Friday, March 4, 2011

Finding Keepers: San Diego Padres

The San Diego Padres may find ways to win a lot of games in the NL West this season and stay competitive but they will be doing so with very few keeper worthy players. Funny how trading 1B Adrian Gonzalez to the Red Sox turned him from an upper-tier option at first base into an elite one.

With Gonzalez off the roster now, the Padres highest-ranked fantasy player according to the ESPN Player Rater was CL Heath Bell. Now, in a game that most pundits will say "never pay for saves", having your closer be your best option for a fantasy keeper is not necessarily a good thing. On the plus side, Bell was 6-1 with 47 Saves, had a 1.93 ERA with a 1.20 WHIP and an 11.1 K/9 ratio. So if you want to use a keeper selection on him, you'll probably get very good numbers in return for doing so. Probably? That word doesn't exactly instill confidence.

SP Mat Latos went from being virtually undrafted in most leagues in 2010 to producing an 8th-place finish in the 2010 NL Cy Young Award with a 14-10 record, 2.92 ERA, 1.08 WHIP and 189 K's in 184.2 innings pitched. Those strikeout numbers translated to robust ratios of 9.2 K/9 and 3.78 K/BB. Those kinds of numbers matched with his potential for a big 2011 currently have him being drafted on at 72.17 with such fantasy pitching studs as Justin Verlander (66.12), Josh Johnson (72.40) and Francisco Liriano (79.91). Lock him up and enjoy the ride.

The only player on the Padres projecting to hit 20 or more home runs in 2011 is OF Ryan Ludwick. That surely doesn't bode well for a team that had the 22nd-ranked offense in 2010. Unfortunately, a 21 HR, 82 RBI, .270 hitting outfielder with no speed doesn't deserve a keeper selection but it will get him drafted as a third or fourth outfield option.

If SS Jason Bartlett was able to put up 2009 numbers again (.320/90/14/66/30) he'd be a no-brainer keeper option for 2011 at what's projecting to be a very thin position. Unfortunately, those numbers look more and more like a statistical anomaly. He'll probably get drafted in very deep, mixed leagues or NL-only leagues and could reward some owners with a decent, if not surprising, return on investment. But probably not.

Best of the rest but not keepers:
  • OF Cameron Maybin has yet to earn the opportunity to play a full season at the majors, so his fantasy value continues to be based on potential. Could he be a 15/15 outfielder or better? Maybe. But that potential probably comes with a .250 batting average or worse.
  • Let's be clear, this is not the SP Aaron Harang that won 32 games total from 2006-2007. The Padres signed the pitcher that has won a total of 18 games in 75 starts (24%) over the last three season. Some experts are targeting him as a sleeper. Look elsewhere until he proves he's even draftable.
  • If your league uses Holds K/9 and/or K/BB as scoring categories then you need to be targeting RP Mike Adams and RP Luke Gregerson as late-round picks. In 2010, they combined for 78 Holds, had K/9 ratios right around 10.0 and would be likely candidates to close for the Padres should Bell get hurt or be traded.
The Padres are a team based on good pitchers pitching well enough to have a strong bullpen keep them in games long enough to find ways to win. They surprisingly managed to win 90 games last season. A season that included a 10-game losing streak. Their roster might not be full of guys that are going to help you dominate your fantasy baseball league but it should be another enjoyable season for fans in Southern California.

The entire series of "Finding Keepers" articles are nearly complete and, coincidentally, just in time for me to start drafting my fantasy baseball teams (five this season). I look forward to putting my knowledge, research and passion into actual rosters and the joy and agony that is sure to ensue from now until October. It doesn't get much better than that for a true baseball and fantasy baseball fan.

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