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Padres' Team Preview: Future Getting Brighter

Andrew Martinez

Andrew Martinez

Andrew Martinez writes about baseball and football, in addition to hosting the award winning RotoWire Fantasy Sports Today on Sirius XM radio. He is a native Texan and roots for the Astros, Texans, Rockets, and Rice Owls.

Derek VanRiper

Derek VanRiper

Derek is the Senior Baseball Editor for RotoWire.com, where he's been a two-time finalist for the FSWA's Baseball Writer of the Year award, and winner of the Best Football Article on the Web (2009) and Best Baseball Article on the Web (2010) awards. Derek also co-hosts RotoWire Fantasy Sports Today on SiriusXM Fantasy Sports Radio (XM 87, Sirius 210) from 11a-2p ET on Tuesdays and Wednesdays.

For a team that endured more than its fair share of injuries to the starting rotation last season, the Padres did well to reach the 76-win mark to avoid finishing in the cellar of the NL West. Even with the hurdle of playing half of their games at cavernous Petco Park, the Padres piled up 651 runs last season - more than the Dodgers, Mets, Marlins and Cubs - while featuring a lineup that was the fifth-youngest in MLB in 2012.

With an enviable farm system, the Padres were nearly inactive during the offseason, doing little in the way of acquiring talent via trade or free agency, and leaving the team in position to forge ahead without full complement of reliable big league starters. Reinforcements will be added into the mix throughout the season, as Cory Luebke (Tommy John surgery, May 2012), Andrew Cashner (lacerated thumb tendon, November 2012) and Joe Wieland (Tommy John surgery, late July 2012) are expected back into the fold during the season. Casey Kelly also remains a wild card, after injuries limited him to just 66.2 innings over four levels in 2012. Offensively, the loss of Yasmani Grandal for the first 50 games of the season provides a significant blow for the first two months.

The future is bright in San Diego, but competing in a division with the defending World Series champions, the free-spending Dodgers and the well-balanced D-Backs likely will keep the Padres out of the mix even as a contender for the second wild-card spot in 2013.

Offseason Moves

Placed C Yasmani Grandal on the restricted list.

First the bad: Grandal was suspended for 50 games for testing positive for a performance enhancing substance in November. Now the good: whatever price most owners were set to pay for him in 2013, this recent news likely slashes that in half, if not further. It's impossible to say what, if any, effect the substance that Grandal used had on his 2012 performance. What we do know is that as a rookie, he showed a good eye at the plate and good power as he hit .268/.368/.392 in one of the toughest venues for hitters, Petco Park. These numbers come from a small sample size (114 plate appearances) as he spent half of his 2012 season in the minors. How he'll spend his 2013 season will largely depend on how he responds to his suspension and how his teammates perform early in his place, but there's reason to believe he'll reprise his role as the Padres' primary catcher after his 50-game absence.

Traded P Andrew Werner and INF Andy Parrino to Oakland for Tyson Ross and A.J. Kirby-Jones.

Ross was an enigma for the A's since he was drafted out of California in 2008. On sight, he appears to have good stuff despite his funky delivery, however, he just can't seem to put it all together. His main issue is that he just walks too many. In addition, while being pushed into duty for 73.1 innings in Oakland last year, his strikeout rate fell to 5.6 K/9. A November trade to spacious Petco Park may be just the remedy that Ross needed. If he wins a rotation spot in spring, he would certainly be someone to speculate on late in a draft or a reserve round just for home starts. Petco has done wonders for plenty of less-than-stellar arms, and should continue to even though the Padres are moving in the fences this year.

Re-signed SP Jason Marquis.

Marquis made seven starts with the Twins (8.47 ERA) before being designated for assignment, released on waivers and signing with the Padres as a free agent. In San Diego, he made 15 starts and pitched better than he ever had before with a 4.04 ERA and 3.56 xFIP. This isn't saying much for someone with a career 4.60 ERA, but he did post a 2.82 K/BB ratio, the highest of his career. This elevation in his command is possibly the result of increased use of his slider, a pitch he has always had, but never used more than 30 percent of the time as he did with the Padres. It's doubtful this change turns Marquis' career around, but it's worth thinking about when others dismiss him because of his poor track history. He re-signed with the Padres in December, and figures to chew up innings at least until the team's younger starters are ready to take over a larger share of the starting rotation.

Signed SP Freddy Garcia.

After a surprising 2011 when he put up a 3.62 ERA in 25 starts, Garcia got off to a rough start in 2012 and never really recovered. Garcia split 2012 between the rotation and the bullpen, and while he pitched well in May and June, he blew up to the tune of an 8.49 ERA in September. With the Padres' lack of viable options as many of their starting pitchers open the year rehabbing injuries, Garcia appears to have the inside track for the No. 5 starter spot.

Claimed RP Fautino De Los Santos off waivers from the Brewers.

The A's were considering De Los Santos for a late-inning bullpen role at one point last spring training, but he was sent down after allowing 10 runners to reach base over his six April appearances. He continued to struggle at Triple-A and was traded to the Brewers midseason. De Los Santos turned things around with his new club and posted a 17:4 K:BB and 1.98 ERA over 13.2 innings. Surprisingly, the Brewers placed him on waivers in February, and the Padres were quick to pounce. It's possible that he'll be a part of the Padres bullpen on Opening Day.

Projected Lineup (v. RHP/LHP)

1. Everth Cabrera, SS/Chris Denorfia, RF
2. Will Venable, RF/Logan Forsythe, 2B
3. Chase Headley, 3B
4. Carlos Quentin, LF
5. Yonder Alonso, 1B
6. Logan Forsythe, 2B/Cameron Maybin, CF
7. Cameron Maybin, CF/Nick Hundley, C
8. Nick Hundley, C/Everth Cabrera, SS

The lineup should be fluid once again for the Padres, and the possibility of permanent callups entering the mix will only complicate things. Manager Bud Black does a reliably good job of utilizing platoons and adjusting his batting order according to matchups, maximizing the value of an otherwise less-than-stellar lineup. Once Yasmani Grandal returns from his 50-game suspension, it's possible he'll claim a place in the middle-third of the order and bump Yonder Alonso into the sixth spot.

Projected Rotation

1. Edinson Volquez
2. Clayton Richard
3. Jason Marquis
4. Eric Stults
5. Freddy Garcia/Casey Kelly/Tyson Ross/Anthony Bass

There's very little to get excited about in this group, though it's worth noting that Edinson Volquez's long-ball issues disappeared with his arrival in San Diego last season. He'll likely take the ball on Opening Day, but free passes continue to offset his ability to miss bats. In his 17 starts at Petco last season, Volquez had a 99:56 K:BB (100.2 innings) with a 2.95 ERA and 1.29 WHIP. On the road, he slipped to 75:49 (82 innings) and a 5.60 ERA with a 1.65 WHIP. Depending on the impact of the outfield fences being moved in, it's reasonable to expect similar splits with slightly more risk of the occasional long flyball clearing the re-positioned outfield walls. Richard's rotation spot is very secure, but his strikeout rate his been very low in each each of the last two seasons. Eventually, the value from this group will come from the likes of Cory Luebke, Joe Wieland, Casey Kelly and Andrew Cashner, among others.

Closer:
Huston Street - When healthy, Street is among the most effective closers in the game. The problem is that staying healthy has been a real issue for Street, and 2012 was no different as he missed more than 60 games due to a strained shoulder and calf. On the mound, he pitched just 39 innings and with the help of a .179 BABIP, Street turned in his lowest ERA (1.85) since his rookie season in Oakland (1.72). Skills wise, Street still has great command of his pitches, and Petco Park has helped in part to reduce his home-run rate. Still, there's a reason why Street has only twice saved more than 30 games in a season in his eight-year career, and it's injuries. A two-year contract extension to stay in San Diego will undoubtedly help his numbers, but the question will still remain, how many games will he pitch?

Key Bullpen Members:
Luke Gregerson, Brad Brach, Brad Boxberger and Dale Thayer - Thayer picked up a few saves last season when Street landed on the disabled list, but it's unlikely he'll hold onto a high-leverage role for the long haul with a plethora of quality young arms vying for spots. If Street were to land on the DL again in 2013, Gregerson may be the best bet to take the ball in the ninth inning in his absence.

Notes of Import, Fantasy and Otherwise:

What should be expected from Chase Headley after his breakout last season?

It's amazing what can happen when power ends up in the hands of the right man at the right time. In 2012, Headley found that power and put it to good use as he hit a career-high 31 homers and 31 doubles. His 115 RBI were not only a career high, but led the National League as well. As for his other skills, Headley made contact 74.8 percent of the time, which is low for him, but otherwise stayed true to who he is with walk and strikeout rates within his normal range. At 29, owners should not expect an encore performance in 2013 from Headley as there is little to suggest the power he showed in 2012 (.212 ISO after a .110 mark in 2011) is likely to carry over. The switch-hitting Headley should benefit from having the fences in right field moved in at Petco Park, however. If anything, invest in him for his speed, which has produced double-digit steals each of the last four seasons, and be happy with more moderate power output.

Who will be in the rotation when September rolls around?

While Eric Stults, Jason Marquis and Freddy Garcia are projected to open the season in the rotation, all three may be removed from the fold before September. With two starters (Cory Luebke and Joe Wieland) coming back from Tommy John surgery, another (Andrew Cashner) recovering from surgery to repair a torn thumb tendon and the oft-injured Casey Kelly serving as varying degrees of unknowns, the Padres may lean heavily on their bullpen throughout the first half of the season if their starters fail to get deep into games. Luebke is expected to be back in the mix the earliest, and he offers the highest ceiling of the Padres' current mix of starters.

When will the kids be ready to contribute?

Jedd Gyorko has little left to prove in the minors, and could push Logan Forsythe for a starting job during spring training. Rymer Liriano may not be far off from taking over right field, bumping Will Venable to the fourth-outfielder role and given the Padres another option to hit near the middle third of the order. In addition to the aforementioned young pitchers recovering from injury, Robbie Erlin and Adys Portillo could be in the mix for rotation spots at some point, with the former possibly entering the spring as a darkhorse candidate to compete with Freddy Garcia, and the latter as an option in September if he fares well at Double-A and Triple-A.

Strengths

The Padres have a number of average and above-average prospects knocking on the door to contribute in the big leagues.

Weaknesses

With many starting pitchers recovering from significant injuries, the rotation is a glaring weakness entering the season.

Rising:
Everth Cabrera - Cabrera showed last season that he's got legs and he knows how to use them as he stole a career-high 44 bases and legged out 19 doubles. A .336 BABIP certainly helped his cause as he hit .246/.324/.324, which might not sound like much (and it's not), but we're talking about a guy who strikes out in nearly a quarter of his at-bats and barely makes contact 80 percent of the time. If you can stomach this sort of plate discipline (or lack thereof), the speed Cabrera offers is certainly worth the price, as he led the National League in stolen bases last season and did so in only 449 plate appearances. It is worth noting that 23 of Cabrera's 44 stolen bases came from batting leadoff in 28 games. If he were to hit leadoff most games, the sky is the limit as to how many bases he might steal; and on the flip side, look to his 2010 stat line for what might come if he does not receive that opportunity.

Declining:
Andrew Cashner - When Cashner is healthy he can be nearly untouchable, but therein lies the problem as he has battled through multiple injuries in his young career. Last season was a prime example of this as he took a no-hitter into the seventh inning of a start in Houston, only to leave the following start with what ended up being a strained lower lat muscle that cost him nearly two months on the DL. The Padres want him to be a starter and how can you blame them, when Cashner can throw near 100 mph and miss bats on a regular basis. Ultimately, though, he may be destined for a role as a reliever, where he can pitch max effort and have his workload monitored. As a fantasy investment, Cashner is certainly worth the risk as his potential is that of an elite starter, but he is already expected to miss the start of the season due to a thumb injury suffered in an offseason hunting accident.

Sleeper:
Jedd Gyorko - Gyorko did some impressive work as a 23-year-old in Double-A San Antonio and Triple-A Tucson in 2012 as he hit .311/.373/.547 with 30 homers and 28 doubles over 557 plate appearances. In 2013, he appears primed for a shot at the majors as there is little left for him to prove in the minors. Defensively, he is unlikely to last at second base as scouts have nicked him for his footwork, but this shouldn't dissuade the Padres from attempting to see what he can do at the position in the short term. If he eventually ends up at third base, his stock takes a hit as that is a position where the average player hits for more power, and there is Chase Headley blocking his path to everyday playing time. In an ideal world, he'll continue to hit and do so as an above average second baseman, which is what owners are banking on from the major league ready prospect.

Supersleeper:
Robbie Erlin - After exploding onto the scene in 2010 in the Rangers' farm system and following it up with a highly productive 2011 campaign, Erlin's 2012 season with the Padres was a bit of a disappointment as he missed nearly three months due to an elbow strain. When he was healthy, he showed an elite ability to miss bats and limit walks to opposing batters. Later in the year, he showed he was past his elbow woes in the Arizona Fall League, where he struck out over a third of the batters he faced. Only 22, Erlin is on the fast track to majors and should be monitored by all owners who have an interest in rising prospects.

Top Prospects

Jedd Gyorko, 2B - See above.

Rymer Liriano, OF - Liriano is by most accounts, the top prospect in the Padres farm system and for good reason. In 2012 he produced a .280/.350/.417 batting line with eight homers, 32 doubles and 32 stolen bases over 621 plate appearances between High-A Lake Elsinore, Double-A San Antonio and the Arizona Fall League. Scouts are impressed by his ability to spray the ball to all fields and project him to hit for more power than he has shown to this point as he matures. At 21 years old, he has speed to burn as evidenced by his 65 stolen bases at Low-A Fort Wayne in 2011. Expect him to push for a promotion to the bigs as early as late 2013.

Robbie Erlin, SP - See above.

Casey Kelly, SP - It was an eventful 2012 season for Kelly as he pitched at Triple-A Tucson, was shut down due to inflammation in his right elbow for more than three months, resumed pitching in Rookie League Peoria, and moved up to Double-A San Antonio before finally making his MLB debut in late August. His results along the way in the minors were impressive as he showed elite command of the strike zone and avoided the long ball. The six starts he made in the majors were a mixed bag but showed he has the potential to miss bats as he did in the minors and induce groundballs at a high rate, two skills that should help him along in his development. In 2013, expect Kelly to push for a spot in the Padres rotation as he continues to mature and grow as a young pitcher, but his missed time in 2012 could lead to significant workload restrictions regardless of where he's logging his innings this season.

Cory Spangenberg, 2B - The 10th overall pick of the Padres in 2011, Spangenberg's numbers in the California League last season are something of a disappointment, but he was not drafted as a player with an extremely high ceiling. A concussion in late June limited Spangenberg to 98 games, while the bulk of his future rotisserie value figures to come on the basepaths, where he converted 27 of his 36 stolen-base attempts last season. Spangenberg controls the strike zone well and is expected to be a steady contact hitter, but he will likely spend all of 2013 trying to take the next step forward offensively at Double-A San Antonio before the Padres consider him as an option for their infield in 2014.

Joe Wieland, SP - Wieland made five starts for the Padres in 2012, before he suffered an elbow injury that he attempted to rehab from. The rehab was short-lived as he suffered a setback in his throwing program that resulted in ligament damage to his elbow that needed Tommy John surgery to repair. He ended up having the surgery in late July and has a shot at coming back sometime late in the 2013 season. Prior to last season, Wieland had spent his entire career in the Rangers' farm system, where he rose through the ranks thanks to good control of his pitches. His ability to miss bats was never elite and thus limited his ceiling as a prospect. If he can recapture some of that form in 2013 through his rehab, he may still be able to help the Padres and fantasy owners in 2014.