The Padres have been on a roll, winning 11 of their last 14 games.
Last week, I credited Chase Headley and Carlos Quentin for the Padres’ winning streak. Fans might assume that the new fences in Petco Park might also be responsible. But I’m starting to think it might be something else: youth.
Chase Headley has been putting up MVP-like numbers since returning from injury, and he’s been getting help from unlikely places. Second-year first baseman Yonder Alonso and rookie second baseman Jedd Gyorko have been daily contributors, with Gyorko raising his on-base plus slugging more than 120 points in his last 10 games. Everth Cabrera and Kyle Blanks have been consistent, despite Cabrera playing every day and Blanks playing sporadically. Each of those players is under 30, as is starting catcher Nick Hundley.
The last time the Padres had a rookie as a regular starter was probably Cabrera in 2009. The last time the Padres had a rookie as a regular starter to begin a season was Headley back in 2008. Neither of those teams was very good, but neither had the talent or youth running throughout the entire roster that the 2013 Padres have.
It’s good to see the Padres taking cues from the San Francisco Giants, who have won two World Series championships lately on the backs of young position players like Buster Posey, Pablo Sandoval and Brandon Crawford. San Diego’s young pitching hasn’t had the same luck, but rookie Burch Smith will be hoping to turn that around with his first major league start on Saturday.
Padres fans should be looking for hope in the form of Gyorko and Alonso instead of putting all of their focus on Headley’s contract negotiations. San Diego is still a “small market” in baseball terms, and will need success from players under team control (in addition to some efficient extensions for the older players) if they’re going to compete. It would appear that those young players are finally ready to start contributing down on Tony Gwynn Drive, but will it be enough to make the playoffs in 2013? That’s yet to be seen.