Fantasy Top 5 for 2014: San Diego Padres

Howard Smith-USA TODAY Sports

In the last of the Fantasy Top 5 series, I discuss the top 5 fantasy players on the San Diego Padres. A couple guys pop into my head right away, including Andrew Cashner, Everth Cabrera and Will Venable, but do we know what Chase Headley is in 2014? Let's take a look.

Like sone other teams in this Fantasy Top 5 series, the Padres don't have any players that would be drafted in the top 5-6 rounds in 2014 fantasy drafts. In 2012, some drafted third baseman Chase Headley in the early rounds, thinking he could approach his career year in 2012. Last season, he battled a hand injury and slumped back to the hitter he was prior to 2012.

The Padres do have a couple young starters that I am pretty high on, and I am sure I am higher on them than others, but both broke out in 2013, and the question is whether they can build on their second half breakouts. To find out, let's take a look at the Fantasy Top 5 for the Padres.

Before I do so, let me tell you that one can argue a few of these guys could be ranked at #1, but here is my take:

1. Andrew Cashner, SP

I ranked Cashner as my 29th ranked starting pitcher earlier this week, which may be high, but he calls Petco home, and I see him building on his tremendous second half of 2013. There is risk though, as Cashner seems to have trouble staying healthy. In the second half last season, he limited hitters to a .194-.249-.304 triple slash line in 75.2 innings. striking out 61, walking 19 with an ERA of 2.14. He threw a career high 175 innings last season, winning 10 of his 26 starters, striking out just under seven batters per nine innings, walking under 2.50 batters per nine, and inducing ground balls at a 52% clip. I see him with double digit wins in 2014, with a low 3 ERA.

2. Everth Cabrera, SS

ECab does one thing well, and that is steal bases. Before he was suspended last season, he was on his way to his best season as a big leaguer. Cabrera hit .283-.355-.381 with 54 runs scored and 37 stolen bases in 95 games last season and was on pace to steal close to 60 bases. He benefitted from a .337 BABIP, a year after putting up a .336 BABIP. It will be interesting to see how many bases he can steal in a full season if he can maintain his .355 OBP.

3. Chase Headley, 3B

I see Headley improving on his 2013 performance in 2014. According to Padres GM Josh Byrnes, in an interview during the Winter Meetings, Headley was more injured than they led everyone to believe last season, so we could see him return to the .280 batting average we are so used to getting from him. He won't ever duplicate his 2012 season, but if he can build on his strong September, which saw him hit .305-.424-.573 with 5 HRs, 11 runs, 14 RBI and a 15-15 K-BB rate in 82 at bats, we could see him improve on his 13 home runs last season.

4. Tyson Ross, SP

If you read my Top 75 Starting Pitcher Rankings for 2014 earlier this week, you saw that I ranked Ross in my top 50 starters for 2014. Ross had his own breakout in the second half of 2013, winning just three games, but pitching much better than his record indicated. He struck out 8.57 batters per nine, walked just over three batters per nine, and induced ground balls at a near elite 54.9% rate. In the second half of 2013, he struck out more than a batter per nine, and walked less than 3 batters per nine, and I am confident he can build on that breakout into 2014. Having Bud Black as his manager and pitching in Petco certainly helps as well. I might have him ranked too high, but he has the qualities you want to see (high K rate, low walk rate, and high ground ball rate) in your starting pitchers.

5. Will Venable, OF

Venable put up a 20 home run, 20 stolen base season for the first time in his career in 2013, but there are signs that it isn't repeatable. Unless he made some major changes to his swing, Venable will have a hard time repeating the 22 home runs he hit. Here's why:

1. He plays in Petco Park for half of his games,

2. his 19.8% HR/FB rate was more than double his 9.8% HR/FB rate in 2012

3. He hit just 18 home runs in the previous two seasons combined.

If I was confident he could duplicate the 20-20 season, I would rank him four spots higher.

Honorable mention: Jedd Gyorko, 2B - Gyorko has solid power, but not much else, as he might be Dan Uggla-lite, but doesn't walk as much as Uggla has in the past.

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