Spring Training San Diego Padres: Who Tore Up Peoria?
The 2012 season for San Diego looms large with doubt and expectations. Some believe the Padres will familiarize themselves with the cellar once again, while others remain optimistic for the season to come.
Those who see the glass half-full can reference these group of players that had themselves a solid spring.
The Padres have been waiting for Will Venable to fulfill his potential. He has seemingly all five tools, but hasn't been able to bring his entire game to the big leagues yet. Entering the 2012 season at 29 years old, Venable's window of opportunity is closing.
But Venable has performed well in spring, hopefully indicating the breakout season San Diego has been waiting for. Venable has hit .360 with six doubles in 17 Cactus League games. He's also swiped seven bases and driven in six runs. The Padres would like nothing more than for Venable to become the everyday right fielder, and he looks as if he's ready to take over.
For the Padre fans that don't know Matt Clark, consider this an introduction.
Clark is a 6'5", lefty powerhouse. In 21 games, he hit .395 with three home runs and 10 RBIs, and at times has looked big league ready. He needs to reduce the strikeouts (13 in 38 at bats), but has shown manger Bud Black that he can hit.
He will most likely start the season with Triple-A Tuscon, but could see action in the San Diego outfield soon.
Andy Parrino has had his struggles, but he has proven he can hit the ball a long way.
The 6'0", switch-hitting infielder leads the team with four home runs this spring, and has come with impressive accolades. Parrino was named a Mid-Season All Star at both Single-A and Double-A, and is now getting his shot at the big league level.
While his .228 average is a concern, Parrino is a slick fielder with some pop in his bat. With Logan Forsythe on the DL with a broken toe, Parrino will probably start the 2012 season with San Diego as a reserve infielder. Orlando Hudson has been nursing a sore groin all spring, and has been known for battling injuries during the season.
Parrino could see time at second base soon.
Cory Luebke is the brightest star in the San Diego rotation heading in to the 2012 season. After a strong finish in 2011, Luebke looks to take on the full load as a starter.
Luebke has posted a 3.93 ERA in five starts this spring, while striking out 22 and only walking four. Bud Black has not yet named an Opening Day starter, and while Tim Stauffer will most likely get the ball on April 5, Luebke's name has been mentioned.
Regardless of where in the rotation he's placed, Luebke has high ceilings and looks to fulfill his potential as a potential ace in San Diego.
Over five starts, Volquez posted a 3.48 ERA. In typical Volquez style, he has struck out 13 while walking 11. However, the batting average against him has been a measly .179, and he has not surrendered a home run, which is a feat in itself considering the thin air ballparks of Arizona.
The Padres would like to lean on Volquez during the season, and his performance in spring indicates that he's ready to answer in 2012.
Catcher Yasmani Grandal was perhaps the centerpiece of the now-notorious Mat Latos trade. The switch-hitting backstop is primed for a starting spot in the big leagues, and has not fallen short of expectations.
Grandal has hit .353 in 34 at-bats for the Padres, as well as hitting two home runs and driving in 11. Starting catcher Nick Hundley has been recovering from injury for a large part of the spring, giving Grandal plenty of opportunities.
He will most likely start the 2012 season in Triple-A Tuscon, but another injury to Hundley or reserve catcher John Baker would vacate a spot for Grandal.
After a slow start, Yonder Alonso has put things back together at the right time.
Another piece of the Latos trade, Alonso is hitting .323 with five doubles and 11 RBIs. He figures to be the Padres starting first baseman, and his ability to drive the ball in the gap is a necessity in spacious PetCo Park. Interestingly, former Padre Anthony Rizzo is hitting .364, but has only five RBIs and no doubles.
Casey Kelly has frustrated many of those around him, but mainly, himself. Kelly converted from shortstop to pitcher while in the Red Sox organization, and has struggled to learn how to pitch, and not simply throw.
Kelly's immense talent has led to high expectations, and he has been a work in progress. But this spring, Kelly has begun to mix his talent with his new-found ability to pitch. In 15.2 innings, he has struck out 15. He's also posted a 2.30 ERA, one of the team's best.
He will start the season in Triple-A Tuscon, but if he continues to pitch as well as he has in Arizona, he could find himself in San Diego soon.
Putting It Together in 2012
The 2012 season is not the end-all, be-all of Padres baseball. Even if their season is another one to learn from, they have pieces in place that can build a strong and contending team. Their farm system has also developed into arguably the best in baseball. Young talents like Jedd Gyrko, Robbie Erlin and James Darnell are only a season away from the bigs, and players like Rymer Liriano, Cory Spangenberg and Austin Hedges are waiting to bloom into stars in San Diego.
2012 may not be the year for San Diego, but NL West beware.