San Diego Padres preview: Injury bug continues to bite Friars
When the Seidler-O’Malley group, along with local businessman Ron Fowler, officially purchased the San Diego Padres last August for $800 million, it took away some of the sting of another subpar season. The O’Malley name is synonymous with Brooklyn and Los Angeles Dodgers lore, and it represented stability the Padres organization lacked in the later stages of the John Moores ownership. That’s the good news.
The negative side of the coin is the Padres are a team that is almost cursed with injuries. It started last season when two of the club’s top pitchers, Cory Luebke and Joe Wieland, underwent Tommy John reconstructive surgery, in addition to lefty prospect Juan Oramas. Another varsity guy, Tim Stauffer, had his flexor tendon repaired and has had mixed results this spring.
Now, the bombshell out of camp is that prized product Casey Kelly, who was the main piece in the Adrian Gonzalez trade with the Boston Red Sox, will also be shelved. The 23-year-old right-hander, who was expected to win a job in the starting rotation, has “micro-tears” in his ulnar collateral ligament, and will submit to the Tommy John procedure on April 2. That follows the fate of San Diego’s best minor-league outfielder, Rymer Liriano, who went under the knife for a similar injury in February.
To make matters worse, the team’s star third baseman, Chase Headley, will miss the first month of the new season with a fractured thumb tip on his left hand. That’s a crusher when you consider Headley had a breakout year in 2012, finishing fifth in the voting for the National League MVP award. And Headley’s presumed replacement, Logan Forsythe, has a problem with the plantar fascitis in his right foot, which is an injury more common in the NBA than it is on the baseball field.
San Diego general manager Josh Byrnes tried to address pitching depth by re-signing veteran free agent Jason Marquis, as well as trading for promising starter Tyson Ross. But the Padres will be challenged to score runs, especially out of the gate, even though they moved in the fences at PETCO Park.
San Diego Padres position players
Rookie switching-hitting catcher Yasmani Grandal was a fan favorite last summer, only to fall from grace when he tested positive for high levels of testosterone after suffering an oblique injury. Grandal was subsequently suspended for the first 50 games of the new season, opening the door for the club’s former receiver, Nick Hundley.
Infield-wise, scouts are raving about rookie Jedd Gyorko, who was expected to be the Padres regular second baseman. But if Forsythe can’t answer the bell at third base, Gyorko will slide over and super-sub Alexi Amarista will handle the chores at second. Everth Cabrera, who led the National League in stolen bases in 2012, is the incumbent shortstop. The shinning star of the Padres is first baseman Yonder Alonso, a hitting machine to all fields and the owner of a slick glove. The Cuban-American might have won Rookie of the Year honors last season, except a guy named Bryce Harper got in the way.
Center fielder Cameron Maybin signed a back-loaded, five-year contract extension with the San Diego Padres last spring, and is slowly starting to blossom. He will be joined in right field by Chris Denorfia and Will Venable, with the pair likely to platoon, and slugger Carlos Quentin in left field. But Quentin, set to rake in $9.5 million this year, played in only 86 games in 2012, and is still hampered by a surgically repaired right knee. When Quentin needs a day off, reserve Jesus Guzman will get the nod, and will also handle pinch-hitting assignments from the right side. Veteran Mark Kotsay will have the same role as a lefty, and can still play some defense.
San Diego Padres pitching
Luebke and Wieland won’t be back until mid-summer, and the San Diego Padres have survived without them. The opening-day starter will be veteran Dominican Edinson Volquez, who said pitching in the World Baseball Classic for his country was “almost like the World Series.” Southpaw Clayton Richard will add more experience to anchor the rotation, as will Marquis and lefty Eric Stults. This group won’t scare the hell out of teams, but they’re consistent grinders who love to compete. The newcomer, Ross, will likely hold down the back end of the starting crew.
Meanwhile, the role of Andrew Cashner has yet to be set in stone. The flame-throwing right hander was acquired from the Chicago Cubs in the Anthony Rizzo trade, and the Padres would like to make him a starter. But Andrew, who throws a four-seam fastball that is consistently clocked in three digits, could also be a future candidate for Street’s job. Unfortunately, Cashner missed a portion of camp due to a hunting related accident. You see, there are Padres getting hurt off the field as well.
San Diego Padres projected lineup
- Everth Cabrera SS
- Chris Denorfia RF
- Jedd Gyorko 3B
- Carlos Quentin LF
- Yonder Alonso 1B
- Cameron Maybin CF
- Nick Hundley C
- Alexi Amarista 2B
In the event Forsythe can play, he moves into the six hole and Amarista is out. Denorfia, who played for Team Italy in the WBC, is more game-ready than Venable.
San Diego Padres prospect watch
Down on the farm, the San Diego Padres are ranked among the best in baseball, although only a few players are considered major-league ready. Liriano is out for the year, which will set back his progress. Infielder Jonathan Galvez is getting close, and occasionally shows some raw power. Getting even closer and showing bigger power is outfielder Kyle Blanks, but coaches feel he would be better served playing every day in the minors. And, yes, Blanks is another Padre who has struggled with injuries.
Lefty pitcher Robbie Erlin is another bright prospect who just needs a bit more extra seasoning. But another pitcher, Wilfredo Boscan, could help the varsity immediately. The 23-year-old Venezuelan string bean is primarily a starter, but is versatile enough to work out of the pen. Boscan throws a sinking fastball plus an above-average change-up, and he led the Venezuelan Winter League with a 1.80 ERA.
If you believe the guys in Las Vegas, the San Diego Padres are a solid choice to be buried again near the bottom of the National League West. And I can’t disagree with that logic. San Diego has a team with many young players at key spots on the diamond. It’s also true, though, that those kids have a lot of talent, and youngsters tend to play without fear. It should also be noted that San Diego Padres skipper, Buddy Black, is steady and patient at the helm. That instills confidence and good team chemistry.
If the San Diego Padres can keep their heads above water until Headley and Grandal return, and Quentin gets healthy, this group can win 85 games and move up one notch up in the standings. But if the injuries continue to mount, you can throw that prediction out the window.