For the 2nd consecutive season the San Diego Padres went 76-86 and finished near the bottom of the NL West. Well, at least they’re consistent! The difference between this year’s version of the Padres and last is that when you look at the expected 25-man roster, there are now more reasons for hope.
This franchise has dealt with their fair share of injuries, especially to top pitching prospects such as Casey Kelly and Corey Luebke. On that note, Chase Headley is already battling a strained calf. He needs to be healthy, as does the rest of what could be a solid framework of a roster if things finally break right, or don’t break at all!
Last season’s trade for Ian Kennedy and the offseason acquisition of Josh Johnson should stabilize the starting rotation while the young guys work their way back from injury. If Kennedy and Johnson can recapture their past glory then the Padres could be better than expected in a tough NL West.
The Padres also brought in Joaquin Benoit to help fortify the back end of their bullpen and should finally see a full season of Yasmani Grandal behind the plate. Bringing Seth Smith in as a backup outfielder was also a sneaky good move. Like I said, hope.
Best Case Scenario for 2014
In the NL West, it is going to be tough for San Diego to climb higher than 4th place as the Dodgers, Giants, and Diamondbacks all appear to be better teams on paper. But as previously mentioned, if Kennedy and Johnson can find their old mojo and bolster a rotation along with rising star Andrew Cashner and the solid efforts of Tyson Ross and Eric Stults, and the offense can stay healthy and come together, then who knows? Best-case scenario is probably hanging around in the wild card race until September but ultimately managing a 3rd place finish.
Most Important Padres
With what is expected to be a solid starting rotation for Bud Black, he is going to need Chase Headley to return to his dominant ways at the plate, circa 2012. The Padres have impressive pieces throughout the lineup with Grandal, Yonder Alosno, Jedd Gyorko, Cameron Maybin, Carlos Quentin, and Will Venable, but to reach the next level this offense needs Headley to be a supreme run producer. Headley’s batting average and on-base % both dropped roughly 30 points in ’13 and his home run output tumbled from 31 to 13. Hopefully the drop-off in production was related to his early season wrist injury but the fact that his calf is acting up in late February is troublesome. A .280 average with 20 homers and 95 RBI’s would be enough here.
On the bump, Josh Johnson still has the ability to be a star pitcher. He melted down in Toronto last year and will be looking to parlay his 1-year deal in San Diego into a major comeback season and mega free agent deal next winter. He had minor elbow surgery in the offseason and is said to be 100%. With Johnson it is mostly about health. In the years where he has turned in approximately 30 starts he has but up strong numbers. He should be able to return to something close to that form in ’14. And if he can do that then he, more than any other pitcher on the roster, has the ability to lift this rotation into another realm. Think Comeback Player of the Year.
Potential Breakout Players
2013 was nearly a lost season for Yasmani Grandal after a PED suspension and season-ending torn ACL. He should be at or near 100% by Opening Day and has the offensive toolbox to be a highly productive MLB backstop. At age 25 he’ll need to make his mark before the Padres start thinking that prospect Austin Hedges is the better long-term bet. Grandal has the ability to hit around .290 with upper teens power and a stout on-base %. Adding that and nothing else to the Padres attack would be a boon to their production.
Once you’ve already broken out once, can you break out again? Well, the Padres are hoping that Ian Kennedy can. Kennedy has been a workhorse since 2010, averaging 32 starts/season. He showed legitimate promise in 2010 and then broke out in 2011 with a 21-4 record, 2.88 ERA, 1.09 WHIP, and 198 K’s. Walks were his main bugaboo in 2013 as he posted a career-high 73, up about 20 from his breakout in 2011. If the Padres get the 2011 Kennedy then look out! If they don’t, but get something more like an ERA in the mid 3’s, a WHIP under 1.30, and 180 K’s they’ll still be thrilled. At age 29, a 2nd breakout season might be in the works.
Worst Case Scenario
More proof that Kennedy and Johnson will never bounce back, more injuries to their youngsters (including Cameron Maybin who is already on the shelf), another sub-teens homer season from Headley, more PED violations, what else? Oh, a sub-70 win season and a last place finish. But don’t bet on that.
Areas of Concern
The bullpen outside of Benoit and Street is relatively unknown and that can always lead to trouble. But if this team could just stay healthy for once it is exciting to think of what they’d become. But let’s be honest, they stink at staying healthy. From Headley to Alonso to Quentin to Grandal to Kelly and Luebke, it just hasn’t been easy to keep a full team on the field in sunny San Diego. Is 2014 the year?
Who Needs to Bounce Back From a Down 2013
The Padres knew what they were getting into when they signed the always injured Carlos Quentin to a 3-year, $27M deal that runs through at least 2015. But come on now Carlos, stay on the field! This time it was a right knee strain that ended his season and allowed him to suit up only 82 times. The most games he has ever played in was during the 2010 season when he logged 131. But let’s face it; the reason why Quentin is so maddening is because he still has the potential to be a difference-maker in any offense with his raw power. Get the guy just 500 at-bats and he’s a lock for 25 homers and probably 30+ but he’s never had 500 at-bats in a season, ever! One time, Carlos. Show us just one time.
AL Team Previews
NL Team Previews