Have the Padres Built a Contender This Offseason?
San Diego Padres 2015
Signing Shields legitimizes their rotation
The James Shields signing may not make him the ace of the Padres rotation, but it definitely adds the depth necessary for the Padres to compete at a high level in 2015. The Padres huge offseason has acquired them depth in plenty of positions with the premier talent on their roster in position to win the starting jobs in the outfield. Their lineup should stack up to provide an interesting combination of speed and power throughout, but some of the injury prone players that they have acquired, may be better suited to one dimensional roles. With Yonder Alonso continuing to hold down the starting first base job for the Padres, it was necessary for them to build a powerful lineup around him. With multiple ground ball pitchers on the Padres starting staff, the defensive focus for San Diego has been on the infield this offseason. Outfield depth and athleticism should allow them to put a solid defense in the spacious outfield of Petco Park. The depth at various positions should also allow the Padres to field a strong bench and bullpen to put the finishing touches on their playoff hopeful roster. A further look at how their pitching staff and offense stacks up, will show whether or not the Padres have done enough to end the baseball playoff drought in San Diego.
As the most accomplished starter under contract for the Padres this coming season, James Shields becomes a likely candidate to pitch opening day. The top three starting pitchers from last year's Padres team have all earned top of the rotation status with their recent performances, so the San Diego rotation figures to provide the team with plenty of quality innings this season. It should stack up like this:
1. James Shields
2. Ian Kennedy
3. Andrew Cashner
4. Tyson Ross
5. Odrisamer Despaigne
Despaigne had a fantastic showing in 96 innings of work for the Padres last season, and with the Shields signing he gets pushed to the fifth starter's role for 2015. The Padres have a group of injury prone starters as their current rotation depth. Headlining this group of Josh Johnson coming off his second career Tommy John surgery. Following him is Brandon Morrow, Corey Luebke and Casey Kelly. All of which have had their fair share of injuries to deal with recently. Fortunately for the Padres, they have five healthy starters now under contract, which gives them the option to send Robby Erlin to triple-A as further rotation depth.
With a new group of hitters added to the Padres roster this offseason, there is going to be a very different lineup configuration for this season. With most of their regulars being players that do not need a platoon, they will largely use a set lineup on a day to day basis, even with the quality of their bench. The Padres will turn to one of the players on their roster last year in the leadoff spot on opening day, with their newly acquired power hitting talent filling out the rest of the lineup.
1. Alexi Amarista, SS
2. Wil Myers, CF
3. Justin Upton, LF
4. Matt Kemp, RF
5. Derek Norris, C
6. Will Middlebrooks, 3B
7. Jedd Gyorko, 2B
8. Yonder Alonso 1B
9. James Shields, P
This is the lineup that the Padres will likely open the season with, as each player has previous experience batting in those lineup slots. Yonder Alonso's lack of power shown so far in his career, will have him rounding out a very solid lineup to start the season. After the San Diego lineup was so far below the league average last season, they should be able to get to the league average and move past it with the talent they now have in place. So far both their starting lineup and starting pitching rotation stack up pretty well compared to other contenders in the National League.
Kemp adds much needed power to the Padres lineup
The Padres typically put together a strong bullpen for each season, and this season should be no different with Joaquin Benoit still in the closer's role. The rest of the Padres bullpen stacks up nicely and is as follows.
1. Joaquin Benoit, RHP
2. Kevin Quackenbush, RHP
3. Dale Thayer, RHP
4. Shawn Kelley, RHP
5. Alex Torres, LHP
6. Nick Vincent, RHP
7. Brandon Maurer, RHP
This bullpen features strength in the area of right handed setup options, but with only one left handed pitcher in the bullpen, Bud Black will have to be selective with when he is used. Nick Vincent and Brandon Maurer both can handle long relief duties, with Vincent having some experience pitching the seventh inning last season. Overall this is a very strong bullpen, despite their limitations in matching up with left handed pitchers pitching to left handed batters.
As of right now, the Padres have plenty of depth options to choose from in this area as they look to construct their bench. Carlos Quentin is likely to get moved in a trade before opening day, but the Padres have plenty of players on their roster that fit very well into a bench role. With all right handed batters in the starting outfield positions, Will Venable who has the flexibility to play centerfield, is the Padres top left handed outfield option off the bench. Cameron Maybin is another player that like Quentin, could be moved before opening day. The Padres bench stacks up nicely and is as follows.
1. Will Venable, OF
2. Tommy Medica, 1B/OF
3. Yangervis Solarte, UTL
4. Clint Barmes, UTL
5. Tim Federowicz, C
With all of these players being good defenders, as well as being adept at pinch hitting, they fit very well into their bench roles. Two or three of these players could see plenty of success if pushed into the starting lineup for the Padres on a regular basis. This bench matches up well with what most contenders in the National League will have this season, as it features a group of players that are equal to or better than most groups of bench players on National League teams.
Have the Padres built a contender this offseason?
The Padres starting rotation, starting lineup, bullpen and bench should all rank among the best in the National League this season. With plenty of new pieces being put in place, the Padres will have to come together as a team in order to meet their potential. With multiple strong options at so many different positions, the Padres should be in position to put the best combination of offense and defense on the field. Health will be the key for the Padres to come together as a team, and when their offense slumps they should be able to lean on their pitching staff for wins. After a big offseason, the Padres appear well positioned to compete in 2015, but they need things to work out for 2015, because without a sustained spike in attendance they may not have the revenue to keep all the necessary pieces in place. The Padres success this season will determine whether or not they have built a sustainable contender in the National League moving forward.