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Who’s Shagging the Fly Balls: Padres 2014 Outfield Preview


As I mentioned in the first look at the Padres lineup, the goal of Josh Byrnes should be to add 16 wins to last season’s total. This team is no longer rebuilding, the young players are starting to contribute at the major league level, and there’s no point in being satisfied with mediocrity.

Padres fans have waited long enough. By selling out the first game of the season, they’re showing that they’re ready for more, ready for a competitive team that’s in the running. So let’s see if the Padres are there yet.

Once again, I’m using the excellent Organizational Depth Charts from here on Friars on Base. And once again, links are at the bottom.

 

Today, the Outfield:

Left Field: Carlos Quentin

I want to be nice. He’s a hometown player. He’s got roots in San Diego. He seems like a nice guy.

But he shouldn’t be on this team. He’s an American League player. He needs to be on a team with a DH. He can’t survive a full season in Left Field. In fact, even with time at DH, he was never able to play a full season at any point in the majors.

I really like his hitting. He’s a great cleanup hitter, with tons of power, a great batting eye, and the ability to work counts. He makes life harder for pitchers. When he’s in the line up, he makes it easier for everyone hitting around him.

But if the Padres are expecting him to play more than 100 games this year, I think they’re being overly optimistic.

Even worse, because of his inability to stay on the field, the Padres had to trade one of their most valuable pitchers and then sign (and overpay) a similar, much older, set up man.

Center Field: Cameron Maybin

In the 2013 Baseball Prospectus, they compared Maybin to Lloyd Moseby. I think every Padres fan would be ecstatic if he could develop into half the player Moseby was.

Right now, Maybin is still a bunch of potential that is progressing, every season, from a young player who will become something great to an older player that leads fans to wonder “what could have been”. We remember the mammoth homeruns and the blazing speed on the base paths and ignore the fact that those homeruns are so rare that they may be mirages.

There are two things to watch for this year with Maybin. The first is the strikeout rate. He started lowering it in the second half of 2012 and actually kept it down in the few at bats he had last year. If he can keep that trending down, that should help him get on base and contribute more.

The second is whether he’s lost any speed after the injury. If he’s able to use the alleys and gaps in Petco to his advantage, if he’s still able to cover huge amounts of space on defense (and cover for Quentin), if he can turn a single into a double with a stolen base, his value to this team grows exponentially.

This is his age 27 season, and this is the time for Maybin to show off his talent. If this is the year he puts everything together, then Padres fans are in for a real thrill. If not, we could be seeing a lot more of Venable in center than we want to. Speaking of which…

Right Field: Will Venable

Let me just start by begging Bud Black to not let Venable bat second anymore. Ever. He is not a number two hitter. He is also not a leadoff hitter. Venable would be an excellent number five or six hitter in the Padres lineup.

Maybe that’s the problem with the Padres lineup – too many guys are good number 5 or 6 hitters.

I’d like to say that I think last season was a fluke, that Venable is not a 20 home run hitter and that he’s going to come back to earth this year. But I don’t know if that’s true. He changed his approach at the plate last year, becoming less patient and swinging for the fences more often. Now is this going to continue? Probably. But the downside of this is that smart pitchers are going to attack him more – if they know he’s not going to watch anything go by, they’re going to throw him more stuff out of the zone and hope he chases the bad offerings. If he doesn’t adjust, it’s going to be a long season.

The big problem with looking at the Padres outfield is, simply, that they have so many question marks that it’s hard to know what to expect. If everything goes right, Quentin stays healthy, Venable repeats his performance and Maybin puts it together. Then you have one of the better outfields in the NL West. If anything goes wrong, then what? If you’re watching a Padres game in August and the starting outfield is Denorfia, Amarista, and Smith, you know something’s gone horribly wrong.

But let’s be positive. I said that a healthy, improved infield was worth 5 wins. I think a healthy, improved outfield is probably worth 4 more.

 

The Bench: Chris Denorfia, Seth Smith, Alexi Amarista, Rene Rivera (until Grandal is back), Kyle Blanks, Alberto Gonzalez, Ryan Jackson

Wouldn’t you love to see Bud Black with a 7-man bench? At least a few bats there who could pinch hit against either righties or lefties? Some solid defensive replacements to protect late inning leads? Some talent to give players a day off and not lose too much?

Alas, I doubt it would happen, but I can dream.

Even if it’s only a 6-man, or (shudder) 5-man bench, that’s not a bad unit for Black to work with. Smith and Denorfia would make a great two-headed monster in either left or right. Amarista showed last year that he’s got the ability to play multiple positions and not hurt the team too much. Blanks (when healthy) has tremendous power and can take over at a couple of positions. Jackson can play everywhere in the infield (although he can’t hit at all). Rivera is a serviceable backup catcher. Not a bad group, especially in today’s game, where most benches are absolutely shockingly bad.

 

But all in all, this overview really shows the huge problem with the Padres hitters. This is it. What you see is what you get. No prospects are ready to come up. There are no Non-Roster Invitees coming to Spring Training, hoping to catch on with the team and move the needle forward. All of the good hitting prospects are at least a year away. This entire team is banking on all of these players bouncing back from either injuries and suspensions and taking on the Dodgers and the Giants. The plus side is that most of the hitters are entering their prime playing ages, and they should all be candidates for improvement. The negative side is that maybe we’ve seen everyone’s ceilings. And right now, the ifs outweigh the certainties.

 

That’s it for the hitters. Next, we’ll take a look at the pitching staff and you’ll get to read all about how insane the front office is.

But first, links to the Organizational Depth Charts:

Left Field

Center Field

Right Field

Tags: Cameron Maybin Carlos Quentin San Diego Padres Will Venable