San Diego Padres 2011: Five Friars Key to Success in San Diego

Darren Feeney@DFEEN15_SDCorrespondent IMarch 8, 2011

San Diego Padres 2011: Five Friars Key to Success in San Diego

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    The Padres were in the National League West driver’s seat for most of the 2010 campaign.  As we all very well know, a 10-game lull in August and September paved the way for the San Francisco Giants’ run to the World Series title.

    The Padres have a new look in 2011.  Their projected Opening Day lineup will feature six new faces, and Mat Latos will take the ball in an effort to solidify himself as a staff ace in his second full season.

    It will take a full team effort for there to be postseason baseball in San Diego.  Let’s take a look at five players whose productivity will pay dividends in 2011.

Ernesto Frieri, RHP

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    If you didn’t hear about Ernesto Frieri in 2010, you definitely will in 2011. 

    Frieri put together a cool 1.71 ERA in 31.2 innings pitched last season, to go along with seven holds and a superb 11.7 strike outs per nine innings ratio.

    Frieri will have an expanded role in the Padres bullpen this season, and the club had enough confidence in Frieri to send off promising relievers Adam Russell and Ryan Webb in the Jason Bartlett and Cameron Maybin trades.

    With how many close games the Padres are prone to play, Frieri will play a vital role in the late innings.

Chase Headley, 3B

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    2011 is a pivotal year for Chase Headley.

    Once considered the Padres top prospect, Headley has put together an above average career since getting the call up from Portland in 2008. 

    His year-by-year batting averages in two and a half seasons: .269, .262, .264. 

    Total home runs in his two full seasons: 32; RBI: 122.

    At just 25 years old, the switch-hitting third baseman is as durable as it gets.  His 158 games at the hot corner led the National League last season.

    The spacious confines of Petco Park haven’t helped Headley’s power numbers, but with Adrian Gonzalez’s bat out of the lineup, the Padres will need Headley to drive in runs.

    He’s off to a good start in Peoria for spring training.  Through four games, how does 7-for-10 (.700 avg) at the plate sound?

Will Venable, RF

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    The Padres are going to get a full look at how dynamic of a player Will Venable can be in 2011.

    After playing a career-high 131 games last season, Venable appears poised to be an everyday fixture in right field.

    Venable has seen most his Spring Training action from the leadoff spot, a position the Padres couldn’t get much consistency out of in 2010.

    Venable has a .385 batting average in Peoria and leads the team with 10 total bases.

    The Padres stole a National League second-best 124 bases in 2010 and Venable had 29 of them. 

     Venable might just be the motor in the Padres’ engine.

Nick Hundley, C

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    The Padres enjoyed the platoon services of Nick Hundley and Yorvitt Torrealaba in 2010.  Gone is Torrealaba, and retired is Greg Zaun, who made the announcement Monday.

    This leaves Rob Johnson as the leading candidate to take the backup catcher role now that Zaun is gone.

    Hundley, 27, is headed towards his third Opening Day behind the dish.

    Hundley saw a career-high 273 at-bats last season.

    Not only will he be relied upon to produce offensively in light of Adrian’s absence, but he will be counted on to manage and control the pitchers.

    All things considered, Hundley might have the biggest role expansion this year.

Tim Stauffer, RHP

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    Despite several detours in his career, Tim Stauffer has remained headed in the right direction. 

    2011 might just be his destination.

    It’s been an eight-year journey through the Padres organization, and now he has the inside track to the fourth spot in the Friars’ starting rotation.

    With Jon Garland and Kevin Correia gone, Stauffer will look to fill the void.

    The fourth overall pick in the 2003 draft, Stauffer struggled with shoulder issues that climaxed in 2008 when he was forced to miss the entire season.

    Stauffer climbed his way back through the minors and was having a banner year out of the Padres bullpen before he was sidelined by an attack of appendicitis.

    In 82.2 innings pitched last season, Stauffer compiled a 1.85 ERA and 1.08 WHIP. 

    Stauffer was undoubtedly the Padres’ best pitcher down the stretch in September.  He racked up three wins in five starts, allowing four runs in one start, but not allowing more than one run in any of the other four.

    The Padres hope September was a blueprint of what Stauffer can bring to the table.