The Padres have gone from contenders to pretenders about as quickly as humanly possible. After coming within a whisker of capturing the NL West crown in 2007 (losing a memorable one game playoff to the Rockies), they plummeted to the division cellar in 2008. Their 63-99 mark was the team’s worst showing since dropping 101 games in 1993. Considering their biggest off-season acquisition Cliff “Running on Fumes” Floyd, the curtain is set to rise on another abysmal year. Because of the team’s rapid decline, quality fantasy options are limited but do exist.
Peavy remains San Diego’s best known fantasy asset. The talented right hander was rumored to be headed just about everywhere this off-season but no deals were struck. Peavy backslid in 2008 following his 19 win breakout of 2007. Limited to 174 innings, he posted a pedestrian 11-10 record. The peripherals, however, were stunning: a 2.85 ERA, 166 strikeouts and less than one homer per 9 innings. Lacking any semblance of a major league offense behind him and losing the stability of closer Trevor Hoffman, Peavy will again find wins scarce in 2009. Don’t overbid for someone who probably peaked in 2007 and remains an above average injury risk due to his small frame and punishing mechanics. If he gets off to a hot start, consider dealing him before something breaks.
Adrian Gonzalez (1B): Do you think the Texas Rangers regret shipping Gonzalez to the Padres for Adam Eaton and prospects? Just 26, AGonz has been sensational since coming west, averaging 33 homers and 110 RBI the past two seasons. Given PETCO’s heritage as a pitching haven, Gonzalez’s extreme home/road splits are not surprising: 14 homers, 47 ribbies and a .247 average at home; 22/70/.308 away. The simple wisdom: never sit this guy during road trips. The fact he has done so much damage with virtually no lineup protection makes his accomplishments truly remarkable but also point up potential fantasy risks. If the league finally realizes Gonzalez is the only bat in the Padre lineup that can beat them, they may begin issuing fewer fastballs and more intentional walks to him. For the record, Gonzalez received 18 IBB in 2008, double his 2007 total. Even with a lineup featuring your girlfriend/wife and favorite uncle, the extremely durable Gonzalez would still manage 600 plate appearances, 30 homers, 100 RBI and a .280 batting average.
Chris Young (SP): Young’s name is now nearly synonymous with “injury prone.” For the second straight season, the tall, lanky right hander missed significant time due to injury. In one of the more bizarre occurrences of 2008, Young foolishly tried to catch an Albert Pujols line drive with his face. Very ill advised as he was sidelined for two months. That was arguably a fluke. Not a fluke, however, were the additional three weeks he missed in August due to a strained right forearm. As Young discovered, missing so much time makes accumulating wins difficult. He ended the season with seven, following just nine victories in 2007. Looking at the offense surrounding him, the odds are favorable he’ll make it three straight seasons of single digit wins. He’ll be 30 this year and although he has the potential to strike out a batter per inning, he has never won more that 12 games. Don’t overpay for someone destined to spend time on the DL.
Heath Bell (RP): Another 30 year old, Bell inherits the closer role from the departed Trevor Hoffman. He faces little opposition but declining velocity and a jump in ERA (2.20 in 2007 to 3.68 in 2008) suggest a bumpy ride ahead. He unraveled over the second half of last season (0-3 with a 6.18 ERA), possibly the cumulative effect of 155 combined appearances in 2007-2008. His specialty is inducing groundballs, and when doing so consistently, he can be very tough. With above average control and having gained valuable insights as Hoffman’s understudy, Bell may be undervalued in many drafts as he could easily register 25-30 saves this year.
Kevin Kouzmanoff (3B): “The Kouz” bashed a career high 23 homers in 2008, batting .260 and driving in 83 runs. Beneath those totals, however, lies the heart of a highly undisciplined hitter. His alarming 6:1 strikeouts to walks ratio make clear that absent improved plate discipline, his batting average will remain frozen between .250-.260. The power is legitimate and he should poke 20 home runs this season. However, given the anemic state of San Diego’s offense and a corresponding dearth of base runners, Kouzmanoff may have difficulty surpassing 80 RBI.
Chase Headley (OF): Headley was to be the franchise third baseman until Kouzmanoff beat him to it. Now appearing in left field, he should provide a decent average and score some runs. He is a questionable pick in mixed leagues simply because he plays half his games at PETCO. Last year for instance, Headley hit an impressive .301 on the road, a woeful .230 at home. He’ll give you .280 and 15 homers but little else.
Brian Giles (OF): If Giles ever writes an autobiography, he could entitle it “Tale of Two Careers.” Few players have managed the transformation from power hitter to OBP leader so successfully. From 1999-2002, Giles was a force, averaging 37 homers and 109 RBI per season. Since 2003, he has seen those averages dip to 16 and 77. The silver lining is that as Giles saw his power diminish, he grew adept at pounding doubles into the large gaps at PETCO and coaxing walks. Unfortunately, compiling a decent batting average and scoring 80-90 runs aren’t enough to make you a hot commodity on draft day. Unless you have a thing for guys who smack their girlfriends, shop elsewhere.
Scott Hairston (OF): When Hairston embarked on a homer binge last season (collecting 13 by the All-Star break), he became a fairly hot fantasy pickup. Within a month, he languished on the waiver wire in virtually every league, betrayed by a severe power outage. Of the 17 round trippers he tallied in 2008, 12 were solo shots. That really puts a crimp in your RBI total. The other sobering statistic was Hairston’s meager .224 average against right handers, making him a prime platoon candidate. Unless something changes, his current ceiling is 15 home runs.
Nick Hundley (C): Unlike the meteoric rise of Matt Wieters in Baltimore, Hundley’s career has progressed at a glacial pace. If both Josh Bard and Michael Barrett had not sustained injuries last season, Hundley might never have packed his bags from AAA. Instead, he earned significant playing time with the Padres. Although a solid receiver and game caller, Hundley’s bat was conspicuously quiet. He has power potential (20 homers for AA San Antonio in 2007) but like many young hitters strikes out frequently and generally lacks plate discipline. Hundley will likely start for San Diego this season and assuming regular playing time, should poke 10 dingers and bat somewhere between .240-.250. He’s an emergency-only option in mixed leagues.
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