Chase Headley. Image Credit: Charles LeClaire-USA TODAY Sports

2014 MLB Team Previews: San Diego Padres

San Diego Padres

2013 Record: 76-86 (T-3rd in NL West)

2013 in Review

The Padres weren’t expected to contend in 2013, and they did not deviate from those expectations. They got off to an awful 10-16 start in April, and never really recovered. They did manage to climb two games over .500 in the middle of June, but that was the high point of the season.

The Padres’ biggest problem in 2013 – as it has been in most seasons since moving to Petco Park – was their offense. They ranked 24th in the majors in runs scored. Surprisingly, Petco’s large dimensions might not have been the culprit for the scoring problems. The Padres ranked 8th in the National League in homers, but only 13th in slugging percentage. So while they were able to get a fair share of balls over the fence, they didn’t take much advantage of the gaps.

In some years, the Padres have been able to compensate for the lack of scoring by shutting down the opposition. But they weren’t especially good at that either, as their team 3.98 ERA was 5th worst in the NL.

Honestly, in a season when the team’s top home run hitter was a guy named Jedd Gyorko, and the top starting pitcher was Eric Stults, it isn’t all that surprising that the Padres finished with a poor record.

2014 Preview

Key Transactions

Offense

Jedd Gyorko. Image Credit: Christopher Hanewinckel-USA TODAY Sports

Without looking it up on Yahoo, can you name the Padres leading home run hitter in 2013? (I’ll give you a minute to think.) I’d venture a guess that most non-Padres fans would have a tough time coming up with the name Jedd Gyorko. And yet, the Padres oddly named second baseman did have the most homers on the team with 23. Despite his relative obscurity, Gyorko looks to be becoming one of the best young hitters in the league.

The heart of the order will likely include Chase Headley and Carlos Quentin. Both are fine hitters, but neither is the type of hitter you’d ideally want anchoring your lineup. It’s also worrisome that Headley’s slugging percentage dropped by almost 100 points from 2012 when he led the league in RBIs. (Then again, his second half was much stronger than his first half, so it might have just been a temporary glitch)

While there aren’t a plethora of stars, the lineup seems to be rather balanced. There might not be that one slugger who other teams need to worry about, but there aren’t too many weak spots either. Will Venable, Seth Smith, and Cameron Maybin are all solid members of the lineup.

One interesting position is shortstop. Everth Cabrera looked like an emerging star…and then he was suspended 50 games for involvement in the Biogenesis scandal. It will be interesting to see if he can get back to his high on-base ways now that he is (presumably) clean.

Projected lineup:

  1. Everth Cabrera – SS
  2. Will Venable – CF
  3. Chase Headley – 3B
  4. Carlos Quentin – LF
  5. Jedd Gyorko – 2B
  6. Yonder Alonso – 1B
  7. Cameron Maybin – RF
  8. Nick Hundley – C

Pitching and Defense

Josh Johnson. Image Credit: Joe Camporeale-USA TODAY Sports

The Padres have pinned their hopes on a couple of former “future stars” who are looking to rebound from poor seasons. Free agent signee Josh Johnson has loads of talent, but has been unable to stay healthy. The Padres are hoping that he wasn’t healthy in 2013, because otherwise, his performance was very disturbing. After being traded to the Blue Jays, Johnson didn’t find the American League to be very hospitable. He recorded a 6.20 ERA in 16 starts. If he can return to at least his 2012 numbers, he’ll be a huge boost to the Padres’ staff.

In 2011, Ian Kennedy was regarded as one of the best young pitchers in the National League. He has gone slowly downhill since then, finally prompting the Diamondbacks to give up on him midway through 2013. After being traded to the Padres, his performance improved so the team is hoping that continues

The rest of the rotation will consist of 2013 holdovers who the team has some high hopes for. Andrew Cashner, Eric Stults, and Tyson Ross have all shown that they can be reliable performers.

If the starters can consistently give the team quality starts, then the Padres should feel good about their chances of victory. The relief corps projects to be one of the better units in the league. The closer-setup combo of Huston Street and Joaquin Benoit will be tough to beat in the late innings, and have the potential to make a lot of games into “seven inning affairs.”

The rest of the bullpen would seem to be strong as well. Dale Thayer and Nick Vincent are solid middle relief options, and there are some promising players among the others fighting for jobs.

All in all, there is a lot of potential with the Padres pitching staff. They may be counting on a couple of huge question marks in Johnson and Kennedy, but if those guys can come close to their former numbers, the Padres could end up with one of the better staffs in the league.

Projected Rotation:

  1. Andrew Cashner
  2. Ian Kennedy
  3. Josh Johnson
  4. Eric Stults
  5. Tyson Ross

Closer: Huston Street

Best Case Scenario

Everyone stays healthy, and in doing so, matches their best season from recent years. Johnson and Kennedy look like the aces they were once expected to be, and the pitching staff is one of the five best in the league.

The Padres won’t have much of a chance of being one of the best offensive teams, but the balanced lineup – fueled by a rebound season from Headley – allow them to be above average. With their pitching staff shutting down opponents, above average proves enough to give the Padres a wild card berth.

Worst Case Scenario

Johnson and Kennedy are unable to rebound, and the pitching staff goes from great to merely good. The offense shows that while balance is nice, it’s probably nicer to have some genuine threats in the lineup as well. A slightly above average pitching staff combined with a slightly below average lineup results in a thoroughly average team that finishes right around .500 and out of the playoffs.

Projection

There is a lot of potential volatility in the division, and I had a tough time deciding on the second through fourth place teams. I probably could have comfortably placed them in any order. Ultimately, I feel that the Padres have the least upside of everyone, so I’ll pick them for fourth place.

Predicted Finish: 4th Place

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