(EDITOR’S NOTE: This is the 26th of 30 team reports by GT sports editor Mark Mayer on major league baseball projections for the start of the 2013 season. Today: San Diego Padres. On deck: San Francisco.)
SAN DIEGO PADRES (2012: NL West 76-86, fourth 18 out)
No division in baseball has been more volatile than the National League West where any team can finish first or last.
Take San Diego. Last year the Padres were 7-17 in April and 17-35 heading into June. The season was basically over, but the team didn’t quit and posted a 46-34 record after the All Star break.
The big reason was 3B Chase Headley, who came out of nowhere to lead the league in RBI (115), bat .286 and belt a career high 31 homers. How dramatic was the improvement? Get this. Headley hit 19 homers after Aug. 1. The same guy who had just 29 homers from 2009-11.
Unfortunately Headley is on the DL and won’t be available until late April at the earliest. Last year Carlos Quinton missed April and San Diego struggled out of the gate. Quinton is capable of 30-plus homers and he’ll have to carry the load until Headley returns.
Yonder Alonzo was also a pleasant surprise at first base and brings enormous power from the left side. A future star, C Yasmani Grandal, is serving a 50-game suspension for performance enhancing drugs and won’t be available until late May. So again the Padres are faced with a potential bad start to a season.
Edinson Volquez, who showed plenty of promise with Cincinnati until flaming out, was named San Diego’s Opening Day starter. Huston Street is a capable closer if he can stay healthy. The roster is full of capable players, but no superstars. Chemistry is what will have to carry the Padres until their guns return to action.
The Padres are projected to win 74 games in a division that features the World Champion San Francisco Giants and arguably this season’s best team on paper the Los Angeles Dodgers.
San Diego management is trying to help by bringing the fences in at Petco Park, long considered one of baseball’s toughest places to hit homers. The Padres open the season on the road with stops in New York against the Mets and Colorado opposing the Rockies.
The Padres can’t win the division in April, but they sure can lose it. Another 7-17 start would virtually assure that. If they can hang close to .500, this will become a dangerous club in the summer. We’ll take that 74 wins and raise it.
SAN DIEGO PADRES Projected wins (74)
Infield: C: Nick Hundley; 1B: Yonder Alonzo; 2B: Logan Forsythe; 3B: Chase Headley; SS Everth Cabrera.
Outfield: LF: Carlos Quentin; CF Cameron Maybin; RF Will Venable.
Pitching: Edinson Volquez; Clayton Richard; Jason Marquis; Eric Stults; Tyson Ross.
Closer: Huston Street.
Top reserves: RP Luke Gregerson; C Yasmani Grandal.
Mark Mayer has over 35 years covering sports events and is the sports editor at GT. Reach him at [email protected].