In 2009, I decided to get a feel for other teams around baseball by asking bloggers for those teams some questions about their squad. Not only has this series been very popular, but it spawned the Baseball Bloggers Alliance. With camps opening up again and spring training getting into gear, it's time once again to play a little pepper.
San Diego Padres
71-91, fifth in the NL West
After a better than expected 2010 season, Padre fans were probably hoping for a better result than last place in the division. Then again, they were probably hoping that Adrian Gonzalez wasn't going to be traded in the offseason as well, but when the one happened, the other quickly followed.
San Diego made some interesting moves this offseason, but whether they'll be enough to push them past some of their contenders is still questionable. It helps that there's not a dominating team out West, but even mediocre could be a challenge for this club.
Joining me today are a couple of San Diego bloggers to talk about their team. Of course, Mike Metzger needs no introduction to the regular readers of this blog. Mike's first foray into blogging was at Stan Musial's Stance, a member in good stead of the United Cardinal Bloggers. Mike's also done the podcast with me and is the only participant in the entire Playing Pepper series that I've actually spent time with in person. You'll find him now talking about his hometown Friars at Padres Trail and on Twitter at metzgermg.
C70: What was your opinion of the team's offseason?
PT: Overall I thought they did a good job. Carlos Quentin was a big win. He will hit for power at Petco because he pulls the ball to left and Petco is more forgiving on flyballs to left. You hate to see a pitcher the caliber of Mat Latos leave, but they got quite a bit in return. Grandal and Alonso are big wins - Alonso may start on Opening Day at first. Volquez could be a nice piece if he can return return to some semblance of his pre-Tommy John surgery. Petco will help him there. And Andrew Cashner has been electric in camp so far.
LCB: When thinking of this off-season, I think it really begins with the two major trades the Padres pulled off. On the positive side is the Mat Latos trade. I personally love this move. For one, anytime you can get 4 guys for 1, that's a pretty decent haul. Not only that, the Reds gave up two of their prized prospects in Alonso and Grandel. Alonso will have an immediate impact while Grandel joins a growing stable of young catching prospects. I think Volquez can recapture his form from his All-Star year now that he is playing in Petco and can feel safe about throwing the ball over the plate, as control issues had plagued him last year.
On the flip side is the Rizzo trade. Considered by most experts to be the top prospect in the Padres organization, and one of the center pieces of the Adrian Gonzalez trade, he was moved to Chicago for a relief pitcher (albeit a relief pitcher that allegedly threw 103 MPH in a Cactus League game this spring). It was clear that Jed Hoyer liked Rizzo but with Hoyer now in Chicago that sentiment wasn't shared, clearly, by Josh Byrnes. While I think Rizzo should have returned more than 1 relief pitcher, once Josh Byrnes took over as GM, there was little future for Rizzo in San Diego.
C70: Will the Padres have enough offense to contend for the NL West?
PT: No. They will be better than last year but won't have enough to contend. The biggest question (at least to me) is what to do with Jesus Guzman. He was their best hitter (by OPS+) in 2011 but might not have a position in 2012. One would think the offensively-challenged Padres would find a place for him to play, however, Quentin will likely start in LF, Alonso at first, Headley holds the keys to third, and Guzman isn't athletic enough to cover RF. That said, even with him in the lineup they won't be able to match the firepower of Arizona or San Francisco (not that Posey's back in the lineup).
LCB: That's the $1,000,000 question really. Because the pitching will be there. Last year, the Padres ranked 3rd in MLB in team ERA. Petco Park has a lot to do with that of course, but so does Darren Balsley the pitching coach. The Padres will never be that team that can score runs in bunches. But they don't need to be. In 2010, the Padres ranked 22nd in runs scored yet won 90 games. The pitching and the ballpark lend themselves to low scoring (read: close) games. That said, I think they will have enough offense to contend. Carlos Quentin is a nice addition in the middle of the lineup and should provided a nice offensive spark provided he doesn't become Ryan Ludwick 2.0 here. I've personally always liked Chase Headley and think he is progressing as a big league 3rd baseman. Maybin is a threat to get on base whether he hits the ball 400 feet or 6 feet. And Alonso should produce immediately. Since they don't need a lot of offense to contend, I'll cautiously say they will have enough. Or, put another way, I think they will definitely score more than 593 runs this year.
C70: Cameron Maybin finally showed some of what people have been expecting of him. What do you think he'll do for an encore?
PT: Hopefully he'll have a year just like last year's, maybe with a little more power. He had the best year of his career last year; I hope it doesn't represent his ceiling.
LCB: Cam is probably the most exciting young player the Padres have had since Adrian Gonzalez. He was rewarded for his 2011 by signing a 5 yr extension with the club, becoming the first long-term signing the Padres have had in, well, I'm not really sure when. He is as advertised in CF and will be a multiple Gold Glove winner before its all said and done. I think he is learning how to hit in the ballpark, which for all the complaints offensively, can be very conducive to offense if you put the ball on a line in a gap. There is a ton of outfield out there and Maybin has the speed to take advantage of all that space. As an encore, I expect Cam to be the spark plug offensively for this team. As he goes, the offense will go.
C70: Is there a prospect that will make an impact on the team this season?
PT: I'm going to go with Alonso because I believe he'll be the everyday first baseman. As far as call-ups I really don't have a good answer.
LCB: This is tough because the team is so young that you could really count many players currently projected on the Opening Day roster as being prospects. On an immediate level, Alonso and Cashner will have the most impact. Of someone not projected to make the Opening Day roster, I think the pitching prospects are more likely to make an impact his season. The starting rotation is more makeshift then in years past with no clear ace. Between that and injuries, I think its possible we could see Robbie Erlin, Joe Wieland or Anthony Bass in San Diego before the year is out. Very outside possibility of Casey Kelly if he has a great Minor League season, though I'd say he is more a 2013 prospect at this point.
C70: Where will the team finish in their division and what are you most excited about for 2012?
PT: Sadly I think they'll once again occupy the basement in the NL West. I'm excited to see how Quentin and Alonso hit at Petco, if Will Venable's offensive production will jump under the tutelage of Phil Plantier, and what kind of numbers Cory Luebke will put up as a full-time member of the rotation. Luebke has a chance to be every bit as good as Latos.
LCB: The nice thing about the NL West is that there is no dominant team from year to year. This isn't the NL or AL East where it's always Philly or NY or Boston. Two years ago the Giants won the division and World Series. Last year they didn't make the playoffs and the Diamondbacks came from nowhere to win the division. SF will be healthier this year with Posey coming back but they still have the same offensive stuggles that San Diego has. Realistically, I think the Padres can be a .500 team in 2012 which puts them roughly middle of the pack in the NL West. So I'll hedge a bit and say a 3rd place finish. I'm cautiously optimistic as I feel like this team is more balanced then they were last year but so much of this is riding on players with little to no track record. I'm most excited about in 2012 are the young players that appear to be here to stay. As has been widely reported, the Padres farm system has ranked 1 or 2 in nearly every article. Some of those young players are already here (Alonso, Cashner) with many more on the way (Spangeberg, Gyorko, Grandel, etc). I'm excited that there is a core of young players and seeing the likes of Maybin, Alonso, and Headley flourish.
As always, my thanks goes out to Mike and Geoff for their thoughts and insights on the club. The Cards and Padres have an interesting relationship, at least when October rolls around, so it'll be good to keep an eye on the Friars as the year progresses.
The BBA has, as a secondary aim, the goal of producing year-end
awards in a similar fashion to the Baseball Writers of America. These
awards can be found at the official site in October with links back to the voters,
ensuring transparency and, most likely, the onset of some good baseball