2008 San Diego Padres Team Preview

The San Diego Padres always seem to find themselves in the thick of the NL West race. That could change this year, as they do not have the depth of their division rivals.


The San Diego Padres were probably the most consistent of the NL West contenders last year. They didn't suffer the D-Back roller coaster, didn't enjoy the Rockies' meteoric rise, or the Dodgers' long fall. Nope, their collapse was short and sweet, with two out of their last three games being lost due to blown saves by one of the all-time great closers.

2007 Standings - NL West W L PCT GB HOME ROAD RS RA Pyth W Pyth L
Arizona Diamondbacks 90 72 0.556 - 50-31 40-41 712 732 79 83
Colorado Rockies 90 73 0.552 0.5 51-31 39-42 860 758 90 72
San Diego Padres 89 74 0.546 1.5 47-34 42-40 741 666 89 73
Los Angeles Dodgers 82 80 0.506 8.0 43-38 39-42 735 727 82 80
San Francisco Giants 71 91 0.438 19.0 39-42 32-49 683 720 77 85


One wonders how the Padres will recover. They lost their hired gun at the end of last season (Milton Bradley), and are depending heavily on old and injured pitchers - who were no doubt attracted to the Padres due to their spacious home field - to pitch them into the postseason. They have some excellent talent as some positions, but overall, this team risks being outclassed in the NL West.
Key Transactions
Acquired Pos.
Jim Edmonds CF
Mark Prior RHP
Randy Wolf LHP
Tadahito Iguchi 2b
Wilfredo Ledezma RHP
Glendon Rusch RHP
a
Departed Pos.
Milton Bradley OF
Scott Linebrink RHP
Doug Brocail RHP

Catcher
2007 Starters Josh Bard, Michael Barrett, Rob Bowen
Projected 2008 Starters Josh Bard, Michael Barrett

During his three full seasons with the Cubs, Michael Barrett was one of the top 5 or so catchers in the game. His defense peaked at average, and his OPS never fell below .820, once even powering past .880. Josh Bard could have a similar three-year span for the Padres. He has shown a good eye at the plate and a little power potential. Barrett still seems like part of the plan for the Pads, but my gut tells me that, like another Cub peak performer, Barrett will go the way of Jamie Navarro and fade, fade, fade....

First Base
2007 Starter Adrian Gonzalez
Projected 2008 Starter Adrian Gonzalez

This kid turns 26 in May, and he put up some really impressive numbers in a tough hitter's park last year. There are plenty of mashers at first base throughout the league, but this guy is still a future All-Star and will probably have one or two seasons where he is one of the top hitters in the game. It couldn't come soon enough for the Padres, and it probably won't come next year, but few teams are as set for the future at first base as the Padres are.

Second Base
2007 Starter Marcus Giles
Projected 2008 Starter Tadahito Iguchi

Giles the Lesser really stunk it up in San Diego last year. Tad Iguchi has been a known quantity over the last three years: .770-ish OPS and overrated defense at second. The caveat here is that Giles used to be a similar, though somewhat more valuable commodity. It's hard to believe that Iguchi could have a worse season that Giles did last year, but he won't inspire any goose bumps.


Adrian Gonzalez
Third Base
2007 Starter Kevin Kouzmanoff
Projected 2008 Starter; Kevin Kouzmanoff

Five years ago, a third baseman coming into the league with Kouzmanoff's numbers would have ellicited lots of buzz and excitment. But with so many excellent hitting young third basemen on their way or already arrived in MLB, Kouz gets lost in the shuffle. Playing in Sand Diego will continue to depress his counting numbers, but he should be a valuable producer for this squad.

Shortstop
2007 Starter Khalil Greene
Projected 2008 Starter Khalil Greene
Surprise Candidate
Heath Bell
Supreme middle reliever came out of nowhere to dazzle last year, and will get save opportunities should Hoffman get injured or start pitching like he's 40.
Disappointment Candidate
Tad Iguchi
Okay, it's not -that- hard to believe that he has a worse season than Marcus Giles did.

hile the Padres refused to introduce him before games as "Pedro Feliz who plays shortstop," Greene boasts plus power at the position with poor plate discipline and a sub-.300 OPS. He has a fine glove, and as long as he hits sixth or lower, the Padres should be fine with what he gives them.

Outfield
2007 Starters Brian Giles, Mike Cameron, Terrmel Sledge, Jose Cruz, Milton Bradley
Projected 2008 Starters Brian Giles, Jim Edmonds, Paul McAnulty, Scott Hairston

Brian Giles has been one of the hardest-nosed, most unheralded players in the game over the last decade. Now at age 37, he is merely better-than-average. In limited action, Sledge was a disaster, Bradley was all-world until Bud Black injured him in September, and Cameron parlayed a mediocre season into big money in a desperate free agent market. And so the Padres are left with career AAA hitters Hairston and McAnulty, whose minor league stats make him look like a poor man's Lyle Overbay. Hairston has sexier AAA numbers, and if he panned out, it would be a nice coup scored against division rival Arizona, whom they acquired him from. Sexy numbers in the PCL, however, do not a career make.

Bench
2007 Crew Geoff Blum, Russell Branyan, Morgan Ensberg
Projected 2008 Bench Tony Clark, Callix Crabbe, Chase Headley, Geoff Blum, Jody Gerut,

Padres Fun Fact
While Tony Gwynn is the Padres' clear career BA leader with a .338 mark, his .388 OBP falls short of the .403 mark compiled by BBE HOFer Gene Tenace in four seasons with the Padres, 1977-1980.
The Padres' philosophy definitely leaves no room for them to pay good money for bench players. As usual for this franchise, it's composed of bargain basement ragamuffins who are fine in spots but inspire chills at the thought of them playing everyday. Callix Crabbe has a fun name, but not much of an upside as a major leaguer. Chase Headley, Geoff Blum, Jody Gerut will never be mistaken for everyday players. Off-season hire Tony Clark, however, is a veteran with a productive switch-hitting bat, and the Padres would be well advised to squeeze in at-bats for him wherever possible.

Starting Pitchers
2007 Starters Jake Peavy, Chris Young, Greg Maddux, David Wells, Justin Germano, Clay Hensley
Projected 2008 Starters Jake Peavy, Chris Young, Greg Maddux, Randy Wolf, Justin Germano, Mark Prior


Jake Peavy
Jake Peavy is young, dominant Cy Young contender, in his prime, a strikeout pitcher......you get the idea. Chris Young is almost magical in his ability to miss bats, although the ball tends to fly rather well when contact is made, Petco Park is ideally suited to his skills. He likes to work the upper half of the zone, however, and couple this with decreased velocity in the spring, and there is cause for concern. Maddux is also greatly aided by Petco park, but there is no denying that pitching there has extended the usefulness of his career. Mark Prior and Randy Wolf are the lastest veteran/injured pitchers to find Petco like moths to a flame. Frankly, to compete in the loaded NL West, the Padres can't afford for bad-case scenarios from any of these guys.

Relief Pitchers
2007 Relievers Trevor Hoffman, Heath Bell, Cla Meredith, Doug Brocail, Scott Linebrink
Projected 2008 Relievers Trevor Hoffman, Heath Bell, Cla Meredith, Joe Thatcher, Wilfredo Ledezma, Glendon Rusch

Egads. Pitcher's park or not, the top three in this bullpen are as good as you'll find in the game. Linebrink was a big part of that success for three years, but the Padres stole Bell from the Mets last year and Meredith from the BoSox a year before to re-stock the pipeline that is their bullpen. Hoffman is 40 years old this year, but has a lot to prove after two of the most well publicized blown saves in recent years. Even if Hoffman should falter, there still appears to be great depth and lots of options here.

Outlook for the Season

The Padres have spent the last few seasons as a very competitive team that spends like a middle-market penny pincher. After a nice little run, that precarious balance seems ready to pop. They have too many youngsters 26 and under, some of whom are marginal ML talents. They have too many pitchers over 40 or with bios full of red crosses. This Padres team is a good bet to finish below .500 for the first time since 2003. Not too far below, but this team doesn't seem to be a legit contender for 2008.


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