2009 outlooks: San Diego Padres

Even though Jake Peavy never was dealt this winter, there is no question the direction the Padres are headed -- to the recycle bin. They have some viable Fantasy talent, including Peavy and slugger Adrian Gonzalez, but they are more about giving chances to younger players who could become sleepers as we look ahead to 2009.

The Padres have a chance to be the worst team in baseball in one of the more winnable divisions in baseball. Their rotation behind Peavy and Chris R. Young is a mish-mash and their lineup has little thump beyond Gonzalez and perhaps the continued improvement of Kevin Kouzmanoff.

In Fantasy we mostly care about the stars, which is why most won't pay much attention to the other Padres on Draft Day. But, there can be some sleepers when talent meets opportunity.

Heck, Mark Prior might even surprise us again and make a return to health and the majors as a back-end starter. He was reportedly throwing "free and easy" this winter, prompting GM Kevin Towers to say, "If he's healthy, he's my ace in the hole."

Lineup-wise, Chase Headley, Jody Gerut and Nick Hundley figure to be scratching the surface, while potential closer Heath Bell should prove to be a nice bargain on Draft Day. There is also some help on the way down on the farm, which is where you can find some nice midseason gems, perhaps.

The organization has to be about pitching and defense, so watch their pitching prospects this spring and during the first half of the season. You won't find a big winner, but a talented arm can move up quickly and post a Fantasy-viable ERA and WHIP.

Sleeper: Chase Headley, OF

Headley was a solid rookie as a midseason call-up last year and should eventually develop into a must-have in all Fantasy leagues. This year, though, could be the last he will be on the board late on Draft Day. His numbers figure to make him a marginal starter for deeper mixed leagues, but if he makes as many strides as he did last season, that will change. Headley improved each month after his June call-up and is an unquestioned starter heading into spring training. He might even prove to be a No. 5 hitter in the lineup.

Bust: Chris R. Young, SP

Young has had a solid career to date, posting a 3.72 ERA in 117 starts. He can also strike out around a batter per inning. That is the good news and the bad news. He will be drafted well earlier than reasonable for a merely decent starter on one of baseball's worst teams. It will be very hard for him to pitch up to his draft position, which could be as high as a top 30 starter in some leagues. That is a lofty draft position for a pitcher who has never reached 180 innings in a single season, much less the 200 you need to get out of the pitchers who will go off the board at the same time as Young. Granted, his injury last season was a freak accident -- a liner off the forehead -- but your pick or auction dollar is better spent on someone with a better track record of health and innings -- not to mention wins potential from a team that can score more runs.

Breakout: Kevin Kouzmanoff, 3B

Kouzmanoff is a streaky slugger who is now in his prime, so we don't think his .260 average, 23 homers, 84 RBI, 71 runs -- the three latter numbers all career highs -- represent a ceiling for him. He should be just getting started. He wore down in the second half, hitting just .241 with a .272 on-base percentage, so his full-season numbers can improve a significant amount by merely becoming more accustomed to a full-season. This will be just his third full season in the majors and, despite less patience, his power numbers at a similar stage of his career are better than that of Kevin Youkilis, who become a Fantasy gem at an even deeper position last year. Kouzmanoff is attainable in the latter rounds of mixed leagues and will be one of the many overlooked Padres after Peavy and Gonzalez on Draft Day.

San Diego Padres Outlook
Projected lineup
Projected Rotation
1 Jody Gerut CF 1 Jake Peavy RH
2 Brian Giles RF 2 Chris R. Young RH
3 Adrian Gonzalez 1B 3 Cha Seung Baek RH
4 Kevin Kouzmanoff 3B 4 Kevin Correia RH
5 Chase Headley LF 5 Josh Geer/Wade LeBlanc RH/LH
6 David Eckstein 2B Alt Mark Prior RH
7 Luis O. Rodriguez SS Top bullpen arms
8 Nick Hundley C CL Heath Bell RH
Top bench options SU Cla Meredith RH
R Scott Hairston OF RP Chris Britton RH
R Edgar V. Gonzalez UTL RP Justin Hampson LH
R Cliff Floyd OF RP Chad Reineke RH
Rookies/Prospects Age Pos. 2008 high Destination
1 Matt Antonelli 23 2B Majors Triple-A
One of the most disappointing prospects in baseball last year can rebound and win the 2B job this spring.
2 Kyle Blanks 22 1B Double-A Triple-A
Monster slugger can swing his way to the majors, but Gonzalez will need to be dealt or Blanks moved to OF.
3 Wynn Pelzer 22 RH SP High Class A High Class A
Emerging pitching prospect could very well impact the major league rotation before the end of the year.
4 William Inman 22 RH SP Double-A Triple-A
His numbers are more impressive than the reviews, but there isn't much blocking him from the majors.
5 Will Venable 26 OF Majors Triple-A
The son of former big leaguer Max, Will figures to have a future as a solid reserve outfielder.
Best of the rest: SP Wade LeBlanc, OF Kellen Kulbacki, OF Cedric Hunter, SP Cesar Carrillo, SS Everth Cabrera, OF Jaff Decker, 1B Allan Dykstra, SP Matthew Buschmann, LHP Steve Garrison, SP Corey Kluber, 3B Logan Forsythe, OF Chad Huffman, SP Josh Geer, SP Mat Latos, 2B Eric Sogard, OF Blake Tekotte, RP Carlos Guevara, 1B Brian Myrow, SP Cory Luebke, C Mitchell Canham, C Colt Morton, OF Drew Macias, RP Chad Reineke, RP Mike Ekstrom, 3B James Darnell, RHP Simon Castro, RHP Adys Portillo, Nick Schmidt and SP Cesar Ramos.

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.

Crave freelancer Eric Mack is a writer, radio producer, and podcaster based in Taos, N.M., but he lives in Google+. He's also managing editor of Crowdsourcing.org... Full Bio

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