Over the course of 30 days (or so) I will be previewing all 30 MLB teams, followed by an overall season prediction post, leading up to the start of the 2015 season. This post is previewing the San Diego Padres.
The Padres haven’t made the playoffs since 2006 so, trying to end that streak, they made a number of moves this offseason to add some big-name players to their roster. The entire starting outfield — Justin Upton, Wil Myers and Matt Kemp — is new, along with 3B Will Middlebrooks and SP James Shields. Making such a drastic change to the team, it looks like the team wants to put itself in a position to win now, not necessarily a given with the Dodgers and Giants in the division.
When you look at last season’s stats, you can understand why the Padres gave themselves such a big makeover. The team was at or near the bottom of the National League in most of the major offensive categories. The offense ranked last in batting average (.226), OPS (.634) and runs per game (3.30) and next to last in home runs, with 109. Part of that could be attributed to playing half their games at pitcher-friendly Petco Park, but playing guys like Chase Headley and Will Venable, who is now a backup in the outfield, also may have played a factor. Not surprisingly, given the aforementioned pitcher-friendly ballpark, the Padres’ pitching staff performed better than the offense in 2014. At 3.27, the staff’s ERA and 3.56 runs allowed per game both ranked as second-best in the NL.
So how much can you expect the new offensive additions to perform in 2015? Upton has hit at least 27 home runs in three of the last four seasons and Kemp is a .292 hitter who has hit double-digit home runs every season in which he has played at least 100 games. Myers and Middlebrooks, who are entering their third and fourth seasons, respectively, are question marks as far as their production goes. Myers hit .293 in 2013 but just .222 last year, with his home run total cut in half last season. Middlebrooks has also seen his average drop in each season of his major league career, from .288 in 2012 to just .191 in 2014. If those trends continue, they won’t add much to the offense. On the mound, Shields is durable, having thrown at least 200 innings every year since 2007 with a career ERA of 3.72. That was all in the American League, now coming to the league without a DH and in a spacious stadium, you would expect Shields to do better than a 3.72 ERA in his first season with San Diego. Add him to a rotation that already includes SP Andrew Cashner, who had a 2.55 ERA in 19 starts last season, and you have a good 1-2 punch at the top of the staff.
The Padres are definitely improved over last season so you would expect them to do better than the 77-85 record they had last year, but how much better? They’re almost certainly a .500 team, I think, will finish a couple games better than that mark. But it won’t be enough in the NL West with the Dodgers and Giants. The Padres are the third-best team in the division and will likely win 84 or 85 games, but I think they’ll be on the outside looking in when it comes to the playoffs. I think they’re still a year or two away from the postseason.