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Padres camp report: Likes and dislikes

By Scott Miller | Senior Baseball Columnist

PEORIA, Ariz. -- What I like, and dislike, about the Padres:

Likes:

Chase Headley has everything going for him: great talent, smart, hard-working, cares and gets it. Coming off of a career year, the only question is how much longer he'll remain in San Diego (he's under club control for this season and next). He finished fifth in NL MVP voting and led the league in RBI (115) in 2012. He tacked on 31 homers and earned himself a Gold Glove award, too.

Forget big names, the Padres barely have any players most people can name. But there is a nice mix of young players and legitimate prospects who fit very well together and believe in manager Bud Black and his program. Given that, there is a significant upside, especially with the team going 42-33 after the All-Star break last year. “I feel some guys are ready to make big strides,” says Headley, ticking off names like first baseman Yonder Alonso, second baseman Logan Forsythe, outfielders Cameron Maybin and Will Venable. “A lot of pieces I see look substantially better than last year,” Headley says.

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Rotation depth. Even including Freddy Garcia -- and good luck with that -- the Padres have probably 10 legitimate starters on their depth chart: Edinson Volquez, Clayton Richard, Eric Stults, Jason Marquis, Tyson Ross, Casey Kelly, Andrew Cashner, Anthony Bass and Robbie Erlin. Plus, Cory Luebke should return from Tommy John ligament transfer surgery by early June. Last season was a nightmare: Of 13 starters in the spring, nine landed on the disabled list and three of those underwent Tommy John surgery. Two starters in the opening day rotation were lost for the season after one start: Tim Stauffer and Dustin Moseley. “When you mention depth to me, that doesn't mean just a lot,” pitching coach Darren Balsley says. “It means quality arms. It looks like we have strike-throwers with good arms. Usually, it's just one or the other.”

Jedd Gyorko. The top prospect in camp brings a big stick that should play in the majors. In a perfect world, the Padres would love to see Gyorko win the second base job this spring, which would allow them to use the gritty and versatile Forsythe as a sort of super-utility player and multiple positions. The Padres' minor league offensive player of the year last summer, Gyorko batted .311 with 30 homers and 100 RBI over 499 at-bats with Double-A San Antonio and Triple-A Tucson. The big thing with him is whether he can catch the ball well enough to play second base regularly. He's working on that this spring.

Dislikes:

New owners so far have failed to make any significant first impression, and for good reason: This team is broke. Former owner John Moores and temp Jeff Moorad lifted $200 million off the top of the club's new cable television deal on their way out the door, leaving the Padres, once again, cash poor. Marquis was the club's sole major-league free agent signing over the winter. Publicly, the Padres spoke of a weak free agent market that was overpriced. But multiple sources say the dire financial situation forced the Padres to sit on the sidelines this winter after re-signing Carlos Quentin and Huston Street last summer. Money that had been the light at the end of the tunnel, that was supposed to be pumped into the club, instead disappeared with Moores and Moorad.

Carlos Quentin's injury history. In a thin lineup, the impact of Quentin's bat cannot be overstated. He missed the first 49 games of last season following knee surgery. In seven big-league seasons, he's only played in more than 118 games twice. The Padres are hoping to get 120 or 125 out of him in 2013. Without question, their signing him to a three-year, $27 million deal is a gamble, and this isn't a club that can afford to lose financial gambles. Q slammed 16 homers and had 46 RBIs in 86 games last season, a perfect example of the kind of damage he can do when he's in the lineup.

The Padres did not need Yasmani Grandal's 50-game suspension for performance-enhancing drugs, but such is life in modern baseball. The kid apologized to his teammates this spring and will continue to work on making, as manager Bud Black says, “amends.” There will be no amends when his bat is out of the lineup until May 28, but maybe Nick Hundley will regain his old form and regain the job. Bottom line, because Grandal is so young (24), the Padres don't know whether last season was a mirage or the real thing. “This is an issue,” general manager Josh Byrnes says. “It begs the question. Obviously, we are hoping for no more positive test results and good play on the field.”

The rotation just does not match up with those of the Giants, Dodgers or even Diamondbacks. There are no Matt Cains, Madison Bumgarners, Clayton Kershaws, Zack Greinkes, Ian Kennedys or Trevor Cahills here. Doesn't mean the Padres can't win. It just means there is precious little margin for error and injuries. Petco Park always aids Padres pitchers, though the club moved the fences in for 2013, and we'll have to see how it plays.

 
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