Define Pretty Good

Padres’ general manager Kevin Towers says the Padres can be “pretty good” next year. I’d like to know what Towers means by pretty good. Surveying the team – wearing Petco adjusted glasses, of course – I have a tough time seeing it.

Unless you just don’t pay attention to baseball at all, you already know about the greatness of Adrian Gonzalez. The Padres entertained offers this deadline before ruling to keep their star slugger. What sort of talent do they have to compliment him in order to contend in a strong division next year? Getting a full season of Kyle Blanks should help. His power is the real deal – evidenced in part by a .202 ISO in Triple-A, .264 in the majors this season. While his bat could be something special, he’s been forced to the outfield because of Gonzalez’s presence. Blanks looks more like a defensive lineman than a first baseman, let alone an outfielder. In a small sampling, Blanks’ UZR is -9 per 150 games. Having seen him play a few times, he looks faster than I expected a 285 pounder to be, but he’s not going to be confused with Nyjer Morgan anytime soon.

Everth Cabrera looks like a Rule 5 steal. He draws walks at a decent clip – 11% of his plate appearances this year – and he’s one of the fastest players in baseball. While in small samples his UZR numbers are not great, scouts believe he is a solid defender.

So there we have two cost-controlled players that should be above average contributors, or thereabouts. Kevin Kouzmanoff is having a fine season (2.4 WAR) and Tony Gwynn Jr. has been surpisingly good since coming over from Milwaukee (1.9 WAR). On the downside, former top prospect Chase Headley has not lived up to expecations (.320 wOBA, -10 in LF), and there’s little seperating Nick Hundley and David Eckstein from replacement players.

As for their rotation, the Padres look like they will have a crew of Chris Young, Tim Stauffer, Mat Latos, Clayton Richard and Aaron Poreda. Latos and Poreda both have high ceilings, but it would be a lot to expect either to blossom into top-shelf starters by next season. Stauffer and Richard are both solid-ish, and who knows what to expect from Chris Young going forward?

Their bullpen looks to be a strength, with Heath Bell blossoming into one of the more dominant closers in the game, and San Diego has no trouble finding diamonds in the rough when filling out a ‘pen. Take for instance Luke Gregerson (2.44 FIP), who was just in Double-A last year and came over from St. Louis in the Khalil Greene deal.

The Padres dumped a lot of salary by getting rid of Peavy, and by my estimates they only have about $30 million committed to next year’s roster, which should give them some money to play with this winter. But who knows what the new ownership group will be willing to shell out in free agency? And even if they do add through free agency, I can’t see that putting them into contention next year.

I think Towers is a bright guy, but I don’t quite get his optimism. I do think the Padres will improve. How couldn’t they? But unless pretty good means 77 wins, I just don’t see it.

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Erik Manning is the founder of Future Redbirds and covers the Cardinals for Heater Magazine. You can get more of his analysis and rantings in bite-sized bits by following him on twitter.

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