Shootin’ the shit: Spring Training

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Spring Training, and therefore Padres baseball, is upon us! It’s not quite as exciting as last year – or maybe not even exciting – but it still beats no baseball.

Despite the lowered expectations, the Padres still have some interesting storylines going into April.

Which spring storyline are you most interested in?

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Pretty clearly, I’m all in on driving the #Blashwagon.  What started as a bit is really gaining steam.  Some of it is what I wrote about a couple weeks ago, that fans need something to cheer for, get behind, and believe in, because there’s not much else on this roster to get too excited about.  Jabari Blash is also important for this team on the field.  I think a lot of fans have already forgotten that the team lost literally it’s best player to free agency in Justin Upton.  Jon Jay is nothing but an expensive placeholder.  For AJ’s plan to come to fruition, the Padres need some young players to take a step forward and surprise a little.  If Jabari Blash can come in and provide some Bubba Trammell or Jack Cust-esque power for a few seasons while being decent in LF, that saves the team from sinking resources into that position while the rebuilding, I MEAN BUILDING, continues.  Blash has shown he’s got the power, it’s just the other stuff that we’re not sure of.  His tools don’t age well, but at 26, this is the time to harness them.  I think we hope we get 2004 Willy Mo Pena that fields a little better out of him, and for this team, that’s just fine.

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For me, it’s hard to get too excited about Blash since the odds of him panning are still low. That said, the home run yesterday was encouraging:

In terms of players, I’m most looking forward to seeing how Austin Hedges performs offensively. If he doesn’t look like he’s taken a solid step forward, he’s that much closer to being a career backup catcher…with his value almost entirely reliant on MLB not moving to robo umps anytime soon.

More importantly, though, if Hedges doesn’t improve in 2016, the Padres lose a huge potential trade chip in Norris.

Early thoughts on the back end of the rotation? Rumor is Maurer, Pomeranz, and several others are in the mix. Can we assume Rea is the #4?

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I think barring injury or a total implosion this spring, we see Rea at #4. I know Padres Twitter was excited to see him add on 20 pounds on muscle, but this kind of worries me. I’ve seen pitchers in the past that add on muscle mass and lose flexibility, velocity and increase injury risk. Back in the 1991-1992 offseason, Greg Harris added a lot of muscle in the offseason thinking it would boost his velo, but ended up leading to injury and career decline. Not saying it will happen, but it worries me. Pomeranz should not be starting. He has lefty swingman written all over him.

At this point, they may as well go with Maurer since they’ve basically told him he’s starting, he wants to start, and now they’ve got Rodney eating up salary to close. I’ve always said, if you’re going to gamble on players, gamble on former top prospects, as a ton of scouts have watched that player and believed in him in the past. Maurer and Pomeranz were both top prospects, with Pomeranz rated as highly as #30 in baseball, so I’ve got confidence both can contribute in their own way.

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Yeah, I think that’s how they will go, I just don’t personally see Maurer working in the rotation. Everyone points to Tyson Ross as an example, and that’s a fair point, I just wonder what the actual odds of that working are: 5%?

Maurer is a below-average to average relief pitcher. He can’t even stay healthy as a relief pitcher. There are serious questions about whether he’d succeed as a starter, given the generally accepted boost you get as a reliever versus a starter, and serious questions about whether he can even stay healthy.

Granted, if the Padres used our maximize starts strategy, skipping the #5 starter every time they can, maybe Maurer can make the 20 starts you’d need.

With Erlin not even in the picture, can we officially declare the Mike Adams swap a complete dud?

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I mean, Mike Adams kind of fell apart after we traded him. Erlin alone has produced more WAR than Adams. Erlin is a nice piece to have waiting to fill in a rotation spot when someone gets injured. He’s definitely better than Kip Wells, Ross Ohlendorf or Jeff Suppan at filling in at starter.

Maurer had a decent season I thought. I wasn’t excited about him taking over closer, and I kind of like that the Padres are using this BUILDING year to force some of their young players to sink or swim. If we’re going to lose, we might as well give Maurer 10-15 starts to see if he can do it. It’s definitely better than wasting them on someone like Villanueva. Again, if we’re going to gamble, I’m OK with gambling on a former top prospect.

Speaking of potential relievers, he’s only pitched 2 innings so far against scrubs, but I’ve been blown away seeing Jose Dominguez pitch. I had no idea who he was, and FSSD doesn’t have radar readings on their Spring broadcasts, but his fastball is electric. After a little research, I saw he was at one time the Dodgers #11 prospect, and last year was the Rays #20 prospect. He can hit 102 mph, has dreadful control, and had a terrible 2015. But he’s a Logan White guy, and with some work on control, has the stuff to contribute at the Major League level. It looked like he had a sick slider as well. He’s a lottery ticket, but man, he has Major League stuff. If Balsley is really THE WORLD’S BEST PITCHING COACH, well Darren, here’s a project for you to work on. Here’s his Major League debut where he hit 101 at Dodger Stadium: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=6n5PiL1-eU0

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I think there’s a difference between comparing what you traded versus what you received, and comparing what you received with what you could have received. If anything, though, it’s an(other) example of how Balsley isn’t a magician.

Dominguez is what Emperor Seidler means when he refers to “loud tools”. Dude can throw a baseball very hard. Definitely worth a flier, and I think control is one of the few things that major league pitchers have proven they can improve over time. Throw him in the mix and see if it sticks.

Any surprises in camp so far for you? Lineup construction? The fawning over Schumaker?

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I think two organizational top 10 prospects for an aging setup man with one year left under his contract isn’t a bad return. Considering prospects as currency, I think that is the kind of move this team needs more of.

So far, I think Spring Training is going as I’d expect on the field. The only real surprise is how much Padres PR is pushing the Schumaker narrative because it TOTALLY undermines the so-called new Andy Green culture of meritocracy and competition. Putting Schumakerom the final 25 man roster would reek of Same Old Padres (TM).

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My point was that it is a failure, not that it was a bad trade. Nevertheless…

I certainly hope it won’t be Same Old Padres (TM), at least out of the manager position.

It’s far too early to make any true judgments with Green, but it may be the most important thing we can learn about this team. The FO and ownership makes it seem like he’ll be here for a long time. If he sucks – doesn’t use analytics for things like changing spin rates, lineup construction, sacrifice bunting, and so on – the franchise will be handicapped for years, since I doubt Mike Dee EVER admits he is wrong on anything. So we’ll have to wait until April to know on this one.

Ted Leitner recently made some absurd proclamations about Padres ownership, along the lines that the current ownership would have re-signed Adrian Gonzalez.

Always a shill for ownership, I want Leitner gone. He doesn’t add anything to his broadcasts past overzealous hyperbole towards every “terrific” Padres player, and his whole “your/my Padres” shtick, along with the rest of his flamboyance, is painful at this point.

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Leitner certainly annoys me with his holier than thou steroid talk and his newfound shilling for ownership, but I look at him like I look at Hacksaw. They are local institutions that I grew up with, enjoy, and revere, despite their warts. Leitner wasn’t always a shill, he used to be somewhat of a maverick that would speak his mind, bash ownership, and honestly comment on the team. This also cost him jobs. Wayne Partello, through his actions and interviews, has stated that the team will CONTROL THE MESSAGE, either by directly employing bloggers, content producers, and announcers, or by taking an ownership and controlling Fox Sports San Diego Padres content. Leitner saw the writing on the wall, and conformed to keep drawing a paycheck. I don’t blame him per se, but I also take a critical thinking standpoint to everything he says. He should actually work on being a more skillful shill so he’s not so easy to see through.

There’s plenty to complain about with this roster, but Green at least talks the talk. Let’s see if he walks the walk. Let’s all realize this team will be bad, and hope for the best, which in this case, would be to evaluate our young players, give them big league experience and coaching to spur their development, and find out what we have to further the BUILDING process. At the very least, my work day is going a lot faster with 12 PM Spring Training games to listen to.

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