Mar 23, 2013, 11:00 AM EDT
Between now and Opening Day, HardballTalk will take a look at each of baseball’s 30 teams, asking the key questions, the not-so-key questions, and generally breaking down their chances for the 2013 season. Up next: The San Diego Padres.
The Big Question: Can the Padres build on their strong second half from last year?
While the Padres had their second straight losing season last year with a 76-86 record, they very quietly went 42-33 after the All-Star break. And that’s with losing 10 out of their last 15 games. The major reason for the turnaround was the offense, as they were fifth in the National League in runs scored during the second half. We’re not used to seeing that from a team which calls PETCO Park home.
Cameron Maybin, Yonder Alonso and the right field platoon of Will Venable and Chris Denorfia all finished strong and Carlos Quentin provided pop when his knee wasn’t hurting, but the big key for the offense was Chase Headley. The 28-year-old unexpectedly broke out by hitting .286/.376/.498 with 31 home runs and an NL-leading 115 RBI. He finished fifth in the National League MVP balloting and also took home his first Gold Glove Award for his defense at third base. Unfortunately, Headley recently suffered a small fracture at the tip of his left thumb and is expected to miss the entire month of April. So much for the momentum narrative.
While the Padres will try to stay afloat until Headley is ready to return, they are also waiting on two other important pieces. 24-year-old catcher Yasmani Grandal, who hit .297/.394/.469 with eight homers and an .863 OPS in 60 games as a rookie last year, was suspended 50-games for testing positive for synthetic testosterone and isn’t eligible to return until late May. Cory Luebke, who signed a four-year, $12 million extension with the Padres last year, is currently working his way back from Tommy John surgery and isn’t expected to rejoin the starting rotation until around June or July. By the way, there’s even a chance that Quentin could begin the season on the disabled list due to continued soreness in his surgically-repaired knee.
I wouldn’t be surprised to see the Padres get off to a slow start, as a rotation led by Edinson Volquez, Clayton Richard and Jason Marquis isn’t good enough to make up for a mediocre offense, but Bud Black’s squad certainly has the pieces to get better as the year goes along. I don’t think they are strong enough to challenge the Dodgers or the Giants, but they could surprise some folks in the NL West.
What else is going on?
• Rotation hopeful Tyson Ross might be the biggest addition the Padres made over the winter, but things will still look a little bit different at PETCO Park this season. That’s because the team has made some alterations to the dimensions of the stadium. The most dramatic change is in right field, where the fence was moved in 11 feet and lowered to eight feet. The left-center field wall was also moved in from 402 feet to 390 feet. With the thick marine air, PETCO Park will never be a hitters’ paradise, but perhaps it will play something closer to neutral. That’s the goal, anyway.
• Top prospect Jedd Gyorko is poised to make the Opening Day roster, though it hasn’t been decided whether he’ll play exclusively at second base or help fill in for Headley at third base, which is his natural position. The 24-year-old has done nothing but hit in the minors, compiling a .319/.385/.529 batting line over his first three professional seasons. It will be interesting to see how he responds to the pressures of playing a big role in the lineup early in the season. If he produces, the Padres may be more open to moving Headley in a trade at some point down the road.
• The Padres continue to have some pretty rotten luck with pitching elbows. After Luebke and Joe Wieland both needed Tommy John surgery last year, now it’s Casey Kelly‘s turn. As we learned yesterday, he’s scheduled to have surgery on April 1 and will miss the entire 2013 season. Kelly was acquired from the Red Sox in the big Adrian Gonzalez trade and has been a highly regarded prospect for quite a long time now, but his condition of his elbow has slowed his progress over the past year. He’ll hope to get back on track in his age-24 season.
• While the starting rotation is questionable, the back-end of the bullpen is one of the team’s biggest strengths. Closer Huston Street is quietly coming off a brilliant season. While the 29-year-old right-hander served two stints on the disabled list, he posted a 1.95 ERA to go along with 23 saves in 24 chances and finished with his highest strikeout rate since 2007. Meanwhile, Luke Gregerson continues to fly under the radar as one of the best set-up men in the game.
• One potential difference maker for the rotation is Andrew Cashner. Acquired from the Cubs in the Anthony Rizzo deal, the 26-year-old right-hander began last season in the bullpen before being moving to the rotation around midseason. There are questions about his health, as he missed time with rotator cuff and lat injuries over the past two seasons and is coming off December surgery to repair a torn tendon in his thumb, but his electric arm carries plenty of upside.
Prediction: Fourth place, NL West. I like what they have going here, but I’m just not sure the starting pitching will be there.
Mar 9, 2014, 12:54 PM EDT
Bruce Levine of CBS Chicago has the inside word: Although the White Sox are not shopping outfielder Dayan Viciedo, they are listening to other clubs about their interest in the Cuban power hitter. Several major league sources confirmed that the Sox and Mariners have had discussions on a deal that could center around Viciedo. Nick…
Mar 9, 2014, 12:08 PM EDT
White Sox right-hander Nate Jones said at the end of February that he was completely over the glute strain that he suffered shortly after arriving at spring camp and he proved that on Saturday, delivering a scoreless inning in his 2014 Cactus League debut. Jones allowed a hit and issued a walk, but he also recorded…
Mar 9, 2014, 11:22 AM EDT
Goods news Sunday morning in Cardinals camp. According to beat writer Derrick Goold of the St. Louis Post-Dispatch, outfielder Peter Bourjos is back in the starting lineup for Sunday’s Grapefruit League game against the Nationals after sitting out for seven days with tightness in his right hamstring. Bourjos dealt with chronic leg problems during his…
Mar 9, 2014, 10:37 AM EDT
Evan Drellich has an in-depth feature in the Houston Chronicle about the Astros’ built-from-scratch private online database, which is now being used by the entire baseball operations department to improve scouting, communicating, and decision-making. It’s called “Ground Control,” a play on the Astros’ name. The Indians have a similar database called “DiamondView,” the Red Sox call…
Mar 9, 2014, 9:45 AM EDT
Matt Kemp has begun running at full speed and participating in daily outfield drills in Dodgers camp, and he could soon be cleared to become a regular in the club’s Cactus League starting lineups. “We’re seeing him take fly balls, getting jumps,” Dodgers manager Don Mattingly told MLB.com’s Ken Gurnick on Saturday. ”He’s swinging the bat good.…
Mar 9, 2014, 8:59 AM EDT
Cuban first baseman Jose Abreu has just two hits in his first 13 Cactus League at-bats, but one was a double and the other was a home run, and he continues to draw rave reviews in White Sox camp for the patience he’s showing at the plate. Abreu has yet to strike out through five Cactus…
Mar 8, 2014, 11:25 PM EDT
Over his 15-year career, Yankees outfielder Alfonso Soriano has logged time at five of the eight non-pitcher positions on the diamond. The only three positions he hasn’t played are catcher, first base and right field. He might make it six this season. ESPN’s Andrew Marchand reports that manager Joe Girardi has kicked around the idea…
Mar 8, 2014, 10:50 PM EDT
Outfielder B.J. Upton and second baseman Dan Uggla had miserable 2013 campaigns for the Braves, finishing with a .557 and .671 OPS, respectively. Both players finished with batting averages well under the Mendoza Line with 150-plus strikeouts. It was ugly. As the Braves flipped the calendar over to 2014, there was a sense of optimism…
Mar 8, 2014, 9:40 PM EDT
Yesterday, Brewers starter Kyle Lohse criticized the qualifying offer system. Lohse rejected a $13.3 million qualifying offer from the Cardinals after the 2012 season, hoping to get a lucrative deal in free agency. He ended up jobless well into march until the Brewers jumped in and signed him to a three-year, $33 million deal. This…
Mar 8, 2014, 8:30 PM EDT
Many are anxious to see how the new instant replay system will affect the way baseball is played. They may have to wait a week. According to the Associated Press, replay won’t be available when the Dodgers and Diamondbacks open the regular season in Australia. Standard replay, for home run and boundary calls, will be…
Mar 8, 2014, 7:20 PM EDT
The Phillies had the fourth-highest bullpen ERA in baseball last season at 4.19, according to FanGraphs. Don’t tell that to closer Jonathan Papelbon, who thinks the Phillies will have a top-five bullpen in 2014. Via CSN Philly’s Jim Salisbury: “I will be very, very surprised if this is not a much better bullpen this year,”…
Mar 8, 2014, 6:15 PM EDT
Edwin Jackson gave up three runs on four hits in his start against the Indians on Friday, but that wasn’t the shocking part of what happened. Unbeknownst to manager Rick Renteria and pitching coach Chris Bosio, Jackson threw all fastballs in his outing — 50 of them. Via MLB.com’s Carrie Muskat: “I think maybe, as…
Mar 8, 2014, 5:48 PM EDT
Josh Hamilton has been sidelined for the past week and a half after straining his left calf during a baserunning drill, but he’s getting closer to making his spring debut. According to Mike DiGiovanna of the Los Angeles Times, Hamilton is scheduled to take batting practice on the field tomorrow. If all goes well, Angels…
Mar 8, 2014, 5:25 PM EDT
You may recall that the Marlins were reportedly “outraged” at the Red Sox for sending a substandard lineup to Thursday’s Grapefruit League game at Roger Dean Stadium. Red Sox general manager Ben Cherington has since apologized for the incident, but owner John Henry thinks the Marlins should issue an apology of their own: They should…
Mar 8, 2014, 5:10 PM EDT
UPDATE: While recent reports have indicated that Ervin Santana is looking to find a team as soon as possible, FOX Sports’ Jon Morosi reports that the free agent right-hander has not set a deadline and is prepared to wait “days” before signing with a club. The wait continues. 1:15 p.m. ET: More intrigue. Enrique Rojas…
Mar 8, 2014, 4:29 PM EDT
Doug Fister gave the Nationals and their fans a bit of a scare yesterday when he was scratched from a Grapefruit League start due to a sore elbow, but an MRI showed that he’s only dealing with inflammation. Fister told Andrew Simon of MLB.com today that he’s not worried about the situation. “It’s typical inflammation,…
Mar 8, 2014, 3:32 PM EDT
Zack Greinke has already been ruled out as an option to pitch against the Diamondbacks in Australia after straining his right calf last week, but he took an important step in the right direction today. According to J.P. Hoornstra of the Los Angeles News Group, Greinke threw 35 pitches in a simulated game against a…
Mar 8, 2014, 2:29 PM EDT
Shane Victorino gave up switch-hitting down the stretch last season and Red Sox manager John Farrell told Peter Abraham of the Boston Globe today that the veteran outfielder is considering hitting exclusively from the right side of the plate this season. Nothing is official yet, but this would be a positive development for the Red…
Mar 8, 2014, 1:25 PM EDT
What does Josh Donaldson get after finishing fourth in the American League Most Valuable Player balloting last season? The major league minimum salary. According to CBS Sports’ Jon Heyman, the Athletics have renewed Donaldson’s contract at $500,000 for 2014. It’s a modest raise from the $492,500 he made last year, which was just above the…
Mar 8, 2014, 11:57 AM EDT
The Royals gave Wade Davis a chance to win a rotation spot this spring even after he struggled as a starter last season, but Royals manager Ned Yost told Andy McCullough of the Kansas City Star this morning that the 28-year-old right-hander is out of the fifth starter competition and will pitch out of the…
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