With all the new faces in the San Diego Padres locker room, there is sure to be some rumblings about chemistry or the lack there of. Matt Kemp comes over from the Los Angeles Dodgers with a less than stellar reputation in the locker room. The six outfielders, for only three spots is also a likely cause for any distractions, if there could be any.
With all that being said, so far so good. Kemp has embraced his role as the teams undisputed leader. Make no qualms about it, this is Matt Kemp‘s team. The Dodgers teams of past seasons seemed to have leadership everywhere and a lot of big personalities. That just doesn’t transition well to team play, it just pulls the team apart. Too many cooks in the kitchen isn’t a good thing.
The outfield situation is crowded to say the least, but we all now Kemp, Justin Upton and Wil Myers will be playing when healthy. Will Venable makes the most sense as a backup to the threesome. He brings a defensive element to his game as well as being left-handed. Upton, Kemp and Myers all swing the bat from the right side. That leaves Cameron Maybin and Carlos Quentin in limbo.
Both Maybin and Quentin are major league quality starters when healthy, but their value is at an all time low. Quentin has failed to play in over 131 games in his nine-year career. He only managed 50 games last season and hit .177 in 130 at bats. Quentin came to spring training in that proverbial “best shape of his life”. He has looked good so far and is even playing the field. Having started in the outfield for two of the Padres Spring Training games so far.
In watching the game on Sunday afternoon, I noticed these things about Maybin. He showed impressive skills in walking his first at bat, and then singling sharply to right field in his second plate appearance. The fact the Maybin shorten up his swing and stroked the ball to right is fantastic. He always seemed a little too pull happy in my opinion. Always having the potential to hit up the middle, it drives me crazy to see hitters pulling off outside pitches.
His third at bat Cameron Maybin worked the count full, laying off breaking balls in the dirt. He had a seven pitch at bat and ultimately struck out, but still a quality at bat even though the result was a strike out. In the past Maybin would just give away at bats from time to time. What I mean by that is by taking pitches right down the middle, then swinging at stuff in the dirt. You just can’t go up to the plate guessing. It just doesn’t work that way!
Quentin and Maybin could be a distraction and ultimately hurt chemistry but both have come into camp ready to compete for starting jobs. Maybin proclaimed an open competition for the center field job, but it would take a disastrous effort by Myers for Maybin to be the starter in center. It’s still a good attitude to bring into camp, you wouldn’t want him sulking about playing time.
Though the season hasn’t started and playing only once or twice a week might be the breaking point to his great attitude. Padres fans can only hope he continues his hot play and a team comes calling A.J. Preller for outfield help. His $18 million dollar contract for two years is huge. When you take into consideration what the Dodgers owe Andre Ethier (three years-$56 million), whom they are aggressively shopping, it’s a bargain. At the age of 27, Maybin is still young enough to have his best years in him. Health will be a key factor.
Carlos Quentin could very well be shipped off shortly. His eight million dollar contract is minimal for a team to absorb, but he would most likely need to go to an American League team. Quentin has already indicated he is willing to waive his no trade clause. For him the opportunity to play almost everyday easily outweighs the chance of staying in San Diego, and playing for his hometown team. With free agency looming, Quentin needs a decent year in 2015. At his age (32), this upcoming free agency will surely be he last chance to earn a multi-year contract.
Chemistry will be a big factor in the Padres competing this season. The addition of James Shields is huge for the moral of the pitchers. He brings a type of confidence and bull-dog like attitude that is contagious. With Shields on the mound, players have a sense they are gonna win, not might win. James Shields doesn’t just talk about it, he goes out there and shows it. There is something to a pitcher that has thrown four straight years of over 227 innings and eight straight years of 200 plus innings. He is reliable and takes the ball every fifth day no matter what.
Shields also possesses one of the best pick off moves in baseball and was seen working with the pitchers on improving their footwork. He already exudes the leadership qualities you want out of an ace pitcher. Taking this young staff under his wings will surely provide improvement in what we see as fans everyday.
Chemistry of this seasons San Diego Padres team will be in question all season long. Anytime you make multiple additions to a team you adjust the chemistry. Sometimes those adjustments can be disastrous while other times they can be magical. Only the grind of playing everyday and playing for each other will create chemistry. This team will play well eventually, they just need to start out on the right foot. Padres teams of seasons past have dug huge holes for themselves in the month of April. This seasons team needs to play tough and focus on the intangibles necessary to be a playoff quality team.