A RIVAL SCOUT SIZES UP THE PADRES
No one thought the Padres could do what they did last year, and they're going to use the same blueprint this season: pitching and defense. It's clear that with a limited budget they're going to tailor the team to Petco Park, which is a smart thing.... Mat Latos is a definite No. 1 starter—I'd put him in the top 10 in the league now. He used to have a look-at-me attitude, but he's matured. He's a big strong guy with a clean delivery, so his workload last year won't be a problem.... Aaron Harang's sinker is coming back. He's going to rediscover his confidence in that big ballpark. Lots of pitchers do.... If they're ahead of you after six innings, you're going to have problems beating them with that bullpen, and it will be even better with the addition of Chad Qualls, a solid veteran guy for the mid-to-late innings.... They're getting more athletic in the outfield. Cameron Maybin is a great fit in that park with his speed and range. He never knew he was secure in the job with other teams, and knowing he's the guy there will do wonders for his confidence. He'll shorten his stroke and not swing for the fences at Petco, which is what he should have been doing all along.... Having Jason Bartlett and Orlando Hudson in the middle infield will make their pitchers even better—both are plus defenders.... Brad Hawpe's just holding the fort at first base until [21-year-old] Anthony Rizzo is ready, and he's not far away. He's going to be an impact, Keith Hernandez--type player for them for years to come.... At the end of the day they're a .500 team at best.
April 3, 2011
WITH 2010 STATISTICS
MANAGER BUD BLACK
5TH SEASON WITH PADRES
Unearned runs allowed by the Padres in 2010, fewest in the majors. Benefiting most from San Diego's defense was Wade LeBlanc, one of two pitchers (with the Twins' Francisco Liriano) to make 20 starts without an unearned run.
As much as the Padres would like to make a statement by retaining closer Heath Bell, who can become a free agent after the season, it makes little baseball sense to do so. With his reputation well established after two 40-save seasons, Bell could command a three-year deal for more than $10 million per on the market with another good campaign. It makes little sense for San Diego to commit 15% of its payroll for 70 innings of work. No team, in fact, should be more aware that closers are made, not born. Bell was an unheralded pickup in 2006, a 29-year-old undrafted free agent acquired in an agate-type trade. Now he's an All-Star. The man Bell supplanted, Trevor Hoffman? A converted shortstop on his third organization when the Padres got him, and 28 when he had his first big year. The next Bell or Hoffman is probably in Double A right now; we just don't know who he is. The Padres got a 24-year-old starting centerfielder (Cameron Maybin) from the Marlins for two middle relievers this winter. Imagine what they can get for the NL's top closer. They have to trade Bell.