San Diego Padres 2015 Preview

30
Mar

2014 Record – 77-85, 3rd in NL West

Key Additions

OF Matt Kemp, OF Justin Upton, P James Shields, OF Wil Myers, C Derek Norris, 3B Will Middlebrooks

Key Departures

OF Seth Smith, C Yasmani Grandal, P Jesse Hahn

Projected 2015 Lineup

  1. 3B Yangervis Solarte
  2. CF Wil Myers
  3. RF Matt Kemp
  4. LF Justin Upton
  5. 1B Yonder Alonso
  6. 2B Jedd Gyorko
  7. C Derek Norris
  8. SS Alexi Amarista
  9. Pitcher

Projected 2015 Starters

  1. RHP James Shields
  2. RHP Andrew Cashner
  3. RHP Tyson Ross
  4. RHP Ian Kennedy
  5. RHP Odrisamer Despaigne/RHP Brandon Morrow

Breakdown

No one had a more exciting offseason than the San Diego Padres. After another disappointing, yet expected losing season, the Padres’ front office went bananas. We can start with GM A.J. Preller, who was hired by San Diego on August 6th, 2014. Obviously not much happened initially with the organization, but once the offseason rolled around Preller and Co. decided to flip the organization upside down.

Late into the day on December 17th, 2014, the Padres made their first big move and acquired Wil Myers in a three-team, 11-player trade. The Padres received Myers, C Ryan Hanigan, LHP Jose Castillo, and RHP Gerardo Reyes. In return, they sent top SS prospect Trea Turner (who is still with the Padres’ organization) to Washington as well as RHP Joe Ross. San Diego also packaged C Rene Rivera, RHP Burch Smith, and 1B Jake Bauers to Tampa Bay.

The following morning, the Padres officially traded for Matt Kemp, who was in principle dealt to the Padres a week earlier. A series of physicals and he said, she said’s held up the process. In that trade, the Padres sent once top prospect catcher Yasmani Grandal and pitchers Joe Wieland and Zach Eflin to the Dodgers. Also, the Dodgers ate up $32 million of the remaining $108.2 million remaining on Kemp’s deal.

Lastly, but certainly not least, the Padres acquired Justin Upton from the Braves for LHP Max Fried, SS Jace Peterson, 3B Dustin Peterson, and OF Mallex Smith. With that deal, the Padres had acquired Wil Myers, Matt Kemp, and Justin Upton all in the span of 24 hours. This is something the baseball world has never seen. Preller decided he was fed up with the losing culture in San Diego and decided to change it, all in the matter of the day.

I hate to just make this a “throw-in”, but the Padres head into the 2015 season with a killer pitching staff. Did I mention they acquired James Shields later that winter as well? Add him to a rotation with Tyson Ross, Andrew Cashner, and Ian Kennedy, the Padres might be the most intriguing, most exciting, and most improved team to watch this upcoming season.

X-Factor(s) – Matt Kemp and Justin Upton

I hate to go with the obvious picks here, but I believe this team will go however far Matt Kemp and Justin Upton will take them. The Padres finished dead last in runs scored in 2014, 24th in 2013 and 2012, and 28th in 2011. I could go on and on, but you get the picture. The Padres can’t score runs. They never have. Enter Kemp and Upton, who have had their fair share of big time offensive seasons.

Let’s start with Matt Kemp, who is a career .292 hitter in over 4,000 at bats. Back in 2011,  Kemp finished 2nd in the MVP race to steroid-using Ryan Braun (sorry, had to say it). Kemp hit .324 with 39 HR, 126 RBI, 33 doubles, four triples, 40 stolen bases, and had a .399 OBP. Pretty absurd numbers. At the time, many thought Kemp was entering the prime of his career where he would take over as the best baseball player in the game. Shoot, I was one of them. But in the following years, Kemp dealt with injuries, egos, and a logjam of outfielders in LA that hurt his numbers and superstar status. He did hit .287 with 25 HR and 89 RBI in 150 games last season though. The jury is still out on him. Will he be able to put up MVP-type numbers in San Diego?

As for Justin Upton, it seems like he has been a blossoming prospect for years now. In 2009, he hit .300 with 26 HR and 86 RBI at the age of 21. There we have it! He is going to be a superstar! The following season? .273 with 17 HR and 69 RBI. Meh. But in 2011, Upton hit .289 with 31 HR and 88 RBI. He found his stroke once again! Yet in 2012, he digressed again to hit .280 with 17 HR and 67 RBI. You just can’t figure this guy out. He did hit .270 last year, which is below his career average, but managed to hit 29 HR with a career-high 102 RBI.

What should we expect from Kemp and Upton this season? I have absolutely no idea. But if the Padres want to compete, they will need these two to produce in the middle of the order.

Most To Prove – Wil Myers

As soon as I am done breaking down the ever-confusing Matt Kemp and Justin Upton, we now get to analyze their potentially very confusing teammate Wil Myers. He may only have two years of Major League experience under his belt now, but no one knows what to expect from him in year three.

Back in the winter of 2012, the Kansas City Royals dealt their top prospect (and others) to Tampa Bay for James Shields and Wade Davis. I will be the first to admit, I thought this was a horrible deal for the Royals. Going into 2013, Myers was rated one of the top five prospects in baseball. How stupid could Kansas City be?

And I was right! Myers, in his first full Major League season, hit .293 with 13 HR, 53 RBI, 23 doubles, and had a .354 OBP. He won the AL Rookie of the Year! Boy, how stupid were the Royals?

Fast forward to 2014: Myers misses half the season due to injury, admits coming into the season not fully prepared, and hits .222 while James Shields leads his Kansas City Royals to an AL Pennant. Well, that was a total-180.

Many in the Tampa Bay organization seemed to have beef with Myers, which lead to dealing him to San Diego this offseason. Obviously the guy has a ton of talent. He was one of the best prospects in baseball a couple years ago and won the Rookie of the Year in 2013. But last season left a bad taste in the mouths of many, and he will have to prove himself once again come 2015.

2015 Impact Prospect – Matt Wisler

Matt Wisler enters 2015 as the Padres’ top prospect and one of the top 70 prospects in baseball. He is ranked #34 by Baseball America, but #69 by MLB.com. Regardless of where he sits, this guy could have a major impact on the Padres this season.

Wisler was the Padres’ 7th round pick in the 2011 draft out of high school. He has impressed many during his time in the minors, as he could be a top-end starter once he reaches the Majors. Many thought he could make an appearance with San Diego in 2014, but that didn’t happen, as he struggled with their Triple-A affiliate El Paso. There, he went 9-5 with a 5.01 ERA in 116.2 IP. He did have 101 strikeouts during that time and in 396.2 career IP in the minors, he has 380 strikeouts.

Even with a bumpy road last season, many scouts love the guy. According to Sam Geaney, the Padres’ director of player development, “he’s an advanced strike-thrower with a very, very good arm and a good breaking ball. Very, very smart, intelligent pitcher who I think definitely fits the mold of a Major League starter.” He has a career 3.40 ERA in the minors with a very impressive 1.18 WHIP.

If for some reason something goes horribly wrong in the Padres’ rotation or an injury were to occur, Wisler would probably be the first guy to fill in. He may only be 22, but he is about ready to crack a Major League rotation.

Why They’re Worth Watching

AJ Preller has completely changed this team around. Last season, I’m not sure why anyone would want to tune into a Padres game. Sure, they had a very solid rotation and bullpen, but they couldn’t score a run to save their lives. Now they should have a lineup that could put up quite a few runs to go along with their impressive pitching staff. Many were not aware that San Diego had the 4th best team ERA in baseball last season at 3.27. If only they could score a couple of runs, they would have had a chance at the postseason. 2015 should be much more promising.

Best Case

I am very excited about this Padres’ team. It’s not just Kemp, Upton, Myers, and all of the other additions they made on offense, but it’s their pitching staff. Ross, Cashner, and Kennedy were already a very good 1-2-3 for any rotation. Add in James Shields and now they could have one of the best rotations in baseball. If this team doesn’t finish dead last in runs scored again, which I’m pretty sure they won’t, they’ll win quite a few ball games. And by quite a few, I think they can make a serious run at the NL West title. The pitching staff is there. If that lineup can finish in the middle of the pack offensively and maybe even crack the top 10, watch out. 95-67

Worst Case

If the lineup can’t produce runs like they should, it could be a very underwhelming season for a team that has high expectations after a very exciting offseason. I’m extremely confident in that pitching staff holding up their end of the bargain, so it’s all up to the team’s offense. Like I mentioned earlier, there are still many question marks surrounding Kemp, Upton, and Myers. And those are the three the Padres will rely on to carry that offense. If those three end up not hitting like they should, it could mean another missed offseason. 81-81

Projected Record – 89-73

About the author: Jack Conness

Graduate of UW-Milwaukee. Baseball nerd. Follow him on Twitter! @JackConness