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The Season Hinges On… 

And now… everyone’s favorite game show:

cue the booming announcer voice

Best & worst case scenario!

<crowd applauds> 

With the most promising Padres season in a decade looming, let’s take a look at the possible outcomes for some of the Padres storylines this year.

Justin Upton:

Best case – in a contract year, he finally busts out of his “very good, but not elite” outfielder ceiling and puts up the MVP-candidate numbers everyone has been expecting since he came into the league as a near teenager.  If that is the case, his triple slash might look something like 290/390/550.

Worst case – he reverts back to the mediocre seasons he put up in 2 of his final three years with the D-backs, which was around 270/350/440.

Verdict: even the worst case here is better than anything the Padres had last year, but for the Padres to compete for the NL West, they need something closer to MVP Upton.

Matt Kemp:

Best case – a fully healthy and fully pissed off Matt Kemp returns to his MVP form from 2011 and plays 150 games with ease.  He tortures the Dodgers at each opportunity, hitting home runs off Kershaw and Greinke.  He goes for 300/400/580 and plays solid right field, erasing concerns about diminishing range.

Worst case – the injury bug returns and limits Kemp to 75 games with varying degrees of effectiveness.  He struggles in right field, posting a negative dWAR and costs the Padres games by not being able to get to fly balls that could/should be caught.

Verdict: could go either way.  No doubt Kemp must be healthy for the Padres to compete for the post-season.

Wil Myers:

Best case – the athletically gifted 25-year-old turns center field into his personal playground and makes up for any deficiencies from his corner outfield mates.  He also returns to his Rookie-of-the-Year form, posting a solid BA with more than 35 doubles and slugging close to .500.

Worst case – the wrist injury rears its ugly head, sapping his power and limiting his ability to drive the ball, causing him to slug less than .400.  The struggles at the plate trickle down into the field where he takes poor angles which, coupled with his less-than-ideal speed, causes long singles to become doubles and triples in Petco’s spacious outfield.

Verdict: probably the scariest gap between high-end and low end on the entire roster.  A best-case Myers would make-up for any deviation from the mean from Upton or Kemp.  A worst-case Myers could mean significant problems, given how much the team is counting on him in center field.

Derek Norris:

Best case – his gradually improving offensive numbers continue their upward trend, pushing the young catcher into the 280/380/410 area with double-digit home runs and doubles.  His defense proves better than expected and finishes with a zero-sum dWAR and is named to the All-Star team for the 2nd year in a row.

Worst case – turns out Billy Beane knew what he was doing when he jettisoned his All-Star catcher as Norris’ dramatic offensive improvement was a one-year aberration.  He regresses to his Major League mean of 245/330/380.  His lack of familiarity with the pitching staff creates strain on the rotation, as well as his inability to throw out base runners, creating a negative defensive effect.

Verdict: a little worried here.  Offensive catchers only add wins to a team’s total if they hit.  If Norris struggles at the plate there is little more he can offer.  Any WAR above 1.0 and, personally, I am happy.

Carlos Quentin:

Best case – he stays healthy enough (he’s never fully healthy) and figures out first base.  He appears in 90 games as a pinch hitter, DH, right handed relief for Alonso and occasional LF.  He hits 8-10 home runs, drives in 30-40 and becomes a dangerous bench option.

Worst case – he stays healthy but does not produce, can’t figure out first base and posts a BA less than 170.  He takes up a spot on the roster and forces the team to make a painful decision of leaving him on the bench, or eating his huge contract.

Verdict: a healthy, contributing Carlos Quentin would be a very nice asset.  A trade to the AL wouldn’t be bad either.  Even getting hurt wouldn’t be that bad, since he can go on the DL and free up a roster spot.  With the exception of the salary, I’m fine with Q on the team.

Cameron Maybin:

Best case – the injuries are fully healed and a healthy Maybin makes strides at the plate.  He plays elite-level defense on CF when used as a late-inning replacement and hits so well that he forces Bud Black to have to decide on a nightly basis where to play him in a crowded outfield.  Will Myers notices Maybin gaining ground in the battle for playing time and is forced to produce as well, creating a friendly competition in CF, making both players better.

Worst case – he doesn’t hit, only gets into games in the 9th inning and forces the team to decide whether he is worth the roster spot.

Verdict: although not a popular opinion, I still say Maybin has plenty of good baseball in him and it would not surprise me if he plays more than people are expecting this year.

Third base:

Best case – MIddlebrooks and Solarte engage in a relentless war for playing time.  Each one refusing to slump and pushing each other to do the same.  The Padres find themselves with a wonderful dilema and a perfect platoon for the switch-hitter and the right-hander.  The pair combine for a positive WAR, with something in the neighborhood of 270/360/420.

Worst case – Neither player hits and the Padres are forced to bat the third baseman du jour at the bottom of the lineup.  The combined numbers cost the team wins, to the tune of 230/310/370.

Verdict: two players are better than one.  Odds are one or the other will be the guy, even if we don’t see double-digit home runs.  Personally, I find Solarte more useful as the switch hitter in such a right-heavy lineup (especially because Middlebrooks is far better against lefties than righties)

Shortstop:

Best case – Alexi Amarista turns all of his hard work in the off season into success as one of the team’s few left-handed bats.  He posts a career-best season offensively, going for 250/320/380 and continues his serviceable defensive performance in the field.  He also limits the innings needed from 35-year-old Clint Barmes.

Worst case – ninja starts the season with a BA under 150, plays below average defense and the Padres are forced to either go with Barmes, find a veteran who didn’t make a big league team out of Spring Training or search for a trade partner.  The unstable defense at short has an effect on the entire infield, costing the team runs in the essential months of April and May.

Verdict: terrifying.  This is the one spot that can go bad really quickly.  It is hard to say the entire season depends on little ninja, but it almost does because the team has very few other options, internally, at the position.  Let’s all cross our fingers.

Jedd Gyroko:

Best case – the 2013 Jedd makes his triumphant return given a lack of injuries and the reduction of pressure on him to be a primary run contributor.  He slides in to the 6 or 7 spot in the batting order, quietly hitting 15 home runs, driving in 70 and playing league-average defense.

Worst case – the 2014 Jedd makes his disastrous return as he struggles from the outset, batting 150 in April and causing concern in the organization about his future with the team.  His power does not return as he slugs less than 300 to start the season.

Verdict: Jedd is in a really nice place.  The team isn’t counting on him nearly has much as it has, therefore he doesn’t need to hit in the middle of the order (like he did on opening day of his rookie year).  I’m expecting a lot out of Gyroko, but maybe I’m just really optimistic.

Yonder Alonso:

Best case – the wrist is healed and the only lefty with any pop in the line-up posts a career year, collecting 40 doubles, driving in 75-90 while batting 5th in the order and giving protection to Justin Upton, helping him see more fastballs and increasing his production.

Worst case – the wrist isn’t healed, or gets re-injured, and he falls right back into the on-again off-again DL player we’ve come to dread.  He slugs less than 370, fails to protect Upton and drops to 7th in the batting order before giving way to either Quentin or Tommy Medica at first base.

Verdict: Much like Amarista, the Padres really need this left-handed bat to produce.  Unlike Amarista, the Padres have plenty of back-up in case he doesn’t.  I was a huge Alonso supporter for a long time, but these past two years have soured my view… I truly hope this is the year he turns things around.

OFFENSIVE OUTLOOK:

Sure seems the lynchpins to the season are what the team gets from the middle of the field.  The catcher, second base, short stop and center field positions are the places where the post season will be gained or lost.  Here’s hoping Norris, Amarista, Gyroko and Myers prove sturdy as the hinges on which this season pivots.

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About the author: Richard Dorsha

The Padres above all others. There is nothing else in sports I want more than a Padres World Series title. My sports fandom begins and ends with the Friars. A San Diegan and Padre fan for more than 30 years now. Love to view the Padres from a historical context after reading about the team's humble beginnings to the dream come true of joining the National League. Been to more Padre games than I can count, seen more hours of Padre baseball than I care to mention.