No team had a bigger makeover last offseason than the San Diego Padres, who had become the Minnesota Twins of the National League: i.e. irrelevant and faceless.
New General Manager A.J. Preller thus went nuts once ownership agreed to raise payroll to what would prove to be a franchise high total. The Padres figured to at worst be interesting with some big bats like Justin Upton, Matt Kemp, Derek Norris and Wil Myers, all trade acquisitions of Preller's. One problem: Preller pretty much overlooked how bad defensively that outfield was going to be. And he didn't do anything to upgrade one of the majors' worst infields.
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San Diego had a wins total of 84.5 last spring and was the second-favorite to win the NL West behind the Dodgers. I recommended under and said the Padres would only return to the playoffs if Kemp played at least 150 games and at an MVP level as he had a couple of years ago.
The Padres flopped big-time, finishing 74-88 -- three fewer wins than 2014 -- and fourth in the NL West. Manager Bud Black was fired in mid-June. Not sure how he even lasted as long as he did in San Diego considering the Padres never reached the playoffs during Black's tenure after he took over when Bruce Bochy departed to manage the Giants in 2007.
The Padres were 42-54 under interim coach Pat Murphy, and he was fired the day after the season ended. This offseason, Preller hired Diamondbacks third-base coach Andy Green to replace Black. Green was 219-189 in four earlier seasons as a manager in Arizona's farm system. I'd say Preller's job security is definitely tenuous entering this season because he so thoroughly gutted the farm system last offseason in all those trades.
San Diego opens the season Monday at home vs. the Dodgers.
Padres 2016 Projected Lineup
San Diego was never going to keep Upton and was more than happy to take the compensatory draft pick when he signed with Detroit. Upton wasn't bad last year, hitting .251 with 26 homers and 81 RBIs, but it was a down year overall for him. Another regular, first baseman Yonder Alonso, was traded to Oakland for pitcher Drew Pomeranz and a pitching prospect. Alonso hit a team-best .282 but was limited to 103 games due to injury. Also gone: second baseman Jedd Gyorko (.247, 16 HRs, 57 RBIs), shortstop Clint Barmes and third baseman Will Middlebrooks.
The new leadoff hitter should be center fielder Jon Jay, who came over from St. Louis in the Gyorko trade. Jay was limited to 79 games last year and hit just .210 with one homer. He's not a bad player but should be a fourth outfielder ideally. Third baseman Yangervis Solarte (.270, 14 HRs, 63 RBIs) will hit second.
Then comes Kemp (.265, 23 HRs, 100 RBIs) in right field. His numbers weren't too bad last year, and he actually hit well other than in May and June. He also played in 154 games, so that was a positive. But his ceiling at this point is probably what he did in 2015.
Not long ago, Myers (.253, 8 HRs, 29 RBIs) was perhaps the top hitting prospect in baseball and the AL Rookie of the Year. But he can't stay healthy. Perhaps playing first base instead of the outfield will help Myers. The team's "big" free-agent acquisition was former White Sox shortstop Alexei Ramirez (.249, 10 HRs, 62 RBIs). He can only be an improvement on what the Padres got from that position offensively last year.
The catcher Norris (.250, 14 HRs, 62 RBIs), left fielder Melvin Upton (.259, 5 HRs, 17 RBIs) and second baseman Cory Spangenberg (.271, 4 HRs, 21 RBIs) round out the lineup. Spangenberg is having a good spring and could move up to second in the lineup.
On paper, this looks like one of the worst offensive teams in baseball. The Padres were 23rd in runs last year, and this group looks weaker.
Padres 2016 Projected Rotation & Closer
This was supposed to be one of the best overall staffs in baseball in 2015 with the addition of James Shields, but the Padres finished just 20th in team ERA despite playing 81 home games in pitcher-friendly Petco Park. Shields (13-7, 3.91) was just OK, walking 81 (second in NL) and allowing 33 dingers. The Padres would love to trade him, but he's owed $65 million combined over the next three seasons. You have heard some rumors of Shields to Boston for overpriced third baseman Pablo Sandoval.
Speaking of trades, don't be surprised if Tyson Ross is shipped out at some point this season. Ross (10-12, 3.26) has a lot of value around MLB because he's on a very good contract through 2017. The Padres aren't going anywhere by then, so I expect him to be gone for young hitting by the July 31 deadline. Cubs are often mentioned. Andrew Cashner (6-16, 4.34) is another guy who could be moved.
The rest of the rotation should be some mix of Colin Rea, Pomeranz, Robbie Erlin and Dan Straily, who was just acquired this week from Houston. San Diego lost starters Ian Kennedy (free agency) and Odrisamer Despaigne (minor trade).
Preller did somewhat help his farm system this offseason by landing four prospects from Boston for closer Craig Kimbrel, another guy Preller sold the farm for last year. Kimbrel did his job with a 2.58 ERA and 39 saves. But no point paying top dollar for a closer when you aren't likely winning much. Past-his-prime Fernando Rodney, 39, likely will close to start things off. He had 16 saves and 4.74 ERA last year with the Mariners and Cubs. Kevin Quackenbush could take that job sooner or later if he's not also traded.
Padres Futures Odds
At BetOnline , San Diego is +12500 to win the World Series, +8000 for the NL pennant, +2800 in the NL West and has an "over/under" wins total of 73.5, with the under a -140 favorite. Ross is +5000 to win the Cy Young and Shields is +6600. Ross has a wins total of 10.5 and Shields 11.5. No hitting props listed for the Padres. Tells you all about their lineup.
Padres 2016 Predictions
FanGraphs projects San Diego to finish 74-88 and tied for last in the NL West, 18 games behind the Dodgers. I suppose if everything broke right and Shields, Ross and Cashner stayed on the roster all season, then this team could finish .500. Doubtful. I will go over those wins solely because it's such a small total. Go over both win totals too on Ross and Shields because they might be pitching the second half of the season on contenders.
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