|San Diego Padres Preview 2003||| Print ||
Written by Jonathan Leshanski (Contact & Archive) on January 12, 2003
2002 record 66-96
32 games back
Home: Qualcom Stadium
2002 was a ugly year for the Padres. Looking at last year's record one might think this is a team in compete disarray, but in fact its a team with a plan. The Padres didn’t expect to compete in 2002, and they don’t really expect to do so in 2003. What they expect is to get better, a lot better, in preparation for a big year in 2004.
What they offer in 2003 is a revamped team, and young players ready to move past their rookie season and continue to develop. However GM Kevin Towers has not just been sitting and waiting for these players to develop. So far this winter the Pods have not made any earth shattering trades or signings, but they have obtained even more young talent who can grow with the team, and some solid veterans to guide these players to the next level.
The veterans won’t the only new faces here to help the youngsters mature. There are four new coaches, Dave Magadan (hitting coach), Davey Lopes(third base coach), Tony Muser (Bench Coach), and Rob Picciolo (First base coach). What this means is that the Padre youngsters are in very good hands.
Last year, the Padres introduced us to some of their pitchers of the future. Dennis Tankersly, Oliver Perez and Jake Peavy. All of these will be back and looking to improve on their combined 11-16 record. While that record looked ugly many of their individual performances were not. All of these guys have talent, and none of them will be asked to carry the team. Staff ace Brian Lawrence is back, and the most likely candidate to join him is veteran Charles Nagy, who was offered a minor league contract with a invitation to spring training.
By itself, last year's experience should be enough to improve this teams pitching, but Kevin Towers has had a busy offseason and revamped a bullpen that cost the team a lot of losses in 2002. They did this by adding Jesse Orosco, Jaret Wright, Luthor Hackman, Kevin Walker and Jay Witasick. Both Hackman and Wright started a number of games last year and could end up as a spot starter or even compete for a spot in the rotation.
Aside from the newcomers the San Diego pen does not have a lot of proven standouts with the exception of star closer Trevor Hoffman who had offseason shoulder surgery. Still both Clay Condrey and Brandon Villafuerte pitched well last year, and probably will be a part of the pitching mix.
The main weapons of the offense have not changed. Ryan Klesko, Phil Nevin, Bubba Trammel, and Mark Kotsay should still center the lineup, and Sean Burroughs should continue to develop, but some of the players around them have changed for the better.
Some of the new players include catchers Mike Rivera (acquired from Detroit), and Gary Bennett (signed as a free agent). Neither of whom has made much of a splash at the major league level yet. However, Rivera has more upside, and is only a season away from his minor league player of the year award. I would think he will wrest the starting catchers job away from Wiki Gonzalez.
In the infield expect to see two new faces in shortstop Luis Cruz and second baseman Mark Loretta. Loretta will have the starting second base job and should improve the team defensively. Cruz is only 18, but should get a chance to displace Jose Flores as he everyday shortstop.
Two other players who will make the opening day roster, are free agent Dave Hansen who was signed to a 2 year contract and will probably be used as a pinch hitting specialist, and outfielder Shane Victorino, who was taken under the rule V draft from the Dodgers. He played for the Dodgers AA affiliate last year and will have to stay on the Major League roster all season or be offered back to the Dodgers.
The Padres also signed a number of players to minor league deals who have been invited to spring training. These players include Charles Nagy, Brady Anderson, Chris Sexton, Homer Bush, and Roberto Kelly. At the very least expect them to find a place for Nagy if for no other reason than to help season their young arms.
The Padres should be a better team in 2003 with plans of contending from 2004 onward. Although it seems a big jump they could see .500 this season. Working against them is the fact they play in a very competitive division, with the Giants, Dodgers, and Diamondbacks. Still the Giants seem weaker than last year and the Dodgers have not done anything major in the offseason. The plus side is that the Padres rookie pitchers of last year have moved up the learning curve, and that a rejuvenated bullpen should add at least 10 wins to record. If one or more of the young pitchers really steps up, the Padres will have a good season. GM Kevin Towers may also still have a trick or two up his sleeve after the veto of the Griffey-Nevin trade by Nevin.