The Padres haven’t won their division since 2006, but with a few high-profile additions for 2015, the outlook on this season is getting a whole lot brighter.
The San Diego Padres have been in the National League since 1969, and since that time they’ve won the division a total of five – yes five – times. Not pathetic, but nothing to write home about either. This year, however, has the makings of a special one, and it seems that San Diego’s all-in mentality is going to leave the Padres in the hunt for October glory, or watching from the sidelines as the Dodgers and Giants – once again – show that baseball in California starts, and stops, with them.
Let’s take a look at a few of these big moves, and how they’ll impact the 2015 team.
Justin Upton – RF
If you’re looking for lineup thump, Upton brings a lot of it. In each of his full seasons in the majors, Upton has never failed to deliver a sub-15 homer season (15, 26, 17, 31, 17, 27, 29). While he brings a lot of power, there’s something else that Upton brings a lot of that’s not quite as desirable, strikeouts. With a career low of 121 k’s (twice), and a career high of 171, you can be relatively certain that Justin Upton isn’t going to be putting the ball in play with any frequency.
At 27, Upton is just now reaching his prime, and with outstanding athleticism and some phenomenal raw power, he still has some real upside.
Wil Meyers – CF
Meyers brings some additional intrigue to the Padres 2015 lineup. The former American League Rookie of the Year (2013) has done nothing but tear the cover off the ball since he was brought up by the Tampa Bay Rays in 2013 as a 22-year-old. While he missed significant time last year due to an injury, initial implications are that the wrist is fully healed and ready for the Spring Training Grind. Hyped as one of the best young hitters in the game (and living up to that hype so far), Meyers could just be one of the most exciting young players in baseball.
Derek Norris – C
Once seen as a standout hitter with raw defensive tools and some amazing strike zone discipline, Norris might just be the sleeper of this group. With high-profile signings all around him, Norris would easily be the one that is overlooked. Don’t do it. Norris is still relatively raw defensively although his footwork and throwing have shown significant improvement in his short time in the majors.
The one tool that shows huge upside is his ability to work the count and drive the ball, and for a catcher, this could keep him in the major leagues for quite some time. Although the bat hasn’t shown what he’s truly capable of just yet, Norris has shown flashes of what is to come in each of his first two big league seasons. Season three could be a breakout season for him, and with the lineup protection that San Diego affords, this is definitely a player worth watching.
Matt Kemp – LF
I shouldn’t need to say anything about Matt Kemp other than the fact that – when healthy – he’s among baseball’s elite. The caveat here though is health. When Kemp is on the field he can change a game like no other, and when healthy he’s good for a slash line somewhere in the neighborhood of .285/25/90. While 2012 and 2013 saw Kemp spending a good portion of each of those two seasons on the disabled list, he was finally healthy again in 2014 and showed just what he was capable of after putting up a .287/25/89 line.
The one achilles heal, if one exists with Kemp, is that he strikes out about as often as Upton and last year alone saw him fanning a total of 145 times. With Upton and Kemp in the middle of the Padres order there’s sure to be fireworks, and a lot of breezy days at Petco park.
The Padres are – for the first time in recent memory – a legit contender this year in the National League West. And while it’s easy to argue that the Giants own the West, the Padres just might have the firepower necessary to take down the juggernauts who have won two out of the last three World Series. Only time will tell.