Opening Day (OD) lineup projection: LF Jon Jay, 2B Cory Spangenberg, 1B Wil Myers, RF Matt Kemp, 3B Yangervis Solarte, CF BJ Upton, C Derek Norris, SS Alexei Ramirez, P Tyson Ross
Rotation is #1 Tyson Ross, #2 James Shields, #3 Andrew Cashner, with a trio of 25-year olds– LHP Robbie Erlin, and RHP’s Brandon Maurer (acquired by A.J. Preller for 33-year old Seth Smith to OAK) & Padres prospect Colin Rea, competing for the #4 & #5 spots. LHP Drew Pomeranz (acquired w/ Jabari Blash from OAK for Yonder Alonso & Marc Rzepczynski) is age 27, and profiles more as a set-up man, but he’s also in the rotation mix.
If the Padres are going to be any good in 2016, then Tyson Ross has to pitch like an ace. That’s why he’s been named the OD starter. Recognizing & rewarding the best players is always a great organizational message. If Cashner steps up and becomes a real #2 (which Padres fans hope he can be), then they have a great rotation with Shields at #3. Success is going to be about scoring runs. Notice there are lots of ‘ifs’ including: if it doesn’t happen, they’re probably all getting traded.
Padres may go with 13 pitchers on Opening Day, due to the 3 RHP’s as Rule 5 selections, and other considerations. Preller isn’t handing anyone a job, but he didn’t clear his roster to cut these guys without giving them every chance to prove themselves– and that means being on the OD roster.
RHP Nick Vincent is age 29 and out-of-options, battling three younger Rule 5 guys, who must stay on the Padres 25-man roster all season, or else be offered back to their original team for $25K. Vincent needs to impress this spring, or he probably won’t make the SD roster. LOOGY (Left-handed one out guy) Christian Friedrich (COL), just signed on a minor-league contract. He is definitely a project for ace pitching coach Darren Balsley. RHP’s Kevin Quackenbush & Carlos Villaneuva may get optioned to the minors. RHP Fernando Rodney is the Padres closer for now.
Keeping either IF Adam Rosales or Jemile Weeks means SS Alexi Amarista is traded or cut, as the Padres don’t need two utility infielders. Amarista ‘hit’ .234 (15-for-64) in 17 games in Venezuela this winter, and likely has no trade value. This foolish early-A.J. Preller contract (on 1/16/15) to the ‘Little Ninja’ is costing the Padres $1.35M in 2016.
WAR stands for Wins Above Replacement. Replacement level is roughly defined as AAA-level. Alexi Amarista is really a AAA player who is in the majors because the Padres couldn’t find a big-league SS. An average player at any position is around 2 wins above replacement level. A good player is 3-4 WAR. An all-star is 5-6 WAR. An MVP-level player is 7-8+ WAR. If you fielded an entire team with replacement level players, you would win around 48 games out of 162. To win in MLB, you must stay away from replacement level at all positions.
It is likely that at least 2 or 3 (if not all 4) of A.J. Preller’s Rule 5 picks will be on the opening day roster. OF Jabari Blash has tons of upside. Younger RHP’s Luis Perdomo, Josh Martin, and Blake Smith (also 2015 Rule 5 picks) get every chance to make the roster– in competition with RHP’s Nick Vincent & Jon Edwards. For reference, 11 out of 14 2014 Rule 5 picks, stayed with their teams in 2015. There is more on the Padres Rule 5 Draft history below.
Barring injury or a breakout performance, it’s a Derek Norris/Christian Bethencourt catching tandem– with Austin Hedges sent down until he hits more. The defensive spectrum runs C-SS-2B-CF-3B-RF-LF-1B-DH. Catchers (like shortstops) need to hit some, but the position is mostly about defense. Pitch-framing, game calling, saving PBs/WPs, controlling a running game, etc. are difficult to precisely quantify, but that’s why baseball now uses advanced metrics. Austin Hedges excels defensively, but hasn’t proven he can hit enough at the MLB level, and neither has Bethancourt. Hedges can still be optioned to the minors, and that’s likely where he’ll go after spring training. A good catching tandem is crucial to winning.
1B/3B Brett Wallace (former #1 pick [13th overall] of STL in 2008) is intriguing, and Preller will give him a long look, as many other teams have already.
For spring training and beyond, it’s up the the coaching staff & players. Observing with an objective eye is critical & difficult skill-set for most fans. With so many young players on this year’s roster, it’s about development. A lot of these guys are still trying to become big-leaguers. How players fail, and how they handle that failure is often the difference.
RHP Brandon Morrow will likely never be healthy again. His shoulder issue is a career ender, with a poor prognosis for returning to full strength. Labrum tears typically never regain their former velocity. Padres Special Instructor Mark Prior is THE classic example, when he was abused (along with Kerry Wood) by Cubs manager Dusty Baker. In 2003, Prior (age 22 in his second MLB season), threw 211 innings, plus 23 more in the post-season.
His last 2003 appearance was in the NLCS against the Marlins, where he pitched into the 8th inning, throwing 119 pitches in a game they lost, due to poor bullpen management & bad defense, but was blamed on a fan trying to catch a foul ball. That (over)workload caused fatigue and mechanical breakdowns, which led to the labrum tear that ended his career. Many long-time baseball scouts will tell you he was the best pitching prospect ever, comparable to HoFers Greg Maddux & Roger Clemens.
Note: Reds CF Billy Hamilton is still not able to throw, after jamming his shoulder last August. They’re DH-ing him in Cactus league, but he’s talking about “not wasting any throws” in 2016. Hamilton still isn’t really a MLB player (.242/.287/.330 in 3 seasons), but Reds’ management won’t DL him like they should. That’s how you waste a prospect.
The same applies to pitching: if you’re hurt, you can’t pitch effectively– in relief or starting. Relief pitching isn’t absolutely safer than starting, in terms of injury risk. Injuries occur during fatigue, leading to mechanical breakdowns, which stress and tear ligaments, cartilage, muscle & tendons. This happens just as often in relievers who are used a lot, as it does in regular starters. Relievers throw harder, for shorter outings, with more appearances. Starters pitch longer, more-paced outings, followed by 4 days of rest.
Brandon Maurer is 25, and only threw 51 innings in relief last season. Can he stay healthy as a #4 starter for 120-150 IP? That’s quite a jump.
Padres fans like the fact that Preller listens to his players. Brandon Maurer thinks he can start, and A.J. Preller is willing to give him that shot. If it doesn’t happen, Maurer accepts his role as a reliever and respects the organization for giving him an opportunity.
B.J. Upton’s 2016 salary is $15.45M and it’s $16.45M in 2017. He’s at least a 2-win CF, and remember that just one WAR cost around $8.5M in FA this off-season. If BJ is healthy, he will be appreciated, as long a fans don’t expect him to be Eric Davis (Reds). If Preller later decides to flip him, there are contending teams that would value his services. NYY CF Jacoby Ellsbury (2015: .257/.318/.345) at $21M for the next 5 seasons (with a $5M buyout) is a huge overpay in comparison.
Note: Melvin Upton, Jr. happened when he signed with Atlanta. I learned that B.J. stood for Bossman Jr. when Dwyane Staats mentioned it once during a Devil Rays broadcast to partner Joe Magrane, who couldn’t believe it. B.J. had already been with the team for years. I never heard them mention it again, and I watched a ton of Devil Rays/Rays games, up until David Price was traded. Is it a player-contract issue? Everyone in Tampa thought B.J. was a birth name, not a handle. After I discovered that, he was always one of my favorite players. He can go get them in CF, just ask James Shields.
One lesson that should be learned this off-season is that the value of free-agent talent, always goes up. Chris Davis 7/$161M, Justin Upton 6/$133M and Yoenis Cespedes 3/$75M (all w/ player opt-outs), make Matt Kemp at 4/$73M look much more attractive for AL teams that need to upgrade at DH.
There’s been some discussion concerning the Rockies trading Carlos Gonzalez. Cargo can still play outfield and he’s a year younger than Kemp, with 2/$37M left on his deal. Like all Rockies hitters, he has extreme home/road splits. Matt Kemp can’t play everyday outfield anymore, but he’s a better hitter if he can be kept healthy.
RF Matt Kemp needs to be given regular days off, where he’s available only to pinch hit; as well as being substituted for a defensive replacement late in games the Padres lead. He should also DH in all AL park games. That should keep him fresh, productive & focused in order to maximize his trade value.
Final MLB Off-Season Free Agent Thoughts:
No DH in the NL, fans need real baseball in at least one league. Double switches are interesting, and an important managerial skill. Pitchers coming to bat prevents them from throwing at hitters recklessly, a la AL Roger Clemens. You gotta face that music in the NL.
Ian Desmond 1/8, Dexter Fowler 1/14, and Howie Kendrick 2/20 made bad player/agent choices, which cost them money. Mistakes were roughly equal on both sides, so the system is fair– in capitalist collective-bargaining terms. Ian Desmond was punished for his arrogance & poor performance, which everyone liked. Many doubt that .233/.290/.384 (Nats) in 2015 at SS, gets it done in LF for TEX in 2016. Expected LF Josh Hamilton, battling a cranky knee, may not be able to play.
A.J. Preller blew Desmond’s market when he signed SS Alexei Rameriz (1/$4M or team-option 2/$7M). Ramirez also didn’t cost the Padres a draft choice. To most teams, Ian Desmond (at any position) was not worth losing the draft pick, even at league minimum salary. Can Texas make him a QO after 2016, and expect him to refuse? Attentive fans, GM’s & agents will be following this closely.
Andrew Friedman & the Dodgers really got burned on LHP Brett Anderson’s qualifying offer (QO). It was announced a few days ago that he has a bulging disk in his back, and will likely miss 2016.
Houston has already gotten singed with LF Colby Rasmus accepting his $15.8M offer. Hypothetical GM question: If LF Rasmus puts up an identical line in 2016 as 2015’s .238/.314/.475, does HOU make him another QO?
The Orioles got a fair deal with C Matt Wieters accepting, and it made sense with what they are doing.
There are many important & misunderstood facets to this updated form of free-agent compensation. There should be no crying about a broken system, as Desmond & Fowler rejected a $15.9M QO’s from their former teams. That is called not understanding the market and playing your hand poorly, and when that happens you take a financial loss. Padres GM A.J. Preller is definitely ahead of the curve on this.
On “5 reasons why Marlins are MLB’s top sleeper team” Published on MLB.com 3-2-16
You could probably just as easily come up with a piece titled, “Five reasons why the Marlins will change course and dump their players & manager by July.”
1) Too many holes in the infield & CF, 2) Manager Don Mattingly, 3) Owner Jeffrey Loria, 4) Lagging attendance, 5) History– Agree, or no?
On “Kimbrel in a class with Rivera, Hoffman” Published on MLB.com 3-5-16
If you’re trying to win a WS, then you need a ace closer like Craig Kimbrel. This was a great baseball trade for the Red Sox & Padres– two teams with different needs.
LAD 2B Chase Utley’s suspension was overturned by MLB, due to the off-season rule change on sliding, so he’ll be in the OD lineup against the Padres. It’s a good rule change to protect infielders.
GM A.J. Preller made an unprecedented four (4!) Rule 5 selections this past December. Fans were taken unaware, as here is the San Diego Padres Rule 5 draft history since 1997:
Yr/Pk# Pos Player By From– Notes
4 RHP Luis Perdomo Colorado Rockies St. Louis Cardinals– Immediately traded to SDP, for a PTBNL or cash considerations
6 OF Jabari Blash Oakland A’s Seattle Mariners– SDP acquire Blash and LHP Drew Pomeranz from OAK for 1B Yonder Alonso & LHP Marc Rzepczynski
7 RHP Josh Martin San Diego Padres Cleveland Indians
15 RHP Blake Smith San Diego Padres Chicago White Sox– Second round selection
1 LHP Patrick Schuster Houston Astros Arizona Diamondbacks– Sent to the Padres as PTBNL for RHP Anthony Bass, returned to the Diamondbacks- still in AA
14 1B Nate Freiman Houston Astros San Diego Padres– Claimed on waivers by the Oakland Athletics; 2 seasons, 116 G, .256/.309/.408
11 RHP George Kontos San Diego Padres New York Yankees– Returned to NYY, March 14, 2011. 4 seasons w/ SFG as a setup man: 2.99 ERA, 210 IP, 1.116 WHIP
3 SS Everth Cabrera San Diego Padres Colorado Rockies– 7 seasons (6 w/ Padres), 510 G: .246/.315/.328
20 RHP Iván Nova San Diego Padres New York Yankees– Returned to Yankees on March 29, 2009; 6 seasons as SP w/ NYY: 46-33, 4.33 ERA, 631 IP
*12 RHP R. A. Dickey Seattle Mariners Minnesota Twins– Rights traded to Seattle in exchange for Jair Fernandez on March 29, 2008
14 RHP Michael Gardner San Diego Padres New York Yankees– Returned to New York on March 18, 2008, never made it past AA
17 INF Callix Crabbe San Diego Padres Milwaukee Brewers– MLB career (all w/ Padres): 39 PA, .176/.282/.206; returned to MIL on May 16, 2008
2 RHP Joakim Soria Kansas City Royals San Diego Padres– 8 seasons mostly w/ KCR: 2.57 ERA, 451 IP, 202 SV
*3 OF Josh Hamilton Chicago Cubs Tampa Bay Devil Rays– Traded by the Cubs to the Reds for cash, who traded him to TEX for RHP Edison Volquez
13 RHP Kevin Cameron San Diego Padres Minnesota Twins– 3 seasons mostly w/ Padres in relief: 86 IP, 3.02 ERA, WHIP 1.483
6 RHP Seth Etherton San Diego Padres Kansas City Royals– Failed starter; 4-season career: 9-7, 6.30 ERA, 115 IP
*8 2B Dan Uggla Florida Marlins Arizona Diamondbacks– 10 seasons at 2B (best years in FLA): .241/.336/.447
*7 OF Shane Victorino Philadelphia Phillies Los Angeles Dodgers– 12 seasons (best in PHI): .275/.340/.425, 3 Gold Gloves in CF
2 OF Rich Thompson San Diego Padres Pittsburgh Pirates– Later traded by the Padres to the Kansas City Royals for number 10 pick, Jason Szuminski
10 RHP Jason Szuminski Kansas City Royals Chicago Cubs– Later traded by the Royals to the San Diego Padres for number 2 pick, Rich Thompson
*6 OF José Bautista Baltimore Orioles Pittsburgh Pirates– Then to BAL, TBD, KCR, NYM, finally TOR; 12 seasons in RF: .257/.368/.497
3 RHP Buddy Hernandez San Diego Padres Atlanta Braves– Returned to ATL, manager Bobby Cox liked him, but he never got past AAA
19 OF Shane Victorino San Diego Padres Los Angeles Dodgers Padres GM Kevin Towers returned him to the Los Angeles Dodgers on May 28, 2003
9 RHP Ryan Baerlocher San Diego Padres Kansas City Royals– Returned to KCR by opening day, career minor-leaguer
7 SS Donaldo Méndez San Diego Padres Houston Astros– 2 seasons w/ Padres: 221 PA, .183/.245/.277
*2 LHP Johan Santana Florida Marlins Houston Astros– Later traded by the Marlins to the Minnesota Twins for Jared Camp
8 OF Kory DeHaan San Diego Padres Pittsburgh Pirates– 2 seasons w/ Padres: 121 PA, .193/.225/.307
14 LHP Dave Maurer San Francisco Giants San Diego Padres– 4 seasons in relief; 22 IP, 8.87 ERA, WHIP 2.250
*4 OF Ricky Williams Montreal Expos Philadelphia Phillies– Mike Ditka’s famous April 1999 draft as Saints GM, Williams opted for the NFL 
7 LHP Sean Runyan Detroit Tigers San Diego Padres– 3 seasons w/ DET in relief: 64 IP, 3.66 ERA, WHIP 1.422
* denotes significant non-Padre selections
Below are the most notable June amateur draft selections that San Diego was unable to sign, under Padres owner Tom Werner:
Todd Helton 1B, 17 seasons w/ COL: .316/.414/.539
June 1, 1992: Drafted by the San Diego Padres in the 2nd round of the 1992 amateur draft, but did not sign. Went to Tennessee U.
June 1, 1995: Drafted by the Colorado Rockies in the 1st round (8th pick) of the 1995 amateur draft. Player signed July 1, 1995.
Troy Glaus 3B, 13 seasons (best w/ ANA): .254/.358/.489
June 2, 1994: Drafted by the San Diego Padres in the 2nd round of the 1994 amateur draft, but did not sign.
June 3, 1997: Drafted by the Anaheim Angels in the 1st round (3rd pick) of the 1997 amateur draft. Player signed September 29, 1997.
This is the culture GM A.J. Preller & new manager Andy Green are trying to change in San Diego.  Here is the list of franchise owners:
C. Arnholdt Smith
John Moores 
Here is an awful list titled “Who are the Padres 5 best GMs of all time?”  Preller has already topped every ex-GM, except Randy Smith & Jed Hoyer– who left the Padres in 2011 to build the Cubs. Interestingly, Hoyer is not listed in their 5 best GMs.
Buzzie Bavasi 1969-1972
Eddie Leishman 1969–1972 
Peter Bavasi 1972–1976
Bob Fontaine 1977–1980
Jack McKeon 1980–1990
Joe McIlvaine 1991–1993
Randy Smith 1993–1995 Under-appreciated 
Josh Byrnes 2012–2014 
The Padres are in good position with a $100M Opening-Day payroll in 2016, and room for more spending as needed, per Padres CEO Mike Dee & owner Ron Fowler.
With Ian Desmond (final qualifying-offer free-agent) signing with Texas, the draft order is set. The Padres have the #8, #24, #25, #48, #71 & #85 picks in the June amateur draft. Furthermore, the 7/2 International Draft promises to be a scramble for low-cost young talent, with the Padres all-in.
Team’s International Signing Pools for 2016-17:
White Sox $2,973,500
Red Sox $2,783,800
Blue Jays $2,100,200
There are 10 teams so far that are officially in the ‘penalty box’ for the 2016-17 signing period and will be unable to sign a player subject to the pools for more than $300,000. Those teams—the Angels, Blue Jays, Cubs, Diamondbacks, Dodgers, Giants, Rays, Red Sox, Royals and Yankees. They can still spend their entire pool allotment, they just can’t give more than $300,000 to any one player.
At least four teams—the Braves, Cardinals, Nationals and Padres— are planning to exceed their 2016-17 bonus pools, and others might also join them. Teams may exceed their bonus pool by as much as 50% of their original allotment. Going over allotment puts a team in the ‘penalty box’ for the next International signing period. 
The San Diego Padres are a team with an uncertain 2016, which no one is picking after their 2015. They’re probably the team with the widest range of possibilities, and will be interesting for fans & other GM’s to keep an eye on. Play ball!!