They opened the year with such excitement and enthusiasm, and why not, after the off season spending spree. The first half of this Padres baseball season has been a big disappointment. The second half of the campaign starts this evening. Today, a mid-season grade on the team, its players, and leaders.
GM-AJ Preller…He started like a dynamo at the Winter Meetings, all those deals, created all that off season buzz. Half the deals haven’t worked out. A number of players dealt away are having better years that those he acquired. And a group of the blue chip prospects he dealt away are having strong seasons somewhere else. Compounding all this, the team failed to land any of the marquee Cubans other teams signed. In addition, Preller has taken on contracts now he cannot move. So far-expectation replaced by disappointment. Grade (C)
Manager Bud Black…He did more with less over the tenured run as manager. I never felt he felt comfortable with a new front office in place. His managerial moves early in the season, lineups, use of the bullpen, seemed strange and out of sync. Then his starting staff faltered, and key guys did not hit. Feel bad he was fired. Grade (C).
Interim Manager Pat Murphy….He hasn’t had enough time to really learn much about his team…Banged up guys in the lineup have hurt, and there seems to be no continuity to the batting order. Some of the starting pitching is better, but his record is no better than the guy he replaced. Grade (C).
Pitching-Starters…Staffs are never the same one year to the next, and all the innings piled up by the returning starters seem to have taken a toll. Despite the flashy start of James Shields, he is not winning now. Ian Kennedy, aside from a few quality starts, has regressed back to his home-run prone days in Arizona. Tyson Ross seems to have found his comfort zone after a terrible start. Andrew Cashner has a series of horrible starts, and now a series of great outings with no run support. Odri Despaigne pitches miserable ball on the road, and scouting reports have figured him out. Brandon Morrow had a clean start and since then has not gotten healthy. The ERA is at 4:05, and this from a staff that was second in the National League last year. Grade (D).
Pitching-Relievers…Craig Kimbrel is as advertised, nasty on the mound. Brandon Mauer has been the biggest surprise. The rest of the bullpen has been spotty, guys hurt, guys going back and forth from El Paso. As of today, the relievers ERA is (3.95)…remember last year when it was in the (1.20) range at midseason. Grade (B)
Hitting…Streaky at best, disappointing mostly. Justin Upton hits real HRs at Petco Park, but has had two major months of slumps. Matt Kemp is not getting power into his swing and is strikeout prone. Will Venable has his spurts, Melvin Upton has a glove. Yonder Alonso has had a very good first half of the season, coming off the hand surgeries. Jedd Gyorko has yet to hit back, average or home run-wise, to what he did as a rookie. The rest of the rotation guys look like platoon players at best. Derek Norris plays with heart, exhibits great leadership, hits with power, though he seems to wear down. Wil Myers is a great young talent and was everything advertised before the wrist surgeries. Corey Spangenberg, like Venable in a spurt guy. Will Middlebrooks, Yanger Solarte have their moments, but not very often. Alexi Amirista is hitting just around the Mendoza line, not good, compared to what he did before. Austin Hedges is sitting and learning, but you wonder if he would have been better off playing the entire year in the PCL. for all the money shelled out, the lineup is a mess. Grade (D)
Defense…A horrid start early, it has gotten better. Kemp plays really hard. Upton really hustles. Melvin Upton chases down lots in the outfield, but that is way too much money for a bat with holes in it. Myers was fine. Alonso might be a Gold Glove candidate. Solarte does make plays at times. Norris throws out lots of runners. It’s gotten better, but it is not great. Grade (C)
James Shields…Dominant early-not so much since-home runs and walks (C).
Tyson Ross..Poor start-now dialed in-but mechanics get away (B).
Ian Kennedy..Hamstring-home run balls-walks in a free agent year-just not the same pitcher (D)
Odri Despaigner..Horrid on the road-no longer ambushing people with his delivery-stuff (D)
Andrew Cashner…Has had bad outings, but more good ones without run support, more complete pitcher than ever (C).
Brandon Morrow..Competes-has diabetes-now ailing shoulder (B)
Craig Kimbrel….Bring the heat-meat and he does (A).
Joaquin Benoit..Not quite as dominant as a year ago (B)
Brandon Mauer..what a nice acquisition-has found his role and niche (A)
Dale Thayer…Ailing a bit because of over-use..not same pitcher as a year ago (C)
Frank Garces..Looks a bit overwhelmed at times (C)
Kevin Quackenbush…Growing as a setup guy-numbers a bit off (B)
Shawn Kelly…Bad outings early then injury but competes (B)
Yonder Alonso..Now healthy-everything they hoped he could be when he came from Reds (A)
Jedd Gyorko..Starting to hit after 20-days in El Paso-jury still really out on him now (C)
Alexi Amirista…Just not same player with bat in hand-disappointing (D)
Yanger Solarte..Can play lots of places-thought he filled in nicely at first-streak hitter (B)
Will Middlebrooks..Yes to rally back to player he was as Red Sox rookie (C)
Wil Myers..Like everything about him-hoping for health (A)
Matt Kemp..Hustles but not hitting yet-believe he has leg-ankle-foot issues (C)
Justin Upton..Can hit and is aggressive in outfielder-hope they keep him (B)
Will Venable..All out every night when he plays games (B)
Derek Norris…Scrap iron-special leader-should be captain-wants to play everyday (A)
Austin Hedges..So good on defense-so young in batters box-eager to learn and play (B)
Clint Barmes…Pros pro-maybe should play more-quiet leader (B)
Corey Spangenberg..Bright young talent-not a star-like his speed and grit-spit (B)
Melvin Upton..Can go get it-cannot hit-not deserve this contract team is stuck with (C)