Thanks to new general manager, AJ Preller, there’s a sense of excitement surrounding the 2015 San Diego Padres. San Diego completely overhauled its outfield, trading for Matt Kemp, Wil Myers, and Justin Upton. San Diego added also quality and depth to its infield by trading for catcher Derek Norris and third baseman Will Middlebrooks. Norris and Middlebrooks will join first baseman Yonder Alonso, second baseman Jedd Gyorko and shortstop Alexi Amarista in San Diego’s infield. San Diego boasts an impressive duo atop its starting rotation. Starting pitchers Andrew Cashner and Ian Kennedy will anchor the starting rotation. San Diego also signed two starting pitchers, Josh Johnson and Brandon Morrow, who have high upside. Johnson and Morrow have high strikeout upside, but have been oft injured during their careers.
San Diego’s bullpen is composed of right-handed power arms. Closer Joaquin Benoit and set-up man Shawn Kelley will provide stability in late game situations. San Diego needed to be aggressive in a division comprised of the World Series champion San Francisco Giants and perennial power Los Angeles Dodgers. Here are five things to watch during Spring Training:
(You can purchase Padres tickets for all spring training games at the bottom of this post)
Storyline #1: The Health of Johnson and Morrow
When healthy, Josh Johnson and Brandon Morrow have shown the ability to be top-flight starting pitchers. Injuries, however, have derailed both of their careers. The 30-year-old Morrow has started just 16 games over the last two seasons while Johnson missed the entire 2014 season due to his second career Tommy John surgery. Health is the main concern for these two pitchers.
Storyline #2: The Maturation of Justin Upton
The 27-year-old Justin Upton is in a contract year. Despite his younger age, Upton has been a mainstay since 2007. In 1,034 career games, Upton has clubbed 174 home runs. As a member of the Atlanta Braves, Upton hit 29 home runs last season, his second highest single season total. Upton has a lot of incentive to have a big season for San Diego.
Storyline #3: Will Matt Kemp Become San Diego’s Leader?
It’s no secret that Kemp was the leader for the Los Angeles Dodgers. Kemp, however, has failed to live up to his eight-year, $160 million contract. Over his last two seasons, Kemp has hit just 31 home runs in 804 at-bats. Kemp will need to find his power stroke to become San Diego’s leader.
Storyline #4: Can Wil Myers Take the Next Step?
Myers, Baseball America’s top ranked prospect in 2012, has been traded twice before his age-24 season. As a member of the Tampa Bay Rays, Myers won the American League’s Rookie of the Year award in 2013. Myers was unable to build on his impressive rookie season, suffering a multitude of injuries during 2014. Myers will need to find his 2013 form in San Diego.
Storyline #5: Executive of the Year: AJ Preller?
There’s no denying that Preller has moved ‘All-In’. Hired in August 2014, Preller has not wasted any time. San Diego’s roster has been overhauled and proven players have joined the roster. There are definitely playoff aspirations in San Diego.