The Padres went from being eliminated from the playoff race on the final day of the 2010 season to falling to last place in the NL West in 2011. They’ll go into 2012 with their ace Mat Latos now a member of the Reds and their GM Jed Hoyer now holding the same position with the Cubs. The Latos trade restocked their farm system, and the Padres look to be in good shape for the future. But 2012 will likely be a difficult year for them.
Depth Chart (as of 3/29)
C: Nick Hundley
1B: Yonder Alonso
2B: Orlando Hudson
SS: Jason Bartlett
3B: Chase Headley
LF: Jesus Guzman
CF: Cameron Maybin
RF: Will Venable
SP: Tim Stauffer
SP: Cory Luebke
SP: Edinson Volquez
SP: Clayton Richard
SP: Dustin Moseley
CL: Huston Street
First baseman Yonder Alonso and starting pitcher Edinson Volquez both came over in the Latos trade, as did Brad Boxberger and Yasmani Grandal (both of whom will start the season in the minors). Reliever Andrew Cashner, who could eventually either start or be a dominant closer, was acquired from the Cubs in the Anthony Rizzo trade and will be a key part of the Padres bullpen in 2012. Speaking of the bullpen, the team has a new closer in former Rockie Huston Street. San Diego also acquired left fielder Carlos Quentin from the White Sox, but he won’t be ready for Opening Day. A pair of bench bats, John Baker and Mark Kotsay, were also signed, and San Diego picked up a pitcher more known for his lumber in Micah Owings.
Top first base prospect Rizzo was dealt to the Cubs, but with the presence of Alonso, it might not be that big of a demerit for the Padres. Latos was obviously dealt to the Reds in a move that has the Padres thinking about the future more than the present. Back-end starter Wade LeBlanc was dealt to the Marlins. Closer Heath Bell, reliever Chad Qualls, and starter Aaron Harang all left town as free agents. The Brad Hawpe experiment came to a quick end when he went to Texas as a free agent.
Alonso will be the starter at first base, and the Padres are hoping he fares better than Rizzo did in the majors at the beginning of last season. Outfielder James Darnell is projected for San Diego’s bench, but playing time could be tough to get unless there’s an injury. Catcher Yasmani Grandal could be ready this year, which would necessitate a trade for either him or incumbent Nick Hundley. Starting pitchers Robbie Erlin and Joe Wieland could also be close to the majors.
Due to San Diego’s glut of outfield/first base types, Jesus Guzman is currently starting in left field due to Quentin’s injury, and defensive-minded backup Chris Denorfia sits on the bench. It’s a shame, because Denorfia could probably start for a few teams. I don’t know who Kyle Blanks will displace once he gets healthy, or if he’ll just go to AAA for whatever reason.
Quentin will be out until the middle or end of April following knee surgery. Blanks is questionable for Opening Day with a shoulder issue. Utilityman Logan Forsythe is out for at least another month following foot surgery.
Who should be the Padres catcher of the future: Nick Hundley, or Yasmani Grandal?
The Padres young pitching steps up, Alonso is the NL Rookie of the Year, Volquez pitches like he did when he was first traded to the Reds, and the Padres compete with the Diamondbacks for the NL West title.
Remember last year? That happens again. There’s a difference between “not hitting because your home park is an intense pitchers park” and “not hitting because your team has a squadron of awful hitters”, and the Padres exemplified the latter last season. No hitting = no winning.
I’m pretty sure the Padres are the least talented team in the NL West, and that they’ll compete with the Rockies for the bottom of the division. No real stars here right now, no impact players aside from Cameron Maybin, and a lot of roster filler.