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San Francisco Giants: Know your Enemy – San Diego Padres

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The San Francisco Giants will get their first look at the newly revamped San Diego Padres, Thursday afternoon (3:40 PST start), a team that I have been monitoring closely all winter because of the unprecedented-in Padres history-actions of GM A.J. Preller.

The Padres have always created havoc with the Giants, seemingly transitioning into Cy Young candidates every time they face San Francisco. They have over-achieved in past seasons when competing against the Orange and Black, to the extent that with a team that is as talented as this one, I fear the worst.

Fear is as good of a motivating factor as any, probably better. Though San Diego has begun the season by dropping two of three to the Dodgers, don’t kid yourselves.

Nineteen games between the Padres and the Dodgers? Let them beat each other up and pave the way for the Giants.

The way

Adrian Gonzalez

has blasted out the gate, hammering five home runs among his ten hits in only thirteen at-bats, they were probably lucky to get even that one win.

With a newly acquired outfield in place featuring Matt Kemp in right field, Wil Myers in center and Justin Upton in left, the Padres have replaced good with excellent. Kemp especially will lend potency to this team when it comes to playing San Francisco tough, the right fielder having long ago refined the process of tormenting the Giants and taken it to dizzying heights.

Sep 27, 2014; Philadelphia, PA, USA; Atlanta Braves left fielder Justin Upton (8) gets congratulations from third baseman Chris Johnson (23) after scoring a run during the second inning against the Philadelphia Phillies at Citizens Bank Park. Mandatory Credit: Eric Hartline-USA TODAY Sports

Yonder Alonso is the first baseman, Jedd Gyorko handles second, Alexi Amarista plays short and Will Middlebrooks will man the hot corner. Middlebrooks is the equivalent in San Diego to Casey McGehee in San Francisco: He is attempting to replace a long-tenured third baseman (Chase Headley) who fans will be slow in forgetting. Derek Norris, acquired from Oakland, will be behind the dish. 

Any time a team replaces five members of the starting lineup over the course of one winter, there is risk involved, not only in terms of how quickly the team will gel on the field, but how smoothly the clubhouse will absorb the influx of new blood. As has been well-documented, you can assemble a talented group of athletes on one team, but you can’t force them to win.

With the acquisition of James Shields, a pitcher the Giants also coveted, the Padres’ rotation took a serious step upwards, the trend that appears rampant with the offseason rebuilding project. Andrew Cashner, Tyson Ross, Ian Kennedy (Thursday’s starter against the Giants) and Brandon Morrow will round out the rotation.

The price of poker, already soaring in San Diego, skyrocketed when Craig Kimbrel was picked up last week from the Braves, arguably the best closer in Major League Baseball. The Padres’ bullpen has always been frightening; it is now deadly.

In every phase of the team, Preller has done his homework and his job. Money does not appear to have been a problem and the Padres are a legitimate contender in the National League West. Prognosticators have hesitated to pick them at the top, the Dodgers being firmly entrenched there, but they didn’t mind bumping the Giants down to third to make room for San Diego.

That’s the long and the short of it. For a more in-depth look at the lineup and bench, look here; for more on the pitching, check here for articles I did last winter, detailing the steps taken by the Padres’ GM to rebuild the SoCal team.

The bottom line is that the upgrade of the Padres will benefit the Giants for at least two reasons, the first of which is the Pads will be playing Los Angeles nineteen times this season, and hopefully can slow down the Dodgers, balancing the power structure down south.

The second reason is that the level of play in the NL West, especially with the Rockies’ hot start (three wins over the Brewers), is escalating to the point where it could possibly be the strongest division in baseball. The value of this development is that if a team can win in the NL West, it can compete creditably with any team in baseball.

As they did in 2010, when the Giants battled the Padres down to the last day of the season, San Francisco must use the strengthened NL west to test the individual components of their team early. They need to ensure that Bruce Bochy knows his new players thoroughly , so that there is maximum flexibility down the line.

That is the best way to prepare for postseason play.

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