The NL West has been one of the most difficult divisions in MLB the past few seasons. The San Francisco Giants have won the World Series every other season since 2010, and the resurgent Dodgers have spent vast amounts of money on players such as four time All-Star Adrian Gonzalez, Cy Young winner Clayton Kershaw, and Cuban sensation Yasiel Puig. These two teams have been the power couple of this division for the last five seasons, but this year seems to be the Padres best opportunity to dethrone the kings.
The San Francisco Giants lost a key part of their offense this off-season when third baseman Pablo Sandoval signed with the Boston Red Sox, and recently lost another key position player in Hunter Pence whos fractured forearm will have him miss the first month of the season. The Los Angeles Dodgers lost three time All-Star Hanley Ramirez to the Boston Red Sox, traded Matt Kemp to the Padres, and also traded Dee Gordon along with Dan Haren to the Marlins for prospects. With these changes and injuries, now is the time to strike for the San Diego Padres.
The 2013-2014 season was an offensive disaster for the San Diego Padres. With little offensive power at pitcher friendly stadium Petco Park, the Padres had one of the worst offensive seasons statically in the history of MLB. The Padres scored the least amount of runs in the league, had the fewest runs batted in, had the worst batting average, worst on base percentage, and the third fewest home runs with 109 total. The home run leader for the Padres was their catcher Yasmani Grandal with just 15. Jedd Gyorko, the Padres second baseman had the highest RBI total with 51.
In comes new General Manager A.J. Preller, who worked as the scouting and player development executive for the Texas Rangers. Preller started making explosive transactions immediately. He traded for All-Star catcher Derek Norris from the Oakland A’s, two-time All-Star outfielder Matt Kemp from the Los Angeles Dodgers, home run hitting outfielder Justin Upton from the Atlanta Braves, and Rookie of the Year winner Wil Myers from the Tampa Bay Rays all in one off-season. All of these players are offensively skilled and have plenty of power to hit home runs out of Petco Park. Justin Upton hit 29 home runs last year for the Braves and Matt Kemp hit another 25 in a crowded Dodgers outfield limiting his time on the field. Justin Upton doubled Jedd Gyorko’s team high 51 RBI’s with 102 last year. With all of this new offensive firepower, the Padres look primed to contend in the NL West.
While the offense was putrid for the Padres last season, their pitching was the absolute opposite. The Padres posted the fourth best era in MLB, and had the least amount of blown saves showing how strong their entire rotation is, from starters to closer. Anchored by Andrew Cashner (2.55 ERA last season), newly signed James Shields (3.21 ERA and 14-8 last season with the World Series losing Kansas City Royals), and Tyson Ross (2.81 ERA last season), the Padres boast one of the best pitching staffs in the National League.
While Padres fans should be excited about the offensive overhaul and exceptional pitching staff, I believe they will finish behind the Los Angeles Dodgers in the NL West, but they will make the playoffs. The Dodgers are just too talented and experienced for the Padres to jump them in the NL West and steal the crown in their first year with this new offensive crew. The Padres are going to need time to figure out their lineup and how to utilize all their shiny new toys. The 2015 season will be a major improvement for the San Diego Padres, just don’t expect them to be this year’s Kansas City Royals and make a run at the World Series.