2008 MLB Preview: San Diego Padres
Manager: Bud Black
Arrivals: 1B Tony Clark, OF Jim Edmonds, 2B Tadahito Iguchi, SP Mark Prior, SP Randy Wolf
Departures: 2B Geoff Blum, OF Milton Bradley, RP Doug Brocail, OF Mike Cameron, 3B Morgan Ensberg, 2B Marcus Giles, OF Jason Lane, OF Rob Mackowiak, SP Brett Tomko
Offseason grade: D+
The Padres will return one of the most potent 1-2 punches in the National League in reigning Cy Young winner Jake Peavy and Chris Young.
Peavy proved just how dominant he could be last year, going 19-6 with a 2.54 ERA and 240 strikeouts. Those numbers reassured the Padres after Peavy struggled in 2006, going 11-14 with a 4.09 ERA.
Don't expect Peavy to fall back to his 2006 numbers, though. A repeat of 2007's performance is very likely in 2008.
Young is one of the more underrated starters in the game. Young only had 17 decisions (9-8) despite starting 30 games and posting a 3.12 ERA, which proves just how bad the Padres lineup can be.
If Young can get any sort of run support behind him this year, winning 15-20 games is a real possibility.
San Diego's No. 3 starter will be Greg Maddux, who refuses to retire. Why? Because he still can be productive as an MLB pitcher.
Mad Dog went 14-11 with a 4.14 ERA last year at age 41. Don't think he can hold up throughout 2008? Maddux started 34 games and threw 198.0 innings for San Diego in 2007.
The best part about Maddux? He's clean. Take that, Roger.
Rounding out the Padres rotation, if healthy, will be Randy Wolf and Mark Prior.
Wolf was somewhat effective in his 18 starts with the Dodgers last year but hasn't started more than 30 games since 2003.
Prior, like Wolf, hasn't started more than 30 games since 2003, but his injuries have been more documented. Prior will start the year on a rehab assignment in AAA before likely getting called up in May to join the rotation.
That leaves the Padres with a hole at the back of the rotation for the first month of the season. And, honestly, they probably will have to fill a hole due to an injury to Wolf or Prior at some point, so let's take a look at who's in line to replace them.
Justin Germano should be the first choice for Bud Black. Germano started 23 games for the Padres in 2007, going 7-10 with a 4.46 ERA. Germano, 26, will likely start the year off as San Diego's No. 5 starter but could be moved to the bullpen or AAA if/when Prior returns.
Clay Hensley could be another option, but in nine starts in 2007, Hensley's ERA was 7.17. If Hensley has any viable role with the Padres, it's as a reliever.
Wil Ledezma is another worst-case option, but, like Hensley, if he has any value, it's as a reliever.
I like the top three of the Padres' rotation, but Wolf and Prior scare me.
If they're healthy, then San Diego will have a top-notch rotation. However, in the likely event that at least one (if not both) of them get injured, this rotation could be stretched thin.
Starting rotation grade: B (will be A if Prior/Wolf healthy)
Despite the fact that Trevor Hoffman has only seen his ERA climb above three twice since becoming a regular closer (1995 and 2001), he's somehwat developed a bad reputation for blowing saves in big spots.
Hoffman blew saves in the 2006 All-Star Game, a potential wild-card clinching game against Milwaukee in 2007, and, of course, the one-game playoff against the Rockies last year.
The problem for Hoffman is that his best pitch–his changeup–has become less and less effective and his fastball has lost velocity over the years.
It's not Hoffman's fault, but generally, your fastbal doesn't have the same pop on it when you're 40.
That's not to say Hoffman can't get outs, as he saved 42/49 games last year.
He'll save his fair share of games this year, but Black may not be able to count on him as much as he would like in those big-time close games.
Heath Bell, Cla Merideth, and Kevin Cameron are all very good middle-inning righty options.
Justin Hampson is a viable left-handed option who would go along nicely with either Bell, Merideth, or Cameron in the 8th inning.
The final spots in the bullpen will go to either Germano, Ledezma, Hensley, Joe Thatcher, or a coupe of rookies in Carlos Guevara and Michael Gardener.
Germano and Thatcher may be the two best options, but letting Germano start at AAA so he'll be stretched out in case of an injury in the starting rotation isn't a bad idea.
The Padres have a solid bullpen with a lot of depth that should not have a problem getting outs in the late innings.
Bullpen grade: A-
The biggest problem for San Diego over the last five or so years has always been their lineup–and that will be no different this year.
Adrian Gonzalez is one of just two legitimate offensive threats in the Padres' order. Gonzalez hit .280, 30 homeruns and 100 RBIs last year and will have to duplicate, if not improve, those numbers if the Padres want to start thinking about any offensive success.
After hitting just .228 at the All-Star break, Kevin Kouzmanoff hit .317 in the second half of 2007 to finish the year with a .275 batting average.
If Kouzmanoff can hit like he did in the second half of '07, he could be a solid No. 3 hitter ahead of Gonzalez. He won't hit you a ton of home runs, but he should drive in his fair share of runs if he ends up hitting ahead of Gonzalez.
Brian Giles and Jim Edmonds used to be very productive hitters, but at this point in their careers, a healthy season and .270/20/80 would be about the ceiling for their respective performances.
Khalil Greene somehow smacked out 27 home runs and drove in 97 runs last year, but only hit .254 with an absolutely weak .291 OBP. Greene is a better option to hit later in the order as a No. 5 or 7 hitter than he is to bat in the top 2 of the Padres' lineup.
Josh Bard should be starting over Michael Barrett, as Bard is a better hitter, better defender, and isn't a huge jackass.
Lack of depth may not be San Diego's biggest problem with their lineup. This lineup lacks a good leadoff hitter. Tadahito Iguchi is not a leadoff hitter. Scott Hairston is not a leadoff hitter. Neither is Greene. So what will the Padres do?
Well, with a gun to my head, I'd lead off with Hairston, a guy whose career OBP is .299. Why?
Because Greene will get on base less than Hairston and is too much of a power threat to hit that high in this weak Padres lineup.
Iguchi's OBP was .347 with the White Sox and Phillies, but that was primarily as a No. 2, 6, or 7 hitter. I've seen Iguchi play for the last three years and know that he would not have a whole lot of success as a leadoff hitter.
The reason why the Padres earned a D+ for their offseason grade was because they failed to significantly improve this lineup.
Edmonds and Iguchi both aren't terrible hitters, but Kevin Towers needed to go out and acquire a good leadoff hitter and another good power hitter if the Padres expect to support their pitching staff.
There's one ray of hope for the Padres, though. At least their pitchers are going to hit well.
Lineup grade: C-
The Padres have one of the thinnest benches in the game.
Chase Headley might be their best bet in terms of a good bat off the bench, but Headley hit .330 in AA ball last year and could be one of San Diego's better offensive options in a few years. Letting him sit on the bench when he could be starting at AAA is a bad idea.
However, the rest of the Padres' bench shows just how much they may need Headley.
Oscar Robles and Luis Rodriguez are both good defensive options but couldn't hit the ball off a tee. Callix Crabbe, despite his awesome name, hasn't played an inning at the MLB level yet.
This bench likely will be another part of the weak Padres' offense this year.
Bench grade: F
I really feel sorry for Jake Peavy and Chris Young. They're going to have to scrap and fight for any sort of run support from this team.
If Prior and Wolf are healthy, this rotation will be one of the best in the game. However, without a potent offense, the Padres will struggle compete in the ultra-competitive NL West.
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