Wednesday, December 2, 2009

2010 Team Analysis: San Diego Padres

San Diego Padres

2009 Record: 75-87

General Manager: Jed Hoyer

Manager: Bud Black

Organizational Philosophy: Former GM Kevin Towers is considered one of the better GM’s in effectively finding bargain talent. It was a surprise to find him let go by the Padres earlier this week. Rumors have speculated that new CEO Jeff Moorad wanted to fill the GM spot with someone who shares his ideas on how to properly construct a baseball team; it's been speculated that those "ideas" center on acquiring high-ceiling talent and dropping the conservative approach once practiced in player development. Moorad has stated to the media that he would be comfortable assembling a team with a payroll between $70-80M within the next few years. Right now the Padres have $21M committed before arbitration and free agent acquisitions but don't expect this team to make any moves towards acquiring a major free agent... yet.

2010 Commitments:

Starting Rotation:

Chris Young ($6.25M)
Kevin Correia ($750K; arb eligible)
Tim Stauffer ($400K)
Mat Latos ($400K)
Clayton Richard ($400K)

Chris Young underwent “successful” shoulder surgery last summer and is expected to return completely healthy this spring. He has one more year including a 2011 club option left on his contract. I wouldn’t be surprised if the Padres shop him around during next season’s trade deadline.

Kevin Correia proved to be one of Towers’ better bargain bin finds last offseason, he’ll be due for a major pay increase this winter. Tim Stauffer did break down a little towards the end of the season, some are wondering if he’s better suited in the bullpen although he’ll have to cut down on his walks in order to be successful in this league. On any other team Clayton Richard would be considered nothing more than a situational lefty. He doesn’t have a blazing fastball or knee-buckling curve and will never be a “strikeout guy” but he does feature a good sinking fastball and slider.

Mat Latos blew through A/AA by showing excellent command and a fastball that tops at 97 mph.  Latos struggled to find the plate late last season but he did flash some brilliance in a few games against Atlanta and Cincinnati.  He'll be 22 at the start of next season and after battling shoulder problems through much of the '08 season I would expect the Padres to handle him carefully if he does make the starting rotation.

Earlier this month, the Padres claimed Radhames Liz ($400K) after being waived by the Orioles.  Liz has spent the last two years bouncing around the O's organization doing his best Daniel Cabrera impersonation.  He has pitched in 110 big league innings but his command has been atrocious despite above average velocity.  Liz will get another shot to prove himself at Petco but I'm guessing he'll be utilized out of the bullpen.
Other contenders for rotation spots this Spring include prospect Aaron Poreda ($400K), Sean Gallagher ($410K), Cesar Ramos ($400K), Cesar Carrillo ($400K) and Wade LeBlanc ($400K). Poreda was one of the major pieces sent to the Padres in the Jake Peavy trade with the White Sox. After dominating in AA last season, Poreda was a little roughed up in the hitter-friendly PCL league this season. The major bit of troubling news is where did Poreda’s control go? In over 100 minor league innings, Poreda has allowed a BB/9 of nearly 6! His K rate is still strong and at 23 years of age he still has time to properly develop.

Sean Gallagher has always posted gaudy strikeout numbers despite not having a particularly explosive fastball. He has bounced around a few teams in his short career and could still be passed around until he figures out how to pitch with some control (or at least get opposing hitters to swing at pitches outside the strike zone). Ramos and Carrillo will both be 26 years old next season and could find themselves as effective bullpen fixtures; although Ramos did find his way into the Padre rotation at the end of the season and if he could keep his GB% at current levels (+50%) he’ll be quite valuable in the backend of any rotation.

Wade LeBlanc is an intriguing piece.  He'll be 25 at the start of the season and is your classic junkball thrower.  His "fastball" sits at 85 mph and is coupled by a cutter and a slow changeup.  In the minors, LeBlance showcased excellent command and he did finish strong in 3 of his last 4 starts with the Padres in '09 thereby giving this team an incredible amount of pitching depth to begin next season.

Hard throwing 21 year old RHP Simon Castro is an interesting prospect but is another year away before being considered. Watch how he does in his first full season next year in AA.


Heath Bell ($1.25M; arb eligible)
Edward Mujica ($400K)
Mike Adams ($415K)
Luke Gregerson ($400K)
Luis Perdomo ($400K)
Joe Thatcher ($400K)
Ernesto Frieri ($400K)

Among this group, Joe Thatcher is the only left-handed pitcher. Edward Mujica and Mike Adams both pitched very well in set-up to Heath Bell who is due for a major pay increase. Many baseball analysts have speculated that trading Heath Bell would be a very wise move this offseason due to Bell’s peak value. The Padres could easily plug in either Mujica or Adams in the closer role. Both posted excellent K/BB numbers (although Mujica does tend to get tagged a bit by the long ball) and are considered future closer candidates.

The team also has Luke Gregerson and his excellent slider as closer candidate. In 75 MLB innings pitched, Gregerson struckout 93 batters and allowed only 3 HRs.

Luis Perdomo seems to be used on a mop-up basis only, which partly stems from his high BB and HR/9 rates but his high GB% and above average fastball does have the Padres brass believing this 25 year old could be promising. Ryan Webb ($400K) is a 24 year old Oakland A’s cast off with a high GB% and a fastball that sits in the mid-90’s.

On the field:

C: Nick Hundley ($404K)
1B: Adrian Gonzalez ($4.8M)
2B: David Eckstein (free agent)
2B: Edgar Gonzalez ($407K)
SS: Everth Cabrera ($400K)
3B: Kevin Kouzmanoff ($430K; arb eligible)
LF: Kyle Blanks ($400K)
LF: Chase Headley ($411K)
CF: Tony Gwynn ($405K)
RF: Will Venable ($400K)

Talk among analysts have centered on the probability that Adrian Gonzalez will be traded. This depends on whatever direction Moorad and co. choose to go. In 2009 the Padres were last in the NL in runs scored per game (3.96). If Gonzalez is traded he will be owed a little over $10 M since it's expected that whatever team gets him will pick up his club option in 2011.  The Red Sox, Braves, Mets, and White Sox are among the many teams interested and could bring forth an interesting package of high ceiling prospects (which is something the Padres could definitely use since many of their top prospects have seemed to hit a wall the past few seasons).

3B will be interesting this offseason with Chase Headley and Kevin Kouzmanoff battling for a full-time spot. With the emergence of 1B prospect Kyle Blanks playing LF, Headley and his developing bat could and should see more time at 3B. This season Headley saw his BB% rise and if his power could develop a bit further he should a valuable part of their offense. Trading Kouzmanoff, who is under contract until after the 2012 season, shouldn’t be too difficult.

Last season 22 year old Kyle Blanks quietly hit in 148 MLB at bats and produced an OPS of .868. His defense in LF was more than adequate.  As he develops more and cuts down on his K% he could be a valuable middle of the lineup hitter for quite some time.

For the time being, CF seems to belong to the younger Tony Gwynn.  In his first season with the Padres he did show improvement in getting on base (10.9% BB rate) and showed excellent defensive skills.  He also showed a good eye in only swinging at only 16% of pitches outside the strike zone (the MLB average is 25%)

With the team deciding to part ways with free agent Brian Giles look for Will Venable to patrol the spacious RF at Petco.  Venable does posses an adequate glove but his propensity to strikout (30% in 293 ABs) will have to be corrected.

Next Season’s Forecast: Besides Mat Latos, Kyle Blanks, Jaff Decker, and James Darnell this team really lacks any true upside prospects which isn't good for a team that's been on the rebuilding track for quite some time. Trading some of their established talent would be the wise move since they do have some valuable and cost-effective pieces.  I do expect fliers to be taken out concerning the return value of players like Adrian Gonzalez, Heath Bell and Kevin Kouzmanoff, all three could be viable pieces on a number of teams for relatively cheap prices and is guaranteed get the attention of some GM’s this offseason. 

However, if Adrian Gonzales is traded then trading Kouz doesn't become a major necessity since Kyle Blanks can be plugged into 1B and Chase Headley can stay in LF.  The other option the Padres may look at is Chris Young's trade value before the this summer's trade deadline, the Padres do have a wealth of starting pitching but of course this assumes where they will be in the standings by then.

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