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 2016 season. Next up: The San Diego Padres
The Padres got a new general manager and a whole new look before the 2015 season. That . . . didn’t work out too well, so they got a whole new look once again heading into 2016. Gone are Justin Upton, Craig Kimbrel, Ian Kennedy, Joaquin Benoit, Shawn Kelley, Yonder Alonso and Jedd Gyorko among others. Coming in: Fernando Rodney, Alexei Ramirez and Jon Jay. The order of the day now is to build a bit more slowly rather than try to make a big splash. That means that you shouldn’t expect all that much more than nice weather in San Diego this summer.
New manager Andy Green will be tasked with finding some sort of offense from the likes of Cory Spangenberg, Wil Myers, Matt Kemp, Derek Norris, Alexei Ramirez, and Jay. Myers will hopefully play more than the 60 games he played last year. Kemp, after a very slow start, ended up putting together a fine season. Ramirez will be an upgrade over the dreck the Padres trotted out to short last year. Jay’s 2015 was an 80-game disaster, but he could bounce back. And hey, Melvin Upton Jr. is still there. We’re on at least year four of saying “he can’t be that bad, can he?” And, to be fair, he was pretty decent after coming back from an injury last June. This is no great lineup to be sure, but it could be better than last year, when they were the worst in the league in OBP.
As far as pitching goes, we used to say that Petco Park is a pitchers paradise, but that wasn’t as much the case last year. A lot of homers flew out of the joint in 2015, in large part because Padres pitchers were allowing them. James Shields was particularly bad in this department and he’ll have to bounce back. Tyson Ross was solid but Andrew Cashner was not. Each are capable of being above-average starters and a best-case scenario for the Padres is those two leading the way with Shields returning to respectability. Beyond that . . . things fall off. It’s more likely that Cashner and Ross are on the trading block come June than they are leading the Padres into respectability.
It’d be easy to say that the bullpen will be a disaster now that Craig Kimbrel and Joaqun Benoit are gone, but the pen wasn’t all that great with them. Now with Fernando Rodney closing and a lot of filler, well, filling, it will probably still be bad. Just for different reasons.
Ain’t no way to spin this: the Padres are going to be bad in 2016. They won’t be a massive failure of high expectations like they were in 2015, but it’s hard to see them winning many more than the 74 games they won last year either. And even if they do exceed those expectations a bit, their best case scenario is likely a slightly better fourth place finish than expected. They’re not catching Los Angeles, San Francisco or Arizona. They’re probably big sellers at the deadline.
Prediction: Fourth place, NL West.