Key Additions—Orlando Hudson, Jason Bartlett, Cameron Maybin, Brad Hawpe
Key Losses—Adrian Gonzalez, Miguel Tejada
Lineup—The loss of A-Gon obviously puts a huge strain on the rest of the lineup. Although the Padres did very well in the players they got back from the trade, you still have a very big hole to fill when you lose a player like Gonzalez. I do like that they signed Brad Hawpe to fill that hole, although he is nowhere close to being the player that they had. I also like what they did in the rest of the infield, adding Hudson and Bartlett to go along with youngster Chase Headley. They are taking a chance that one time top prospect Cameron Maybin can finally flourish, but he is going to track down a lot of balls in CF. Ryan Ludwick is a solid LF, but I am concerned with what they will get from Will Venable in RF. The nice thing about this team is they have some pitching depth which should be a bonus if they want to enhance their lineup at some point in the season.
Rotation—This rotation is led by Mat Latos, who is quickly becoming a go-to pitcher in this league. He should spearhead this rotation and be near the top of the Cy Young voting at season’s end. Following him are 2 young arms who should perform fairly well. Clayton Richard and Tim Stauffer have both showed some promised and should continue to approve. I really like the move to go out and sign Aaron Harang. Harang returns home to San Diego, and should really benefit from Petco Park. I expect him to put up pretty solid numbers this year. The last spot should go to Cory Luebke, a former sandwich pick it is time to see what he can do. This rotation performed well last year, and should again be able to keep this team in the division race.
Bullpen–Despite all of the banter, Heath Bell is still a Padre and leads this bullpen. He should get plenty of save opportunities and should be one of the top closers in the game. They added some depth by signing Chad Qualls, and should have a fairly good bullpen. The one thing to watch is if anyone emerges throughout the year which would make Bell expendable.
Impact Rookie—Cory Luebke, LHP. While he won’t blow it by you with his fastball that sits in the high 80’s and can touch 92, Luebke is a strike thrower who will go to his slider and change up in any count. If he can get 26 starts and 160 innings, he could win 10 games with good peripherals in that park.
Outlook—In a division that I think is up for grabs, I give the Padres a good chance of at least contending into September. I like what they did with their lineup, although I still think they are going to have a tough time scoring runs, and their rotation has the chance to be pretty good. With the emergence of more young players, this is a team on the rise.
Brad Koesters, MLB Correspondent
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