San Diego Padres? To most of the country, the Friars are the LAST team they think about. After all, by the time the Padres usually post the last out of the day in baseball, it's 2 a.m. back east, and all have gone to bag some Z's by then.
However, for those of us who live here on the West Coast, San Diego is the baseball mecca, regardless of the level of talent the Padres trot out at Petco Park. Sadly, this season looks to be perhaps the longest in Padres history. Here is a positional outlook for this season, along with my predictions for the Padres' fate.
The word "whiplash" comes to mind once you get past Jake Peavy and Chris Young. Any team who faces the Padres will improve on their offensive numbers, and any fantasy player wants his guys batting against the Padres "staff."
Cha Sun Baek, Jae Kuk Ryu, Chris Britton, and a host of other "who the heck are these guys" round out what could be the worst staff in baseball. Normally, there would be a prospect or two coming along from the minors, but the Padres have squandered their high draft picks on busts like Matt Bush and Tim Stauffer, pitchers whose main claim to fame is who they got lit up by.
Bush, drafted as a shortstop, never made it out of Single A before flaming out in a haze of injuries, barfights, and stupidity. Stauffer would make a good BP pitcher, since that's what his outings look like from the stands.
Cesar Ramos has an outside shot, but he is hardly going to inspire fear from the Yankees or Red Sox. Add the subtraction of all-time saves leader Trevor Hoffman and the Padres are looking at 40 wins for the season. Forty. Hopefully, new closer Heath Bell can get some work in, but saves will be hard to come by this year.
Adrian Gonzalez is a top-five first baseman whose bat and glove will end up in New York or, worse yet, Los Angeles. AG is at the top of his game and offers the hope of those 40 wins coming from his bat. Following AG is Kyle Blanks, an up-and-comer who is waiting his turn. First base is probably the Padres' strongest position.
David Eckstein? This is Dave Cash all over again, a player whose price tag is right and whose best years are behind him. Matt Antonelli waits his turn, which should come as soon as Eck posts a .227 average heading into June.
Khalil Green is gone, and Luis Rodriguez takes his place—.245 and 7 HR. Bring back Garry Templeton. Khalil Green should find his rythym playing for the Cardinals, Look for him to anchor the S. Louis infield for years. Sean Kazmir is the only shortstop one can find on the Padres roster besides Rodriguez.
Kevin Kouzmanoff should complement AG as the Padres' one-two offensive punch, such as it is. There is no help coming from Triple A, as the Padres' best 3B prospect now mans left field for them. Kouz projects to be a solid power hitter in the future, and has improved his play at third in his time in San Diego.
Nick Hundley is penciled in as the starter and should have a decent season, and Henry Blanco has been signed to mentor the young catcher. Hundley will be catching a host of new pitchers this summer- Hopefully he can find a groove with his bat while doing so.
Brian Giles, Chase Headley, and Scott Hairston. Giles is a goner, what with Strippergate and all, Headly belongs at third but should do well out there, and Hairston is a stopgap player with Jody Gerut and the ancient Cliff Floyd backing them up. Can you say "gapper?" With Petco Park's gigantic outfield to cover, look for visiting teams to exploit the slow outfielders patrolling it. Paul McAnulty is at Portland, and will probably get another look this season. McAnulty showed no range in the field at all last season, and is more suited to first base.
Hopefully, new owner Jeff Morad will be able to fix the mess John Moores has left him. Has anyone else noticed that when Larry Lucchino left, so did Moores and the Padres credibility? Come back, Larry, we miss you.
The Padres will go 40-122. Any better than that is a miracle...
Go Padres, such as it is...