As the San Francisco Giants look toward continuing their even-year World Series success in 2016, the Dodgers and the Diamondbacks are likely to put up good fights for the division crown. San Diego, meanwhile, isn’t likely to make such a challenge.
The Padres just didn’t do didn’t do enough to upgrade their roster over the offseason. In fact, they downgraded: outfielder Justin Upton, starting pitcher Ian Kennedy, closer Craig Kimbrel and his setup man Joaquin Benoit are all gone. In their places, lesser players.
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Still, the Padres did bring in some established major leaguers to help make them competitive, and they have some young players on the verge of making an impact. Here’s a look at the new and emerging Padres players that Giants fans should know.
From 2012 to 2014, Fernando Rodney was one of the premier closers in baseball, while with Tampa Bay. Then for most of 2015, while with Seattle he was awful. He lost his ninth-inning role, and eventually landed with the Cubs, where he regained his dominant form again. The Padres, obviously, are hoping for the Cubs version of Rodney.
The Padres made one clear upgrade this year over last, at shortstop. Alexei Ramirez provides a veteran presence up the middle, while being a moderately useful source of power and speed; in eight seasons with the White Sox, Ramirez averaged 13 home runs and 17 stolen bases per season. His problem is that he carries a .310 career on-base percentage—and he’s been worse than that in recent years. His .285 OBP last year was nearly 50 points below league average.
Jon Jay was, at times, an exciting player while in St. Louis. He hit for a decent average, showed some pop, stole some bases, and played a solid outfield. But that was in a lineup loaded with good hitters, which allowed him to shine in a complementary role. He’s likely to look mediocre in a San Diego lineup that has no established sluggers other than Matt Kemp.
As of now, it appears that Melvin Upton Jr. (formerly known as B.J.) will start in the outfield with Jay and Kemp. But based on recent history (i.e. 2013-2015), he could easily play himself out of the lineup. In which case, the Padres have an intriguing prospect in Travis Jankowski. The 24-year-old lefty has little power; rather, he’s a high-average speedster who could develop into a solid leadoff hitter. Between 97 Double-A and Triple-A games last season, he batted .335 with 32 stolen bases—a full-season pace of nearly 50 swipes.
Jabari Blash won’t likely start many games in San Diego’s outfield, but then again, it wouldn’t be surprising if the Padres traded away many of their top veterans as part of a rebuilding movement. In which case, the massive Blash (6-foot-5, 235 pounds) could get his chance to show off his power in Petco Park. In two minor league stops last season, Blash posted an impressive .946 OPS, a number that reflects his high walk rate (59 bases on balls) in 116 games and propensity for the long ball (one home run per 13 at-bats).