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Q&A with North County Times' Dan Hayes...

Over the last week, I had the opportunity to have a back and forth with, in my opinion, one of the best beat writers in the business, Dan Hayes of the North County Times. Hayes' tweets make it possible for me to do my job, as Friars beat writer here @ RW, on a daily basis. With that context, I wanted to get his view, from Arizona, on what he sees fantasy-wise for the San Diego lineup/staff in 2011. I tried to pick players that were being drafted heavily (Mat Latos), those who are under the radar (Will Venable and Tim Stauffer) and the kids coming (Anthony Rizzo and Casey Kelly).

(In the interest of full disclosure, I sent my questions to Dan prior to Latos being shut down with shoulder bursitis, but, as you can see, he addresses that as well.) So, here you go:

Q: From a roto perspective, the Padre in most demand, is Mat Latos. The biggest question mark, or concern, is if Bud Black will put the kind of limitations on Latos to avoid a Stephen Strausburg-type situation. I know there were some pitch count modifications done toward the end of last year and even some skipped starts over the second half. You tweeted earlier that Black has named Latos the Opening Day starter, which would seemingly put him on track for 32-35 starts. Will Black follow a blueprint similar to a year
ago and do you buy into the "Verducci" effect?

A: Prior to the start of spring, Bud Black said the reins were off with Latos. The Padres are confident in the way they handled him last year. He only threw more than 100 pitches in 13 of 31 starts and only threw more than 110 once. They also gave him a few weeks off at the All-Star break when he was injured. All that being said, I?m not sure how Latos? current shoulder injury will affect things.

Q: We are projecting Cameron Maybin to get 481 at-bats, hit .266 (.727 OPS) with eleven home runs, 50 RBIs and 13 steals. Two parter: Will Maybin get 450+ at-bats if he struggles early, given the team gave Chris Denorfia some guaranteed money? If so, what have you seen from him this spring, if anything, that would indicate he's turned the corner?

A: Maybin has been handed the keys. It?s not his job to lose, it?s his job. The Padres want to see him play every day. They understand his learning curve might have been skewed by going up and down constantly. They want him playing with the confidence that he shouldn?t be looking over his shoulder and I think we?ve seen a little of that this spring. He?s been making hard contact all spring. Whether or not he cuts down on the strikeouts remains to be seen.

Q: With the trade of Adrian Gonzalez, there is not a lot of power in the Padres lineup. Black has indicated he will hit Orlando Hudson third in the lineup and a combination of Ryan Ludwick, Jorge Cantu and Brad Hawpe behind him. Do you think Black's focus will be to use Will Venable, Jason Bartlett and Hudson to get on base to steal, move runners along, hit-and-run, etc. and hope to win games 5-4 with a lights out bullpen? (more on that later)

A: Even though their offense was 12 th in the NL in runs scored last season with 665, the Padres won 90 games. That?s because they stress pitching and defense and try to produce enough offense to accompany those. Because they?re lacking a traditional slugger or two in the middle of the lineup I think you?ll
see the Padres run, run and run some more. That's their model going forward and I think the fact that Hudson and Bartlett get on base a good chunk of the time will only further the plan.

Q: Will Venable and Hudson have to have big seasons to get the Pads in a position, offensively, to compete with the Giants and Rockies?

A: I don't necessarily think they have to have huge years for the Padres to be competitive. Again, the Padres were 12 th in the league with 665 runs scored last season. Tony Gwynn Jr. hit .204. The top two spots in the lineup had a combined .311 OBP. And yet the Padres won 90 games. They need enough offense collectively as long as the pitching holds up.

Q: Speaking of Ludwick, we all witnessed the issues after being dealt from the Cardinals. Are those behind him and can we expect a rebound to at least his mean numbers?

A: Ludwick made the comment last season that the Padres had something special going and he didn't want to be the guy that messed it up. He was injured and he was uncomfortable. Aside from hitting several foul balls off his ankle this spring, Ludwick has looked extremely comfortable. He worked hard this spring and is starting the season in a much better frame of mind. Whether or not that stays when he moves to Petco Park remains to be seen.

Q: On to the bullpen, we think highly of Luke Gregerson here @ RW and know that Mike Adams was extremely effective a year ago. While Jed Hoyer may not subscribe to the fungible bullpen theory, he is, assuredly, on top of the volatility a pen can have from year to year. That said, will Gregerson get more eighth inning opportunities to setup for Heath Bell or is it Adams' job until he loses it?

A: The job is Adams' to lose because Black likes the idea of guys knowing their roles. He's had it everywhere he's coached, managed and even played and he won?t change it now. They like Gregerson in the 7th inning and he will get chances at setting up but it shouldn?t stop him from getting holds.

Q: Regarding Bell, do you think Hoyer will need to deal him before the end of July, whether the Pads are in it or not? Or does he deal him if they are out of contention and recoup draft picks if they are? Who is the closer if he is dealt?

A: I think the fact the Padres kept Bell this offseason even with Adams and Gregerson said a lot. The Padres needed to fill a lot of holes and they did so without moving one of their final three pitchers. Bell is critical to their success and they know it. Even if they don?t contend I could see them hanging on to him. Someone would probably offer a couple of good prospects but the Padres would probably have to be blown away. If Bell is gone, Adams gets the first shot.

Q: Will Anthony Rizzo see the inside of PETCO this year?

A: Rizzo has impressed everyone this spring with his power, his work ethic and his attitude. If he puts up monster numbers at Tucson as are expected than I wouldn?t be surprised if he was at the very least a September call-up.

Q: Casey Kelly?

A: Similarly, Kelly has shown well in front of the Padres' coaching staff. Things would have to awry with the rotation for him to be up early this season because he?s only in his second full season as a starting pitcher, but September isn't out of the question.

Q: Finally, what under-the-radar player have you seen this spring that has impressed you and that we could be talking about during the season?

A: I'm not sure that Tim Stauffer qualifies as under the radar after going 3-3 2ith a 2.10 ERA in six starts in September and October. He was outstanding wherever the Padres put him last year and I think he?s going to make a good impact in the rotation and could be a sleeper fantasy pick.

In summary, the Padres will run a lot (giving Venable a shot at 30+ SBs), with Bartlett and Hudson getting quite a few RBI opportunities. Stauffer and Latos (assuming health) will anchor the staff and the late inning order will be Gregerson, Adams and Bell.