A position-by-position evaluation from the UT
In: Ryan Klesko, Adrian Gonzalez
Out: Xavier Nady, Mark Sweeney, Robert Fick
Analysis: The Padres hope Klesko's return to his favored spot will reduce his neck and back problems and help a position that returned below-average production last season. Defensively he's weak, but not that far below what the Padres had. Former No. 1 overall draft pick Gonzalez returns to his hometown with a great glove but unproven bat.
Towers' take: "Klesko should be healthier and happier at first, which will help his offense. Gonzalez is ready when needed and for late-inning defense."
Scouts' consensus: Klesko is better-suited to play first than left and the shift could rekindle his bat. But a history of nagging injuries at age 35 is not encouraging. Defense is a minus. Would like to see whether Gonzalez can hit major league pitching.
In: Josh Barfield, Mark Bellhorn, Bobby Hill
Out: Mark Loretta
Analysis: Even before Loretta broke his thumb in May, his production had fallen off. But he had a stronger track record than Bellhorn, who has pop but strikes out a lot. Padres would like to see Barfield, 23, win the job; if he doesn't, he will be at Triple-A Portland.
Towers' take: "Bellhorn has power and both he and Hill are switch-hitters. Bellhorn could also play third if needed. Because of the walks he draws, the strikeouts don't bother me."
Scouts' consensus: Given Loretta's track record, saving money clearly was a motivation in his trade to Boston. But his bat speed slowed last year and his defense is regarded as "adequate." Said one scout: "The Padres don't want to put the pressure on Barfield, but he's the key here."
Still in: Khalil Greene
Analysis: Three trips to the disabled list in Greene's first two seasons concern the Padres, who have even studied his diet to make sure the introspective 26-year-old is getting ample nutrition. His defense was not as spectacular during his sophomore season, but he is becoming a bigger offensive weapon. Geoff Blum and Hill are in reserve.
Towers' take: "Khalil is an exciting player. We see bigger and better things."
Scouts' consensus: Greene is a solid player, although maybe not quite the player the Padres project him to be. "But I like the way the Padres have handled the hype around Khalil," said one.
In: Vinny Castilla, Bellhorn.
Out: Joe Randa, Sean Burroughs
Analysis: Former first-round draft pick Burroughs never developed the power the team anticipated and his average dropped as his confidence fell. Randa didn't produce that many more runs, however. Castilla, 38, still has pop and a good glove, although he did have knee problems last year.
Towers' take: "I saw no fall-off in Castilla last year. He did have some knee problems, but our reports are good. I think he'll play 120 to 130 games. And Bellhorn can play there."
Scouts' consensus: Third basemen who are 38 can go at any time. But Castilla on paper is still a bigger threat than Burroughs, whose slippage at 25 surprised one scout.
In: Dave Roberts, Terrmel Sledge, Ben Johnson
Out: Klesko, Nady, Damian Jackson
Analysis: Roberts missed 61 starts with various injuries last season as the center fielder. The Padres were a much better team when he was leading off. Outfield defense improves with him in left rather than Klesko. But with Sledge, who missed most of last season because of a hamstring tear, and Johnson in the wings, Roberts still could return to the Red Sox if the right deal for pitcher David Wells came along.
Towers' take: "Not being in center field is going to help Dave's durability. There's a big difference in the demands between center and left. Never say never (about a trade), but I see Roberts being our leadoff man in more games in 2006 than in 2005."
Scouts' consensus: They like Roberts' value as a leadoff hitter, but believe a left fielder should have more punch. "Still, if Roberts is in left and making 130 starts, the Padres have improved themselves there," said one.
In: Mike Cameron
Analysis: There are concerns about the lingering effects of Cameron's season-ending collision at Petco Park last summer while playing for the Mets. But all the tests have been good. Solid defender who hits for power.
Towers' take: "There is no concern in my mind about his health. I'm probably as excited about Cameron as any of the moves we've made. He will take runs off the board."
Scouts' consensus: Solid center fielder. "He's an upgrade there in range, arm, durability and power," said one.
Still in: Brian Giles
Analysis: Plays hard every day. Led majors in walks last season and ranked among the leaders in on-base percentage. Recent national survey ranked him among the game's top right fielders.
Towers' take: "Brian is one of those elite players that you can build an outfield and a team around."
Scouts' consensus: Believe Giles could start in any outfield in the league. There was an opinion Giles should be more RBI-minded in crucial situations and not so willing to take the walk. "I know in that lineup last year, pitchers would work around Brian because he was the only guy they really feared with guys on," said one. "But sometimes in that position, you have to go after them and make it happen."
In: Doug Mirabelli, David Ross
Out: Ramon Hernandez, Miguel Olivo
Analysis: The most puzzling part of the picture. Mirabelli, 35, is a career reserve. Ross has never really reached that status. Olivo beat out Ross last July when the Padres needed a replacement for the surgery-bound Hernandez. Hernandez departed via free agency and didn't do himself any favors with the Padres last summer when he opted for midseason surgery. The Padres didn't tender Olivo a contract. Top prospect George Kottaras is not expected to be ready before 2007. Towers said the club is ready to open the season with Mirabelli and Ross.
Towers' take: "I like the ability of Mirabelli and Ross to handle pitchers. They are excellent defenders. Ramon is not an easy guy to replace. We plan to get our offense elsewhere. I've heard the criticism about our catching. These guys are not chopped liver."
Scouts' consensus: There was concern that the Padres are expecting to go a full season with two catchers who worked fewer than 100 games between them. "The Padres are still looking for a catcher, right?" said one.
Still In: Jake Peavy, Woody Williams, Chan Ho Park.
In: Chris Young. Possible: Clay Hensley, Dewon Brazelton, Pedro Astacio, Tim Stauffer, David Wells.
Out: Brian Lawrence, Adam Eaton.
Analysis: Odds of re-signing Astacio are getting longer. Brett Tomko signed with the Dodgers. Wells is still a possibility, although the Dodgers might have a better trade package than the Padres. Peavy needs to be much healthier than he was in 2005 to be considered a top-of-the-rotation ace. Young could be a sleeper.
Towers' take: "Young had a better season than Eaton. And he will be better in the National League and Petco Park. This guy's a bulldog. And he and Park were best friends in Texas. I see Young establishing himself and Woody and Park hopefully rebounding."
Scouts' consensus: Do not see a loss in Young vs. Eaton. Peavy is given high marks for stuff and makeup. Not as optimistic about Williams and Park. Beyond that . . . "So many ifs that it's hard to see everything falling into place," said one scout. "The back of the rotation has become an annual last-minute project," said another. "But Kevin's forte is pitching. He's surprised us before."
Still in: Trevor Hoffman, Scott Linebrink, Hensley.
In: Doug Brocail, Brian Sikorski.
Out: Akinori Otsuka, Rudy Seanez, Chris Hammond.
Analysis: Hoffman's strength is psychological warfare as much as overwhelming stuff. He'll be fine for another year or two. Linebrink moved past Otsuka into the prime eighth-inning slot last year. Towers' track record with relievers is good. One, possibly two spots to fill.
Towers' take: "I see Hensley and Sikorski moving into Otsuka's role. Clay actually filled that spot the final month of last season."
Scouts' consensus: Padres know how to spot relief pitchers and manage their bullpen. "It might be the thing they've done the best over the years," said one scout. [/url]