Spring training is about a month away and rosters are starting to take shape. The Padres ended 2009 on a high note posting winning records over the final two months of the season.
Prior to the 2009 campaign the Padres were scrambling to fill out their starting rotation and bullpen. This spring there are fewer spots available and more reasons to be optimistic.
While there have been many changes in terms of ownership and the front office, the actual roster will not be that different from the end of 2009.
Here is a breakdown of the Padres projected opening day roster by position.
Injuries greatly diminished what would have been Hundley’s first full season as the Padres starting catcher. Over parts of the past two seasons Hundley has batted .238 with 13 home runs and 54 RBI in 138 games.
Though his numbers don’t stand out as being impressive, Hundley seems to have a positive attitude and solid work ethic.
Ryan is the only other catcher on the Padres 40-man roster. Acquired from the Tigers in December, Ryan has limited big league experience. In just 70 at-bats in two seasons, Ryan batted .257 with 2 home runs and 11 RBI.
Overall Outlook: Experience is lacking at the catcher position and fans can expect minimal returns from whoever is batting eighth in the lineup.
Simply put, Gonzalez is the total package. He’s a great hitter, outstanding defensive first baseman and a pillar in the community. He seems to get better each year and is a 40 home run and 100 RBI threat even in the middle of a mediocre lineup and playing half his games in pitcher-friendly Petco Park.
Gonzalez has averaged 160 games per season at first base since being traded from Texas in 2006. Kyle Blanks, Oscar Salazar and Jerry Hairston Jr. could see time at first base but most likely wont as Gonzalez is rarely out of the lineup.
Outlook: Very good! Enjoy watching one of the most talented players in the league while it lasts.
Eckstein’s contributions to the Padres can’t be measured in statistics. He’s a decent hitter and solid defender but his intangibles in the clubhouse are where he’s most appreciated by the organization. His infectious personality and consistent hustle are an inspiration to a young team going through a rebuilding process.
Eckstein is not the long-term solution at second base but he provides necessary leadership to a young team.
Jerry Hairston Jr.
This isn’t the first position where you’ll see the elder Hairston brother’s name and it won’t be the last. Hairston Jr. has played nearly every position in a career that has included stints with the Orioles, Cubs, Rangers, Reds and Yankees.
A .259 career hitter, Hairston Jr. will see a lot of playing time this season.
Outlook: This could definitely be worse. Second base has been a position with a lot of turnover the past few years so it will be nice to see a familiar face out there.
The Padres production staff has been busy the past week deleting all of their Koooooooooouz effects and editing clips of Blazing Saddles to accommodate the recent change at third base.
Kouzmanoff was traded to Oakland and for the first time in his professional career “It’s Headley” who will get a chance to play everyday at his primary position. While Headley will not be the defender Kouzmanoff was at third base, he should provide more stability at the plate.
Backup: Jerry Hairston Jr.
Outlook: Headley will likely go through some transitional issues defensively as he returns to third base from left field. He will certainly make a lot more errors than the three Kouzmanoff had in 2009. Overall a full season at the plate should conclude with comparable numbers to what Kouz put up and for a much lower price tag.
The Padres let go of fan favorite Khalil Greene prior to last season and had no real contingency plan to replace him. But the surprise of the 2009 season was young Everth Cabrera. His speed and laser arm had Padres fans saying "Khalil who."
Cabrera draws comparison to Rafael Furcal and should build upon the .255 average, .342 on base percentage and 25 stolen bases he posted in 103 games last season.
Backup: Jerry Hairston Jr.
Outlook: Cabrera is a hard worker and should be better this season at the plate and in the field. I don't think a .270 average and 40 stolen bases are a reach for this talented youngster.
The Kouzmanoff trade did more than just vacate third base for Chase Headley, it also opened the door for Kyle Blanks to play left field. The mammoth 6'6", 285-pound Blanks hit 10 home runs in 148 at-bats last season before being shut down with a foot injury.
Given a full season he could be a 30 home run and 100 RBI threat for the Friars. Surprisingly agile for his size, Blanks should be just fine in left field and certainly won't be a downgrade from Headley.
Salazar is officially listed as a second baseman but will probably see time at third, first and left field. With Gonzalez playing everyday at first and Hairston Jr. taking most of the backup reps in the infield, Salazar will probably be primarily used as a pinch hitter and defensive replacement as part of double switches.
Outlook: The Padres outfield was kind of a revolving door last season with several players sharing time in left. If Blanks can stay healthy he should put up at least 20 home runs and give Adrian Gonzalez some protection in the lineup.
Tony Gwynn Jr.
The Padres just flat out like having a Gwynn on the team. Tony Sr. played 20 seasons for the Padres and his brother Chris even spent parts of two seasons with the team.
Tony Jr. isn't going to win any batting titles for the Padres, but he does add speed to the lineup and great defense in one of the largest outfields in baseball. Since coming to the Padres from the Brewers midseason, Gwynn split time in center field with Scott Hairston and will do so again after the Padres reacquired Hairston from the A's.
The younger Hairston brother is returning to the Padres after being traded to the A's last season. Hairston spent the majority of his 56 games for the Padres in a platoon role with Gwynn in center field. The platoon will continue in 2010 and Hairston can expect to start in center field against left-handed pitchers.
Outlook: With Gwynn's speed and Hairston's power the Padres can expect good returns out of the center field position. Hairston is a better option off the bench due to his power, versatility and a knack for late inning heroics.
Venable rebounded from a rocky start to be one of the biggest surprises for the Padres last season. He finished the 2009 campaign with a .258 batting average, 12 home runs and 48 RBI in 95 games. Venable also proved to be an above average defender.
Outlook: Padres fans should be encouraged from what they saw from Venable last season. If he stays healthy, Venable will start in right field every game and should continue to develop into a solid offensive threat.
Young battled injuries for much of 2009 but can be a legitimate ace when healthy. At 6'10", Young's over-the-top style is difficult for hitters to pick up and created the illusion of more velocity. Young is 31-25 with a 3.92 ERA and 474 strikeouts in four seasons with the Friars.
Correia had the best season of his career in 2009 posting a 12-11 record, 3.91 ERA and 142 strikeouts in 198 innings. He became the Padres ace after Jake Peavy was dealt to the White Sox and Chris Young was shut down with injury. Correia is not flashy but should give the Padres 30 plus starts and 200 innings in 2010.
Recently signed as a free agent, Garland is another pitcher that can be relied upon to start more than 30 games and pitch at least 200 innings. Garland finished 2009 with an 11-13 record, 4.01 ERA and 109 strikeouts between Arizona and the Dodgers.
He finished on a high note going 3-2 with a 2.72 ERA in six starts for the Dodgers and should benefit from pitching in pitcher friendly Petco Park this season.
The Padres kept Latos on a short lease last season closely monitoring his pitch count and number of innings. The 22-year-old prospect should be ready for a full work load in 2010.
He showed flashes of dominance but needs to work on his control and stamina if he plans to see the sixth inning of many of his starts. In 10 starts last season Latos finished 4-5 with a 4.62 ERA and 39 strikeouts.
Peavy's departure to the White Sox brought a bevy of big arms to the Padres. The player that had the most immediate impact for the Padres was 6'5" Clayton Richard. After joining the Padres in August, Richard went 5-2 with a 4.08 ERA and 48 strikeouts.
Outlook: The starting rotation was a huge area of concern last season. Injuries served as an opportunity for many young arms to audition as starters for the Padres. This season the Padres are in much better shape knowing all five starters prior to spring training.
If the injury bug bites again expect to see the familiar faces of Tim Stauffer and Wade LeBlanc as replacements.
All-time saves leader Trevor Hoffman was unceremoniously allowed to leave for Milwaukee via free agency last offseason. This move began the Heath Bell era in San Diego. Bell helped fans forget about Hoffman by leading the National League in saves with 42.
His fiery personality and bullish style on the mound help set the tone for a young bullpen.
Prior to closing games, Heath Bell was the setup man for Hoffman. With Hoffman gone and Bell promoted, the setup role was up for grabs. Several candidates got opportunities but nobody dominated hitters like Mike Adams.
Despite being plagued by injuries in 2009, Adams posted a 0.73 ERA and 45 strikeouts in 37 innings. If he can stay healthy in 2010 the Padres should be able to hold leads after the seventh inning.
Gregerson was the "player to be named later" the Padres received from St. Louis when they traded Khalil Greene. He proved to be much more than just a name for the Padres pitching 75 innings and finishing third in the national league with 27 holds.
A healthy Adams will get most of the hold chances in 2010 but Gregerson will bridge the gap between the starter and Adams by taking most of his reps in the seventh inning.
The Rest: Joe Thatcher, Edward Mujica, Luis Perdomo and Adam Russell will likely round out the rest of the bullpen. Thatcher's performance has been Jekyll and Hyde over the past several seasons but he's shown enough to warrant a spot on the roster.
Mujica showed versatility last season by providing the Padres with short, middle and long relief outings and even filled in as a spot starter. Perdomo ate up a lot of garbage innings for the Padres last year and is a good candidate to do the same in 2010.
Adam Russell was another big arm that came from the White Sox in the Peavy deal. The 6'8" right-hander struck out 14 batters in 12.1 innings last season and earned a chance to start with the big club this year.
Outlook: The bullpen proved to be a strength at the end of last season after injuries and inconsistency at the beginning. This unit should be pretty tough in 2010. Other bullpen candidates are Greg Burke, Sean Gallagher, Aaron Poreda and Ryan Webb.
The Padres signed pinch hit specialist Matt Stairs to a minor league contract. Despite his age (will be 42 on February 27) and lack of mobility, Stairs still has power and will likely make the team as a pinch hitter and DH candidate during inter-league play.
The Padres will likely decide to use their final roster spot on veteran Matt Stairs so that Durango can get regular playing time in AAA. Durango had a cup of coffee with the big club last year getting six hits in 11 at-bats and stealing two bases in nine games.
While he won't start the season with the Padres he could be first in line to get called up in the event of an injury to an outfielder.
The rest: The Padres had more players get their first major league experience last season than any other team. With that said here a couple of names to note since they may get call ups throughout the year. Aaron Cunningham came to Padres in the Kouzmanoff trade.
He can play both corner outfield positions. Matt Antonelli has been a bust thus far in his professional career but with a lack of depth at second base new General Manager Jed Hoyer would have to give him a look if Eckstein goes down with an injury.