San Diego Padres
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The San Diego Padres are in transition.
Changes started last season as they traded off such talent as outfielders Matt Kemp and Melvin Upton Jr. and pitchers Andrew Cashner, Drew Pomeranz and Fernando Rodney for prospects and then invested more than $80 million in the draft and the international signing period.
The Padres added a ton of prospects, and their farm system improved measurably.
However, the future is a ways away, even if three of their top position-playing prospects catcher Austin Hedges, right fielder Hunter Renfroe and center fielder Manuel Margot are arriving permanently this season.
Most of their young pitching prospects led by 2016 first-round draft picks Cal Quantrill and Eric Lauer will be starting the season at high Class A and below. Some of them won't be making their professional debuts until later this summer when the Padres field two teams in the rookie-level Arizona League.
Help is on the way, and the Padres are optimistic. They are hoping to contend in the deep and talented National League West by 2019.
The Padres have some plusses.
First baseman Wil Myers stayed healthy in 2016 and had a break-out season (.259 with a .336 on-base percentage; 29 doubles, 28 homers, 28 steals, 94 RBIs and 99 runs scored). Infielder Yangervis Solarte overcame personal tragedy (his wife passed away to cancer last September) and hit .286 with 15 homers and 71 RBIs in 109 games. And infielder Ryan Schimpf hit 20 homers with a .336 on-base percentage in 89 games.
The Padres will be counting heavily on rookie Renfroe and Hedges.
But the starting rotation was patched together with free agent signees Jhoulys Chacin, Clayton Richard, Jered Weaver and Trevor Cahill. They will join right-hander Luis Perdomo, who was a Rule 5 rookie with the Padres in 2016.
If the Padres take a lead into the late innings, they should be in great shape. The bullpen looks to be the strongest part of the team, particularly if Carter Capps has recovered from Tommy John surgery and is able to move into the closer's role.
"I'm liking the way the bullpen is shaping up," manager Andy Green said. "Brandon Maurer, Brad Hand and Ryan Buchter all look like they're ready to pick up where they were at the end of last season. And Craig Stammen has had a great spring.
Getting a lead to the bullpen could be problematic.
The Padres could be doing some things this season that typically do not signal success.
They have been experimenting with Christian Bethancourt as a hybrid catcher-pitcher-outfielder. They have talked about carrying three Rule 5 players right-handed reliever Miguel Diaz, catcher Luis Torrens and infielder Allen Cordoba. And they might carry four catchers Hedges, Bethancourt, Torrens and Hector Sanchez.