2009 MLB Preview: #27 San Diego Padres

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Offseason Movement: The Padres didn’t make a ton of moves this offseason, but they did add 2B David Eckstein to help mentor a young club and hopefully provide a boost at the top of the lineup. San Diego also signed free agents Cliff Floyd, Henry Blanco, Chris Burke, Kevin Correia and traded for RHP Mark Worrell, formerly of the Cardinals.

Top Prospect: Matt Antonelli, 2B
The Padres selected Antonelli with the 17th overall pick in the 2008 draft and while he played third base at Wake Forest, the club envisions him as a second basemen at the next level. Thus far in spring training, Antonelli is hitting .348 in 23 at bats and although the club signed David Eckstein to play second base, they could move him to short to make room for the 23-year old prospect. Antonelli has flashed a decent combination of pop and speed, which is certainly two things the Padres would love to add to their lineup.

The Big Question: Has the offense improved?
No team scored fewer runs last year than the Padres, who didn’t do much to upgrade their lineup in the offseason. First basemen Adrian Gonzalez is one of the best young hitters in the game, but he doesn’t have much around him. Brian Giles’ skills are declining but he can still rake (he hit .306 last year and added 12 dingers), while Kevin Kouzmanoff has above-average pop but doesn’t offer much in average. If this club expects to have better offensive production this year, then guys like Jody Gerut and David Eckstein have to be solid table setters at the top of the lineup.

Outlook: The Padres have one of the better 1-2 punches in all of baseball with ace Jake Peavy (whom the club decided to hang onto despite talk of him being traded to the Cubs this offseason) and Chris Young. Henry Blanco also offers a slight upgrade at the catcher position in terms of defense, although he won’t do much for San Diego’s weak offensive production. The bottom line is that the Pads didn’t do much to upgrade their offense and even though their starting pitching is solid, the bullpen could be a major issue and their defense is weak up the middle. This team isn’t void of talent with Gonzalez, Peavy, Giles, Kouzmanoff and Young, but on a whole there are just too many holes and the basement of the NL West is probably calling San Diego’s name.

Projection: 5th NL West.

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