they do happen to be buyers at the deadline, look for them to acquire a middle infielder and relegate one of Hudson/Bartlett to the bench.
This is one of the best systems in baseball, if not the best. Most top-100 lists released by the major scouting sources (Law/Goldstein/Callis) have few Padres in the top half, but they all seem to wax on about how, if the lists were 150 or 200 players long, that there would be 10+ Padres. If you include the young members of the core of the major league club, you can see why this franchise is on the way up.
I can see this team contending in 2013, though I'm sure this season is a bit of a transitional one, and things are more geared up for 2014 and beyond. In this division, I can see a team this youg and talented having the same problems that any young team have, and I think the pitching is going to be a pretty big weak spot as well. With that in mind, I don't think the record of the club really matters to the front office this year, nor can it when you deal your ace in the offseason.
Projection: 77-85, 4th place in the NL West