For a team that ended the season with a negative run differential and 76 wins, maybe it’s not a good sign that most of the outfield’s playing time is set. But the Padres have some young men on the horizon that might fight their way to the fore, and as is usually the case with their team, they have some under-valued assets that could fit on your fantasy team… if in a part-time role.
Will Venable was once my Lucas Duda before he became my Lucas Duda, if you know what I mean. All the tools that made him an interesting dollar pick back in 2010 are still there, but now Venable is 30 years old and has 1774 plate appearances of data on his back. His brand of offense — a little bit of everything, with an average walk rate, an average strikeout rate, average power, and some speed — works against righties (113 wRC+ career), but is 31% worse than the league average against lefties. There’s just no way to think that the team will plug him in every day.
But at least Venable is a lefty and will get the 2/3 playing time that a platoon right-hander gets. In his 450+ plate appearances, he should be able to steal 20+ bases, too, so that makes him interesting in deeper leagues. His power hasn’t really translated, but Petco used to suppress lefty home run power the most, and the fence changes are the most drastic in right field. If, due to the new fence situation, Venable showed an isolated slugging percentage over .180 (.162 career), he might find that same power stroke that gave him 12 home runs in 324 PA in 2009. More doubles — do the fielders play deeper due to the new wall placement? — would help his batting average, too. If you reign in your optimism, to about .260 with 10-15 home runs and 20+ stolen bases, you still see a bench player in deep leagues. But a useful one!
Backing up Venable and taking his time versus lefties is ostensibly Chris Denorfia. Since he’s a righty that’s normally used in platoon situations — and is fairly breakable, with his hamstring issues and Tommy John surgery — Denorfia doesn’t have the same deep-league upside as Venable. Think of him as an injury replacement.
Cameron Maybin is the starter in center, and Carlos Quentin is the starter in left field. You’ll probably see a writeup of them in the coming weeks, so I’ll keep it brief: each is an interesting, and possibly cheap, option in mixed leagues. Neither is going to put up a great batting average, but both have tools that should make them relevant.
On the horizon? Rymer Liriano. If he can cut his strikeouts and show a little more power in his second go-around at Double-A, Liriano might be ready for the big leagues as soon as late 2013. His speed looks to be ahead of his power, though, and he’s no center fielder. Starter-level playing time may only come with an injury — at least one of Carlos Quentin‘s best skills involves stepping in front of baseballs. Liriano could be a second-half target in re-draft leagues, so remember his name. There’s always a chance that someone out of the semi-crowded infield like Logan Forsythe finds time in the outfield, but he’s not likely to be better than one of the three starters, so that’s not a draft-day concern.
Oh! Kyle Blanks! He’s a big man! Too bad he doesn’t have the afro any more. There’s power there to love, but he needs to make some contact to even hit .230, and his path to playing time is unclear. Hard to advocate even picking him up in deep dynasties, unless you’re really hurting for power and need a lotto ticket.