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San Diego Padres: 2011 MLB Season Preview

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San Diego Padres: 2011 MLB Season Preview
Christian Petersen/Getty Images

SAN DIEGO PADRES

Last Year: 90-72, 2nd in NL West

Manager: Bud Black

 

PROJECTED LINEUP

C- Nick Hundley (R)

1B- Brad Hawpe (L)/ Jorge Cantu (R)

2B- Orlando Hudson (S) 

3B- Chase Headley (S) 

SS- Jason Bartlett (S)

LF- Ryan Ludwick (R)

CF- Cameron Maybin (R)

RF- Will Venable (L)

The Padres offense struggled last season finishing in the bottom five in average, OBP, and slugging. The group will struggle again without Adrian Gonzalez to anchor the lineup.

Brad Hawpe and Jorge Cantu will platoon at 1B. Hawpe struggled with his power in Colorado last season, and I wouldn't expect him to fare any better at Petco Park. Cantu isn't a very good option either, but each one should hit 10-12 home runs this season.

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Orlando Hudson is the one offensive upgrade to the lineup, but fans should only expect a .275/.350/.390 line with 10 stolen bases and 6-10 home runs. 

Jason Bartlett returned back to form after an amazing 2009 season. While he won't hit for a .254 average again, he should only hit 3-5 home runs this season with 20 stolen bases and a line around .275/.340/.360.

Chase Headley still hasn't shown the ability he displayed in his time in the Padres' farm system. His isolated power numbers have decreased each season since he came up in 2008. Headley should only hit 12-16 home runs, steal 10-15 bases, and produce a line around .275/.350/.420.

Nick Hundley isn't a terrible offensive option at the catcher position. He won't hit for a high average (.230-.245), but he could hit up to 15 home runs if he gets 450 at-bats during the season. 

Ryan Ludwick will hit cleanup for the Padres, and he is the club's best power hitter. I expect Ludwick to hit 20-23 home runs and produce something close to a .265/.335/.460 line.

Will Venable will bat leadoff for the club. Venable has the speed and ability to work the count, but his strikeout numbers (32 percent of at-bats) were alarming. 15-17 home runs, 25 stolen bases, and a line of .250/.330/.405 seems realistic.

I was surprised that the Marlins gave up on Cameron Maybin so quickly. If he gets an opportunity to have 500 or more at-bats, I think he could hit 15 home runs, 20 stolen bases, and a .265/.335/.415 line. 

The Padres had the third best UZR rating among all teams last season. The infield defense could be as good as 2010, even without Adrian Gonzalez at 1B.

Brad Hawpe has only started eight games at 1B in his career, but surprisingly Jorge Cantu has played well there over the last few seasons in limited time.

Orlando Hudson is an upgrade over David Eckstein, and Chase Headley was the highest rated third baseman in baseball in 2010.

I would be worried about Bartlett at shortstop. He makes all the plays, but he was one of the lowest ranked in terms of range.

Will Venable has great range in RF, and Ludwick is average in LF. 

Maybin has the potential to be a good center fielder, but he tends to make silly errors in the field.

Behind the plate, Hundley is blocks balls well and calls a good game. 

 

BENCH

IF- Everth Cabrera (S) 

1B- Brad Hawpe (L)/ IF-Jorge Cantu (R)

OF- Chris Denorfia (R) 

C- Rob Johnson (R)

IF/OF- Eric Patterson (L) (May start season on DL)

OF- Aaron Cunningham (R) 

 

STARTING ROTATION 

RHP- Mat Latos  (Questionable whether he starts season on DL) 

RHP- Tim Stauffer (Will start Opening Day) 

LHP- Clayton Richard

RHP- Aaron Harang 

LHP- Wade LeBlanc 

The Padres had one of the better rotations in baseball last season, and the staff has most of the same group in place.

Jeff Gross/Getty Images

Mat Latos was scheduled to be the Opening Day starter, but shoulder bursitis may put him on the DL to start the season. If that should happen, the Padres are scheduled to go with four starters until a fifth is needed later, and Latos could be back by then. 

Latos possesses five plus pitches: an explosive four (average 94 MPH) and two seam fastball (average 92.1 MPH), great slider, good changeup, and curveball. He displayed improved control, and the ability to strike out a hitter per inning. Latos should end the year with a 3.20 ERA and close to the same strikeout and walk rates as 2010.

Tim Stauffer is my breakout player, his projections are later in the piece. 

Clayton Richard pitched well for the Padres last season pitching to a 3.76 ERA while striking out 6.9 hitters per 9 innings. Richard doesn't possess the best command, but he has a good ground-ball and home rate. I like Richard to pitch to an ERA close to 3.80 with and the same strikeout rate.

Aaron Harang struggled for the Reds last season, but he didn't pitch as badly as his ERA (5.32) would indicate. He had a high BABIP, and as a fly-ball-pitcher, he should benefit from pitcher friendly Petco Park. Look for Harang to pitch to an ERA in the high 3's with 7 strikeouts per 9 innings.

Jeff Gross/Getty Images

Soft-tossing lefty Wade LeBlanc will fill out the rest of the rotation. He averages an 86.6 MPH fastball, and compliments it with a good changeup, below average cutter, and decent curveball. I see him pitching to a 4.40 ERA with 6 K/9 and 3 BB/9 rates. 

 

BULLPEN

RHP- Heath Bell (Closer) 

RHP- Mike Adams

RHP- Luke Gregerson

RHP- Chad Qualls 

LHP- Joe Thatcher (Starts season on DL)

RHP- Pat Neshek 

LHP- Randy Flores 

RHP- Dustin Moseley or Ernesto Frieri (Moseley could be fifth starter if Laton on DL) 

The Padres still have one of the best bullpens in baseball, and this group was the reason they surprised baseball last season.

Heath Bell averages 94 MPH on his fastball and features a great breaking ball. He has a strikeout rate of 11 per 9 innings, and he only allowed one home run in 76 innings.

Mike Adams and Luke Gregerson are both fantastic setup men. Adams has one of the best cutters in baseball, and Gregerson has one of the best sliders. Both will strikeout more than a hitter per inning and should have ERAs in the high 2's. 

Chad Qualls and Pat Neshek will bring some depth to the bullpen from the right-side. Pat Neshek is a side-arming righty who is extremely tough on right-handed hitters. He had some great years in 2006 and 2007 but Tommy John sidelined him from to 2008-2009. If his velocity rebounds from 2010, he could be a pleasant surprise for the bullpen. Qualls had a terrible ERA (7.32) last season, but his xFIP of 3.91 and BABIP of .386 show he was the victim of some terrible luck. I expect Qualls to rebound. 

Joe Thatcher will be the primary left-hander in the pen, but he will start the season on the DL. Thatcher is tough on lefties because of his tough arm angle, and it allows his 86-88 MPH fastball to sneak up on hitters.

Randy Flores will start the season as the other left-handed specialist.

Dustin Moseley will probably be the-long-man and possibly start if Latos isn't ready to pitch in April. 

 

NOTABLE NON ROSTER INVITEES 

LHP- Randy Flores 

IF- Oscar Salazar (R)

C- Guillermo Quiroz

 

BREAKOUT PLAYER— Tim Stauffer 

Stauffer pitched well in his time in the bullpen and his seven starts in 2010, but this when he should finally have a breakout year as a starting pitcher. 

Stauffer's key to his success was increased velocity (averaged 91.2 MPH on fastball), good control, and the ability to become a ground ball pitcher. He only allowed three home runs in 82 innings. In addition, he features a very good slider, above average change, and decent curveball. I expect Stauffer to pitch to a mid 3.50 ERA with 6 K/9 and 2.3 BB/9 rates. 

 

PROSPECT TO WATCH— RHP Simon Castro 

The 22-year-old Castro pitched mostly in AA last season, and he will start this season in AAA.

He has a lively fastball at 92-95 MPH, but scouts have said that he needs to work on his slider and changeup if he is to succeed at the major league level. He has shown very good command during his time in the minors, and he could join the club later in the season if he pitches well in AAA.  

 

PROJECTED FINISH— 4th in NL West

The NL West will be a tight race for most of the season, and the Padres should have the pitching to keep themselves in the race until August. The offense is going to be a major problem, and it will keep this team out of the playoffs. I see the club finishing at .500, and a finish above the Dodgers isn't out of the question. If someone in the lineup gives them a big season, the Padres fortunes could change.

I just don't see it happening. 

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