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2014 Fantasy Outlooks: San Diego Padres

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Overall, 2013 was another humdrum year for the Padres, as their 76-86 record gave them their third straight losing season and fifth out of the last six. The team played better after the All-Star break, and the improvement was fueled in large part by skill growth from starting pitchers Andrew Cashner and Tyson Ross and late-season surges from outfielder Will Venable and third baseman Chase Headley. Over the course of the second half, the Padres found themselves on the right side of a .500 record, going 34-32.

Perhaps because of the relatively strong finish, some writers have tabbed the Padres as a wild card contender, but they are still lacking upper-echelon Fantasy talent. Everth Cabrera will likely be the Padres' most sought-after Fantasy entity, despite having ended his 2013 season with a 50-game suspension stemming from the Biogenesis investigation. Jedd Gyorko and Chase Headley may not be far behind Cabrera in the draft order, as all are likely to be middle-round targets. No other everyday player from the starting lineup is a must-draft in standard mixed leagues, though Will Venable and Carlos Quentin will find at least some homes in those formats. The same could be true for Yasmani Grandal, if he can stay ahead of schedule in his recovery from knee surgery.

2014 Fantasy Outlooks
A.L. East N.L. East
Orioles Braves
Red Sox Marlins
Yankees Mets
Rays Phillies
Blue Jays Nationals
A.L. Central N.L. Central
White Sox Cubs
Indians Reds
Tigers Brewers
Royals Pirates
Twins Cardinals
A.L. West N.L. West
Astros Diamondbacks
Angels Rockies
Athletics Dodgers
Mariners Padres
Rangers Giants

Among pitchers, Cashner has the greatest Fantasy appeal, due to his mid-90s velocity (and thus, strikeout potential) and strong finish last season, when he compiled a 2.14 ERA and 0.95 WHIP in the second half. Though he struck out a modest 61 batters over 75 2/3 second-half innings, Cashner did get whiffs on 10 percent of his pitches while averaging a robust 6.9 innings per start. That efficiency will help Cashner in standard Head-to-Head formats, just as Tyson Ross' relief eligibility will. Ian Kennedy and Josh Johnson, the latter of whom was signed as a free agent this offseason, will likely attract less interest in standard mixed leagues, as both are coming off their worst seasons since becoming rotation staples, but neither is far removed from having been relevant in Fantasy.

Eric Stults is the leading candidate to begin the season as the Padres' No. 5 starter, but even with Cory Luebke likely needing a second Tommy John procedure and missing the 2014 season, there could eventually be competition. Robbie Erlin leads the charge of a deep group of young pitchers who could be ready to join the rotation.

Huston Street is set to start his third season as the Padres' closer, but the team has acquired plenty of depth to back up the injury-prone hurler. Though Luke Gregerson was dealt to the Athletics for outfielder Seth Smith, they signed Joaquin Benoit and traded for lefties Alex Torres and Patrick Schuster to provide reinforcements in the bullpen. Torres could also be a candidate for the rotation at some point, while Rule 5 pick Schuster is more likely to be relegated to a lefty specialist role, assuming he isn't returned to the Diamondbacks.

Though the Padres have the pieces to be a playoff contender, there may not be another team that has as many players with boom-or-bust potential. If Cabrera picks up where he left off, Gyorko, Cashner and Ross break out, and Headley, Kennedy and Johnson bounce back, the Friars will be a force to be reckoned with. The same could be true for Fantasy owners who draft these players, but each carries a substantial amount of risk.

Sleeper ... Will Venable, outfield

2014 projected lineup
Player Name Position
1. Everth Cabrera SS
2. Will Venable CF
3. Chase Headley 3B
4. Carlos Quentin LF
5. Yonder Alonso 1B
6. Jedd Gyorko 2B
7. Yasmani Grandal C
8. Seth Smith RF
Bench Kyle Blanks 1B/OF
Bench Cameron Maybin OF

Venable quietly became a top 30 Rotisserie outfielder in 2013, just one year after he barely cracked the top 60. Not only did he set a career-high with 515 plate appearances, but Venable shattered his personal best for home runs, clouting 22 (his previous high was 13 in 2010). Prior to last year, Venable's sole Fantasy asset was his moderate contribution to steals, and he didn't disappoint in that category, exceeding 20 for the fourth year in a row. The home run spike may not have been a fluke, though. He hit 15 homers at PETCO Park, which after bringing the right field fence in, now ranks as a top home run park for left-handed hitters, according to the 2014 Bill James Handbook. Owners may be used to viewing Venable as an afterthought in standard mixed leagues, but he could deliver tremendous value with a late-round pick, especially in Roto leagues.

Bounceback candidate ... Chase Headley, third base

After breaking out in 2012, Headley was a major letdown last season, as his home run, RBI and stolen base totals fell by more than half. It turns out that Headley played the whole season with a torn meniscus, which he had repaired in October. Even while being hampered by his knee and possibly also his thumb (which kept him out of action in the early part of the season), Headley still hit for decent power against lefties (nine doubles, two triples and five home runs in 149 at-bats). Entering 2014 fully healthy once again, owners could look forward to Headley coming much closer to his 2012 level of production, which was reflected in a .286/.376/.498 slash line. Because his output was so depressed a year ago, you can probably get Headley for the mere investment of a mid-round pick.

Head-to-Head hero ... Tyson Ross, starting pitcher

2014 rotation/bullpen
Player Name Throws
1. Ian Kennedy RHP
2. Andrew Cashner RHP
3. Josh Johnson RHP
4. Tyson Ross RHP
5. Eric Stults LHP
ALT Robbie Erlin LHP
Bullpen Breakdown
1. Huston Street RHP
2. Joaquin Benoit RHP
3. Alex Torres LHP
4. Nick Vincent RHP
5. Dale Thayer RHP

In early mocks, Ross is getting drafted well behind Cashner, but it's not unthinkable that the former Athletic could outperform his teammate. Cashner holds out the promise of becoming a strikeout-per-inning stud, but Ross actually delivered that performance during the second half of last season. Upon entering the Padres' rotation after the All-Star Break, Ross recorded a 2.93 ERA with 85 strikeouts in 80 innings over 13 starts. Had Ross carried his 14 percent swinging strike rate from that span over the entire season, he would have had a higher rate than Yu Darvish. It's hard to believe that Ross could maintain that pace over a full season, but even with regression, you have to love his strikeout potential. Oh ... and he's dual-eligible in Head-to-Head leagues, so you can get that production out of a relief spot in those formats. Yikes.

Prospects Report

Burch Smith, Keyvius Sampson and Casey Kelly are all part of a system deep in major-league-ready starting pitching, and each could get a trial in the Padres' rotation in 2014. Kelly will first have to complete his recovery from Tommy John surgery, which he underwent in April last year. Matthew Wisler has yet to reach Triple-A, but he has the most potential of the group and could make his debut this season. ... Austin Hedges gets rave reviews for his prowess behind the plate, but he hasn't shown much offense in the minors. Even with a potential late-season callup in his future, single-season owners can ignore him. ... Rymer Liriano, like Kelly, lost 2013 to Tommy John surgery. He could be a serious stolen base threat within a year or two, depending on how well he bounces back this year. ... Pitchers Max Fried and Joe Ross (Tyson's brother), as well as outfielder Hunter Renfroe, have not blown away the lower minors statistically, but each possesses tools that could bring them greater success as they climb the organizational ladder. Don't sweat the stats and look to target each in dynasty leagues.

Stay in touch with the most passionate Fantasy staff in the business by following us on Twitter @CBSFantasyBB or Al at @almelccbs .

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Player News
D-Backs might find a way to keep Jake Lamb on roster
by Michael Hurcomb | CBSSports.com
(4:40 pm ET) While the Diamondbacks are trying to see if Yasmany Tomas can develop into a starting third baseman at the major-league level, Jake Lamb is doing his best this spring to make sure the Diamondbacks don't forget about him, per MLB.com.

"He just looks great," Diamondbacks chief baseball officer Tony La Russa said. "I didn't see him last spring so I don't have anything to compare it to. I saw him at the end of the season, he could have been worn down. His talent is oozing. Believe me, at the point we're a contending club there is room for both of those guys [Tomas and Lamb] on the team. It's not that tough to figure out. They can't both play third base, but you could be creative. Get the best players on the field."


White Sox's Robertson won't see 'ton of opportunities' in Cactus League
by Igor Mello | CBSSports.com
(4:38 pm ET) Because his role on the team is already defined, White Sox closer David Robertson is not expected to see "a ton of opportunities" during the Cactus League season, according to ESPN.

"Even talking to him, he doesn't need a lot of appearances to really be ready," manager Robin Ventura said. "I think more goes on what he does right now (in workouts before games). I know he's not going to sit there and have 20 appearances in spring training just to be ready. I would say 10, or less. Really it's up to him. He's been around long enough to understand what he needs to be ready."

Robertson signed four-year, $46 million deal with the White Sox this offseason, and is entering camp with high expectations. He converted 39 of 44 save opportunities in 2014 for the Yankees, registering a 3.08 ERA and a 1.06 WHIP over 64 1/3 innings of work.

"I really ease into spring training," Robertson said. "We've got 45 days here to get ready. If I can’t be ready in 45 days, there's something wrong. I look at it as a chance to get out here and slowly get yourself acclimated and get back to playing baseball. Obviously I've done things in the offseason to get my body to where it needs to be. It's just a matter of getting back on the field and getting in tune with everything."


Mariners catcher prospect John Hicks on the radar for MLB callup
by Michael Hurcomb | CBSSports.com
(4:35 pm ET) Mariners catcher John Hicks might not be on the radar as an elite prospect, but after posting a .288/.337/.419/.756 slash line through four minor-league seasons, he at least has the attention of the Mariners' decision makers.

“He’s a catcher who has the ability to do a lot of things,” manager Lloyd McClendon said, per The News Tribune. “His bat plays. He’s got a bright future. He’ll probably see significant playing time this spring.”

Hicks is expected to open the season at Triple-A Tacoma, but he could make his MLB debut in 2015.

“Listen, you’re on the 40-man roster,” McClendon said. “You’re on that roster for a reason. That’s to (the club to) protect you in case we have injuries. Then you move up.

“So, yeah, there’s a chance he could see time in the big leagues this year if there’s an injury.”


Twins P Ryan Pressly hoping to earn bullpen spot
by Jason Butt | CBSSports.com
(4:25 pm ET) Relief pitcher Ryan Pressly was able to crack the Twins' roster in 2013 only to spend most of last season in the minors, thanks to three minor-league options he had left. 

This spring training, Pressly is looking to do enough to prove he deserves a spot on the Twins roster once camp is over. 

"We'll see how everything kind of plays out," Pressly said. "It's going to be interesting. You've got guys like [Michael] Tonkin and Lester [Oliveros] who are going to come out of the gates swinging. I just have to control what I can control. So, it's about who shows up and who has a good spring, and I'm hoping I have a good spring like I did in 2013."

With Triple-A Rochester, Pressly posted a 2.98 ERA with 63 strikeouts in 60 1/3 innings. When he was called up to the Twins in July, he posted a 2.86 ERA in 25 games. 


Padres shortstop Alexi Amarista grateful to have starting job
by Michael Hurcomb | CBSSports.com
(4:21 pm ET) Padres shortstop Alexi Amarista is ready for the challenge of entering the season as a starter for the first time in his career, per MLB.com.

"I'm blessed that they gave me the opportunity and that gave me more confidence, being an everyday player," he said.

Monitoring Amarista's progress will be one thing Padres general manager A.J. Preller will watch closely this spring.

"I think, in general, we're really more anxious just to see how the spring training goes for the infield, in the middle of the infield, with Alexi and Clint Barmes, we're hoping we're covered," Preller said.


Twins C Josmil Pinto has eyes set on improving defensively
by Igor Mello | CBSSports.com
(4:20 pm ET) Twins catcher Josmil Pinto struggled defensive last season. He was unable to throw out a base steals in all 20 attempts in 2014. Pinto, who is an early favorite to secure a backup spot behind Kurt Suzuki this season, told reporters he played Venezuela this offseason to get more reps and improve his skills defensively, according to MLB.com.

"That's the first reason I went to Venezuela," Pinto said. "I wanted to catch a couple games and improve my defense. It was the first year I played a complete season. So it was good.

"Improving my defense is the most important part to me making the team," Pinto said. "And I want to make the team."


Hernandez's absence could hurt chances of making Astros' rotation
by Michael Hurcomb | CBSSports.com
(4:13 pm ET) Astros starting pitcher Roberto Hernandez, who is expected to compete for a spot in the rotation, has still not arrived for spring training due to visa issues.

While he is throwing bullpen sessions in the Dominican Republic, manager A.J. Hinch said Friday that Hernandez's absence could cost him a chance to earn a spot in the rotation.

"It's going to depend upon him showing up ready to go," Hinch said, per MLB.com. "He is a veteran guy, so I don't sense that he's going to come in unprepared. But once games start, we're starting to get a little bit behind."


Royals' Yost: We're going to give Raul Mondesi a 'good look' in camp
by Igor Mello | CBSSports.com
(4:11 pm ET) Royals manager Ned Yost told reporters he's going to give shortstop prospect Raul Mondesi a "good look" during spring training, per MLB.com.

"We are just here to give him a good look, let him play and get some experience and let him enjoy big league Spring Training," Yost said. "Everything jumps out. He's that kind of guy. He just stands out a little bit. He's going to be a special player."

Mondesi, the son of Raul Mondesi Sr. and the youngest player in camp at 19, is the top prospect in the organization, after signing for $2 million as an international free agent in 2011, according to MLB.com. He hit .211/.256/.354 over 435 at-bats in the Carolina League in 2014. He could be in line for a Double-A promotion in 2015.


Royals OF Alex Gordon says he feels great after hitting off tee
by Michael Hurcomb | CBSSports.com
(4:06 pm ET) Royals outfielder Alex Gordon, who had surgery on his right wrist in December, remains on track to be ready for the start of the season, according to MLB.com.

"We don't have a progression. It's just day by day," Gordon said. "After we swung it today, we talked about how we are going to approach it [Saturday], and I think that's how we are doing it right now. If it was during the season, obviously it would be pushing it forward a lot quicker, but we are just taking it slow and trying to be smart about it."

Gordon has taken the next step in his rehab after hitting off a tee Thursday and Friday.

"I had about 20 or 30 swings, and it felt great," Gordon said. "As long as it doesn't come back with any pain or suffering tonight, I'll probably have a little soft-toss. It's pretty exciting. Honestly, it is. That's not a joke.

"I turned it loose the last 10 swings [Friday], and it almost felt like the more I turned it loose, the better it got. That's a good sign that most of the discomfort, if there is any, comes from lack of swings and being stiff."


Reds' Billy Hamilton given green light to work on bunting in spring
by Igor Mello | CBSSports.com
(4:00 pm ET) Reds outfielder Billy Hamilton told reporters he feels less pressure this season now that he's entering his sophomore season in the majors, per MLB.com.

"I'm just more comfortable, more relaxed," the Reds sophomore speedster said before Friday morning's workout. "I've been able to come here and not put so much pressure on myself. My work ethic is going to be the same, always, every single year. But it's more relaxing now. I come in every day being able to breathe."

The 24-year-old hit .250 as a rookie in 2014. He also finished second in the National League with 56 stolen bases. Hamilton revealed that he's working more on his bunting this spring, after registering 15 bunt hits last season. The club has given him the green light to experiment on his bunting in game action this spring.

"Bunting can be a big part of my game, which I didn't use as much as I should have last year," Hamilton said. "Bunting for base hits can get you out of different kinds of slumps and when you're not feeling good at the plate.

"If it's two outs or two strikes, this is the time to work on it," Hamilton said. "Even if it's 3-2, they gave me permission to [bunt]. It's something I might not do during the season, but you want to work on it in a game versus just here in practice."


 
 
 
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