This is one of a series of posts in which I will be breaking down every team in baseball. I am by no means a credible source—merely a casual fan who knows a little about baseball and would like to share my observations.
Today we look at the Padres, a team that caught everyone by surprise this winter by adding several big-name players. They’re breaking the mold for small-market teams, not just by trading, but also showing they can hang in free agency with the big boys. But will it translate to on-field success?
Projected Lineup: 3B Yangervis Solarte, SS Alexi Amarista, LF Justin Upton*, RF Matt Kemp*, 1B Yonder Alonso, CF Wil Myers*, 2B Jedd Gyorko, C Derek Norris*
Projected Rotation: RHP Andrew Cashner, RHP James Shields*, RHP Tyson Ross, RHP Ian Kennedy, RHP Odrisamer Despaigne
* new additions
The Padres were the stars of their own reality show this winter, Extreme Makeover: Baseball Edition, in which a team in dire need of offense gets revamped by white collar GMs with Ivy League degrees (guest-starring Xzibit), generally with hilarious results.
First, the good news: The Padres got their offense. They enter 2015 with three brand-new outfielders in Justin Upton, Wil Myers and Matt Kemp, all of whom have power to boot. These are the type of power guys you need in San Diego—guys who can hit the ball 450 feet, pitchers’ ballpark be damned.
Now, the not-so-good news: Their newfound power comes at the expense of their defense. With the new guys in the fold, the Padres are now fielding a below-average defender at every position except first base. This strategy is typically not conducive to winning ball games.
This will especially be a problem in the outfield, where the corners are manned by Upton and Kemp, who according to most accounts don’t ever actually run in the direction of the ball. They basically just pick a spot, stand there and hope the ball comes to them. The person tasked with making up all the lost ground is Wil Myers, a corner outfielder himself, but in light of the other options available is clearly the best choice to play center.
Needless to say, a lot of fly balls will be dropping in.
Pitchers who rely on flyball outs, like Ian Kennedy and Brandon Morrow, will have a hard time with this. And James Shields, though not necessarily a flyball pitcher, will have gone from having the best defensive outfield in baseball behind him with the Royals to now having the worst.
Andrew Cashner, however, might be okay. The undisputed ace of the Padres (and if you have any arguments involving the words “big game”, you can leave right now), Cashner has shown over the past two years that he can be damn near unhittable when he’s on. He’ll be looking to stay healthy for a full season for the first time as a starter. If he can put up 200 innings, and if Shields gives you the 200 innings he’s usually good for, that’ll go a long way.
In the bullpen, Kevin Quackenbush is a name you should know. Mostly because it’s an awesome name, but there’s more to it than that. This is not just an “above-average” name, this is a straight up 80-grade name, and if that means one thing, it’s that he’s destined to be a great relief pitcher. Just think—you’re a player on the opposing team. You hear on the loudspeakers: “Now pitching for the Padres, Kevin Quackenbush!” You’re so determined to not be struck out by a guy named Quackenbush that the thought consumes you, throwing you off your game and causing you to flail wildly at three straight pitches. Many relievers have made a career off this very phenomenon. Just ask J.J. Putz.
Overall, the Padres patched a few holes and look like a better team on paper, but they’re on very thin ice. Defense is something that can make or break a team’s season more than most people realize. You hear people talk about baseball being a “game of inches”, and those “inches” too often seem to be the ones between the ball and Matt Kemp’s outstretched glove.
Projected Finish: 78-84, Third place in NL West