With the most recent signing of the reliable Jon Garland, the San Diego Padres are likely out of money. This will leave the Fathers with a payroll hovering around $40 million.
This is likely the team we will be seeing in spring training, with most 25-man roster spots predetermined. Without further ado, your (Opening Day) 2010 San Diego Padres!
Defense is a logical place to start with these Padres, as the starters and positions have been well established since the beginning of the off-season.
Nick Hundley will be the primary starter behind the plate. Defensively, the Padres could do much worse—and they have over the last few years—but Hundley will not be mistaken for Benito Santiago anytime soon. With a 20 percent caught stealing clip, Hundley ranks as slightly below average. That being said, cut the guy some slack, Padre pitchers seem to be trained not to keep runners honest.
Backing up Nick is unknown at this point, but the current favorite to do so is Dusty Ryan. Ryan, a former top prospect, is the only other catcher currently on the Padres’ 40-man roster.
Given very few chances at the big league level, the 25 year old catches runners 42 percent of the time in his short career. He will likely be given a chance to take over the starting catcher spot at some point this season.
First Base is a talent logjam for San Diego, not a phrase that can be muttered much at PetCo Park.
We all know just how good Adrian Gonzalez is with the bat, despite the PetCo handicap, but sometimes lost is just how good he is defensively.
When the Padres swindled Gonzalez and pitcher Chris Young from the Rangers in the 2005 offseason, former coach Bruce Bochy knew he was getting a Gold Glove-caliber first baseman, if not a solid hitter. Fresh off his first Gold Glove, Adrian is primed for more fantastic scoops, stretches, and aggressive throws to second base—ready to win another piece of unwearable jewelry.
The primary backup for Gonzalez figures to be starting LF Kyle Blanks. Little is known at the major league level about his defense, but with his enormous build, it will be tough to imagine too many people making him stretch too far.
Utility men Oscar Salazar and Jerry Hairston, Jr. figure to find some time at first base as well.
Whenever describing David Eckstein, it appears as if all writers are universally required to mention the words scrappy, leader, and tough. That pretty much sums up Eckstein, offensively and defensively.
He will not make it look easy, but he’ll get it done, somehow. Backing up Eckstein will again be Salazar and Hairston, both of whom are decent defenders.
In one of the only pieces of real estate to change hands in this San Diego defense, Chase Heady – I’m sorry Headley – will take over for the recently traded Kevin Koooouuuuzzzmanoff.
While it is obvious to anyone that trading away the NL’s best third baseman, by single season fielding percentage, ever, so that the left fielder could come take his place is a downgrade, this does improve the Padres' overall defense.
Moving the natural third baseman Headley back home allows the beastly Blanks to move to a less liable position in left, while a natural outfielder can take over in right. And honestly, all baseball people know that Kouzmanoff’s numbers were inflated due to his inability to get near a tough ball, as evidenced by his record setting season not earning him a Gold Glove.
In Yiddish, one of the most insulting things we call someone is boring, so bearing that in mind, Kevin Kouzmanoff is nudne .
Among the many young players to arrive to and perform for San Diego in 2009 was Everth Cabrera. His blazing speed led to fantastic range and his arm got better as the year progressed. His development gives hope to all Padre fans hoping to say, “Khalil who?"
The outfield will likely by patrolled by a rotation of Blanks, Anthony Gwynn, Will Venable, and the recently re-acquired Scott Hairston.
Blanks will primarily control the least demanding left field, while Venable will take much of the right-field duties. A platoon of the consistent Hairston and the speedy Gwynn, version two, will be the ideal situation for center. However, Venable’s experience in the middle will allow the potential for a three-man outfielder-by-committee situation.
Likely to start in the minors, Aaron Cunningham, acquired alongside Scott Hairston for Kouzmanoff, should reach the majors at some point this season and challenge for regular starts. The same can be said with Luis Durango.
With the platoon in center field, the probable line-up for San Diego will follow different LHP/RHP splits.
SS Everth Cabrera
CF Anthony Gwynn
1B Adrian Gonzalez
LF Kyle Blanks
3B Chase Headley
RF Will Venable
2B David Eckstein
C Nick Hundley
The 1-2 punch of Cabrera and Gwynn acts as one of the speediest tandems in baseball. Both have the ability to manufacture hits while bunting, as well as keen eyes for the plate, which should allow Gonzalez plenty of opportunities to drive in runs.
However, this is dependent on the streaky Gwynn to be hot, while the young Cabrera to prove last year was no fluke and avoid a sophomore slump.
Adrian Gonzalez, enough said.
Blanks is a monster. Standing at the plate at 6’6”/285, it is not surprising that Blanks struck out in more than one-third of his at-bats, while only walking a little more than once every 10 plate appearances. Putting that aside, Blanks wields a heavy stick.
Crushing 10 home runs in his first 150 at-bats, Blanks shows us that he may have the potential the Padres expect of him, especially when you consider his final 40 games before going down with plantar fascitis in late August (.296/.389/.653 with 10 HR in 98 AB).
Headley may have finally found himself in the second half of 2009, hitting at almost .300 and with a .377 OBP after the All-Star break. Consistently inconsistent, an extended solid effort brought hope to the San Diego faithful who expected him to develop into an OBP machine.
Venable seemed to come out of nowhere in 2009, hitting 12 homers in about half a season, including a hot streak where no one could stop him. However, he finished the season with a mere .427 SLG, questioning what to expect from the son of Max.
For a preview of Eckstein’s season, see my section on his defensive prospects.
Nick Hundley’s bat leaves much to the imagination, although it had been slightly better after returning from forearm surgery. He will have to play better if he wants to keep his job.
SS Everth Cabrera
2B David Eckstein
CF Scott Hairston
1B Adrian Gonzalez
LF Kyle Blanks
3B Chase Headley
RF Will Venable
C Nick Hundley
Not too much different from the RHP lineup, as the scrappy, leader, and tough Eckstein takes over the scrappy, leader, and tough second position in the lineup. Scott Hairston replaces Gwynn in center as well, and will bat third, getting ample protection from Gonzalez.
The bench will feature Oscar Salazar and Jerry Hairston, Jr. as the primary defensive replacements, while Gwynn/S. Hairston and camp-invite Matt Stairs will be the primary pinch-hitters and interleague DH possibilities. If Stairs has a season like last year, he will not stay on the team for long as coach Bud Black will consider adding another reliever throughout the season.
Acquired via minor league trade earlier this offseason, backup catcher Dusty Ryan has a career .257/.338/.386 clip with the Tigers, but with only 70 AB, he is a statistical rookie.
Most writers would call this maneuver a “segue,” as I mentioned the potential for San Diego to add an extra reliever, as I now talk about the bullpen in earnest.
Most people would call that last sentence “beating a dead horse,” as I explained the rather obvious transition I previously performed.
Most readers have now glossed over the rest of this article, sick of waiting for me to continue with the darned analysis, so let’s get to it.
The bullpen was once again one of the strong suits for the Padres all season long, after taking a year off in 2008.
Closer Heath Bell comes in fresh off an NL-leading 42-save campaign complete with an All-Star game appearance. While fans shouldn’t get too comfortable with Bell, as he will
likely be gone by Aug. 1, he will anchor what should be another solid year for the Padres bullpen.
Bringing the lead to Bell will be primary setup men Mike Adams and Luke Gregerson. Adams, with a new $1 million contract agreed upon before arbitration, was nearly untouchable last season—when he was healthy.
Health will be his primary enemy as he should take over the reigns as closer for the Fathers once Bell leaves for greener, albeit less sunny, pastures.
Gregerson was nominated for the “coveted” TYIB setup man of the year award, posting a 3.24 ERA, 1.20 WHIP, and a minute 19 percent inherited runners scored clip.
Taking over before the seventh inning will be the primary job of Edward Mujica, who posted solid, while not fantastic, numbers in middle relief.
Left-handed specialist Joe Thatcher was actually better against righties in previous years, but adjustments to his sidearm delivery have allowed him to keep lefties hitting under .200 against him.
The final bullpen spot will be a battle between sophomores Luis Perdomo, Greg Burke and Adam Russell. All played very well at times, but all played very poor as well.
Perdomo was on the team from start to finish last year and figures to have the inside track, but the massive Adam Russell is an imposing figure who has the greatest upside of the three. Burke may only be along for the ride.
Let’s finish the overview with the rotation. The members of the rotation are all but set in stone, even if the order remains unknown.
Presumptive Opening Day starter Chris Young is finally back after a disappointing 2009, capped by an extended stay on the disabled list. While he would have been able to return in September for a contending team, the Padres preferred to shut him down, hoping to eradicate the injury bug that has plagued him since he arrived in San Diego.
As 2008 showed us, Young is capable of great things when he is healthy.
His large frame and over the top delivery make it tough for opposing batters to square up against his tempting pitches high in the strike zone. If he can return to his 2008 form, San Diego has a legitimate ace.
After Young, the order of the rotation is murky, at best.
Likely to hold down the No. 2 slot is the dependable Kevin Correia, who acted as the de facto ace for the Padres as they finished strong down the stretch. Correia is far from flashy and probably shouldn’t be a No. 2 pitcher, but he was among the league leaders in starts last year, compiling 12 wins with a sub-4.00 ERA.
Recently signed Jon Garland will take the No. 3 slot, although he may equally likely take the second spot. Garland's an innings-eater who can be depended on for an ERA around 4.20, and that was in a batter's park in Chicago’s US Cellular Field. That number should drop below 4.00 in the pitcher’s haven of San Diego. While no one expects a repeat of his 2005 campaign, he should mark solid numbers.
Youthful Mat Latos will take the No. 4 spot, despite the possibility he will play like the ace he projects to become. In his first near-full season, Latos started 10 games in the majors after starting the season in Single-A.
While struggling at times in the season, Latos showed flashes of brilliance, including his stretch of five games to open his season where he posted a 0.96 WHIP and was 4-1.
Rounding out the rotation is Clayton Richard, acquired midseason in the Jake Peavy trade. Still young, the tall lefty could wind up as a very consistent No. 3 starter, but right now belongs at the end of the rotation. Posting solid, not spectacular, numbers in San Diego (5-2, 4.08 ERA, 1.47 WHIP, 6.8 K/9) in the final two months of last season will guarantee him a roster spot this year.
So that’s the not-so-brief outlook for the 2010 Padres, as we will know them for the start of the season.
Any situation short of full contention next year will result in the likely departure of Heath Bell, Adrian Gonzalez, David Eckstein, and Chris Young by the July 31 trade deadline.
In short, magnificent efforts from the youth of this team will be necessary for the Padres to play above .500.