With the way the San Diego Padres finished last year, you would think that their prospects would look better this season.
They closed out 2009 with a 37-25 record, good enough for fifth in Major League Baseball. They do not have an owner that is trying to liquidate his assets because of a divorce and they have the third best first baseman in baseball in Adrian Gonzalez returning.
What could possibly go wrong for the Padres?
The 37-25 record came when they were out of playoff contention, so there was no pressure for the Padres.
They have one of the smallest payrolls in baseball at $42 million. How that translates to winning is something that needs to be answered.
The Florida Marlins have translated this scenario into two world championships. Each time their payroll has been small. The Padres' talent is not as appealing as the Marlins', however.
For starters, the Padres' roster contains 12 players with less than two years' experience in the majors. The future looks promising, but right now they are green, and in a division with players like Matt Kemp, Tim Lincecum, Manny Ramirez, and Brandon Webb, they're going to get a blessing under fire.
This is bad news for Gonzalez, who will once again lead the Padres. They will only go as far as the native San Diegan takes them. As great a player as he is, he is not Superman. He can't do it all by himself. He needs help.
Tony Gwynn, Jr., Everth Cabrera, Kyle Blanks, Scott Hairston, and Chase Headley must give him some support, or he will wear down by the time the summer comes around yet again.
The pitching staff needs to stay healthy. Chris Young needs to return to his form from 2006, when he overpowered hitters. Jake Peavy is gone, and there is no ace from the bullpen that strikes fear in hitters outside of reliever Heath Bell.
All Bell did in one season after replacing all-time saves leader Trevor Hoffman was lead the National League in saves. There is a problem when your best pitcher is your relief pitcher.
The team emphasized speed during spring training, and it paid off for the most part. They were productive, and hopefully that can carry over to a 162-game season.
One thing to note in the offseason was that the former Padre Peavy was courting Gonzalez to come to the Chicago White Sox.
Baseball is a sport that is played in two halves. By this, I mean they play up to the All-Star break, and afterward the pennant race starts. If you are a team in playoff contention by the All-Star break, you look to make moves to get you over the hump.
This same scenario could be used by the White Sox, who are favored by many to win the American League Central Division crown. If they are close to winning the division and the Padres are out of playoff contention, this could be a problem.
San Diego is full of promise and will be good if the bevy of young talent they possess develops. However, this will not be the year. Expect them to finish among the bottom two of the National League West.
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