This series will evaluate one team per day, starting on Jan. 23 and ending on Feb. 22 (the first game of spring training). It is based on last season's performance, the offseason changes since then and the author's outlook for the team in 2013. Please keep in mind that rosters can, and will, change before Opening Day. We started in the American League East, worked across to the National League, tackled the Central divisions, knocked out the AL West, and now finish with the NL West, going in alphabetical order. Next up, the San Diego Padres.
2012 finish: 76-86 (4th place, NL West)
RHP Fautino De Los Santos, RHP Freddy Garcia, RHP Sean O'Sullivan, RHP Tyson Ross, OF Travis Buck, INF Cody Ransom.
LHP Andrew Werner, RHP Dustin Moseley, INF Andy Parrino.
Why they will improve this year
Remember in 2010, when the Padres surprised everyone and nearly captured the NL West division title? This team is very close to being that sneaky good again. The lineup they've put together is one of the more talented in the league, it just needs to mature.
While I don't think this is the year everything will click, they are going to start turning some heads. Everybody knows who Chase Headley is now, but the rest of the infield is also solid. Logan Forsythe put up decent numbers in half a season last year, and shortstop Everth Cabrera stole 44 bases.
Where I see the Padres thriving in 2013 is the starting rotation, which ranked 13th in the NL a season ago. With Clayton Richard and Edinson Volquez at the top, they can find a way to finagle a competitive three, four and five out of Eric Stults, Jason Marquis, Casey Kelly, Anthony Bass, Freddy Garcia, Tim Stauffer and Ross.
A bullpen that ranked fifth in 2012 will hopefully get a full season out of injury-prone closer Huston Street, and added some solid depth over the winter. Though, again, this may not be the breakout season in San Diego, there are some young bats in the lineup that are going to put the rest of the league on notice. You never know what can happen when a group of young, motivated players click.
Why they will regress this year
The Padres didn't suffer any major losses over the winter, but their inability to add a front of the line starter may hurt them. Speaking of being hurt, Street and left fielder Carlos Quentin are arguably their most important respective pieces on the pitching staff and in the lineup. Both of them have run into injury problems in recent years, and if they miss time again the Padres could be in trouble.
You have to like the potential that guys like Richard, Volquez, Ross and Kelly bring to the rotation, but are they really going to make a marked improvement in just one season from a squad that finished near the bottom of the league in starter ERA? Even in a pitcher's park, I doubt it.
My biggest concern is the potential regression of some hitters who really started to show promise last season. Headley, Cameron Maybin, Will Venable and Yonder Alonso will be expected to put up good numbers for that lineup, and with Yasmani Grandal suspended to start the season, slumps from more than one of them may sink the Padres.
San Diego is in a very competitive division, with the defending world champs, the richest team in baseball, a scary-good Arizona pitching staff and the hard-hitting Rockies. Without that elite starting pitching, it could be another long year in Southern California for Padres fans.
The outlook for 2013
I liken the Padres to the Seattle Mariners in the AL. Both teams have good, young lineups that are quickly growing into cohesive units. Both teams have good, young pitching that is just a year or two away from being taken seriously. And I foresee both teams falling back into fourth place in their divisions, owing the disappointment to being just not quite improved enough.
Again, Padres fans should not be let down too much if they don't make the playoffs or even contend for a spot. The front office is rebuilding this team the right way, and I can see them being a legitimate force by 2014.
For this season, it will be fun to watch some of the young arms to develop, and we will definitely want to be tracking the progress of Forsythe, Venable and Cabrera especially. If Headley has another big year, you can expect a cornerstone of the franchise to be signed long-term, as that would cement his "star" status.
It's the opinion of this writer that the Padres do improve by just a few wins in 2013, yet find themselves agonizingly short of a .500 record and stuck in fourth place in a super competitive division. With healthy seasons from Quentin and Street, I see them topping out at 85 wins.
Potential changes before Opening Day
According to MLBTradeRumors.com, general manager Josh Byrnes is looking to upgrade the starting rotation before the season commences. Kyle Lohse is the biggest name remaining in free agency, but the Padres could also look at veterans like Dallas Braden, Chris Young or Roy Oswalt to fill a spot.
No matter who they end up with, the Padres would be smart to add another pitcher. You can never have enough pitching, and the more options the better in San Diego. I'm a big fan of Lohse, but believe it to be more realistic that they go out and grab someone like Braden or Chien-Ming Wang for a last-chance contract.
Biggest surprise: Volquez
Biggest disappointment: Ross
Bold prediction: Alonso more than doubles his career high in homers, touches 20 in 2013
- Cabrera, SS
- Forsythe, 2B
- Headley, 3B
- Quentin, LF
- Alonso, 1B
- Venable, RF
- Maybin, CF
- Nick Hundley, C
- Pitchers spot
- Richard, LHP
- Volquez, RHP
- Marquis, RHP
- Stults, LHP
- Garcia, RHP
Projected finish: 78-84, 4th place
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You can follow Jeremy on Twitter @Jamblinman.