Christopher Hanewinckel-USA TODAY Sports
In a perfect world, fans would know who is starting every important position for their team. They would be safe buying a uniform and wearing it to the park, knowing that their player will sit himself in his position, come to bat at least three times, and give it his all. The 2014 Padres will not be that team – and may end up better for it.
Though injuries obviously play a part in all of this, the Padres outfield is a muddle bunch that just may be a situation where the sum of all parts is stronger than the individual pieces.
Take our friend Chris Denorfia. Known as hard nosed and gritty, he is a solid if not spectacular outfielder. Last year he ended up hitting .279 with 10HR. Not bad either. Yet, after his memorable game-winning HR against Aroldis Chapman on July 29th he only hit one more home run all season. On May 21st, his average got to .314, and never got over .300 again after June 4th. He had the most PA appearances of his career in 2013, 513, where his previous high had been 382 in 2012 and still hit 9 home runs as well. This friends is why the Seth Smith trade was a good idea! The key is the complement.
Josh Byrnes knows that Quentin will break down and that Denorfia alone is not the ideal solution. Now, already with the Cameron Maybin injury, the Bud Black mixology experiment will continue. Kyle Blanks is still in the mix and showed great power. Will 2014 be his Will Venable “Hey, I have all the skills and will FINALLY start putting it together” year or do we finally give up on him? Amarista is also a nice flex option to fill in some gaps, and obviously can play some great defense like this catch last year. Old Xavier Nady is trying to latch on as well. Does he have anything left?
So while we would love to have been able to say “Quentin in left, Maybin in center, Venable in right” maybe “Quentin/Denorfia/Smith in left, Maybin/Venable/Amarista in center, Venable/Blanks/Smith in right” will produce more of a winner? The Tampa Bay Rays have been modeling this for years, and the Padres were doing a great job of this last year until the injury bug hit, as they were within 2 games of the division lead as late as June 24th last year. That whole 2-14 stretch directly after hurt though.
The infield looks super stable compared to the outfield, with Chase Headley locking down third base as soon as he is healthy, Everth Cabrera at SS stealing bases, Jedd Gyorko holding down second and Alonzo at first. Still, look for a hot Tommy Medica to steal a few starts at first if he makes the big league club. Starting Catcher is Yasmani Grandal‘s spot to lose – but Nick Hundley will be sitting around stealing some starts while we wait to see which Grandal is real,with or without performance enhancers. Perhaps we’ll see highly rated prospect Austin Hedges make an appearance later as well.
Can the Padres mix and match their way to a pennant? We’ve seen that some players on the Padres aren’t made for the long haul, but in theory this year the Padres have the complementary players to pull each other through the ups and downs of a 162 game season. In less than a month, we start to find out.