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Padres are NL sleeper says ESPN's Paul Swydan

Denis Poroy

Don't sleep on the Padres, they have the potential to be better than expected.  Paul Swydan writes on ESPN's Insider that, like last year, he'll pick the Padres as the NL sleeper.

San Diego Padres are the sleeper in the National League - MLB - ESPN ($)

The Padres won't be favored to win the division, and with good reason. They are a team without a superstar, but they should be pretty solid across the board, with very few weak spots on the roster and a number of players who are at the age when big jumps in performance are feasible.

That's the kind of team that can come out of nowhere and steal a division.

Swydan points to two reasons for his pick.  First the Padres have a deep pitching staff.  The predicted starting five of Ian Kennedy, Andrew Cashner, Josh Johnson, Eric Stults and Tyson Ross have the potential to post league average numbers.  Then once some prospects like Burch Smith and Matt Wisler come up midseason and Cory Luebke returns from injury anything can happen.

Second, the Padres offense will improve.  Swydan thinks Chase Headley will bounce back after showing signs of improvement in the second half of 2013.  Plus, the Padres will get All-Star Everth Cabrera back in the lineup after his PED suspension.  Much like the pitching staff the Padres have loads of depth in the outfield now after acquiring Seth Smith.

It's not just depth, of course, it's quality depth. Smith and Venable crush righties while Denorfia and Blanks crush lefties.

With these things going for them and a roster of relative unknowns, the Padres will lull their opponents to sleep and then kill them silently, like sleep apnea or high blood pressure.