To say that the middle of the Padres’ batting order has been hit by injuries, poor decisions, and bad luck would be a gross understatement. Not only will Chase Headley miss most of, if not all of April with a thumb injury, but Yasmani Grandal will miss the season’s first 50 games due to his PED suspension. If Carlos Quentin’s knee continues to be an issue after his offseason surgery, or even limits him performance-wise, then the Friars could be in some serious trouble early on this season.
Thus, if the Padres are unable to receive any production or any playing time out of their key power hitters, the team will have to rely on others to supply the power numbers and produce runs until these players can return to the lineup. One player who will likely have to step up and supply some power in the absences of Headley and Grandal is first baseman Yonder Alonso.
Although he had some ups and downs last year, Alonso made the most of his first full big league season with the Friars in 2012. Over 155 games, Yonder hit .273, drove in 62 runs, and hit 9 homers. While his home run total was a bit on the low side, the first baseman clubbed a team-high 39 doubles and finished second on the team in hits with 150. This season however, especially with Grandal and Headley sidelined, Alonso must find a way to hit for power and drive in runs.
Alonso has definitely helped the Friars out in the power department during spring training. Granted, his batting average is on the lower side (.213), but of Yonder’s 13 hits, 8 have been for extra-bases, and 5 of them have been home runs. Not only does the former Miami Hurricane lead the team in home runs, he is also tied for second on the club with 11 runs batted in this spring.
Besides another year of big league experience under his belt, alterations to Petco Park’s dimensions could help Alonso boost his power numbers this year as well. As most of you fans already know, the fences in the right-centerfield (especially) and left-centerfield gaps have been moved in closer to the plate at Petco Park. With good gap-to-gap power, Alonso should theoretically be able to turn some of those doubles from last year into home runs, and thus have more chances to drive the ball either off of the wall or over the wall. Despite the fact that the fences have moved in, Alonso still must be able to make enough contact and hit the ball with consistency to give him those chances.
The Padres cannot afford to get off to a sluggish start in the way that the team did last season. The absences of Headley and Grandal could all but sink this team from a run-producing standpoint, and I for one hope that Quentin can find a way to stay in the lineup because this team will need his plate discipline, power, and ability to get on base more than ever. Of course, Alonso will need some help shouldering the “run producing” load early on, and the burden will also fall to others like Jedd Gyorko, Nick Hundley, and Will Venable to plate base-runners until Headley and Grandal can return.
I am interested to see how this team responds to the absences of Grandal and Headley. While division titles cannot be won in April and May, they sure can be lost. If the Friars cannot cope with the losses of their two best hitters, it could be another long season in San Diego.
Stats Courtesy of: Baseball Reference