Apr 27, 2014; Los Angeles, CA, USA; Los Angeles Dodgers center fielder Matt Kemp (27) drops a fly ball of the bat of Colorado Rockies second baseman Josh Rutledge (14) in the eighth inning at Dodger Stadium. Kemp was charged with an error on the play. Mandatory Credit: Robert Hanashiro-USA TODAY Sports
So we’ve got some bats now. Kemp, Upton, Myers, and catcher Derek Norris will shore up the middle of the order. The Padres should put quite a few more runs on the board this year. But chances are they’ll be giving up a few more runs, too, because now the defense stinks.
All of the new outfielders are below average defensively, based on their range factor. Kemp and Upton are below average at the corner outfield spots they will play this year, and Myers had a below average range factor as a corner outfielder, and now he is being asked to cover center field in spacious Petco Park. With Kemp’s range, it’s astonishing that the Dodgers put him in center field for 41 games last year. His R/F per game in center was 1.85, while the league average was 2.48. That means one extra gapper every two games dropped in for a hit. The Padres’ outfield coverage is going to be bad. Gone are the days when we see Maybin and Venable converging on a ball in right-center. Those balls are going to be triples now.
At catcher, we see additional offensive upgrades in Norris and Tim Federowicz. But projected starter Norris is below average at both pitch framing and throwing out baserunners (22% caught stealing rate). Federowicz also represents a drop-off from last year’s Padres in the ability to steal strikes, but at least he can gun down a few baserunners, with a 37% success rate.
I’m not going to claim to know how good a game these two can call, but last year’s top starters, Andrew Cashner and Tyson Ross, showed a distinct preference to throw to Rene Rivera instead of Yasmani Grandal. And with both of those players gone, there is going to be an adjustment period while the staff begins throwing to two new catchers.
At second base, while Gyorko is improving, he remains below average.
The shortstop combo of Amarista and Barmes is the only position up the middle of the diamond that is above average. The Padres have already taken defensive hits at catcher and center field, and finding a stronger option on offense at shortstop at the expense of defense would potentially make the Padres the worst defensive team in the majors. Defense must remain the priority at shortstop.
Hang on, Padres fans. While we’ll have plenty more to cheer about when the team is hitting, get ready for a few more frustrated screams when the team is in the field.