Continuing with the NL West, the next team in our continuing series previewing all 30 MLB teams leading up to the start of the 2016 season is the San Diego Padres, who finished in fourth place in the division last season
The Padres, coming off of a fifth-straight sub-.500 season, made a couple of trades this offseason that involve players of significance in order to stay competitive in a tough division. In one, they traded RP Marc Rzepczynski and 1B Yonder Alonso to the A’s in exchange for SP Drew Pomeranz and a couple of minor leaguers. The other trade involved a swap of hitters, with the Padres getting OF Jon Jay from the Cardinals for 2B Jedd Gyorko. The Padres also had a couple notable free-agent signings, including veteran RP Fernando Rodney, who appears to be the front-runner to begin the season as the team’s closer, replacing RP Craig Kimbrel, who was traded to the Red Sox for four minor leaguers. They also signed SS Alexei Ramirez. The Padres lost OF Justin Upton, their top home-run hitter last season, to free agency; he signed a multiyear deal with the Tigers.
The Padres have been known a light-hitting team in recent years and last season was no exception. The team’s .243 batting average was the lowest in the National League, while the team’s 148 home runs and 623 RBI were both slightly below the league average. With Upton gone, they lose 26 home runs from last season, After Upton, OF Matt Kemp was second on the team with 23 home runs, while C Derek Norris and 3B Yangervis Solarte each hit 14. The Padres also traded away their top guy for average, Alonso, which means Solarte’s .270 average from last season is highest among returning players. The Padres’ 4.09 ERA ranked in the bottom half of the NL, with SPs Tyson Ross and James Shields leading the way in the rotation with ERAs of 3.26 and 3.91, respectively. Joining them in the rotation are SPs Andrew Cashner and Colin Rea, who made his first six starts in Major League Baseball last season, posting a 4.26 ERA in 31.2 innings. With the Mariners and Cubs last season, Rodney was 16-for-23 in save opportunities while posting a 4.74 ERA and striking out 58 in 62.2 innings.
If Jay can come back from a lost season in 2015 — .210 average in 79 games — and get closer to his .287 career average, he should provide a much-needed offensive boost for the Padres. He doesn’t provide much power, though, with just 29 home runs in 757 career games. If Solarte can step up offensively in his third major league season, that might also help the Padres score more runs. Ross and Shields are a decent 1-2 punch at the top of the rotation, but there are some questions after them. Cashner can put up decent numbers, but then you have unproven young guys like Rea and SP Robbie Erlin competing for a starting spot with Pomeranz, who has only started more than 10 games once in his career, back in 2012. Rodney gives the Padres a veteran closer, but he can be inconsistent — he put up a 5.68 ERA in 54 appearances for the Mariners last season and a 0.75 ERA in 14 games with the Cubs. Obviously, if his performance this year is closer to what he did with the Mariners rather than the Cubs, he likely won’t last in the closer’s role for the whole season.
The Padres look to be an improved team over last season, but they likely won’t finish better than fourth place this season. The Giants, Diamondbacks and Dodgers are all better than them, and they’ll be tough to beat in the many games the Padres have against them. The Padres should be better than the Rockies, which should be able to keep them out of last place, but not much better than that.