When was the last time the San Diego Padres offense was middle of the pack, let alone elite? It certainly hasn’t been in the last five years.
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Part of the blame can be attributed to the ballpark, as Petco Park, ever since its opening in 2004, has been widely considered the most pitcher-friendly park in the Majors. But at the same time, the lineup hasn’t exactly been loaded with sluggers. Over this five-year span, only two players, Chase Headley in 2012 and Adrian Gonzalez in 2010, have reached the 25-home run plateau. Headley and Gonzalez also happen to be the only two players who have recorded more than 64 RBI. Barring multiple injuries, 2015 will be a different story.
In all likelihood, an outfield of Matt Kemp, Justin Upton and Wil Myers would rank as the best trio of any team in any fantasy league, let alone any team in the major leagues. And thanks to an attractive farm system, new Padres GM A.J. Preller was able to acquire these three bats without parting with any key pieces of the 25-man roster. Don’t get me wrong, there’s some risk with all three outfielders. Upton is entering the final year of his contract, Kemp needs to prove that he can stay healthy two years in a row and Myers is looking to rebound from an injury-plagued and overall disappointing sophomore campaign. But the reward, especially for the 2015 season, is enormous, and it’s refreshing to see a lower budget team like the Padres go out and make these kinds of moves.
After missing a combined 145 games due to injury from 2012-2013, Matt Kemp turned in a fully healthy season last year, and he posted a stellar stat line, batting .287 with 25 homers, 89 RBI, 77 runs scored and eight steals in 150 contests. From a fantasy standpoint, the fact that speed is no longer a significant component of his game knocks him out of the elite class of outfielders, and the move to Petco Park cannot be considered a good thing, especially when it comes to his projected home run total. Add in the injury risk, and I’d rather shell out 25-plus auction dollars or spend a top-30 pick on someone else.
Which outfielders would I draft ahead of Kemp? Well, Justin Upton is one of them. Though it might be time to give up on the idea that Upton will ever reach superstar status, the reality is that he’s been a very good player for awhile now and doesn’t turn 28 until August. Like Kemp, he can no longer be relied on for steals and Petco Park might take away some homers, but unlike Kemp, he’s been durable, having played at least 149 games in each of the last four seasons. In the early rounds, I’m all about minimizing risk, and by drafting Upton towards the back end of the top-30, you’re doing just that.
Perhaps no player is a better fit for the “post-hype sleeper” designation than Wil Myers. The former top prospect captured AL Rookie of the Year honors in 2013 by batting .293 with 13 home runs, 53 RBI and 50 runs scored in 88 games following his midseason call-up, but he managed a measly .222 batting average with six homers, 35 RBI and 37 runs scored last season while being limited to 87 games due to injury. Still, Myers is the type of talent that deserves another chance. Not only did he consistently produce elite stat lines while in the Minors, but his rookie season success is proof that he can thrive at the big league level with additional experience and better luck in the health department. But the best part is that while Myers might have been a bit overvalued at this time last year, there is enough doubt about him this time that he should be available at a very reasonable cost. Yeah, I would be higher on him if he were still in a Rays uniform, but the trade to San Diego does come with the added benefit of lowering his price tag even further.
No, division titles aren’t won in December. But unlike in recent years, the Padres front office is at least sending a message to their fan base and to the rest of the league that they’re going for it in 2015.