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The San Diego Padres open their season Monday afternoon (or morning, if you’re watching from the West Coast), going up against the New York Mets in Flushing, N.Y. Mark Grant and Dick Enberg, who return as the Padres’ announcers for Fox Sports San Diego, will undoubtedly discuss “the hope of a new season” during the team’s first regular season game. But does 2013 really bring much hope? Have the Padres gotten any better? Let’s do a position-by-position analysis to find out:
Pitcher (2012): Edinson Volquez
Pitcher (2013): Edinson Volquez
In his first season with the San Diego Padres, Edinson Volquez had his best season since making the all-star team as a rookie with the Cincinnati Reds in 2008. He still has control issues and isn’t exactly the Cy Young candidate he was once thought to be, but he’s serviceable. He does, however, serve as a reminder that the premier arms in the Padres organization are either in the minor leagues, on the Disabled List, or both.
Catcher (2012): Nick Hundley
Catcher (2013): Nick Hundley
The last year for Nick Hundley has been wild, to say the least. After posting a .288 batting average and a WAR of 3.2 in 2011, new General Manager Josh Byrnes traded away Mat Latos for a package of near-ready major league prospects centered on a catcher,Yasmani Grandal.
Hundley didn’t exactly take the challenge well. He hit .157 in 58 games before being sent to the minor leagues and eventually the Disabled List. It looked at though his time with the Padres was finished. That was until Grandal tested positive for performance-enhancing substances. Now, Hundley has another chance to prove his worth before Grandal returns.
First Baseman (2012): Yonder Alonso
First Baseman (2013): Yonder Alonso
The Padres took a chance on Alonso, who had no significant playing time in the major league, by handing him the first baseman job and sticking with him through several rough patches. What they got in return, by the end of the season, was a doubles-machine who finished sixth for Rookie of the Year. Yonder should be a lock for this spot for years to come.
Second Baseman (2012): Orlando Hudson
Second Baseman (2013): Jedd Gyorko/Alexi Amarista
When Hudson was released midway through the 2012 season, it was thought to be “addition by subtraction.” Hudson was hitting just .211 and didn’t seem to be anywhere near the defensive player that won multiple Gold Glove Awards at second base. You’d be hard-pressed to find anyone within the organization who thinks the team’s success in the second-half of the season and Hudson’s release were a coincidence. He was viewed as a “clubhouse cancer.”
Gyorko has been one of the Padres’ most promising prospects for several seasons now, but the team has struggled to find a spot for him (a common problem for a team that has seen the likes of Phil Nevin, Chase Headley, Kyle Blanks and James Darnell play left field at Petco Park). Once Hudson was released, Gyorko was moved from his natural position (third base) and given a speedy lesson on how to play second base. The transition has gone smoothly, hopefully resulting in another powerful bat for Bud Black to put in his lineup.
Third Baseman (2012): Chase Headley
Third Baseman (2013): Cody Ransom/Jedd Gyorko
Cody Ransom is what’s known as a utility player. He can play first base, third base, second base or short stop. Guys like these are beloved by general managers because they take up a single roster spot but can be penciled in as the backup at three or four positions.
What Ransom isn’t is a long-term solution at third base. He’ll be platooning there with Gyorko, who will return to his natural position against right-handed pitchers (at which time, Amarista will take over as second baseman). But Ransom is expected to start at third base against the Mets.
James Darnell and Logan Forsythe, two other former third base prospects who have switched positions in hopes of getting in the lineup, will start the season on the Disabled List along with Chase Headley.
Shortstop (2012): Jason Bartlett
Shortstop (2013): Everth Cabrera
Bartlett was released alongside Orlando Hudson for much the same reasons. Both players were over the hill, neither offered very much as a backup and each had his own large contract.
Cabrera had an excellent second half of 2012, just as he did in the second half of 2009. In 2010, he was lost enough at the plate to warrant sending him back to the minors, where he stayed for almost two full years. He struggled with injuries along with big-league pitching, but Padres fans are hoping that both of those issues are behind him now. Cabreram like teammate Cameron Maybin, has superstar potential and could be the key to making the Padres contenders once again.
Left Fielder (2012): Jesus Guzman/Chris Denorfia/Kyle Blanks/Jeremy Hermida
Left Fielder (2013): Carlos Quentin
Technically, Quentin was also the Padres’ starting left fielder in 2012, but injuries during spring training sidelined him for the first few months of the season. Guzman started in left field on opening day 2012. Quentin has again struggled to avoid injury this year, but he has managed to get healthy in time to be the team’s No. 3 hitter against the Mets.
Center Fielder (2012): Cameron Maybin
Center Fielder (2013): Cameron Maybin
It’s good to start out at a position that we know won’t be changing for a few years. But that doesn’t mean that Maybin’s role hasn’t changed in the last 365 days.
In 2012, the thought was that Maybin could blossom into a consistent hitter and baserunner to complement his incredible skills and instincts in the field. Instead, he hit .243 for the season (down from .264 in 2011) and was caught stealing on seven of 33 attempts (as opposed to eight times in 48 attempts in 2011).
Maybin was inconsistent and was eventually moved out of the leadoff spot in the lineup. He is expected to be the eigth hitter in the Padres’ lineup when they face the Mets.
Right Fielder (2012): Will Venable/Chris Denorfia
Right Fielder (2013): Will Venable/Chris Denorfia
This right-left platoon worked well in right field in 2012, with Venable hitting .270 against right-handed pitchers and Denorfia hitting .337 against left-handed pitchers. Denorfia is expected to lead off and play right field against lefty Jonathon Niese Monday.
Comparing Opening Day lineups is somewhat trivial, but it does show that this year’s Padres roster isn’t all that different from last year’s. But if the team gets lucky with injuries and players like Maybin, Alonso, Cabrera and Grandal play to their potential, this could be the start of something big. Uh oh, the “hope of a new season” has gotten into me now. Good thing I don’t have Time Warner Cable.