If you haven’t noticed, in which case you probably wouldn’t be reading this article, the Padres open the 2013 season tomorrow against the Mets at Citi Field. As the final post before the start of the season, I thought I would give my take on four predictions that I think could potentially happen this season if the stars align and the right pieces fall into place. These are bold predictions, and are more likely not to happen than happen, so take them with a grain of salt and feel free to let me know what you think.
#1. Cameron Maybin will hit .280 with 20 HR and 20+ SB.
All we have been hearing about since Maybin came over from the Marlins in 2010 is the potential he has. An elite athlete with a rare combination of speed, power, and defense. We’ve seen short spurts of what Maybin has to offer, especially with him roaming Petco’s center field, but now it’s time for him to put it together at the plate. It’s even more imperative that he gets off to a good start to the year with Headley sidelined. Maybin, who will be 26 in three days, is a key piece to the Padres being able to content in the tough NL West, and I think he has the ability to break out and finally live up to his 2005 1st round draft status.
#2. Jedd Gyorko will start more games at 3B than 2B.
I love Gyorko. I think he can be a Dan Uggla type guy with a few less home runs and a higher batting average. He has done a magnificent job this spring learning how to play 2B and has earned himself a spot on the opening day roster. However, he is a third-baseman, and the Padres know that. It’s pretty much assumed at this point that the Padres will be trading 3B Chase Headley some time this summer or next, unless the organization shockingly and unexpectedly signs him to a long-term deal. When Headley does get traded, Gyorko will move back over to his natural position. I’m guessing it happens sooner than later.
#3. Luke Gregerson will close more games than Houston Street, but more than half of them will come with another team.
I have yet to see Padres closer Houston Street be a reliable 9th inning option to close out a ball game, both because of health and performance. Some guys are just injury-prone; I think Street is one of those guys. I’ll be pleasantly surprised if he stays off the DL this season, but I’ve come to expect it. With Street out in 2012, Luke Gregerson stepped in nicely to the closers role. Playoff-contending teams are always looking for late-inning help come trade deadline, and I am banking on one of those teams calling the Padres for Gregerson’s services at some point this summer.
#4. Yonder Alonso will hit .300, 20 HR, 100 RBI and make the All-Star team.
As a rookie in 2012, Alonso only hit 9 home runs, but I think of all the Padres, Alonso will be most positively effected with the new, shorter fences at Petco. He now has a full season under his belt and he is coming into his prime, as he turns 26 in a week. He hit 39 doubles last year, breaking the Padres rookie record of 33 held by Benito Santiago. I also think he has something to prove, as he was essentially shipped out of Cincinnati because of Joey Votto. I have a hunch it’s this year that he becomes a household name around the league.