The San Diego Padres were left for dead in late July, but since the All-Star break, this team has shown that they could be a definite factor next season.
The San Diego Padres have been playing as good of baseball as fans have seen in the last few years. They're showing power, the offense is scoring runs, and the pitching has been superb. Although, Heath Bell blowing two straight saves in as many chances has to be a little concerning to the San Diego brass.
There's definite leadership in the Padres' clubhouse with guys like Adrian Gonzalez and David Eckstein. Young core players like Will Venable and Everth Cabrera are showing signs of becoming break out All-Stars. Not to mention young Tony Gwynn Jr. showing signs of becoming the kind of hitter his father was some 10-plus years ago.
Before we get too carried away though, there are still a lot of decisions to be made during this coming offseason. Ironically enough it will be owner Jeff Moorad's first offseason as the new Padres owner.
There have been surprises this season with guys like Kevin Correia who has been thrown in as the Padres' ace with Chris Young being out and Jake Peavy being traded to Chicago.
Young short stop Everth Cabrera, who had never played above Low-A ball, took the starting job by the reigns and hasn't let go all season. He's come up with big hits, including a walk off grand slam home run against the New York Mets last month. He's also made even the toughest plays look routine and has given the team speed on the base paths. Something they've lacked for some time.
Will Venable has been looking like Brian Giles at a young age, making diving catches and giving the Padres much needed power in the lineup. He could be a player to watch for years to come.
Kyle Blanks had a tough start to his Padres' career, but he had found his power stroke in a big way, showing why the Padres' brass liked this 6'6" first baseman turned left fielder. Unfortunately for Blanks, he's been on the disabled list due to a foot injury, an injury that he'll overcome and be ready to go next season.
Kevin Kouzmanoff, though he's had his struggles at times, has really shown why the Padres had so much confidence in him when they traded Josh Barfield to the Cleveland Indians to get him. Kouz currently sits at 17 home runs on the season, six short of his 23 in 2008.
Then there's Adrian Gonzalez. Is there really a way to describe possibly the best power hitter in Padres history? Gonzalez, after hitting 36 home runs and driving in 119 in 2008 has bested his home run total with 37 so far this season, but has only driven in 86, showing the Padres lack of base runners with Gonzalez at the plate.
Mat Latos, a young 21-year old right hander, made an immediate impact for the San Diego Padres. He had an electric fastball and an even better breaking ball that allowed him to keep hitters off balance.
Unfortunately for Latos, probably because of the amount of innings he threw which his young arm wasn't used to, after winning four of his first five starts, Latos has dropped four of his most recent five.
He made his final start of the 2009 season against the Dodgers on Sept. 5th and will spend the rest of the season watching the other pitchers and learning valuable lessons before he becomes a full time starter in 2010.
This is one of the youngest teams the Padres have fielded in recent memory and a team that can definitely make some noise next season. With the leadership in place and a few of the right pieces coming together, the Padres' front office will need to make some key moves during the off season.
If they do that, this Padres ballclub could be in the thick of the National League West all season long.
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