Through 46 games it’s clear the 2012 Padres are no better than the 2011 Padres. In fact, they’ve scored 14 less runs over that time period – which is sad considering the 2011 Padres were shut-out nine times in their first 46 games. However, we have seen glimpses of what may come. We’ve seen signs of life. Most people talked about the Padres building for 2013 or 2014. Some – myself included – thought the team could even make a statement this year. That has not happened, but competing within the next couple year is not out of the question.
Forget about the pitching for a moment and let’s focus on the bats. Yes, the very same bats that have somehow managed to score 14 less runs through the first 46 games of this year compared with last. There are reasons to truly believe this club can be competitive in the near-future.
Yonder Alonso is the real deal. He’s hitting over .300, smacking doubles like it’s second nature, and driving in runs. Beyond that’s he’s taking walks. His OBP is an impressive .390. While he may have started the season slow, he’s showing no signs of letting up. He may finally be the answer the Padres have been looking for at first base since trading away Adrian Gonzalez. Alonso’s glove isn’t as good as Gonzalez’s was, and it isn’t as good as many feel Anthony Rizzo‘s is, but he provides solid defense at first. He’s committed five errors this season, but the majority of those were early on when the entire team was simply playing bad defense.
Cameron Maybin is heating up. Some thought the Cameron Maybin extension was back-firing as the young center fielder struggled through the first part of this season. Of late, though, he is hitting more like we expected him to. No one felt that Maybin would be a power hitter, so the lack of home runs should be of little concern. He’s fast, he’s finding himself again defensively after a shaky start, and he’s finally starting to hit. He’s walked 21 times and struck out 38 times, so he will need to alter his approach at the plate to get his OBP where he and the Padres want it, but in the last few games, he’s shown us the Maybin of old. In his last seven days, he’s hitting .300, scored four runs, and drove in four more.
Jesus Guzman‘s 2011 was probably more than we can expect from his consistently, but he is showing us once again why we all got so excited about him last year. Guzman is probably going to settle in as a .270 hitter with the capability of smacking 30 or more doubles a year and hitting upwards of 10 home runs. He will create runs for the Padres, and that’s what this team needs. Right now, Guzman is hitting .258/.333/.358, but he is still sitting above league average for runs created. His wRC+ is 105, 5% above league average.
Alexi Amarista and Everth Cabrera have been a breath of fresh air. After enduring the horrors of a Jason Bartlett and Orlando Hudson middle infield for over a year, these two Latin American speedsters have shown just how good a shortstop and second base combination can be. Cabrera got off to a rough start at the plate, but he has played nice defense. He has made numerous plays that Jason Bartlett would have had no chance at. Amarista has shown a heart and a desire to play the game which has been missing from this team since David Eckstein‘s departure. He plays hard and takes the extra base whenever he can. Neither player is hitting as well as anyone would like them to, but the desire is there and that goes a long way towards winning over a clubhouse, fans, and the front office. Desire also helps ball clubs win when they otherwise shouldn’t. See the 2010 Padres for an example.
Chase Headley and Nick Hundley are the wild cards. We know Hundley will be around for a while thanks to the contract extension he received. The Padres’ plans for Headley are a little more muddy. Hundley has had a tough start to the season. He is hitting just .172. It would be shocking to see that go on for much longer. Hundley is too good and has put in too much work to have his average sitting that low. He may not finish where he has in year’s past, but his numbers will be much better by year’s end. Headley, on the other hand is doing what he normally does. He’s already hit as many home runs as he did all of last season. He’s shown streaks of greatness, but also slumps. He is an All-Star caliber third baseman, and if the Padres hold on to him, Headley will likely reward them for years to come.
The problem with all the positives for each of these players is getting those positives to come out all at one time, synchronized with the rest of the team. When the Padres are hitting on all cylinders, they can be a good team. But they generally don’t come together as one in any given game. Yonder Alonso is usually good for a hit or two, but outside of that it’s a toss up as to who will hit and who won’t.
The future is bright for San Diego, you just have to make it through the darkness to see it. With the up and coming prospects down on the farm, and the star potential playing on the Major league roster, San Diego has a real shot at competing in the very near-future.