Diving into the depths: San Diego Padres

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This is part of a 30-article series looking at each team’s depth chart headed into spring training.
San Diego Padres
Rotation
1. Jon Garland
2. Kevin Correia
3. Chris Young
4. Clayton Richard
5. Tim Stauffer
6. Sean Gallagher
7. Mat Latos
8. Aaron Poreda
9. Wade LeBlanc
10. Edward Mujica
11. Cesar Ramos
12. Will Inman
13. Cesar Carrillo
14. Steve Garrison
The surprising addition of Garland leaves just one opening in the San Diego rotation. Stauffer, Gallagher and Latos figure to battle it out in spring training. I prefer Latos and Gallagher, but Stauffer could have the early edge, given his 3.58 ERA in 14 starts last season.
Bullpen
1. Heath Bell
2. Mike Adams
3. Luke Gregerson
4. Joe Thatcher
5. Edward Mujica
6. Ryan Webb
7. Adam Russell
8. Radhames Liz
9. Luis Perdomo
10. Greg Burke
11. Aaron Poreda
12. Mark Worrell
13. Ernesto Frieri
14. Craig Italiano
The bullpen hasn’t received any reinforcements — not unless Liz counts — but it’s the strength of the team anyway. I like Webb’s chances of becoming this year’s Gregerson.


Catcher
1. Nick Hundley
2. Yorvit Torrealba
3. Dusty Ryan
4. Mitch Canham
First base
1. Adrian Gonzalez
2. Kyle Blanks
3. Oscar Salazar
Second base
1. David Eckstein
2. Jerry Hairston Jr.
3. Matt Antonelli
4. Sean Kazmar
Third base
1. Chase Headley
2. Jerry Hairston Jr.
3. Oscar Salazar
4. Logan Forsythe
Shortstop
1. Everth Cabrera
2. Jerry Hairston Jr.
3. Sean Kazmar
4. Jesus Lopez
The Torrealba signing isn’t official yet, but all signs point to it happening. That should finish off the infield. Headley will be an everyday player after moving back to his original position, and Hairston and Salazar will serve as reserves. If Gonzalez is eventually traded, then Blanks will take over at first base.
Left field
1. Scott Hairston
2. Kyle Blanks
3. Aaron Cunningham
4. Jerry Hairston Jr.
5. Matt Stairs
6. Chad Huffman
Center field
1. Tony Gwynn Jr.
2. Scott Hairston
3. Luis Durango
4. Chris Denorfia
5. Aaron Cunningham
Right field
1. Will Venable
2. Kyle Blanks
3. Aaron Cunningham
4. Matt Stairs
5. Oscar Salazar
6. Chris Denorfia
While the infield is set, the outfield still looks like a mess. I have Hairston, Gwynn and Venable atop the depth chart, but none of the three projects as a long-term regular for the Padres. If Blanks is kept as an outfielder, he’ll probably just end up getting hurt again. Still, he may well be the second-best hitter in the organization and it’s hard to blame the Padres for doing everything they can to get him into the lineup. Cunningham is the one player here that I believe will start in the outfield for the Padres in 2011. He may head back to Triple-A for a little while first, though.

Astros vs. Dodgers is a match made in heaven

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A lot of people who work at the league office or who take paychecks from the Fox network probably wanted to see the Yankees and the Cubs in the World Series. They won’t admit it, of course, but I suspect that many did, as the ratings for a Cubs-Yankees Series might’ve broken modern records. If they are at all disappointed by the Astros and Dodgers winning the pennant, however, they should let that go because they’ve been gifted by a wonderful matchup from a purely baseball perspective. Indeed, it’s one of the best on-paper matchups we’ve had in the Fall Classic in many years.

Before the Dodgers went on their late-August, early-September swoon, this was the potential World Series pairing most folks who know a thing or two wanted to see. At least I did, and I don’t think I was alone. It was certainly the matchup which represented the teams with the two best regular season records and storylines at the time. While Cleveland ended up winning more games than Houston did, for the first time since 1970 we have a World Series pitting two 100-win teams against each other.

Like that Orioles-Reds series in 1970, which featured Johnny Bench, Pete Rose, Tony Perez, Jim Palmer, Brooks Robinson and a host of other All-Stars, the Dodgers-Astros provide us with an embarrassment of big names and future Hall of Famers. Dodgers starter Clayton Kershaw and Astros DH/OF Carlos Beltran are destined for induction already. Astros ace Justin Verlander may very well join them, especially if his late 2017 surge is evidence of a second career peak. Houston second baseman Jose Altuve‘s first seven years and Dodgers closer Kenley Jansen‘s first eight are the stuff upon which Cooperstown resumes are made as well. People will be arguing Dodgers second baseman Chase Utley‘s Hall of Fame case for years once he retires.

Youth is served as well in this matchup, with each club featuring a handful of the game’s best young players to accompany their big name veteran stars.

The Dodgers will bat their no-doubt N.L. Rookie of the Year first baseman Cody Bellinger second or third in the lineup every game. 2016 Rookie of the Year Corey Seager, who sat out the NLCS with a bad back, is expected to be activated for the Series where he’ll be the Dodgers shortstop. The Astros are actually an old team on paper — Verlander, catcher Brian McCann, starter Charlie Morton, first baseman Yuli Gurriel, outfielder Josh Reddick and DH Evan Gattis are all over 30 while Beltran is 40 — but young players are essential to their attack as well. Shortstop Carlos Correa just turned 23 and he’s one of the game’s brightest stars. Third baseman Alex Bregman, also 23, made the play that may very well have broken the Yankees’ back during Saturday night’s pennant clincher. Age aside, the Astros are the product of a major, multi-year rebuild and many of their players are making their first national splash this postseason.

Beyond just the names and resumes, though, the Dodgers and Astros represent a fantastic strategic matchup. The Dodgers attack this postseason has featured admirable plate discipline, with third baseman Justin Turner, right fielder Yasiel Puig and center fielder Chris Taylor all letting balls out of the zone pass them by while abusing pitches left out over the plate. Astros pitchers not named Justin Verlander, however, have lived by getting the opposition to chase bad balls. Game one starter Dallas Keuchel did this by relying on his very fast sinker. Lance McCullers pitched well starting Game 4 of the ALCS and pitched spectacularly closing out the final four innings of Game 7 mostly by virtue of his curveball, which Yankees pitchers could simply not lay off. Indeed, his final 24 pitches of Game 7 were all curves, many of them low and away. Who will give in first in this series?

On the side of things, Dodgers relievers have made a living by pumping in strikes. Particularly strikes high in the zone from Jansen and Brandon Morrow. There may be no better fastball hitter in all of baseball than Jose Altuve, however, and the team as a whole was one of the best in the bigs in dealing with gas in the zone. This was a big reason why the Astros struck out less than any team in baseball this year while simultaneously boasting the best offense in the game. The Dodgers throw strikes. The Astros make you pay when you throw them strikes. Again, something’s gotta give.

Maybe the suits in New York wanted the Yankees and Cubs. But everyone else is getting exactly what we want: a matchup of the two best teams in the game. A matchup of strength against strength. What is, from a purely baseball perspective, the best World Series we could’ve possibly hoped for.