2015 San Diego Padres Predictions and Odds to Win the World Series
by Alan Matthews - 3/24/2015
I was a fan of the Padres when Tony Gwynn was on the team because Gwynn was such an amazing hitter and nice guy whom I was able to meet once. But since Gwynn retired, I'd argue that the Padres have been the most bland franchise in baseball. Seriously, name me a star on that franchise since (Ken Caminiti? Come on!). Name me five players off last year's club that finished 77-85. It was San Diego's fourth straight losing season and eighth in a row missing the playoffs.
The Padres will not be boring in 2015; new general manager A.J. Preller has made sure of that. Will they be good? That I'm not sure of yet.
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Preller, hired last August after spending the previous 10 years as a scouting and player development executive with the Texas Rangers, went crazy making moves this offseason as ownership finally loosened the purse strings. Most "experts" agree that San Diego won the offseason. No team will look more different from 2014 on the field, meaning the pressure is squarely on Manager Bud Black to contend in the NL West and/or for a wild-card spot. He's on any short list of first manager to be fired (I'd list he and the Mets' Terry Collins as the two favorites in the National League).
San Diego opens the season April 6 at the NL West-favored L.A. Dodgers.
Padres 2015 Projected Lineup
Where to begin!? There could be new starters at every position but first base, second base and shortstop. For sure the entire outfield is new -- those three guys might rake, but it's going to be a terrible defensive group. The main lineup losses were outfielder Seth Smith, shortstop Everth Cabrera and catcher Yasmani Grandal. So really not much. Mostly Preller dealt prospects this offseason. The GM also went after guys like San Francisco third baseman Pablo Sandoval and Cuban import Yasmany Tomas but lost out on both.
The leadoff hitter is projected be new center fielder Wil Myers, who isn't your typical leadoff hitter and probably can't really play center field. San Diego got Myers, the 2013 AL Rookie of the Year, from the Rays in a three-way deal that also included Washington. The Padres probably got Myers at a decent price because after a very good first season he regressed in 2014. Myers was limited to 87 games because of a fractured right wrist and hit only .222 with six homers in 325 at-bats. Myers is likely to be followed by the team's third baseman, whether it's Will Middlebrooks or Yangervis Solarte. Middlebrooks was acquired in trade from Boston while Solarte hit .267 with four homers and 17 RBIs in 217 at-bats with San Diego. That battle continues -- the team's depth chart lists Solarte on top right now for what that's worth. It's possible Solarte could lead off if he wins the job. Middlebrooks has more upside.
The biggest name Preller acquired by trade was former Dodgers outfielder Matt Kemp, who bats third and will play right field. He hit .287 with 25 homers and 89 RBIs in 2014 and was one of the best hitters in the NL after the All-Star Break. It's all about health for Kemp, which is why the Dodgers had to include more than $30 million in cash in the deal to cover part of his mammoth contract. He will be followed by left fielder Justin Upton, who hit 29 homers and knocked in 102 last year with the Braves. Upton will be a free agent after this season, and that's why the Braves were OK dealing their best player for prospects.
Batting fifth is another new guy, former A's All-Star catcher Derek Norris (.270, 10 HRs, 55 RBIs). So 1-5 that's a potentially good lineup. The bottom three, not so good. Second baseman Jedd Gyorko (.210, 10 HRs, 51 RBIs) bats sixth. He was great as a rookie but as you can see struggled last year and was injury-prone. He's a returning guy, as is first baseman Yonder Alonso (.240, seven HRs, 27 RBIs), who bats seventh, and shortstop Alexi Amarista (.239, five homers, 40 RBIs) at No. 8.
The Padres were the worst offensive team in the majors by far in 2014, ranking last in runs (535), batting average (.226), on-base percentage (.292) and slugging (.342), among other categories. That won't happen again, but I'm not definitely sold on the No. 6-8 guys. I could see Upton flipped at the trade deadline if the Padres are struggling.
Padres 2015 Projected Rotation & Closer
Preller didn't have to do much with the pitching staff because that was a strength in 2014, ranking fourth in ERA (3.27), seventh in opponents' average (.241) and ninth in quality starts (91). The bullpen has always been good under Black, and all the pitchers are helped by playing 81 games a year in cavernous Petco Park.
However, when free-agent starter James Shields, a San Diego native, lingered on the market in late February and was willing to take a hometown discount, Preller jumped. It's a very reasonable four-year, $75 million deal for the guy who was the third-best starting pitcher available. Shields was 14-8 with a 3.21 ERA and just 44 walks in 227 innings last year with Kansas City. The durable right-hander leads the majors in innings pitched since 2007. I think that's a solid signing even if Shields is a tad overrated (he was not good in the playoffs).
Shields will be followed by a guy with the nastiest stuff on the staff, Andrew Cashner (5-7, 2.55), whom the team would like to lock up long term. Cashner comes with some injury worries. The rest of the group should be Tyson Ross (13-14, 2.81), Ian Kennedy (13-13, 3.63) and either Brandon Morrow (1-3, 5.67) or Odrisamer Despaigne (4-7, 3.36). It's a good problem to have six guys for five spots, and you have heard rumors Preller might trade one of his starters for more offense.
The closer is Joaquin Benoit (11 saves, 1.49 ERA). For some reason, you never have to worry about the Padres bullpen.
Padres Futures Odds & 2014 Trends
At Bovada , San Diego is +1800 to win the World Series, +700 to take the pennant, +350 second favorite for the NL West and has an "over/under" wins total of 84.5 (both -115). Kemp is +6600 to lead the majors in homers and Upton is +10000. Kemp is +2000 for NL MVP and has a home run total of 20.5 (Sportsbook.ag). Upton's is 22.5. Shields is +5000 to win the Cy Young. No wins total yet for Shields, but Cashner is at 10.5. The Padres were 75-87 against the spread last season and 61-95-6 O/U. On the moneyline, they were -905 units for the year.
Padres 2015 Predictions
FanGraphs projects San Diego to finish second in the NFC West with a record of 83-79. I agree with the placement as the Giants look worse and the Rockies and Diamondbacks are not threats. The rotation looks solid, the bullpen should be good. Those top five guys in the lineup should vastly improve the lineup (if Kemp stays healthy). However, the infield might be the worst in the majors offensively and the outfield the worst defensively. I'm leaning slightly under that wins total. I could see Kemp as NL MVP if he plays in 150 games and this team finally gets back to the playoffs, but I wouldn't bet on it. Under on Cashner wins.
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