San Diego Padres fantasy team preview
He never touched home plate! -- Padres fans, the early hours of Oct. 2, 2007.
Whether or not Matt Holliday actually touched home, the play was the culmination of a disastrous turn of events for the Padres, who lost their final three games to miss the playoffs by the slimmest of margins. Compounding the heartache was the fact that beloved closer Trevor Hoffman blew a two-run lead in the 13th inning, leaving devoted fans with no place to direct their anger, except of course squarely on plate umpire Tim McClelland.
When the anger eventually subsides, Padres fans will surely realize that they still have quite a bit to be thankful for, starting with the day back in October 2005 when Rangers general manager Jon Daniels decided that Adrian Gonzalez and Chris Young were expendable when the return was a package built around Adam Eaton and Akinori Otsuka. Two years later, the Padres have a star first baseman and a No. 2 starter both signed (for reasonable money) through 2010. Gonzalez proved his San Diego debut was no fluke by blasting 30 home runs, the most by a Padre since the team moved to Petco Park. Young posted a career-best 3.12 ERA, made the All-Star team and emerged unscathed from a brawl with Derrek Lee of the Cubs. Young and Jake Peavy now form arguably the best 1-2 punch in the National League.
Jim Edmonds, OF
Tadahito Iguchi, 2B
Mark Prior, SP
Randy Wolf, SP
Jose Cruz, Jr., OF
Marcus Giles, 2B
Terrmel Sledge, OF
The Padres will count on the continued excellence of Peavy and Young as well as steady improvement from Gonzalez, Khalil Greene and Kevin Kouzmanoff to propel them to the playoffs this season. However, given the age and injury history of a number of key players, it's likely that the team will have to bring in reinforcements from the minor leagues throughout the season.
|*Projected round a player will be drafted in an ESPN standard 10-team league.|
Intriguing spring battle: Josh Bard played 108 games for the Padres in 2007, and in those games, he threw out just 10 of 131 would-be base stealers. Despite that, he's the front-runner for the catching job in San Diego this season. That must be very humbling for Michael Barrett, only one year removed from a three-year run as one of the best hitting catchers in baseball. On the other hand, Barrett himself is one of the very worst catchers at throwing out base stealers. Although Bard is a switch-hitter and Barrett bats right-handed, there's no natural platoon because Bard does his best work from the right side. Bard is the favorite, but he can't afford a slump of any duration as long as Barrett is on the squad.
|Stephania Bell on Mark Prior|
Aug. 10, 2006: That is the last time Mark Prior pitched in the majors.
May 2008: That is the projected return month for Prior to the majors following surgery last April to address damage in his rotator cuff and labrum. Prior has gotten a bad rap based on his injury history, but there are a few facts to consider when evaluating him for the upcoming season.
First, he's still just 27. Second, it's possible that the pathology present in Prior's shoulder was severe enough to cause mechanical problems that resulted in unrelenting pain. If so, surgery to clean up and reinforce the area, followed by intensive rehab, should help immensely. Third, Prior has been through rehab before, and his body may have already made some positive adaptations from the previous rehab stints. Finally, Prior has positive motivating factors surrounding him. He is in San Diego (his hometown), he is in a pitcher-friendly ballpark, and he has a one-year contract.
This may be Prior's best chance for a solid season in three years. It will not necessarily be an easy path to success, but there are enough ingredients to make him an intriguing prospect.
Trainer's Room: If the Padres set a record for days on the DL this season, they have no one to blame but themselves. They acquired Edmonds, Wolf and Prior in the offseason, and there were no reports of a concurrent purchase of extended service plans. Prior is a story unto himself (see sidebar), but suffice to say he's the ultimate flyer, a guy with superstar potential who will go undrafted in many leagues this season. Wolf has made only 43 starts in the past three seasons because of an assortment of injuries. He underwent "minor" shoulder surgery last September and hopes to be ready for spring training. As a strikeout/fly-ball pitcher, Wolf could really benefit from pitching at Petco Park, if he can stay on the mound. Edmonds has missed 97 games the past two seasons and will turn 38 in June. It would be unwise to count on more than 125 games from Mr. Edmonds. It's not like the holdover Padres were bastions of health, either. Brian Giles played in just 121 games last season and underwent microfracture surgery on his right knee in October. Hoffman had surgery to remove bone chips from his elbow this past October. The veteran closer hasn't been on the disabled list since 2003 but is now 40 years old, and the surgery has to be at least a minor concern heading into his 16th season. Bottom line: There's a lot of risk on this team.
Fantasy Stud: Although Johan Santana is still considered the No. 1 pitcher in fantasy baseball, Peavy is, at worst, right on his heels. Only two pitchers in major league baseball have struck out at least 200 batters in each of the past three seasons: Santana -- who's done it four years in a row -- is one, Peavy is the other. The Padres ace has a cumulative ERA of 2.97 in the four years since the Padres moved to Petco Park. In the same four-year span, Santana has an ERA of 2.89. Peavy is coming off his best all-around season and has proven to be durable. Santana certainly has greater upside, especially now that he's with the Mets, but the gap between the two pitchers isn't as large as you think. If you're willing to spend a first-round pick on Santana, you should be willing to spend, at the very least, an early second-round pick on Peavy.
2007 Starters Stats
Record: 59-49 (13th)
ERA: 4.11 (1st) | WHIP: 1.28 (1st)
Batting Average Against: .257 (4th)
Home Runs Allowed: 82 (30th)
Team Fielding Percentage: .985 (7th)
Petco Park Factor:
Runs: 0.755 (30th) | HRs: 0.685 (29th)
|*Projected round a player will be drafted in an ESPN standard 10-team league.|
Base-running philosophy: In his first season as a big league manager, Bud Black oversaw a squad that attempted only 79 steals, the second-fewest in all of baseball. A year earlier, the Padres attempted 154 steals under Bruce Bochy. Two obvious explanations for the year-over-year decline are the departure of Dave Roberts (and his 55 stolen base attempts in 2006) and the team's No. 28 ranking in on-base percentage. Does that fully explain the decline? Actually, it might. When you look at the roster, the Padres really didn't have many players who were threats to run last year, and they still don't. Black coached under Mike Scioscia in Anaheim, so he's certainly been exposed to a more aggressive baserunning style before. The only current Padre who will be particularly valued for his speed is Iguchi, and there's no evidence that fantasy owners should be concerned about Black's willingness to turn him loose.
| || *Projected round a player will be drafted in an ESPN standard 10-team league.|
Prospect to watch for the future: Matt Antonelli was the 17th overall pick in the 2006 draft, and since then he's done nothing to make the Padres regret the choice. Drafted as a third baseman, Antonelli moved to second base in 2007, and the one-year contract given to Tadahito Iguchi appears to be designed to buy Antonelli a year of development before he takes over the keystone in 2009. Though not an elite talent, Antonelli is a potential 20-20 player down the road and deserves attention in keeper leagues.Nate Ravitz is an editor and analyst for ESPN Fantasy.
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