The Padres Infield: Can One Man Bounce Back?

The San Diego Padres’ fantasy outlook may be looking up. While the team isn’t in contention yet, there are some promising players who could slowly change the team’s fortunes. The fact that they aren’t there yet means that the team’s fantasy assets are going to be readily available through most of the draft. Even the best offensive player on the club comes with a significant question mark this year. Though owners won’t be taking Padres early, there’s plenty of late upside on the team’s infield.

Catcher

Injuries and a PED suspension have ruined a promising debut from Yasmani Grandal. While he would normally be the starter in nearly any other situation, there’s a chance a knee injury will keep him out of action early in the season. Though his numbers took a downturn in a limited sample last season, he still showed strong skills at the plate. Grandal walked as much as he struck out over 108 plate appearance. He hit a weak .216, but that may have been due to a .257 BABIP. As he showed in 2012, he’s capable of putting up strong numbers at a weak position, but he’s going to need to prove he’s healthy before owners can count on him. If Grandal misses time, Nick Hundley should continue to take over the role. Hundley clubbed a surprising 13 home runs last season, but hit just .233/.290/.389. That’s about as good as the power is going to get considering his home park, and his skill set doesn’t scream high-average hitter.

First base

Yonder Alonso will open his third season as the Padres starter with a lot to prove. Power has been especially tough to come by, even when you factor in his ruthless home park. Alonso has hit just 15 home runs over the past two seasons, an unacceptable figure for a fantasy first baseman. He started to do a few things well last season, like hit for average, and show control of the strike zone, but it wasn’t enough to distract from his flaws. A wrist, and then eventual hand, injury slowed Alonso down over the last two months. He surprisingly was able to come back from his wrist issue strong the first couple weeks, before collapsing in August. It clearly had an effect on his power. All six of Alonso’s homers came in the first two months. Kyle Blanks strikes out far too much to be effective in a full-time role, but can provide some pop in desperate situations. He’s just not consistent enough to be useful in fantasy.

Second base

It was a bit of a mixed debut for Jedd Gyorko. The 23 home runs were nice, particularly because he hit 13 at home, but the strikeouts dragged down his overall line. Gyorko posted a 23.4 percent strikeout rate during his rookie season, which was much higher than anything he had done in the minors. The big question is whether he can get that in order this year. The power makes him a useful fantasy asset considering his position, but it’s tough to live with his slash line. Any improvement would make Gyorko a fantastic option at second. Even slightly raising his .287 BABIP would help make his average more acceptable. Alexi Amarista and Logan Forsythe would likely fill in behind Gyorko. Amarista is a classic no-hit middle infielder. Forsythe has shown more skills in the past, but is looking at an uphill battle for playing time.

Shortstop

Everth Cabrera finally showed some mastery of the strike zone, and it led to a career-best season at the plate. Cabrera’s .329 wOBA was easily the highest of his career, and made him a useful fantasy asset for the first time in his career. He became a player that wasn’t totally dependent on speed, but could also add a solid average and decent on-base skills. Cabrera’s involvement with the Biogensis clinic puts a dark cloud over his suddenly useful numbers. He missed most of August and all of September due to a 50-game suspension. Cabrera will continue to steal bases at a high rate, perhaps even leading the league. The bigger question is whether his bat actually took a step forward last year. If so, Cabrera has a chance to repeat his success. Amarista would likely back him up, but doesn’t do enough to warrant fantasy consideration.

Third base

The biggest question surrounding the Padres is whether Chase Headley can return to form. After posting MVP-caliber numbers in 2012, Headley dropped to a poor .250/.347/.400 line. His walk and strikeout rates remained the same, but his power deserted him until September. That shouldn’t come necessarily as a major surprise, as Headley hit over 20 percent of his fly balls out of the park in 2012. Even with the struggles, Headley’s 13 home runs and 10.9 HR/FB rate ranked as the second highest figures of his career. The point being, Headley was never a big power hitter until his ridiculous 2012. He may have tapped into some unknown power in recent years, and could hit around 15 moving forward, but betting on another 2012 might be foolish.

There’s some promise here, but not a lot of elite options. Headley and Gyorko should go in most leagues, while Cabrera, Alonso and Grandal could be high-upside late-round picks.




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Chris is a blogger for CBSSports.com. He has also contributed to Sports on Earth, the 2013 Hard Ball Times Baseball Annual, ESPN, FanGraphs and RotoGraphs. He tries to be funny on twitter @Chris_Cwik.


8 Responses to “The Padres Infield: Can One Man Bounce Back?”

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  1. AJP says:

    Any thoughts on Medica and being a potential deep sleeper for 1B?

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    • dave perek says:

      Kyle Blanks would probably be the first to grab 1b at bats if Alonso got hurt or was ineffective. Can probably assume Medica would start the year as AAA 1B. However, given the health history of Alonso and especially Blanks, I think that there is a strong possibility of seeing Medica in the majors this season at some point. Big question is whether Medica could play OF and add to his versatility.

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  2. jerusalem-artichoke says:

    You think Cabrera will go late rounds? If he does fall past the 12th round or so I would consider the speedster to be excellent value but I expect him to be taken by the 10th

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  3. Ralph Libinski says:

    By most objective measures, Headley already returned to form in 2013. Unless you mean “form” to denote “huge outlier”.

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  4. MLB Rainmaker says:

    The key thing to remember with Headley is that he was out a month in Spring Training and the first few weeks of the season with a broken thumb. And when he came back he just didn’t look like the same guy, I’m guessing because he wasn’t fully recovered and hadn’t gotten his timing back.

    I get there is some cherry-picking here, but if you look at his splits, he hit .229/.330/.359 before the ASB and .280/.371/.458 after, and his ISO jumped from .131 to .178. Now I get a .178 ISO is not 31HR power, but it is 20+ which with double-digit steals make Headley interesting. Don’t get me wrong, I got burned by Headley last year (somewhat — I traded for him in May), but given the thin 3B position and his numbers last year, he’s likely to drop.

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  5. stuck in a slump says:

    I happen to have a glut of 3B in an 18 team league with 21 keepers, I’ve got Headley, Aranado, Moustakas, with Carlos Santana having the possibility of also gaining 3B eligibility. I like the possible upside of all four players and can play three at a time (3B, IF, UT). Is Headley worth keeping over Asdrubal Cabrera? Does he hold enough value to fetch me worthwhile pitching or a decent 1B option? Or should I just say to hell with him and go with with the other two (possibly three) options?

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  6. Gus says:

    How is it that Gyorko is projected to get ~100 more at bats with a higher average and similar ISO as last season, yet no thinks he’ll hit more than one extra home run over his ’13 total??? I really don’t get that. Doesn’t seme to add up. Am i missing something obvious or is that just an obvious error?

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