Continuing from our season preview of the Padres earlier today…
Can the Padres keep their heads above water without Chase Headley and Yasmani Grandal to start the year?
Not having Headley and Grandal to start the year is huge for the Padres. Headley will likely end up missing most of April after breaking his thumb, while Grandal won't be back with the team until the end of May. In Headley, the Padres will be missing a seven win player, while in Grandal, they'll lose a guy who contributed 2.6 fWAR in only 60 games last year. Headley, Grandal, and Carlos Quentin were San Diego's three best offensive players a year ago, and the Padres will now be missing two of them to start the year.
Logan Forsythe will likely be getting the nod at third with Headley out. Forsythe isn't a great offensive player, especially in comparison to Headley, but his .325 wOBA and 110 wRC+ were above the league average for third basemen across the league. He's just going to end up being a stopgap, especially considering the positive prognosis for Headley's injury, so this isn't exactly a season-changing injury like Mark Teixeira's potentially season-ending wrist ailment in New York.
Behind the plate is a trickier issue. Nick Hundley will get most of the reps over the first third of the season with Grandal out, and he's a vastly inferior offensive player. Last season, Hundley had a .205 wOBA and 29 wRC+ in 58 games for the Padres. That's just brutal. But in 2011, those marks were at .356 and 132 in 82 games, which makes him a worse offensive performer than Grandal but not an absolute drain on the offense like he was in 2012. The barriers to being an average offensive performer behind the plate are low, as the average catcher in 2012 had a .312 wOBA and a 95 wRC+. Sure, Hundley fell far below that threshold in 2012, but he easily cleared it in 2011, and also did in 2009 (.315 wOBA, 97 wRC+) and 2010 (.317 wOBA, 101 wRC+).
Another thing to look at for the Padres in 2013 is their early schedule. In April and May this year, the Padres play 24 games within the NL West (six against each of the other four teams). The bulk of that schedule (18 games) comes in April, when Headley will miss time. That's a pretty big advantage for San Diego's opponents, and will allow them an opportunity to bury the Padres in the standings quite early. But if the Padres even split those 18 games (say, take five out of six from the Rockies and just stealing one game in each series against the Giants and Dodgers), they'll be in good shape in the division when Headley returns. They're going to need Headley in May too, because the schedule gets a lot tougher, including a seven game homestand against the Cardinals and Nationals along with a five game road trip to Tampa Bay and Baltimore.
It's not going to be easy for the Padres to survive without two of their stars. But thankfully for them, they've got backups in place that can at least be average, and their schedule can really make or break things as well. Having nine of their first 12 games against the Mets and Rockies is a stretch that the Padres absolutely need to take advantage of, or risk getting absolutely buried in the standings by the time they're at full strength.