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Tuesday, March 5, 2013

MLB 2013 Team Preview: San Diego Padres

Wild on Sports
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MLB 2013 Team Preview: San Diego Padres
By Wild on Sports Baseball Analyst Aaron Dorman

San Diego Padres
2012 Record: 76-86
They battled injuries and their home park still kills offense. But very quietly, the Padres showed the kind of improvements that could make them a dark horse contender this year.

NOTABLE ADDITIONS: none
NOTABLE LOSSES: none

Keys to Success: Who will step up in the rotation? Who will even be in the rotation? Their pitching is in flux as only Clayton Richard promises durability and modest success. Everyone else is either coming back from injury, or trying to prove themselves, or show high possibility of complete collapse. Also on paper, nobody looks like even a mid-rotation starter. As for the offense, how will they resolve a crowded picture in the middle infield? When or where does prospect Jedd Gyorko play for the Padres? Does Yonder Alonso have more power in him? Can Cameron Maybin hit enough to play every day long term? Why did the Padres commit long-term to Carlos Quentin, a one-dimensional slugger whose best asset is hurt by Petco Park? Will he prove them geniuses in the end?

Prospect Watch:
Prospect Key
TBD= Work in Progress
X= Posses the Tool
XX= Excels at Tool

CASEY KELLY, RHP (rookie watch):
Velocity
Second Stuff
Command
Control
Strikeouts
Health

x
x
x
x

Kelly first impressed scouts as a teenager dominating A-ball in 2009, but since then has battled health issues and/or looked ineffective. Last year he missed almost the entire season but he came back strong in August and earned some time with the Padres. In 8 minor league starts he was 0-2 with a 3.35 ERA and a sterling 3/39 BB/K ratio in 37.2 IP. Scouts believe Kelly has the pitches and mound presence to be a solid starter, and if he is healthy, his numbers will be strong even if his fastball does not measure up, as Petco Park is a real pitcher’s haven. His ERA was high in September for the Padres (6.21) but his other key stats, including 26 K in 29 IP, showed that he is ready for the majors.
JEDD GYORKO, 3B/2B (rookie watch):
Power
Speed
Hitting
Plate Discipline
Defense
Arm
x

x
TBD
x

Gyorko has put up incredible numbers in the minors-.319/.385/.529 in three seasons-but he’s not quite that good. His stats are inflated by time in two of the best places to be a minor league hitter: Lake Elsinore (High-A) and Tucson (AAA). Gyorko hit .311/.373/.547 with 30 HR and 100 RBI between AA-AAA and is ready for the majors, but expectations should be moderate. Gyorko, 24, should retain solid power and hitting ability in the majors but he’s going from an extreme hitting environment to an extreme pitching one, and that might depress his numbers somewhat, especially in his rookie season. At his peak he could hit around .280 with 20 HR, which would be special from a second basemen, his probable position if Chase Headley is a Padre long term.
ROBBY ERLIN, LHP:
Velocity
Second Stuff
Command
Control
Strikeouts
Health

x
x
xx
TBD

Another health suspect, Erlin has fooled minor league hitters without great stuff, and he has a below-average fastball. However, three things are in his favor: he is left-handed, he’s only 22, and he’s already shown he can fool hitters in the upper minors. Last year with AA-San Antonio he went 3-1 with a 2.92 ERA in 11 starts, and a strong 14/72 BB/K ratio in 52 IP. Erlin might skip the difficult pitching environment of AAA Tucson and try his luck with the Padres. Elbow troubles could keep him off the mound, but his minor league stats are pretty special: a 2.64 ERA, 1.4 BB/9 and 10.1 K/9 in about 330 innings. Even if he loses some of the strikeouts but maintains the control, he can still be a starting pitcher.

2012 Top Draft Pick: Max Fried, lhp

Sleeper MLB Contributor: if outfielder/infielder/player JAMES DARNELL found playing time he could do exactly what Carlos Quentin does minus about 30 million dollars.

2013 Outlook and Projection:
The Padres have accumulated impressive depth and second-tier talent, some of which showed up in the majors by the end of last year. The Adrian Gonzalez and Mat Latos trades look reasonable in hindsight as the prospects San Diego received have either already contributed or are close to it. Their offense is not without star talent or potential: Chase Headley is underrated as Petco Park masked his amazing breakout. Headley is still well regarded but he hit .300/.395/.541 in away games last year with 18 HR. If he played somewhere else the switch-hitter would be drawing comparisons to Chipper Jones. Yasmani Grandal also looks like a future star at catcher, although he will miss 50 games after failing a drug test. The Padres have done a good job of acquiring players who fit the ballpark, guys who run and get on base, Carlos Quentin notwithstanding. They may have jumped the gun on Anthony Rizzo but Yonder Alonso looks like he can be a solid, if unorthodox, asset at first base. The question marks are all in the rotation, which is currently a mess. San Diego would have benefited from adding a solid starter-hey, Kyle Lohse is still available-but instead they are stuck with a collection of crappy veterans (Jason Marquis), unproven rookies (Casey Kelly), guys returning from injury (Cory Luebke), and inherently volatile pitchers (Edison Volquez). Petco Park can make bad pitchers mediocre and mediocre pitchers good, so perhaps they are counting on that and did not want to overpay anyone. That said, this year could be an ironic season for the Padres, one in which their offense overcomes the cavernous ballpark but the pitchers give it all away.

UNLIKELY CONTENDERS



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