Springtime Storylines: What did the Mat Latos deal do for this team?

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Between now and Opening Day, HardballTalk will take a look at each of baseball’s 30 teams, asking the key questions, the not-so-key questions, and generally breaking down their chances for the 2012 season. Up next: The San Diego Padres.

The Big Question: What did the Mat Latos deal for this team?

We are seeing fewer and fewer blockbuster trades in baseball these days, but the Padres pulled one off last winter, shipping out ace Mat Latos and getting back a bunch of guys: Yonder Alonso, Edinson Volquez, Yasmani Grandal, and Brad Boxberger.  It was quite a haul, and given that it’s way easier to develop or attract pitching in Petco Park, it seems like a pretty winning trade for the Padres. But how much will the trade help now?

Well, if it pays off this season, it will probably be because the third most important guy in the trade — Volquez — returns to form after an awful 2011.  The real value here come in Alonso and Grandal, and each of them face some challenges. Alonso is going to have a lot of pressure on him to be a middle of the order threat, especially since Carlos Quentin will miss the first month or so of the season.  Grandal is going to be stuck in the minors for a while, it seems, as the Padres just extended Nick Hundley’s contract through 2015.

Alonso will at least get the plate appearances and hopefully the pressure and the spaciousness of Petco Park won’t be too intimidating. Padres fans looking for the Grandal portion of the deal just have to be patient and hope that the Padres can figure out how to turn either him or Nick Hundley into some other parts they’ll need in 2013 and beyond.

What else is going on?

  • While this team has been offensively challenged for a while, there are a core of good hitters here in Cameron Maybin, Alonso, Hundley, Will Venable and Jesus Guzman. But man, that park kills ’em all.
  • That park also helps pitchers, and that makes the rotation seem better than it really is. They play half of their games on the road, obviously, and no one in this rotation save maybe Cory Luebke impresses you that much when you take them away from San Diego.
  • Losing Heath Bell is a blow, but the Padres have not wanted for good relief pitching in some time. Huston Street will slip into the closer’s role and import Andrew Cashner will provide some firepower in support. The pen, as always, will be a team strength.
  • The Padres may not scare anyone right now, but they have one of the top farm systems in the game and that is the sort of thing that keeps hard core fans interested. My spies in San Diego (well, my brother) tell me that there is a lot of excitement about the organization as a whole, even if no one thinks the big boys will do much this year.

So how are they gonna do?

Probably fifth place. Nothin’ personal, man, but they just don’t have the pop and they don’t have the top end pitching to compete, even if it only takes slightly above .500 ball to be in the conversation in this division for most of the season.

Video: The greatest — or worst — first pitch of all time

Maddie Meyer/Getty Images
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The Red Sox are celebrating the 50th anniversary of the 1967 “Impossible Dream” team during Wednesday night’s series finale against the Cardinals. Jordan Leandre took the mound to throw out the first pitch. With past players lined up behind him, Leandre wound up and fired to home… juuuuust a bit outside. The ball hit photographer Tony Capobianco right in the family jewels.

Video from Bleacher Report’s Steve Perrault:

To his credit, Capobianco had a sense of humor about it:

Wil Myers stole second, third, and home in the same inning

Jon Durr/Getty Images
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Padres first baseman Wil Myers hit an RBI single off of Nick Pivetta in the bottom of the fourth inning of Wednesday afternoon’s game, giving his team a 1-0 lead. He then proceeded to steal second base, then third base, and finally home on a double-steal, scoring the Padres’ second run.

Per CSN Philly’s Marshall Harris, it’s the first time a player has stolen all three bases in the same inning since Marlins second baseman Dee Gordon in 2011. Indeed, on July 1 that year, Gordon stole all three bases against Angels pitcher Bobby Cassevah.

Myers is currently batting .238/.322/.459 with 24 home runs, 59 RBI, 61 runs scored, and 14 stolen bases in 491 plate appearances this season.