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Where do the Recent Moves put the Padres in National League West for 2015?
Adding middle of the order hitters
With the offensive struggles for the Padres being well documented, there was a need for the Padres to bring in legitimate hitters this offseason. Last season the Padres offense hit rock bottom when they were on pace for MLB records for offensive futility for a large portion of the season. With Carlos Quentin proving to be a huge injury risk as the Padres best middle of the order hitter the past few seasons, the Padres needed to get outfield help this offseason. The Padres answered this need in a huge way this offseason by acquiring three starting caliber corner outfielders. Acquiring Wil Myers from the Rays, Matt Kemp from the Dodgers and Justin Upton from the Braves, has allowed the Padres to completely rebuild their Major League outfield. These were not the only moves the Padres made however, as they upgraded their third base situation in a trade with Boston for Will Middlebrooks, along with acquiring Derek Norris to replace catcher Yasmani Grandal after trading him to the Dodgers. After three straight seasons of finishing above the 75 win mark, the Padres have proved that they have the pitching to compete. Adding hitters should push San Diego towards being a National League playoff contender, but will it be enough to push them ahead of the Giants or Dodgers in the standings?
Can a team contend without having their best hitter as an incumbent on the team?
The Padres are going to try to answer this question with a yes this coming season, after adding at least three hitters who are better than any of the hitters that played a significant number of games for San Diego last season. There are going to be concerns about team chemistry early on in the season for the Padres, but the team should come together by the all star break. The Padres outfield defense may be one of the biggest concerns that this team will face with three new players defending the spacious confines of Petco Park. By adding a significant amount of talent to what the Padres already had in place, they are prepared to move forward with a much better offensive lineup. Last season's offensive struggles for the Padres were not just the results of a lack of talent. The Padres had several of their young hitters experience down seasons all at the same time with nobody in the lineup to pick up the slack. The three outfielders are not the only new hitters to join the lineup for the Padres though, as catcher Derek Norris and third basemen Will Middlebrooks have been added to make the total five new hitters. With Jedd Gyorko, Alexi Amarista and Yonder Alonso as the only players from last year's team to remain in the starting lineup, the Padres are completely starting over with a much different lineup. The new look Padres will get to find out if they can bring in a group of players who have never been teammates before, and have success at the Major League level in the 2015 season.
How will the pitching staff stack up?
The rumors surrounding the Padres this offseason were that their top three starters would be on the market as they looked to acquire the hitters they needed to compete in the National League. While they did give up an up and coming young pitcher when they included Jesse Hahn as part of the trade for Derek Norris, they have been able to keep Ian Kennedy, Tyson Ross and Andrew Cashner in place at the top of their pitching rotation. The Padres signed both Brandon Morrow and Josh Johnson to fill the void left by trading Jesse Hahn, but with each being an injury risk, it is unlikely that both will spend a significant time in the Padres rotation together. The Padres also have other options to fill out their rotation, provided that Morrow and Johnson combine to provide them with a fourth starter. Odrisamer Despaigne pitched well for the Padres last season and expects have a chance to earn a rotation spot in 2015. All of these options are right handed pitchers though, so the Padres may want to turn to a left handed starter to fill the final spot in their rotation. Cory Leubke is recovering from an elbow injury and his status is currently in doubt for the start of the 2015 season, but he would fill that role quite well as a left handed starter. With this variety of solid options, the Padres should be able to field a strong rotation led by the top three they currently have with the possible addition of another starter in a trade.
What should the Padres expect from the new look offense?
The Padres lineup going into 2015 is not likely to feature a conventional leadoff hitter with the way their roster is currently constructed. Alexi Amarista may be the best fit for that spot in the lineup with every other hitter in the lineup having significant extra base production ability. With Middlebrooks and Gyorko fitting best in either the second or seventh spots in the lineup, Kemp, Upton, Myers and Norris are likely to fill out the middle of the order. This leaves Medica and Alonso as the first base options who could bat either second in the lineup or eighth. With this lineup structure in place, the Padres will have the necessary run production in place that they have lacked in recent years. Playing in a pitcher friendly home ballpark should cause expectations for their offense to be tempered some, but with the talent added to their offensive lineup the run totals should improve dramatically. The Padres new lineup can be expected to score more 650 runs this season, with an outside chance at reaching the 700 run total for the 2015 campaign. This would represent a huge upgrade for the San Diego offense, while giving them a great chance to qualify for the 2015 MLB postseason.
Where do the Padres stand?
With the Giants losing two significant middle of the order hitters in Pablo Sandoval and Mike Morse, the Padres have taken advantage of that this offseason. The Padres do not have the defensive athleticism or the elite offense to match what the Dodgers have in their lineup, but that does not mean their moves are not good enough. The improved offense for San Diego should vault them ahead of the Giants in the standings this coming season, provided the Giants are not able to pull off a late offseason franchise altering move to add offense to their roster. With a strong pitching staff that features plenty of ground ball pitchers, the Padres have what it takes to cover up any defensive deficiencies that they currently have in their new look outfield. With good starting pitchers protecting early leads, and a strong bullpen closing out leads late, the Padres are primed to be a Nation League playoff contender in 2015.