A team is only as good as the last player on the bench.
The Padres bench in 2010 was good, but there was room for improvement.
Gone are the likes of Scott and Jerry Hairston, Matt Stairs, Yorvit Torrealba and probably Oscar Salazar. This is not a bad thing; after all, the Padres have Mark Loretta, Brad Ausmus and Trevor Hoffman back...
What? Retired? All of 'em? When? Dang it.
Loretta was rolling for me in fantasy when he was a Padre a few years back; then he broke his wrist and screwed me over at second base for the rest of the season.
So who is going to be coming off the San Diego bench ready to pillage and plunder the late innings?
Let me look into the Padres future, and we will see how close I come to the actual bench that emerges from spring training here in 2011. As always, take future predictions with a full glass of water...
CD to the rescue
When the Padres signed OF Chris Denorfia, it barely caused a ripple. Denorfia was just another journeyman rolling through San Diego on his way back to Triple-A or retirement. I have seen a hundred of 'em.
Then Denorfia took the boat on a new course by hitting a respectable .271 in 2010, with eight home runs, 38 RBI, eight steals and a solid contribution with his glove.
The Traveling Man has already made stops in Oakland and Cincinnati but for now, Denorfia has found a home as the Padres fourth outfielder.
Denorfia will back up all three outfield positions and gives Bud Black a late-inning bat that can do some damage. CD posted a healthy .433 slugging percentage in 2010, numbers the Padres hope he can recreate.
If any of the Padres projected starting outfielders get off to a bad start, Denorfia will be called on to step right in. A lifetime .274 hitter, Denorfia could be a starter on several teams right now, which shows that the Padres actually have a little depth here.
His biggest challenge is being fleet-of-foot enough to patrol the vistas that are Petco Park's outfields when asked to do so.
I don't see why he can't bash 10 home runs and drive in 45 runs this season.
Eye on the ball, eye on the ball...
This might be the best player the Padres have ever had on the bench heading into a season—at least, on paper.
Jorge Cantu is a former starter at Tampa Bay and Florida who spent last season splitting time between the Marlins and the Texas Rangers, who basically shut him down for the postseason.
The Upgrade has pounded out 101 lifetime round-trippers, along with 480 RBI, which puts him at the top of the Padres' bench food chain in terms of lifetime production.
His best season was 2008 in Florida, smacking 29 home runs for the Marlins. Why do I remember some of that coming at the Padres expense?.
Cantu will be the fill-in at third and first, getting occasional spot starts.
Bud Black will also get him some late-inning at-bats, especially on the road. If Brad Hawpe falters at first, pencil in Cantu as his replacement.
I refrained from saying He Cantu... Dang it...
Eric Patterson squares for 2011
Eric Patterson is on his fourth team since 2007. With stops in Chicago, Oakland and Boston, San Diego represents what is probably his last shot at sticking in the Majors. I could be wrong; Patterson could be Eric Owens reborn if he puts his mind to it.
Padre fans love someone who hustles: Tim Flannery and E.O. played their way into Padre lore by busting their asses on every play, and making the most of each appearance.
If Patterson can get in the groove, he has the speed to make things happen on the bases and in the outfield. As the only major-league-ready player acquired in the AG deal, the Padres need some production out of Paterson just to fill the immediate loss of Gonzalez.
Patterson has not been impressive at the plate, with a lifetime avg of .224. I say it's sink or swim here; the Padres cant afford to have Patterson nursing the Mendoza line if they are going to make a run.
Where you going...
Catcher remains mostly a wasteland here in San Diego, where the toxic sludge of countless decomposing catchers remains pooling in the ground at the Q and at Petco.
Where do I begin? It all started after Terry Kennedy moved on. Only "The Flash," ex-Padres catcher John Flaherty has truly been that all-around great catcher in my eyes during the last three decades of Padre baseball. Almost everyone else has been an aging veteran or a kid with all the talent of a boulder.
Benito Santiago was Rookie of the Year in 1987, but did not last long around here, and Ramon Hernandez should have been kept, but was not. Ben Davis? Please..
Rob Johnson is the latest arrival, and he is kind of a tweener. Only 29, Johnson is hardly over the hill. But his lifetime average of .200 does not inspire much confidence.
Johnson's A game is behind the plate, which should make him a late-inning replacement for Nick Hundley down the stretch. If Johnson can't hit better than .200, look for veteran catcher Greg Zaun to get the nod.
Draft a catcher...Jeez.
Cabrera turns the DP
Everth Cabrera remains a work in progress, but as the Padres need an infielder on the bench, Cabrera gets the choice by default. Cabrera has good speed, swiping 35 bases in 589 career at-bats.
San Diego needs to get a little more from Cabrera's bat this season, or INF Kevin Frandsen might take his place before the season is out. Cabrera has to be consistent in the field this season and make the plays when he needs to.
Cabrera's lifetime average is .238, with 81 runs scored, numbers that could improve.
And he has hit 17 foul balls...
Wiz Jr. has made several spectacular plays on defense and has hit enough doubles and triples to catch my attention. Given time, Cabrera should be a quality infielder, if not a starter.
There are several guys who could take one of these jobs. I will detail the fringe players and non-roster invitees next.