With Spring Training underway, it is time to start talking about the 2016 San Diego Padres. The 2015 season was quite the transition year for the Padres. The hiring of AJ Preller created the start of a new culture in San Diego. Preller signed and traded numerous players before the season started, none of whom lived up to the expectations.
So what now? The Padres fired Bud Black mid season, when he was only a game under .500 (32-33), and went through Dave Roberts and Pat Murphy along the way. Roberts is now the manager of the Los Angeles Dodgers and Pat Murphy is the bench coach in Milwaukee with Craig Counsel and the Brewers. AJ Preller signed an unexpected Andy Green for manager and did not make a ton of moves in the offseason. Actually, if anything they started trading away players and reflected a team that was looking to rebuild.
Here are 5 Questions about the Padres 2016 Season:
1. Will Andy Green prove to be a rookie Manager?
Who is Andy Green? Last year he was the 3rd base coach for the Arizona Diamondbacks. That is the only year in his entire life he has MLB coaching experience. ONE YEAR. He was a minor league coach for a few years before that. Green played sparingly in a few MLB seasons, not posting any appealing stats. Like many others, when I heard Andy Green won the job as the Padres Manager, the only thing I could think was “Who is Andy Green?”
The real question among them all is what should we expect from Andy Green as the manager. Most experts are picking San Diego to be in the NL West cellar this year, no where close to competing for a playoff spot. The Padres went from a manager who never made the playoffs in 9 seasons to a guy who has never coached a game in the majors… even worse.
Maybe the fresh face will be good for San Diego in the long term, but Andy Green is clearly going to have to learn on the job. The Padres still have a few big name free agents from last year’s offseason, so it will be interesting to see how Green handles these players. Maybe Green will be the next Steve Kerr, but the jury is still out… actually, the case hasn’t begun.
2. Will Matt Kemp get off to another slow start?
Matt Kemp has a history of slow starts and he did so again in 2015. With his slow starts, however, have come strong finishes. Although, it seems that Kemp’s strong finishes are when the team is already out of contention. Maybe that is just with the Padres.
In 2015 Kemp batted .250 with 8 home runs before the All-Star Break. The veteran upped his average to .286 in the second half adding 15 more homers.
The truth is, the Padres have invested a big chunk of money in Kemp and they need him to get off to a strong start if San Diego wants to have a chance at competing in 2016. He needs to be more consistent in general. Even with his increase in productivity in the second half, his batting average still did not land where you would hope. Kemp may be getting up there in age, but the Padres have him for a few years and their expectations have to be high.
3. Who will be the Leadoff hitter in the lineup?
Last year the Padres tried out a lot of different players in the leadoff role. None were prototypical leadoff hitters, except for maybe Melvin Upton Jr. who played limited time in 2015. Wil Myers started the season as the leadoff guy, but was injured a majority of the season. Even with him coming back for a healthy 2016, it is hard to believe they will keep him in the leadoff role with the power he possesses. He will more than likely be a middle of the order type guy.
Cory Spangenberg is quite the speedster around the bases and I could easily see him as the leadoff hitter. There really isn’t any other carryovers from 2015 who could fit this role on a consistent basis.
San Diego did trade for centerfielder/outfielder Jon Jay in the fall. The strength in his game is truly his batting average and ability to get on base, not his power, so he seems like a great candidate for the leadoff role. Then there is shortstop Alexei Ramirez who is also known more for his average than his power.
All of these guys are viable, but who is the most prototypical leadoff hitter? Who should get the nod?
4. Who will round off the Starting Pitching Rotation?
We already know that Tyson Ross was recently selected as the Opening-Day starter, which is interesting considering their big name 2015 Free Agent James Shields held the same role last year. Shields is truly not an ace and his move to the 2nd slot is justified. With Ian Kennedy leaving San Diego in the offseason, Andrew Cashner now becomes the 3rd man up in the rotation.
The question now becomes, who will round out San Diego’s rotation? Last year the season started with the same 3 guys, Ian Kennedy, and then Brandon Morrow. Morrow started the season pretty hot, but was injured and did not play after the first month of the season. Odrisamer Despaigne had some starts for San Diego in both 2014 and 2015, but was more of a middle reliefer and is no longer with the team.
We have a few young guys in Robbie Erlin and Colin Rea who may make it, but neither have real MLB experience. Erlin is 27-23 posting a 4.60 ERA in parts of 3 seasons with the Padres. Rea did not play in a Major League game until last season, going 2-2 with a 4.26 ERA.
The point is, the Padres don’t have any viable options at the 4-5 spots in the rotation. Cashner is extremely inconsistent and really should be a 4-5 type guy. Tyson has potential to be a true ace, and Shields is a dynamic pitcher, however both did not have the best seasons last year. It will be interesting to see how everything plays out.
5. Who will be the closer?
San Diego has been spoiled with relief pitchers/closers over the years. Think about it: Trevor Hoffman, Heath Bell, Huston Street, Craig Kimbrel. The Padres have been so good in the bullpen that even their 8th inning and 7th inning set-up guys have been rockstars.
Kimbrel played well last season but was traded in the fall. A little disheartening for Padres fans given how much the Padres gave up (and received: see Melvin Upton Jr.) to obtain the premiere closer. Joaquin Benoit has played well over the last few seasons but was also traded. So where does that leave San Diego?
AJ Preller and the front office signed Fernando Rodney to a 1-year deal this offseason, but the veteran is 39 this year. Sure, Joaquin Benoit was 38 last season, but he had a better track record in recent years. Then there is Brandon Maurer who played pretty well as the 7th inning guy in 2015. He looks like a true 9th inning guy of the future, but he may not be polished enough at this point in his career.
San Diego has a bunch of other guys in the bullpen in Quackenbush and Nick Vincent, but none with the experience of Rodney. Rodney is currently slotted as the closer on the Padres depth chart, but he could be dethroned if one of the younger guys shines in Spring Training.