San Diego Padres 2014 Outlook
The big issue for the third place, 76-86, Padres going into 2014 will be the same as it was for the club in 2013 - health. No less than nine key players missed time last season due to DL stints, injuries, and PED suspensions. With fingers-crossed that key players will be able to stay on the field this season, the Padres acquired three new players for their major league roster in 2014.
2014 San Diego Padres Preview - Notable Additions
Coming off elbow surgery in October to clear up bone spurs in his pitching elbow, Josh Johnson was signed to a one-year deal for $8 million. His 2013 season was injury plagued, as we’ve come to expect with him, and when he was pitching he wasn’t very effective - to the tune of a 6.20 ERA and an awful 1.66 WHIP. Since becoming a starter in 2006, he has only pitched more than 100 innings in a season three times and several missed starts in 2014 at minimum must be factored into his valuation on draft day. As we know, when healthy, his ace-level talent is hard to ignore. From 2009 – 2011 he had an eye-popping 2.65 ERA and a stellar 1.11 WHIP. Moving from the AL East back to the National League, and to PETCO Park specifically, will be enough for me to keep tabs on him during my fantasy drafts, but I wouldn’t even consider drafting him before the 19th round, and even then, there is a good chance there will be better starting pitching options still available.
Seth Smith was acquired in a trade that sent Luke Gregerson to Oakland. It’s surprising that the Padres weren’t able to get a higher-quality player for Gregerson especially considering that Gregerson has been highly sought after in-season trade bait for several years. The back of Smith’s baseball card has taken an expected turn for the worse since he was traded in 2012 from the Rockies to the Athletics. At Coors Field, Smith was a career .299 hitter, with an impressive .937 OPS. Away from Coors, not so good – a career. 250 hitter. Worse yet, versus left-handed pitching, including Coors – a .201 career batting average. Moving from O.com Coliseum to PETCO Park isn’t going to help to reverse this trend. In a standard 12-team mixed league, Smith is free agent/waiver wire material to pick up in-season to use as a fill-in if you have a player banged up for a couple of days – nothing more.
Lastly, the Padres re-solidified their bullpen, replacing Luke Gregerson with 36-year old Joaquin Benoit by signing him to a $15.5 million, 2-year deal to plug the eighth inning and backup closer Huston Street. While I don’t see the logic in jettisoning Gregerson, who is six years younger and statistically nearly as good over the past 4 seasons (2.79 ERA and 1.06 WHIP for Gregerson versus a 2.53 ERA and 0.98 WHIP for Benoit), for owners Benoit will hold some fantasy value as the next man up for saves when, not if, Street spends time on the disabled list. In standard leagues, Benoit will only be worth drafting once all closers are off the board and that probably won’t come until about the 20th round.
2014 San Diego Padres Preview - Position Battles
The position players are pretty well locked into the same roles as last year. This season, Seth Smith will battle Yonder Alonso for playing time at first base. Catcher, Yasmani Grandal, is expected to open the season on the disabled list after undergoing ACL knee surgery in August leaving Nick Hundley with the opportunity to be the starting catcher for a spell. Once Grandal is healthy, I fully expect him to take over the starting job and put his disappointing 2013 season (in which he served a 50-game suspension for PED use and only hit .216 in 88 at bats) behind him. Kyle Blanks and Chris Denorfia will both fight for some playing time in the outfield with Carlos Quentin, Cameron Maybin, and Will Venable as the regulars. With the exception of Venable, who had a career year in 2013 by putting up 22 home runs with 22 steals, none of the Padres outfielders are on my fantasy radar. Venable should go somewhere in the 14th or 15th round in standard mixed leagues. Quentin and Maybin can both be useful as players on your fantasy bench, but I wouldn’t seek to draft either as a starter for my team.
Ian Kennedy, Josh Johnson, and Andrew Cashner have the top three rotation spots locked down with Tyson Ross, Cory Luebke, Eric Stults, Robbie Erlin, Burch Smith, and Casey Kelly pitching to fill out the other two spots. Luebke will most likely end up in the bullpen to start the season leaving the others to battle it out. If Tyson Ross wins a rotation spot, he is an intriguing fantasy arm to watch after pitching to a 3.17 ERA, 1.15 WHIP and 119/44 K/BB ratio over 125 innings in 2013. Look for him in the very late rounds of your drafts. Cashner is the starting pitcher I want to own on my fantasy teams and I expect him to go late in the 12th or early in the 13th round of most drafts. After being a pre-season sleeper in 2013, he was disappointing in the first half with a 3.81 ERA and 1.27 WHIP. Post-break, he dazzled with a 2.14 ERA and a fantastic 0.95 WHIP. His strikeout rate was way down, however, from 9.8 K/IP prior to 2013 to 7.3 K/IP in 2013. I expect his strikeout rate to creep up again this season.
2014 San Diego Padres Preview - Preseason Team Outlook
With the only notable roster loss from 2013 is Gregerson, which shouldn’t impact the team with Benoit filling his role, the Padres will be ready to take a step forward if the club can field a relatively healthy team this year. An 80 to 85 win season in 2014 is within reach -- 82 wins would have secured them second place in the NL West in 2013.