Despite all the speculation that he might be traded at the deadline last year, Adrian Gonzalez remains in San Diego, and represents the only threat in what might be the weakest lineup in all of baseball (feel good about yourselves Pittsburgh Pirates). When San Diegans (thank you Ron Burgundy) are forced to debate whom the Padres second best hitter is between David Eckstein and Kevin Kouzmanoff, you know that it is going to be a long season for the Padres.
On top of it, none of the prospects that the Padres acquired in return for Peavy will be ready to be inserted in the lineup by opening day. The Pads will have to rely on their pitching, and their very pitcher-friendly park if they are going to make any noise this season.
After years of trade talks, San Diego will start its first season in five years without Jake Peavy as the opening-day starter. That means that Chris Young, the Princeton alum who spent the second half of last year on the disabled list after having shoulder surgery, will have to step up as the club’s ace.
Young appears to be right on schedule to pitch opening day, but he has not thrown more than 18 games since 2007. If the 6-foot-10 hurler can put together a 160-strikeout season like he did in 2006 and 2007, the Padres will feel the sting of losing Peavy far less.
Kevin Correia will take over the second spot in the rotation, coming off a season when he won 12 games and struck out 142. While his numbers from last season are strong, he is 29 years old and has only pitched one successful season in the majors. This season will determine whether he has staying power as a starter in the National League.
Jon Garland will pitch third in the rotation, with two young arms in Clayton Richard (who came over in the Peavy trade) and Mat Latos, a 22-year-old who started 10 games last season with mixed results. One of these three will have to step up if the Padres have any hopes of making noise in their division.
Even with the strong push the Padres made at the end last season (39-35 after the All-Star break), there is too much talent in the division for them to have a chance of winning. It would not surprise me if Adrian Gonzalez were traded before the deadline, with the Padres looking to rebuild knowing that 2010 will be a lost season.
While no team in the NL West is great, four of the five teams have what it takes to contend for the division. Unfortunately, San Diego is the odd one out, and will likely end the season in the NL West cellar.