The Brewers' Cactus League schedule continues today with a split-squad doubleheader, and Dex of Gaslamp Ball was kind enough to answer these questions about the Padres to help us get ready for the home half.
BCB: The stakes went up a little bit for the rest of the NL West in 2013 after the Dodgers' winter spending spree left them with the highest payroll in baseball history. Can the Padres compete in the short or long term in this division while being outspent 3-to-1 or more?
GB: If 2013 starts out the way 2012 ended, with the Padres finding their groove with a slightly more healthy team and the Dodgers paying out obscene contracts to guys who don't quite fit in right away, then yes, the Padres can compete.
BCB: This is a Padres team that had just two players hit ten home runs a year ago. Is power going to be a recurring issue for this team?
GB: This will be a wild-card year in terms of power, but it's worth pointing out that Petco actually was home to a few guys who could hit the ball out when it first opened. The 2010 power dip was an especially off year, but the team has a few things in its favor in 2013. First off, the fences were moved in. This won't help with the advantages that harbor air gives toe pitchers, but it should help a bit when hitters do find something to hit. Second, hitting coach Phil Plantier and assistant Alonzo Powell have both made comments going back to last year that they like the progression they're receiving with the hitters. Chase Headley is the prime example of a guy who's credited the new hitting coach tandem with helping him to discover some of his new found power.
On the flip side, it remains to be seen if Carlos Quentin will stay healthy and what Yasmani Grandal will look like once he's back from his PED suspension and (presumably) not juiced. I would expect to see Quentin, Headley, and Yonder Alonso all hit over 10 home runs, and possibly another two or three guys sneak into that list.
BCB: The only Padre to hit more than 16 homers last season was Chase Headley, who posted a 2012 OPS over 100 points above his previous career high, finished in the top five in the MVP voting and won a Gold Glove and Silver Slugger Award. Is he poised to repeat that kind of performance in 2013?
GB: There may be a regression to the mean, but it depends on where you think the regression will start from. The first half of last season was not especially great for Chase and the last two months were amazing. If we figure that the regression is that he won't be able to keep up the last two months of last season (when he won NL Player of the Month twice in a row), but won't regress all the way to pre-2012, then we're expecting an All-Star Game appearance for our third baseman.
BCB: 13 different pitchers started at least five games for the Padres in 2012, the most in all of baseball. What happened to cause that, and could it happen again in 2013?
GB: Injury and more injury. Injuries at the major league level last season forced the Padres' hand with dipping into the minors, where, as bad luck would have it, there were already injuries. So the Padres had to call up guys who were really REALLY not ready while also dipping into the over the hill free agent pool, which doesn't bode well at all for consistency. Unfortunately for us, we're starting out with injury to Andrew Cashner who was projected to be a starter full time this year so we start out on a bad note.
BCB: What's the biggest storyline in Padres camp that I'm missing here?
GB: You have missed no story lines in the Padres camp, which may speak to your baseball knowledge, but also speaks to the Padres inability to do anything at all. The biggest thing to note is that the Padres recently got a new television contract and a new ownership group (The O'Malley family, formerly of the Dodgers), and managed to do nothing at all in the offseason. Some might say this is confidence that they can continue where they left off at the end of 2012, but whatever the reason, there was nothing for Padres fans to sink their teeth into this offseason nor going into camp.
Thanks to Dex for taking the time, and check out Gaslamp Ball for more on the Padres!