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2011 Fantasy outlooks: San Diego Padres

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The Padres were baseball's surprise team last year, winning 90 games and leading the NL West most of the season only to lose their playoff spot on the very last day.

Yet as unlikely as their rise to glory was, coming at a time when many pundits picked them to finish in last place, it's even less likely to happen again.

The decision to deal franchise player Adrian Gonzalez to the Red Sox all but assured that. He was the lone superstar in a lineup of retreads and misfits, not to mention the only left-handed hitter to figure out PETCO Park, and the Padres' willingness to trade him for a trio of prospects shows how little they thought of their chances to repeat.

Now, they're left with just two legitimate Fantasy options: Hard-throwing ace Mat Latos, who finished eighth in Cy Young voting in what was practically his rookie season, and closer Heath Bell, who might be the best at his position, in part because the Padres didn't do much to improve their already lackluster offense.

You can't say they didn't try, though, bringing in Brad Hawpe, another one of those retreads and misfits, to fill Gonzalez's void. They also remade their defense up the middle, acquiring Jason Bartlett and Orlando Hudson and giving former Tigers and Marlins prospect Cameron Maybin first crack at the center field job. Throw in Ryan Ludwick, who was acquired at the trade deadline last year, and half the team's lineup has come together in the last eight months.

That doesn't make it any more exciting for Fantasy purposes, though. If anything good comes out of San Diego this year, it'll come out of the pitching staff, which has benefited from the tutelage of manager Bud Black with overachievers like Clayton Richard, Tim Stauffer and Wade LeBlanc. But they're more peripheral options than anything else. The Padres won't develop any real game-changers until the haul from the Gonzalez deal arrives.

Late-round flier ... Tim Stauffer, SP

After years of injury woes kept Stauffer from living up to his potential as the fourth overall pick in the 2003 draft, the Padres finally got frustrated with the right-hander and moved him to the bullpen last year, hoping to get some kind of return for their investment. Turns out they got more than they bargained for. By the beginning of September, he had a 1.72 ERA and was pitching so well that the Padres decided he deserved another shot in the rotation after all. He allowed fewer than two earned runs in four of five starts to end the season and actually finished with a lower ERA as a starter (1.83) than as a reliever (1.87). Stauffer lacks the strikeout potential to be a frontline starter, but his reliever eligibility makes him especially valuable in Head-to-Head leagues. As long as he's pitching, he'll be worth having on a roster. And hey, it's not like he can't take another step forward at age 28.

Sleeper ... Kyle Blanks, OF

In less than a year, Blanks has gone from being one of the top up-and-coming sluggers in the game to a complete non-entity in Fantasy. Nobody's talking about him, writing about him or thinking about him, which is the perfect recipe for a sleeper. And really, his opportunity is better now than ever. Gonzalez is gone. Blanks' natural position is open. The only thing standing in his way of full-time at-bats is Brad Hawpe ... OK, and that pesky recovery from Tommy John surgery. But the procedure helps explain why Blanks got off to such a slow start last season -- as Mike Aviles in 2009 can attest -- and position players typically recover from it faster than pitchers do. If Blanks gets a chance to claim the first base job at some point this season, don't be surprised if he gets back to performing like he did as a rookie, when he hit 10 homers in 148 at-bats.

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Can't-miss prospect ... Casey Kelly, SP

Kelly was the key piece in the Adrian Gonzalez deal, which seems ridiculous if you're just looking at numbers. A 5.31 ERA and a 1.61 WHIP at the Double-A level doesn't seem like the stuff of legends. But you have to remember Kelly was in the process of converting back to pitcher after beginning his professional career as a shortstop. Considering he was learning on the fly against established prospects at one of the most competitive levels of the minors, his performance wasn't half bad. He showed improved velocity as his body filled out at age 20, making his frontline stuff even more formidable, so it's only a matter of time before it all comes together for him. If he progresses to the point that his numbers match his stuff, he could potentially reach the majors this year. And if that happens, Mat Latos will have to fend him off for the title of staff ace.

San Diego Padres Fantasy Outlook
Projected Lineup Pos. Projected Rotation
1 Jason Bartlett SS 1 Mat Latos RH
2 Orlando Hudson 2B 2 Clayton Richard LH
3 Brad Hawpe 1B 3 Tim Stauffer RH
4 Ryan Ludwick RF 4 Aaron Harang RH
5 Chase Headley 3B 5 Cory Luebke LH
6 Will Venable LF Alt Wade LeBlanc LH
7 Nick Hundley C
Bullpen Breakdown
8 Cameron Maybin CF CL Heath Bell RH
Top bench options SU Mike Adams RH
R Jorge Cantu CI RP Luke Gregerson RH
R Chris Denorfia OF RP Joe Thatcher LH
R Aaron Cunningham OF RP Ernesto Frieri RH
Rookies/Prospects Age Pos. 2010 high Destination
1 Casey Kelly 21 SP Double-A Double-A
Numbers didn't impress in conversion from shortstop but has stuff of ace and should become one soon.
2 Anthony Rizzo 21 1B Double-A Triple-A
Acquired in Adrian Gonzalez deal and will eventually replace slugger. Not a bad power hitter himself.
3 Cory Luebke 26 SP Majors Majors
Doesn't have ace stuff but proved effective in late-season trial. Could win rotation spot this spring.
4 Jaff Decker 21 OF Class A Double-A
Diminutive slugger has walk rate to develop into OPS machine, but poor defense could delay promotion.
5 Simon Castro 22 SP Triple-A Triple-A
Strike-thrower should adapt quickly to big leagues but may lack ceiling to become top-of-rotation guy.
Best of the rest: Andrew Cumberland, SS; Reymond Fuentes, OF; Aaron Poreda, RP; Matt Lollis, SP; Donavan Tate, SD; Jason Hagerty, C; James Darnell, 3B; Juan Oramas, SP; Edinson Rincon, 3B; Logan Forsythe, 3B; Jarrett Hoffpauir, 3B; and Blake Tekotte, OF.

Stay in touch with the most passionate Fantasy staff in the business by following us via Twitter . You can e-mail us your Fantasy Baseball questions to DMFantasyBaseball@cbs.com . Be sure to put Team outlooks in the subject field. Please include your full name, hometown and state.

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Player News
Reds sign Brennan Boesch to minor league deal
by Brandon Wise | CBSSports.com
(4:09 pm ET) The Reds have signed outfielder Brennan Boesch to a minor league contract with an invite to spring training. Boesch, 29, is a career .256/.309/.412 hitter over five seasons for the Tigers, Yankees and Angels.

He was in the minors for most of last season, hitting .332 with 25 homers for the Angels Triple-A affiliate. 


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Jackson hit .278 with 34 RBI at Triple-A Memphis, playing 122 games at shortstop and third base in 2013.


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(2:18 pm ET) The Yankees and Phillies reportedly discussed a deal for 35-year-old shortstop Jimmy Rollins before talks broke down, according to ESPN reporter Jayson Stark.

Phillies general manager Ruben Amaro Jr. said Rollins is "one of the best shortstops in baseball still" but wouldn't confirm Yankees interest in the veteran. Amaro also said Rollins is "somebody we want on our club and would be very hard to replace."

Rollins is due $11 million this season and his contract is up at the end of 2015. Rollins hit .243 with 55 RBI and stole 28 bases in 2014. 


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(2:08 pm ET) Padres right-handed pitcher Blaine Boyer cleared waivers Wednesday and will enter free agency, according to U-T San Diego. Boyer was designated for assignment last week.

Boyer appeared in 32 games last season for the Padres and posted a 3.57 ERA. 


Rays designate Sean Rodriguez for assignment
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(2:04 pm ET) The Rays have designated 29-year-old Sean Rodriguez for assignment. 

Rodriguez hit .211 with 12 home runs last season. 


Jose Molina, Cole Figueroa clear waivers, released by Rays
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(1:55 pm ET) Catcher Jose Molina and infielder Cole Figueroa cleared waivers and were released by the Rays Wednesday. 

Both Molina and Figueroa were designated for assignment Thursday. Molina, 39, hit .178 over 225 at-bats last year, while Figueroa hit .233 in 43 at-bats. 


Rays sign right-hander Ernesto Frieri to major-league contract
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(1:33 pm ET) The Rays have announced signing of right-hand pitcher Ernesto Frieri to a one-year contract. Frieri will make a base salary of $800,000, going up to $3.15 million with incentives, according to the Tampa Tribune.

Frieri, who had a career-high 37 saves in 2013, had 11 last season with a 7.34 ERA.


Yankees' Sabathia confident he can return to being 200-inning pitcher
by Michael Hurcomb | CBSSports.com
(12:23 pm ET) Yankees starting pitcher CC Sabathia continues to deliver positive updates coming off July knee surgery.

"The knee, I have no complaints," Sabathia told YES Network. "I’m able to do all of my workouts. … I’m changing a few things. Not as much pounding and running. I’m in the pool a lot, on different machines to get cardio, (on the) bike. Just adding a few different things to get some cardio in."

Despite coming off surgery and being limited to eight starts (46 innings) in 2014, Sabathia feels he can get back to being a 30-start, 200-inning pitcher in 2015.

"Yeah, for sure," he said. "I feel like I can. If you asked me that a couple of months ago, I would have said, ‘I don’t know,’ but the way I’m feeling now and being able to work out, definitely."


Report: Indians expressing interest in Kendrys Morales
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Brewers' Ryan Braun 'cautiously optimistic' coming off thumb surgery
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(11:54 am ET) Brewers outfielder Ryan Braun is optimistic coming off October thumb surgery. Braun underwent a cryotherapy procedure in Los Angeles on Oct. 2, in which a needle was inserted at the base of his right thumb to essentially freeze a nerve.

"It definitely worked," Braun said Wednesday, per MLB.com. "It makes a huge difference."

Braun swung a bat 10 days after the procedure and was happy the pain in his thumb was gone.

"Right now, I don’t feel any [discomfort], and I haven’t been able to say that for two years," he said. "I think I’ve told you guys, it [bothered him] shaking hands, writing -- you know, just everyday activities. Now I don’t feel it at all, so I’m excited."

While Braun is definitely optimistic, he is also a bit cautious because he isn't in the grind of playing baseball every day. He has received full clearance, however, for all offseason activities.

"I’m encouraged by how it feels, but at the same time, I think I have to be cautiously optimistic [until] I get into spring training and see how it responds," Braun said. "But it hasn’t felt this good in a really long time."


 
 
 
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