The Padres Outfield

Over the last few seasons, the Padres outfield has provided fantasy owners with plenty of waiver fodder, stream starts, and emergency band-aids. That may sound dismissive, but Padres outfielders have been a source of the cheap fantasy glue that is necessary to win championships. Their 2014 unit looks poised to pick up the mantle.

For the first time in years, the Padres may enter the season with three starting outfielders, namely Carlos Quentin, Cameron Maybin, and Will Venable. Behind that trio, the Pads have some quality backups including Chris Denorfia and Seth Smith. Alexi Amarista and Kyle Blanks could also enter the outfield mix as needed.

My colleague Robert Baumann covered Venable in depth yesterday. Venable has long been a useful platoon bat, especially in leagues that allow streaming, but he broke out in 2013 to hit over 20 home runs and steal 20 bases. Even with the breakout performance, he was a drag on the other three categories.

Venable appears to have solved the worst of his issues against left-handed pitching, which is almost a shame for fantasy owners since it could break up the long running Venable-Denorfia platoon. Given that he’s entering his age 31 season, there are several reasons to expect regression and lesser overall performance. He’s probably still a roughly replacement level outfielder for fantasy owners, but his skill set does include elements that can be leveraged, like steals.

Prior to the 2011 season, the Padres acquired Maybin from the Marlins at a bargain price. He replied with a breakout 40 steal campaign that included 82 runs scored, nine home runs, and a .264 average. The strong performance in steals masked his otherwise tepid performance, and fantasy owners began to target him in their 2012 drafts. That season went poorly, and Maybin lost nearly the entire 2013 season to a knee injury. He also had wrist surgery in September.

Given his recent injury history, Maybin should be ignored in all but the deepest drafts. The knee injury makes base stealing uncertain and the wrist surgery may affect what little power he has shown. Scouts have always thought that Maybin would eventually hit for more power. He might be worth keeping an eye on, if only for his former name value. Aside from stolen bases, expect below average production in all categories.

Quentin is another Padres outfielder who missed a big chunk of the 2013 season to a knee injury. When he’s on the field, he produces in three to four categories. He’s above average in runs scored, home runs, and RBI – at least on a per plate appearance basis – and his batting average is around league average when his BABIP cooperates. Alas, a low BABIP is part of his profile since he hits a lot of infield flies.

He’s missed substantial time in more seasons than can be counted (four of the last six), so he may have fallen off the fantasy radar of some owners. You shouldn’t purchase him with the expectation of more than 300 plate appearances, but there is the outside chance that he stays healthy and returns a 25 home run season for his owners. Last season, he averaged just $3 in the draft and bashed his way to a .372 wOBA over 320 plate appearances. Even if he remains healthy, expect him to be given frequent rest. He’s probably best suited for owners who consult team lineups when setting their own lineup.

As for the primary backups, let’s restrain our focus to Denorfia, Smith, and Blanks. Amarista will probably see most of his work in the infield. That trio of backups is quite interesting and should offer fantasy utility if they can find enough playing time.

Blanks may have the hardest time finding the field of the group, unless first baseman Yonder Alonso is hurt. Blanks is a 6’6” monster who occasionally showed big power in the minor leagues, but it hasn’t translated to the majors. What has translated is a discouraging 30 percent strikeout rate. Blanks saw a career high in plate appearances last season with 308, but he was six percent below league average with the bat according to his 94 wRC+. His defense in the outfield is also suspect. For fantasy purposes, it’s probably time to write off this erstwhile sleeper.

Smith was a strange acquisition for the Padres. He’s a solid platoon bat against right-handed pitching, but there doesn’t seem to be a role for him unless someone hits the disabled list. The Padres may eye a partial platoon with Quentin, but it will be difficult for fantasy owners to predict if and when Smith is starting. Until he settles into a predictable role, he won’t be useful for most owners. Those who have leagues with same day waivers could use him for the occasional stream start. It’s worth noting that Petco Park’s new dimensions were friendly to left-handed hitters last season, so Smith could see a boost in his declining ISO.

Denorfia is probably the most interesting of the Padres backup outfielders, and he could probably start for most second division teams. He’s entering his age 33 season and is coming off the most successful season of his career. Injuries opened up plenty of playing time and he made good on the opportunity with an above average performance on the field and at the plate. He was worth a hair under four WAR, but his fantasy stats were less exciting.

Denorfia posts decent batting averages and can contribute to the other four standard categories if given enough playing time. RBI is where he hurts fantasy owners the most since he generally bats at the top or bottom of the lineup. Denorfia is a decent sleeper for those in very deep leagues since he could potentially take over for Maybin (based on what we saw last season, Venable would move to center and Denorfia to a corner). Until something happens, owners in standard sized leagues can ignore him aside from the odd spot start.

The Padres have put together a lot of good, veteran depth in their outfield, but they’ve created a bit of a logjam in the process. As David Temple noted when the Padres acquired Smith, a trade could swing much of this analysis on its head. However, it’s possible that the Padres have accrued their corner outfield depth due to the uncertainty surrounding Maybin and Quentin. Maybin probably has a weak hold on the starting center field job and Quentin has a long laundry list of injuries. If the Padres do need to replace one or both players, they will be happy for the depth provided by Denorfia, Smith, Blanks, and Amarista.

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Reymond Fuentes?