Don’t look now, but the San Diego Padres are on the verge of competing for the 2015 NL West crown after acquiring some much needed pop in their lineup over the last few weeks.
Last season their pitching staff allowed only 3.6 runs per game, which was the third lowest in the majors behind Washington and Seattle at 3.4. But the problem was that their bats only produced 3.3 runs per game — the lowest in baseball.
Blame the lack of scoring on Petco Park with its massive outfield and the cool salty breeze coming off the bay, but there should be a little more offensive pop this season. In fact, there should be a lot more pop.
New GM A.J. Preller has been a busy bee since the MLB winter meetings and has acquired a new outfield with Justin Upton, Matt Kemp and Wil Myers. He’s also traded for 3B Will Middlebrooks from Boston and slugging catcher Derek Norris from Oakland. Each of those players have had their ups and downs, but this will be the first time we have seen a Padres offense so stacked with power at Petco.
The big upside for San Diego is with Kemp and Myers. We’ve seen flashes of Kemp being the best player in the game, and now he’s happy because he’ll be able to play centerfield and not have any playing time controversies like he had in a crowded Dodgers outfield last season. His biggest question mark right now is his health; can he stay healthy for 162 games?
With Myers, they get one of the highest rated prospects we’ve seen in recent years. After winning AL rookie of the year in 2013 with Tampa Bay where he hit .293 with a .831 OPS, he dropped down to .222 and .614 last season. He has huge potential and upside and the Rays may have given up too early on the player they traded James Shields to Kansas City for.
Upton is a head case which is why his raw talent has been sacrificed by Arizona and Atlanta already, but when he gets in a groove it lasts a while and can carry a club. Maybe his third team will be an awakening for him and he’ll figure out on his own why teams don’t want him and then really turn things around.
The Westgate Las Vegas SuperBook have dropped the Padres to win the World Series from an opener of 50-to-1 down to 40-1 after the acquisitions and there may still be some value with them.
The Dodgers are still going to be good because of Clayton Kershaw and Zack Greinke pitching, but it was Kemp who led the second half charge last season. The Dodgers also don’t have Hanley Ramirez.
Up north in San Francisco, it’s an odd year, so the Giants can take their annual year off after winning the World Series. And then we shouldn’t expect much out of Colorado and Arizona, so the NL West looks very winnable, or at least presents so many question marks that the major upgrades by the Padres should at least pique some interest.
Micah Roberts is a former Las Vegas race and sports book director, one of The Linemakers on SportingNews.com , and longtime motorsports columnist and sports analyst at GamingToday. Follow Micah on Twitter @MicahRoberts7 Contact Micah at [email protected].