When the big trades for outfielders Matt Kemp, Justin Upton, and Wil Myers were made back in December, Padres’ fans had the right to be overjoyed and ecstatic that ownership moved the team in the right direction toward a playoff berth . With one of the top five starting rotations in baseball, there is no doubt this team will compete in the NL West and give the city its first playoff birth since the 2007 season.
But I tend to become a realist when it comes to sports and baseball. After the initial excitement, I began to suffer from a little bit of a hangover when I started to see immediate holes that will, no doubt, cause some problems during the course of the season.
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The one thing the Padres had prided themselves in since moving to Petco Park was their ability to manufacture runs through scrappy play and small-ball. Though it was hard to watch at times, the team continually finished with 70+ wins the past three seasons and a near playoff berth in 2010. The team was continually at the top of the league in stolen bases with former shortstop Everth Cabrera leading the league with 44 SB in 2012.
Don’t get me wrong, the trades for Kemp, Upton, and Myers are still going to be one the best in Padres history. It put the team back in the limelight, at least for now, on the MLB Network. The duo of Upton and Kemp are predicted to give the team the power its lacked since Ken Caminiti and Greg Vaughn followed each other in the lineup back in 1998. However, the biggest concern about this Padres lineup is who are they going to be able drive home?
What the post-steroid era of baseball has shown is that the leadoff position and speed have returned to the game. It is no way similar to that of the 1980s with the likes of Rickey Henderson and Vince Coleman, but the importance of the one-and-two hitters has become ever so important for the clean-up hitters in 2015.
With MLB pitchers back to dominating the mound and players like the Marlins Dee Gordon (64 SB) and the Reds Billy Hamilton‘s 56 SB a threat every time on base, speed is essential for every lineup. The Padres had a version in the minors with Mallex Smith, but GM A.J Preller is sacrificing a future top three leadoff man for a slugger who could walk at the end of the season.
Over the last month, I have read many articles and comments speculating what the Padres should do with the leadoff spot with even some suggesting that Myers, Kemp or Cory Spangenberg leadoff. These are off the wall ideas, but they tell a larger story…the Padres are going to suffer enormously at the top of the lineup. Whether Upton and Kemp live up to their success at Petco Park, it’s still Petco and the heavy night air coming of the San Diego Harbor will diminish their home run power so a double in the gap or single to center will be just as important as before.
Cabrera’s pulling off a Ryan Leaf to his career has left a hole at the top the lineup and Yangervis Solarte is not the answer either. I am in no way criticizing Preller, but he should have thought about possibly addressing this issue when he had Seth Smith at his disposal.
At some point before the season starts, Preller needs to really think about making a trade to bring a basestealer or someone who can draw walks because it will be interesting as to whose to blame if Upton and Kemp are failing to live up to the high expectations in April and May.