The San Diego Padres last made the playoffs in 2006, and for the past six seasons they have largely been mired in mediocrity.
But with moves made this offseason thus far, there is reason for optimism.
The Padres have had just one season above .500 since 2008, averaging only 75 wins per year during that span. The last two years have been mirror images of each other, ending with identical 76-86 records.
But over the past several years, the Padres have developed a solid nucleus of youngsters who are now starring at the big-league level, and with an offeason that has thus far focused on pitching, there’s at least a chance they could end their current run of dismal play.
With stars like Yonder Alonso, Chase Headley, Jedd Gyorko and Everth Cabrera, the Padres have a core group of players that are at least above average at their respective positions. They also added outfielder Seth Smith earlier this offseason in a trade with the Oakland A’s.
Here’s how the projected 2014 lineup looks, according to MLBDepthCharts.com:
Projected 2014 Padres Lineup
Order Position Player Age
1 SS Everth Cabrera 27
2 CF Will Venable 31
3 3B Chase Headley 29
4 LF Carlos Quentin 31
5 1B Yonder Alonso 26
6 2B Jedd Gyorko 25
7 RF Seth Smith 31
8 C Nick Hundley 30
With an infield of players all in their 20s, combined with a group of outfielders that complement each other well with varied skills, the Padres will sport a lineup with promise.
But the biggest questions lie in the pitching staff, and that’s where the issues have been for the Padres for at least the last two seasons.
Despite a pitcher-friendly home stadium with Petco Park, the Padres had only the 10th best ERA in the National League (4.01) in 2012. They improved just slightly in 2013 with a 3.98 ERA, good for 11th in the league. But it was the starting rotation that dragged the staff down overall. Starters posted a 4.44 ERA in 2012 and a 4.31 ERA last season. San Diego has lacked a true ace ever since Jake Peavy was dealt to the Chicago White Sox in 2009.
In November, the Padres signed oft-injured starter Josh Johnson to a one-year deal. Johnson led the National League with a 2.30 ERA in 2010, but his career has been derailed by shoulder injuries. Last year, Johnson struggled for the Toronto Blue Jays, posting an ugly 2-8 record and 6.20 ERA in 18 starts. His season was cut short by a right forearm strain.
The Padres are counting on Johnson to stay healthy and return to form, but considering his history that’s a tall order.
Here’s how the Padres’ rotation looks for 2014:
Projected 2014 Padres Rotation
Player Age Throw
Ian Kennedy 28 R
Andrew Cashner 27 R
Josh Johnson 29 R
Tyson Ross 26 R
Cory Luebke 28 L
Kennedy won 21 games for the Arizona Diamondbacks in 2011, but struggled last year with a 7-10 and 4.91 ERA in 31 starts with the Diamondbacks and Padres.
Cashner showed great promise in the second half last season, posting a 5-4 record and 2.14 ERA in his final 11 starts. Ross showed improvement as well, posting a 2.93 ERA over his final 13 starts.
Luebke is a question mark as he returns from missing a full season following Tommy John surgery. Luebke was 3-1 with a 2.61 ERA in five starts in 2012 before undergoing the elbow ligament replacement procedure.
No question the five starters have potential, but the question is whether or not that potential can be realized.
The Padres also signed closer Joaquin Benoit to a two-year contract, and he’ll likely return to his more-familiar setup role in tandem with current closer Huston Street.
The sum of all the parts at least gives the Padres a fighting chance for respectability in 2014. But it will be contingent upon a young group of position players continuing an upward curve in their development, and a pitching staff that can get past prior injuries and perform to levels expected of them.
There’s at least hope in San Diego.