StrategyMarch 10, 2010

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30 Teams in 30 Days: San Diego Padres

By André Walker

So as I was looking over the list of 30 Teams in 30 Days articles, I noticed that nobody had written about the Padres. I volunteered for the job, not realizing what I was getting myself into. Looking over the roster and depth chart, I thought to myself, “I have to write about who to target from a team that’s unironically starting David Eckstein?!” But a closer look exposed something that most don’t realize is there: late-round upside from guys that hit at Petco Park. Add that to the usual home-field benefit you get for the pitchers here and you have a Venable—oops—veritable treasure trove of value on this roster.

Offensive Starters

C Nick Hundley.238.313.406238305256 
1B Adrian Gonzalez.277.407.5519040991552 
2B David Eckstein.260.323.334642513503 
SS Everth Cabrera.255.342.3615923125377 
3B Chase Headley.262.342.39262126410543 
LF Kyle Blanks.250.355.5142410221172 
CF Scott Hairston.265.307.45650176411430w/2T
RF Will Venable.256.323.4403812386293 

Unsettled: Center field and right field. While Hairston and Venable are currently penciled in as the starting CF and RF, Aaron Cunningham and Tony Gwynn, Jr. are gunning for those jobs hard. Hairston is 30 years old and not getting any younger, and while he’s not going to hurt the team with his offense or his defense, he’s pretty much without upside at this point. In a sense, he’s the lame cop-out of outfield options. Cunningham has been mashing in the minors every year since he was drafted, posting a .875 OPS in 478 minor league games from ’05 to ’09. Now 24 years old, he has yet to translate that success to the majors. Part of that is the scant 133 MLB at bats he has had, but time’s running out. Gwynn isn’t too impressive of a hitter, but due to his obvious name value he’s being given every chance he needs to win an everyday job. Rounding out the competition is Will Venable, who gained some attention in the fantasy community last year when he put up a 32 HR, .280 AVG, 12 SB pace over the last 57 games he played last year. He has shown decent power and speed in the minors, but there’s virtually no chance he will put up anything near those power numbers in 2010. Given full playing time, I’d expect something like 20 HR, .268 AVG, 10 SB.

However, the Pads’ outfield is too much of a Charlie Foxtrot for anyone involved to be draftable in anything but the deepest of leagues without any concrete information on who’s going to be starting. Keep an eye on the situation, and when it’s announced, act accordingly. I’d rank the competitors as such:

1) Venable (decent power/speed upside and won’t kill your AVG, solid fifth OF)
2) Cunningham (his consistent minor league success warrants a bench spot in deep leagues)
3) Hairston (you can hope he puts up something like those 11 SBs again but don’t bank on it)
4) Gwynn (good SB potential but just sucks otherwise)

Target: Kyle Blanks. Sure, I could write about Gonzalez and a possible trade looming ahead, which would make him an instant 50-HR threat. But hey, you could read about his 56 HR/.306 AVG pace away from Petco in ’09 pretty much anywhere. So instead of telling you that the top two teams in the running for Gonzalez, both the White and Red Sox, have home parks that inflate HRs by 65% and 34% more than Petco, respectively, I’m going to tell you about the 25-30 HR upside that the massive 6’6”, 285-pound Blanks offers.

10 HR last year in 148 AB projects to a 37 HR pace over a full season. Of course that’s a lame and inaccurate projection method, but that kind of power potential from a San Diego resident puts him in rare company. The biggest red flag for him is his 37.2% K rate in the majors last year. In ’10, it’s likely that he will see strike three at a rate closer to the 22.8% number he put up in four years in the minors, which would increase his AVG to the .270-.280 range. Couple that with a double digit walk rate with potential for progression, and you have all the tools for a productive late-round power hitter. Projection: .274 AVG, 77 runs, 23 HR, 85 RBI, 3 SB

Chris Young (R)4-65.211.45504076.0 
Kevin Correia (R)12-113.911.3014264198.0 
Jon Garland (R)11-134.011.4010961204.0w/2T
Clayton Richard (L)9-54.411.4711471153.0w/2T
Mat Latos (R)4-54.621.30392350.2 

Unsettled: All righties not named Chris Young or Kevin Correia. On top of the five here, also in the mix are Sean Gallagher, Wade LeBlanc (the lone lefty), Tim Stauffer, and Cesar Carillo. Yes, welcome to Charlie Foxtrot, Part II. Out of the group, Latos easily has the most upside, but the Pads management might want to baby him a bit more so he doesn’t get overworked. LeBlanc is another front-runner, being a lefty in a righty-dominated rotation, but junkballers whose fastballs rarely top 85 usually don’t make it too far. As for Stauffer, Gallagher, Carillo…lame, unexciting, and just plain bad, respectively. Garland is the new guy and his stuff theoretically plays well to the new home park, but if he does end up being terrible, there’s a bunch of guys ready to take his place. I believe the rotation as stated above will be the way the season starts out, but don’t be surprised to see plenty of turnover this year.

Target: Mat Latos. He’s been the Padres’ top pitching prospect for years now, and with good reason. His fastball has been described as “electric” and “deceptive” from various scouts. The development of his secondary stuff is well along now as well, with a plus curve, a decent change, and a good slider that he rarely uses. Over three years in the minors he struck out 4.6 guys for every free pass issued, which, when taking into account his great 10.53 K/9 over his minor league career, bodes well for his major league future. Sure, he doesn’t have a rotation job officially locked up yet, but for what it’s worth, manager Bud Black has said that he’d be limited to 150-ish innings this year, implying that the IP limit will be an issue this year. And besides, as stated before, he has easily the most upside out of anyone in the Padres rotation. Give him a year or three, staying in Petco of course, and could very well be pushing top 15 among SP. But that’s down the road; for ’10, expect something like 150 IP, 3.65 ERA, 1.22 WHIP, and 140 K, followed by a fond farewell in the stretch run when he’ll likely be shut down early.

The 8th and 9th Innings

Heath Bell (R)422.711.12792469.2
Mike Adams (R)00.730.6045837.0

Chasing Saves: Unsurprisingly, Bell’s breakout 2009 season has him on the trade block, with the Pads hoping to get some good prospects in return from a contender. Should he not be traded, he will likely be at the edge of the top tier among closers. If he does end up being traded, fantasy owners better hope that it’s to a team in need of a closer and not someplace where he would be setting up. He’d still be rosterable in most leagues for his ratios, but the trade potential is what’s making him lose value. It’s most likely Mike Adams and his five plus pitches who would take his place, but also in the mix are Edward Mujica and Luke Gregerson. The latter had an excellent season last year but went under the radar due to a .332 BABIP. I wouldn’t exactly call this Charlie Foxtrot Part III because all of these guys except maybe Mujica are rosterable even without having the closer’s job.

Final Thoughts

Yes, there are the obvious choices in Gonzalez, Bell, and…well, that’s about it. But dig a little deeper and you might strike gold. Everth Cabrera has 40 SB written all over him in rounds 18-20, Venable and Headley can be had dirt cheap for their possible 20/10 numbers, and the gigantic Blanks could outproduce your third OF. Of the starting pitchers, pretty much anyone is a viable option if you’re careful about when to sit or start them; the team had a 3.44 ERA and 1.26 WHIP at Petco last year as opposed to 5.39/1.52 on the road. If you’re in deeper leagues, keep an eye on the position battles and you could end up with waiver wire gold. Just do yourself a favor and stay away from David Eckstein.

And that wraps it up for the 30 Teams in 30 Days series! It’s been a long 37 days, but we’ve covered every MLB team for 2010. Keep following the Café writers this year for the best fantasy advice in the business. Good luck to all and to all a good Fowler!

André Walker of Delta Upsilon is a hat-wearing, card-carrying, hyphen-overusing anarcho-Communist who happens to be a huge baseball fan. When he's not busy railing against capitalism or stalking Dexter Fowler, he makes brilliant, insightful posts under the name Neato Torpedo. Don't be intimidated.
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