Programming note: Get up to date on all the latest offseason Giants news with the Hot Stove Show, Tuesday night at 6:30 p.m. on Comcast SportsNet Bay Area
SAN FRANCISCO – Last week’s tour through the NL West looked at the arms race between the five division rivals, with the Dodgers emerging as the strongest on paper ahead of the experienced Giants.
This week it’s all about the O.
The NL West is not a slugging division. The team that emerges usually pitches the best and plays the cleanest defense. But there are exceptions. Coors Field still plays to its hitter-friendly reputation, and Paul Goldschmidt could mash 40 in any park.
Each NL West club made at least one everyday addition to its lineup: The Giants got left fielder Michael Morse, the Dodgers are taking a chance on Cuban rookie second baseman Alexander Guerrero, the Padres added outfielder Seth Smith and the Diamondbacks might lead the NL in homers after acquiring Mark Trumbo’s power bat. The biggest change comes in Colorado, where the Rockies had to replace retiring franchise icon Todd Helton and center fielder Dexter Fowler. They’ll rely on former AL MVP Justin Morneau and Drew Stubbs to do the job.
So which team profiles to have the most fearsome lineup? And which team needs to pray for a lot of 2-1 victories?
Let’s line ‘em up, in reverse order:
SAN DIEGO PADRES
Who’s new: OF Seth Smith, OF Xavier Nady, 3B Brooks Conrad.
Who’s gone: OF Jaff Decker, IF Logan Forsythe, 1B/OF Jesus Guzman, IF Ronny Cedeno
2013 average (NL rank): .245 (12th)
2013 on-base percentage (NL rank): .308 (11th)
2013 slugging (NL rank): .378 (13th)
2013 runs/game (NL rank): 3.81 (12th)
2013 home runs (NL rank): 146 (8th)
Projected lineup: SS Everth Cabrera, RF Will Venable, 3B Chase Headley, LF Carlos Quentin, 1B Yonder Alonso, CF Cameron Maybin, 2B Jedd Gyorko, C Nick Hundley.
The Padres have as much lineup versatility as any club in the NL West, so manager Bud Black will have no shortage of combinations to try.
Aside from Headley and Quentin in the 3-4 spots, the rest of the lineup is extremely fluid. Venable, Maybin and Cabrera add three premium speed threats -- and they don’t have to be concentrated at the top of the order, either.
The Padres have the personnel for Black to play a lot of matchups, too. Chris Denorfia is an effective platoon player and Kyle Blanks, when healthy, has something to offer as well. Most vitally, newcomer Seth Smith is an experienced left-handed bat who gives the Padres coverage at multiple positions – a glaring need for a club that played .500 against left-handed starters but was 49-59 against right-handers.
The Padres need position player depth because they have a lot of key hitters coming off injuries. Maybin, a huge key for his defensive ability in center field, played just 14 games last year because of knee and wrist injuries. Quentin had right knee surgery (his third) in September, and will debut a new, more upright batting stance. And Headley, coming off a disappointing season one year after leading the NL in RBIs, had arthroscopic knee surgery in October.
Cabrera, the Padres’ lone All-Star last season, is coming off a 50-game suspension after getting caught up in the Biogenesis probe. Another Padre popped for a PED suspension, catcher Yasmani Grandal, had major knee surgery (ACL repair) six months ago and is likely to begin the year on the DL.
The Padres dealt Jesus Guzman to Houston and unloaded the oft-injured but promising Logan Forsythe to Tampa Bay in the trade that netted them top lefty reliefer Alex Torres. Another former top prospect, Jaff Decker, was traded as well. They must have a little more faith in Jedd Gyorko (yes, it’s pronounded jerk-o) to blossom as the everyday second baseman.
ANALYSIS: The Padres have an intriguing combination of power and speed threats in their lineup, but no NL West team scored fewer runs per game in 2013. And San Diego is relying on a lot of key players who are coming off injuries.
RANK: 5 of 5.