After opening Petco Park with four winning seasons and winning two NL West pennants, the Padres fell on hard times in 2008, finishing with 99 losses. The Padres came back in 2009 with a younger team and a new ownership group, and improved on their 2008 record by 12 games.
When a team is as little-known as the San Diego Padres, finishing with close to a hundred losses caused most casual baseball fans outside of San Diego to just forget about the team completely, which plays right into our hands considering our strategy of winning while people aren't paying attention.
2. David Eckstein, 2B
3. Adrian Gonzalez, 1B
4. Chase Headley, 3B
5. Kyle Blanks, LF
6. Will Venable, RF
7. Nick Hundley, C
8. Everth Cabrera, SS
Adrian Gonzalez is the Padres' best position player and is also the player least likely to finish the season as a Padre. Best guess says that the Padres will move Adrian Gonzalez for at least four and as many as seven players in return. Obviously, the team would hope to get young prospects. Moving Adrian Gonzalez at the right time would enable the Padres to play Kyle Blanks at first base and keep proper outfielders in the outfield.
Just for the record, Tony Gwynn's son and David Eckstein have little to no business being at the top of a lineup that also features Everth Cabrera and Will Venable, not to mention a platooning Scott Hairston, recently reacquired from the A's as part of a deal involving Kevin Kouzmanoff.
With Kouzmanoff gone, the Padres can play Chase Headley at his more natural position of 3B and slide Kyle Blanks over to LF. Scott Hairston can play every outfield position and the only thing keeping this team from starting Hairston is the Gwynn name and the promise of genetics.
Jerry Hairston Jr. and Matt Stairs are also on the team to provide something.
Some combination of Chris Young, Kevin Correia, Jon Garland, Clayton Richard, Mat Latos, Wade LeBlanc and Tim Stauffer.
There's a definite "play-to-your-strengths" thing going on with the Padres' rotation. Even without 2007 Cy Young winner Jake Peavy, the Padres will have several guys to choose from to make up their rotation in 2010. While it's not a staff full of aces, there are plenty of young options that have the potential to make up for it. Kevin Correia was a solid presence to make up for the injuries to Peavy and Young last season. The front office believes John Garland will play to Petco Park perfectly. Clayton Richard showed plenty of heart. All that said, my money's on Mat Latos to have a bit of a breakthrough this season.
Heath Bell will be doing the closing once again this season and while there has been some moaning among Padres faithful that he won't have as strong a bullpen behind him as he's had in years past, just the fact that the Padres play in Petco Park will keep the middle innings at home safe.
In The System
As young as this team is to begin with, my own guess is that the Padres will play the guys that they have up at the start of the season with just occasional looks to the minor leagues. Donavan Tate is one player who Padres fans are looking forward to. Josh Barfield will likely start the season at AAA Portland and may see some action with the big league club as well.
All that said, if the dice fall right and the young team somehow does well enough to be in contention moving towards the All-Star Break, it would seem to behoove the new ownership group to try to top things off a bit earlier than 2011.
I like to look at odds in reverse. Would I be willing to bet $200 to win $1 that the Padres won't win the World Series? Heck no! That's a suckers bet. The Padres should at LEAST be a 100-1 shot. Look at the number as we get closer to the middle of the season and my money is that it climbs to better than 50-1 as more of the young guys get noticed.