The San Diego Padres are an interesting team going into the 2013 season. Sure they can’t match the superstar power of their NL West rivals, San Francisco Giants or Los Angeles Dodgers. However, they have quietly put together a relatively strong team which prompts some to declare them a sleeper team this season and draw comparisons to the 2012 Orioles and A’s.
Even though this team should be more successful than past teams, there are still several glaring flaws which have yet to be addressed. Also fueling these flaws is the lack of big offseason moves seemingly promised by the Padres' front office. GM Josh Byrnes claimed to be targeting an ace starting pitcher for the staff, however, us Padre fans saw Dan Haren, Brandon McCarthy, Zach Greinke and other coveted pitchers sign with opposing clubs.
Unless otherwise noted, all stats come from Baseball Reference.
The lack of a strong starting rotation is perhaps the greatest flaw in this organization. Though typically a strength of the Padres, this year’s staff seems to be simply mediocre, especially when compared to the All-Star riddled staffs of the Dodgers and Giants.
The “default” ace of the Padres, Edinson Volquez, posted an unspectacular 11-11 record and a 4.14 ERA in 2012. Volquez will be followed by Clayton Richards, Casey Kelly and likely some combination of Eric Stults and Robbie Erlin. Though admittedly, the rotation will vastly improve with the addition of Cory Luebke and hopefully an improved Andrew Cashner.
It’s typical for teams to groom and breed their young talent. What is unusual, though, is the Padres' juvenile-peppered roster in many key positions. The aforementioned Kelly, Cashner and Erlin are likely to start for San Diego throughout the season. Although they may surprise us, it’s likely these four players will be crucial in the success of the team.
Other young stars include first baseman Yonder Alonso, suspended catcher Yasmani Grandal, infielder rookie Jedd Gyorko and perhaps prospect Rymer Liriano.
As I mentioned in an earlier slide, Yasmani Grandal will serve a 50-game suspension following a positive test for PEDs. Unfortunately, this means Nick Hundley will start at catcher for the Padres.
If you’re an avid reader of mine, you’ll know I don’t think too highly of Hundley.
In Hundley’s five-year career, he only has a .238 batting average. Looking at his 2012 stats is even more worrisome. In 58 games Hundley batted .157 with a .219 on base percentage, earning him a negative WAR.
The Padres will likely start Carlos Quentin, Cameron Maybin and Will Venable in the outfield, with Chris Denofria, Mark Kotsay and Jesus Guzman probable platoon backups.
The most evident problem with this group is the health of Quentin. Undoubtedly the best of the outfielders, Quentin's injury-prone tendencies has led to him playing a max of 131 games in a season. In 2012, Quentin had not one, but two surgeries on his right knee, limiting him to 86 games on the season.
This flaw is dependent on two things: Chase Headley’s play and Carlos Quentin’s health.
Besides these two players, the Padres' roster doesn’t have much power in their bats. While moving in their fences at Petco Park should help the lesser powerful players, the Padres still need an elite home run hitter. This flaw has led some to speculate a trade for Giancarlo Stanton.
A possible cure for this problem could come from uber-prospect, Jedd Gyorko. We have yet to see how Gyorko can hit outside of the offensive stat-padding AAA Pacific Coast League. However, last year in the PCL, Gyorko totaled 24 home runs and 84 RBI in only 92 games.
Again, the success of the Padres' season could come down to which team shows up. In 2012, the Padres had two seemingly very different teams: the first half versus the second half.
Though their final record was a sub-500 76-86, after the All Star break they posted a 42-33 record.
If the Padres can bring this momentum into the 2013 season and maintain a solid level of consistent play, they could be the surprise team many expect them to be.
What do you think? Can the Padres surprise the MLB this year?