Fantasy baseball 2013 team preview: San Diego Padres
Given the Padres' underwhelming 2012 roster and the number of injuries they suffered throughout the season, it's actually surprising that they managed to win 76 games. How did they do it? Chase Headley broke out in a huge way, hitting .286/.376/.498 with 31 homers, 115 RBI and 17 steals; Everth Cabrera emerged as a relevant fantasy shortstop thanks to 44 steals in 115 games; and Carlos Quentin remained his power-hitting self, despite playing at Petco Park. Those three will continue to perform for fantasy owners this season, but beyond that most of the offensive excitement on this team will come from the prospects. Jedd Gyorko and Rymer Liriano will both likely get the call to San Diego this season.
On the mound, Clayton Richard and Edinson Volquez were semi-useful for fantasy owners a year ago, but the Padres don't offer the fantasy community much in the way of starting pitchers, which is a real shame since they play in one of the league's best pitcher's parks. Richard and Volquez should be drafted in most mixed leagues, but the other three pitchers in the rotation (Eric Stults, Anthony Bass and Jason Marquis) are stream options, at best. Again, you might want to direct your attention to the minors. Robbie Erlin and Adys Portillo could be in the majors at some point this season.
1. Everth Cabrera, SS
2. Will Venable, RF
3. Chase Headley, 3B
4. Carlos Quentin, LF
5. Yonder Alonso, 1B
6. Nick Hundley, C
7. Cameron Maybin, CF
8. Logan Forsythe, 2B
1. Edinson Volquez
2. Clayton Richard
3. Eric Stults
4. Anthony Bass
5. Jason Marquis
Bullpen: Huston Street (closer), Luke Gregerson, Brad Boxberger, Dale Thayer, Tom Layne, Joe Thatcher, Brad Brach, Miles Mikolas, Nick Vincent
• What does Chase Headley have in store for 2013? Headley had a nice little year in 2011, hitting .289/.374/.399 in 113 games. But that .399 number should tell you a whole lot. He never really hit for any power, and he was 27 in 2011. Then, without any warning, he blasted 31 homers last season and came in fifth in NL MVP voting. Unfortunately for Headley, the Padres and anyone who owns him in a keeper league, I don't think 2012 was the start of the new normal.
The last time Headley slugged anywhere near .500 was back in 2008 when he hit .305/.383/.556 with 13 homers in 65 games at Triple-A Portland. Not only was that his lone plus-power season in the minors, it happened in the offensively charged Pacific Coast League. If you looked at anything but the back of his baseball card last season, you would have assumed Headley had another pedestrian year from a power standpoint. He posted a career-high 48.5-percent ground-ball rate. His line-drive rate fell to 19.5 percent from 21.9 percent in 2011. His 12.3-percent walk rate was a career best, but his 22.5-percent strikeout rate was the worst of his career since his rookie season. His contact rate fell to 74.8 percent, the worst of his career, and he swung and missed a very high 11 percent of the time. All that changed was that his fly balls tended to leave the yard way more than they ever had. I'm betting that's a one-year anomaly, not a new trend. I won't own Headley in any leagues this year.
• Is Jedd Gyorko ready for The Show? If the Padres are to regain relevance anytime soon, Gyorko will be a big part of the resurgence. Last year at Triple-A Portland, he hit .325/.377/.585 with 24 homers and 83 RBI in 92 games. He could push Logan Forsythe for the starting second base job on Opening Day, but Gyorko will likely start the year in Portland. Chances are he'll make the majors at some point this season, especially since he pretty much showed the Padres last year he has nothing left to prove in the minors.
The fantasy gamer should have Gyorko on his or her radar during draft season. Even if he starts the season in the minors, he could be worth a pick, depending on your league parameters. Not only has Gyorko hit at every level of the minors, his advanced stats portend a quick transition to the majors. He had a .411 wOBA and .260 isolated slugging at Portland last year. His walk rate was 8.3 percent and his strikeout rate was a manageable 16.7 percent. There are very few Trouts and Harpers, so you shouldn't expect Gyorko to come up and take the league by storm. However, he's worthy of being a fantasy starter from the day the Padres promote him to the big leagues.
• Does Everth Cabrera's stolen-base ability make him a starter in mixed leagues? In 1,137 career plate appearances, Cabrera is a .240/.321/.327 hitter. And that's with a .317 BABIP. In fantasy, he's a two-category player. However, he plays one of the shallowest positions in the league, and is a sure bet for 40 steals. He swiped 44 bags in just 115 games last year. So do his steals, runs and positional scarcity make him a starter? In NL-only leagues, definitely. In mixed leagues, definitely not.
Shortstop remains a relatively shallow position, but it's not the dearth of fantasy talent it once was. Troy Tulowitzki, Jose Reyes, Starlin Castro and Hanley Ramirez will be off the board within the first three rounds. Ben Zobrist, Ian Desmond, Jimmy Rollins, Elvis Andrus, Asdrubal Cabrera and Derek Jeter are strong second-tier options. That gets us to 10 right there. Alcides Escobar, J.J. Hardy and Alexei Ramirez all have their charms. Danny Espinosa and Josh Rutledge, a pair of second basemen, qualify at shortstop. Andrelton Simmons is one of my favorite sleepers this year. There are just too many options to commit to a guy who is only going to contribute to two categories. Steer clear of Cabrera this season.
Cory Luebke: Luebke was cruising right along last year, building on a strong 2011 when he posted a 3.31 ERA, 1.09 WHIP and 111 strikeouts in 100.2 innings as a starter. In five starts last year, he was 3-1 with a 2.61 ERA, 2.80 FIP and 1.16 WHIP, before a torn ligament in his elbow ended his season. He underwent Tommy John surgery and is expected to miss the first few months of this season. For those of you in deep leagues, he's a great option to draft and stash on your DL. Getting him back healthy will be like the equivalent of making a big trade in June.
Clayton Richard: The surface numbers suggest Richard had a decent 2012 season. He went 14-14 with a 3.99 ERA. However, he had a 4.62 FIP, .272 BABIP and struck out just 4.4 batters per nine innings. On top of all that, he's entering his age-29 season. This is not the kind of pitcher I want in anything other than a streaming scenario.
Yasmani Grandal: It's hard for a guy to break out when he's suspended for the first 50 games of the season, but that's exactly what I believe Grandal will do. He hit .297/.394/.469 with eight homers in 60 games with the Padres last season. He had essentially forced the team to call him up after hitting .330/.438/.515 with six homers in 56 games at Triple-A Portland. I don't really care if he was on PEDs; if a guy can come up to the majors and post a 13.7-percent walk rate at age 23, he can play for me. Grandal will take over as the starter the day his suspension ends, and I see no reason why he won't pick up where he left off last season.
Cameron Maybin: Maybin is roster-worthy in deep mixed leagues, but he'll get his most burn in NL-only leagues, where his ability to swipe 30-plus bags will make owners a lot more willing to turn a blind eye to his unsightly rates.
Will Venable: His rates make him untouchable in mixed leagues, but he's a strong 10/25 candidate, and that makes him a starting outfielder in NL-only leagues.
Luke Gregerson: Gregerson fanned 72 batters in 71.2 innings last year while posting a 2.39 ERA. His FIP was nearly a full run worse than that, but he has registered ERAs below 3.25 for each of the last four seasons, going more than 70 innings in three of those years. Should the oft-injured Huston Street get hurt again, Gregerson would be the most likely to take over as the closer.
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