The San Diego Padres will have to prove everyone wrong again this season. The team traded away Adrian Gonzalez and everyone that is not from San Diego believes that the move will be take too much away from the team.
Adrian is one of the best players and the league and his lost will be felt, but the Padres made some moves this season to create a more balanced team.
The defense up the middle will be solid with the additions of the O-Dog Orlando Hudson, Jason Bartlett, and Cameron Maybin. Orlando Hudson has more speed and a better bat than David Eckstein and will move into the 3rd spot in the lineup. Jason Bartlett can play a solid shortstop and should provide a good approach at the plate as the number 2 hitter. Cameron Maybin has some good potential and will be used at the end of the lineup until he can prove that potential.
The middle of the lineup will be held down with Ryan Ludwick and a combination of Brad Hawpe and Jorge Cantu. Ludwick will get a chance to contribute for the whole season and hopefully will be more comfortable at the plate. Brad Hawpe and Jorge Cantu will be good RBI guys in the middle of the lineup.
Chase Headley provides good defense at the corner, but I am sure that he will miss A-Gon over at first base to pickup any poorly thrown balls. Headley looks like he has improved against lefty pitchers this spring and that should help his numbers for the season. If he starts to suffer against the lefties, Jorge Cantu can be used at third.
Will Venable will get a chance to bat lead-off and use his speed at the top of the order. He has the speed to move around the bases and score a bunch of runs. He also has some pop in the bat, but his main focus should be to get on base and allow the others to move him around and score.
The team will need to stay healthy! The bench is not that strong with Rob Johnson and Alberto Gonzales in backup roles. Jorge Cantu and Chris Denorfia can provide good at bats if called upon. Cedric Hunter is young and will likely be sent back down as soon as Eric Patterson is ready.
The Pitching Staff
This is supposed to be the strength of the team, but their performances in the spring have been very shaky. PETCO Park should heal some of those pitching woes and give them some confidence. We will need Mat Latos to heal up quickly from that shoulder soreness and pitching like the young ace pitcher that we know.
Clayton Richard and Tim Stauffer should be solid starters. They just go out on the mound and get their jobs done. Stauffer gets the opening day start and will need to set the tone for the rest of the pitching staff.
Aaron Harang is back in his hometown and hopefully the home cooking gets him going. He gets to pitch the home opener and he has the most experience on the staff. He will be counted on to eat up innings and save the bullpen.
The bullpen looks to be one of the best in the league again. Heath Bell always has confidence and is one of the best closers in the league. Mike Adams and Luke Gregerson will be shutting down the 7th and 8th innings.
The middle relief now has Pat Neshek, Chad Qualls, and Ernesto Freiri. Neshek and Qualls are veteran relievers and both have had success in previous seasons and it looks like they can bring back that success with the Padres. Freiri has electric stuff and was used in the setup role a little last season.
As long as Darren Balsley is in control of the staff and they pitch half their games in PETCO Park, then we should have confidence in what these pitchers can do for us.
We are a team that is built for our ballpark and the number in the spring will not translate for PETCO Park. We will be aggressive on the bases and be involved in a lot of close games. Our bullpen will be the factor in winning all those close match-ups.
Our team can be better than last season, but health will play a huge factor in what we do. Mat Latos is already starting the season out on the disabled list and we cannot afford to lose many key players for significant time.
This should be a fun season watching great defense and pitching. We will compete and we will be in the race again at the end of the season. We have some unfinished business to take care of.