Christopher Hanewinckel-US PRESSWIRE
A look at how the San Diego Padres can help fantasy baseball players.
The San Diego Padres are projected by various systems to win between 75 and 80 games this year. With Corey Luebke coming off an injury and the lack of talent in their rotation, the Padres will need to depend on their lineup to get close to .500. With exception of Huston Street, fantasy owners will also need to depend on the Padres hitters for any value from the team this year. While the Padres don't have any real superstars unless Chase Headley repeats his production from last year, they have players at each position that can be useful to fantasy teams.
Here's the Padres projected lineup according to MLB Depth Charts:
1. Everth Cabrera, SS
2. Logan Forsythe, 2B
3. Chase Headley, 3B
4. Carlos Quentin, LF
5. Yonder Alonso, 1B
6. Will Venable, RF
7. Cameron Maybin, CF
8. Nick Hundley, C
Simply put, Cabrera went crazy on the base paths in the second half of 2012. He stole 29 bases in only 68 games to finish the year 44 of 48 and carried a category for fantasy teams late in the season. Cabrera's plus-plus speed shouldn't have snuck up on anyone as he stole 73 bases in AA in 2008 before he broke into the show with a 25 stolen base campaign in 2009. After struggling in 2010 and 2011, Cabrera looks like he is here to stay. His walk rate is above average coming in at 9.6% and, while he does strike out a little too much (22.4% K%), he hits a lot of balls on the ground to take advantage of his speed. Hitting nearly 60% of the balls he puts in play on the ground does make it difficult to hit for any power, however, but that's not why you're drafting him. Cabrera is a favorite of mine and is a guy to target if you miss out on the top shortstops - I like to think of him as Alcides Escobar light. He'll hit at the top of the lineup and should score enough runs to help you some, making him a one category stud with value at some other spots.
Forsythe isn't the type of player you circle, star and highlight when preparing for a draft but, just like the Padres found out last season, that doesn't mean he can't help your team. He's hit well at each level at which he's played and, although his 28.7% line drive rate is likely to come down, he barrels the ball well and posts consistently high BABIPs without blazing speed. Speaking of speed, Forsythe is a smart base runner and picks his spots well which allows his speed to play up. He has gap power with the potential for double digit home runs. The Padres are going to give top prospect Jedd Gyorko the opportunity to win the second base job this spring but if he isn't ready, Forsythe is a solid play at a Middle Infield spot in NL-Only leagues.
I've been a Headley supporter for a few years now, but even I couldn't have foreseen his 2012 season. Headley went from hitting 34 home runs in his first four seasons combined to hitting 31 homers last year alone. While I'm not convinced he hits 30+ home runs again this year, I would take the over on 24 1/2. Headley's average fly ball distance increased from 282 ft in 2011 to 303 ft in 2012 and ranked 10th among qualified hitters. His HR/FB ratio of 21.4% more than doubled his previous career high and is probably due for some regression but not back to the anemic rates he posted over the past few years. He's put up decent doubles totals even when the ball wasn't flying out of the yard for him and he should be able to sustain high RBI and runs marks.
Even if Headley's power were to deflate, he has other skills to fall back on. He averages 15 stolen bases per season and, at third base, that's a bonus category not many players at the position help fill. His home park suppresses left handed power hitters so, when batting from that side, Headley is at a disadvantage. The Petco fences are being moved in, however, so we will see what kind of effect it will have. Headley is a good enough hitter to contribute to your fantasy team without the power surge from 2012 but the numbers point to it as being legitimate which makes him one of the best players in the game.
The conversation about Carlos Quentin begins and ends with health. He's never played more than 131 games in a season and has only played in more than 100 twice. When healthy, he is one of the premier power hitters in the National League. After moving from U.S. Cellular Field in Chicago, many thought that we would see a reduction in Quentin's power output. They were wrong. In only 86 games, Quentin hit 16 home runs and 21 doubles to post an isolated slugging percentage of .243. The biggest problem with Quentin, other than health, is that this ISO mark isn't far off from his career batting average. He hits a lot of fly balls and, while fly balls are more likely to become extra base hits than ground balls, ground balls result in more hits overall. Quentin will be available at a discount due to his injury risk, making him a potential steal in drafts.
You'd be hard pressed to find a bigger Yonder Alonso fan than this guy right here. He's a very good hitter who sprays the ball to all fields and makes a ton of great contact as evidenced by his 23.3% career LD%. He walks in 10% of his plate appearances and strikes out in only 16.3%, which makes him a good play in OBP leagues. At first base, it would be nice to see Alonso hit for some more power and I think he's poised to show more in 2013. Alonso will be 26 this season and is just entering the "prime" of his career. He hit 39 doubles last year and, with the fences moving in at Petco Park, maybe a few more of those turn into home runs. I think we see Alonso hit a few more fly balls and his HR/FB come closer the league average 11% resulting in 20 home runs in 2013.
Will Venable has the type of tools that leave us believing there is more to come but heading into his age-30 season, he may be running out of time. In fact, running is his biggest asset and we all know that the legs are the first to go when a player gets older. He's stolen over 20 bases each of the last three years but his totals have steadily declined from 29 in 2010 to 26 in 2011 and 24 in 2012. Despite a career BABIP that is slightly above league average, Venable has never hit above .265. This limits his on base potential which would otherwise be very good. He hasn't hit double digit home runs since 2010 and, since he hits in the bottom third of the order, he's never been one to drive in or score runs. That being said, Venable is a usable player in NL Only and the deepest of mixed leagues since he's probably going to steal 20 bases again and won't help but shouldn't hurt your batting average.
2011 seemed like it was finally the breakout people had been waiting for from Cameron Maybin. He set career marks in doubles, triples, home runs, runs, stolen bases, average and on base percentage. He was 40 of 48 in stolen base attempts, posted an isolated slugging percentage of .130 and improved his contact rate. Those who expected Maybin to build on his 2011 season were disappointed but there are some signs of hope. His contact rate jumped again - this time from 73.5% to 80%. He hit more line drives, posted a career high in RBIs and hit 20 doubles for the second season in a row. His BABIP plummeted .040 points which caused his average to fall to .243 and he was caught stealing 7 times in 33 tries. If Maybin's BABIP normalizes and he can regain his stolen base efficiency, he could again be a player who you can help you with his speed and add a few bonus stats along the way.
Hundley played about half a season each year from 2009 to 2011 and each year he posted above average power numbers. He averaged 8 home runs in just over 300 plate appearances during that time proving that, when he played, he was a viable option in all fantasy formats. He was struggling mightily in 2012 before tearing his meniscus and finding himself on the DL yet again. Hundley strikes out too much to hit for a high average and, like most catchers, doesn't offer much in the speed department. Yasmani Grandal is suspended for 50 games, so Hundly will have the chance to prove that he's healthy and that he can return to his level of production from 2011. Even then, there is no guarantee that he keeps the starting job when Grandal returns in late May. He's a late round option in NL Only leagues if you need a second catcher.
Grandal was part of a prospect-laden package that the Padres received when they dealt Mat Latos to the Reds before the 2012 season. He was tearing up Triple A when Hundley went down and continued to produce when he got to San Diego. A switch-hitting catcher, Grandal has above average power and good plate coverage. He has hit for average at every level and showed that he was capable of doing so at the big league level with a .297 average in 2012. His suspension for elevated testosterone levels will cause him to miss a third of the season and will dip into his counting stats and dampen the impact of his rates. Grandal is the future at the position in San Diego but if the Padres are playing well and Nick Hundley is contributing, he may find himself sharing at bats. He's more valuable in Head to Head formats with playoffs, however, as he should be playing once the Padres are out of the playoff race toward the end of the season.