As I write this on Friday, March 28th, the Padres have two more games before the regular season starts on Sunday night with the Dodgers coming to town. They sit at 10 and 12 in the Cactus League season, although let’s be honest, no one really cares about their record. It’s Spring Training. The scores don’t matter. The way the team is coming together does.
This has been an up-and-down preseason for the Padres. We’ve seen some players hit the ball well and get us excited about next week. We’ve also seen some key players go down with injuries and potentially cost the team wins in the near future.
Let’s start with the positives of this spring training:
Yonder Alonso really smoked the ball in this short season and looks very comfortable hitting. He looks to be completely over his broken hand and seems like he’s ready to take the next step. I wrote in my preseason look at the Padres infield that I didn’t think Alonso would ever hit more than 15 homers (I’ll add here especially while playing in San Diego), but he may be ready to prove me, and a lot of people, wrong. I hope that’s true. Nothing would make me happier than to be proven wrong. I think he’s the real breakout player of the spring and he’s the one I’m most excited about.
Tommy Medica was awarded the Padre of Spring Training (or whatever that silly trophy is called), and he proved a lot with his bat. Unfortunately, he plays a position where there’s almost no way he gets onto the field unless there’s an injury. Can I start suggesting to the Padres that they call the Brewers and see if they can get a young player for Medica? Now is the time to sell, and Medica’s value has never been higher, so why not call the team with the worst collection of first base talent in the majors and see what’s available? They might be able to solve a few problems.
Everth Cabrera looked very good in the spring and showed a very good eye for balls and strikes. The more pitches he sees the better and he’s ready to become of the best leadoff hitters in the game. If he can maintain a high On Base Average and keep getting into scoring position with his legs, the Padres should improve their run total from last year.
Kyle Blanks did the exact same thing, only without even a fraction of the speed. He showed some good pop, saw a lot of pitches, and proved to everyone that he really deserves a shot at regular playing time. It’s really unfortunate that he’s on a National League team, because I think he’d make a perfect DH over in the AL.
On the pitching side, I cannot explain how excited I am to see what Andrew Cashner can do this year. I always try to temper my enthusiasm in preseason, wanting to see what the player is doing on the field, before I go crazy with the predictions. But all reports say that he’s pounding the strike zone, hitting his top-flight velocity, and seems primed for a career year. I honestly think that this is the guy who the Padres should be targeting for an extension. They may be wary of being burned, especially with his injury history, but you have to take some risks. He’s got a chance to be an ace and his upside, right now, is a Cy Young candidate.
And now, the negatives:
What are they doing with the bullpen? I’m not talking about the faces of the pen – Huston Street and Joaquin Benoit are set, almost in stone. It looks like Alex Torres has solved his wildness issues and has been much better as the spring progressed. There were talks about how they needed to change things up, or fill some holes, but the same names are coming back. Tim Stauffer, Nick Vincent, and Dale Thayer were there last year and are back now. That’s not to say they won’t be effective members of the pen. It just means that all that talk of competition may not have been true.
But what I can’t figure out is the decisions concerning Tony Sipp and, more importantly, Patrick Schuster. Forget about the idea of carrying a 7-man bullpen, which I’m not a huge fan of, and instead focus on the construction of a bullpen. Sipp making the team would have been a bit of a surprise, but there is always room for a left-handed arm in the bullpen. Right now, Alex Torres is the only left-hander in the pen, and you would think that they would want another lefty to try to match up against hitters in the late innings. This is especially true when you consider that Robbie Erlin and Eric Stults are the only other lefties on the 40-man roster.
Schuster, being a lefty as well, would have been the logical choice to keep on the active roster. After all, the team lost him when they didn’t add him to the major league roster, and he also cost the team Anthony Bass and cash. It is true that Bass was not in the Padres’ plans, but when all is said and done, they have just given him to Houston, paid them to take him, and then gotten nothing in return. This is a head-scratcher.
Instead, it appears that they’ll be keeping Donn Roach, who is a starting pitcher who’s never pitched above Double A. He`s right handed, didn`t show anything last season, and appears to be on this team solely to pitch when everything else has gone wrong. He just seems to be another Tim Stauffer, only without the strikeouts.
But the worse negative has to be, without a doubt, the injuries. I know this will come as a shock to all Padres fans, but it looks like Carlos Quentin will start the season on the DL. I know, I know, I can`t believe it either. But scouts have said that he`s looked shaky all spring, the numbers in the games he played confirmed that, and it looks like those big holes in the outfield are already getting bigger. With both Quentin and Cameron Maybin starting the season hurt, this already looks like it`s going to be scary. Right now, the outfield could be Seth Smith, Will Venable, and Xavier Nady. One`s out of position, one can`t hit lefties, and one is way past his due date.
In fact, the situation is so bad that the Padres have signed Jeff Francoeur to a minor league contract. When I wrote a column about adding an outfielder, I never expected things to get this bad. I think the best way to explain how bad Francoeur is now is to remember that he was cut by the Royals last season even though they were in desperate need of a right fielder and they were paying him $7.5 million dollars. That`s right – even though they had no one else, and were paying him a huge sum of money, they chose to cut him rather than let him play anymore. If he`s starting in right field next week, it`s a bad sign for the beginning of the season.