The Mets head south to San Diego to open up a three game set with the Padres beginning tonight. The Padres are just 44-63 this season but they have plenty of hope for the future, thanks to new ownership, a smart front office in its first season in charge and a farm system that's well stocked with prospects. To get a better look at the Padres 2012 season, I sent a few questions over to Justin Hunter of SB Nation's Gaslamp Ball and he was kind enough to answer them for us (I also answered some questions for their series preview).
Amazin' Avenue: With the Padres in the midst of a rebuilding project, what is your outlook for the rest of this season and next year and do you think the organization is on the right track?
Gaslamp Ball: Perhaps it's just the way the team has been playing over the last couple of weeks, but I'm getting the same feeling I got in 2009. That '09 team was bad for most of the year, but they got hot at the end. That success carried over into 2010, and the Padres won 90 games in '10. I don't know if the exact same thing can happen here, but the Padres are absolutely on the right track. The extensions of Carlos Quentin and Huston Street are so much bigger than most people outside of San Diego understand. The contracts are as much psychological as they are good for the team performance-wise. The new owners - while not officially in charge - have shown a commitment to this team and the fans already. That's not something we're used while we suffered through the John Moores years.AA: Third baseman Chase Headley was a popular name in trade talks at the deadline but ultimately wasn't dealt. Do you think the Padres made the right move keeping him?
GB: I'm not sure my opinion lines up exactly with everyone else's, but I think it was smart to hold Headley back. They didn't need to trade him, and since no team wanted to "sell the farm" to get him, there was no reason to make a deal. I think the Josh Byrnes will ultimately deal him in the winter, but I'd rather that not happen. He's young, cost-controlled, and very extendable. He's been the best and most consistent Padre for a number of years now.
AA: What are your thoughts on the recent Carlos Quentin and Huston Street extensions? Do you think these are sound signings for the team, considering where they are in the rebuilding process or should they have been dealt?
GB: I hit on this a little bit in the first question, but I think these extensions will be paramount to the actual rebuilding process. Rebuilding does not always mean promoting minor leaguer and home-grown talent. It means mixing in home-grown talent with affordable veterans who can produce. Quentin is a veteran, but he's still young. He is from San Diego and actually wants to play here. The team has had more success this year since he came off the DL than while he was on the DL. As for Street, extensions for closers are tough, but he actually took a pay cut to accept that contract. He's been fantastic while he's been healthy. The key will be making sure he stays healthy next year. If the Padres are any good, you'll see him with a real shot at leading the league in saves.
AA: Center fielder Cameron Maybin and catcher Nick Hundley have suffered through dismal seasons after the Padres rewarded them with contract extensions in the offseason. Having watched them play regularly, what has changed for them this year?'
GB: It's completely mental. Nick Hundley has continued to struggle since his demotion. He's hitting just .200 at Triple-A Tucson. Maybin's redeeming qualities are his speed and defense, but he needs to actually swing the bat more. He's swung at less pitches this year than last (swing % of 44.2 verse 47.5 in 2011). There's a fine balance that needs to be struck between patience and aggressiveness. Maybin has not found that balance this year. He is actually striking out less and walking more, but since he is not swinging the bat, he is getting less hits. He's watching good pitches pass him by. Hundley's problems are the complete opposite of Maybin's. He's swinging too much. Known for his discipline, Hundley has been flailing away at more pitches outside the zone (31.3% this year verse 28.6% last year). He's striking out about the same as he did last season, but he's walking less.
AA: Which Padres players have been playing well over the last few weeks and which players have been struggling?
GB: Aside from Cameron Maybin you mean? In the last week, Jesus Guzman has gone 0-for-10, Alexi Amarista has hit just .130, and Carlos Quentin is hitting just .208. Imagine if all three of those players continued to play as hot as they had been. While this may not count for struggling, the Mets won't have to worry about Yasmani Grandal since he hit the 15-day DL with an oblique strain. Grandal was hitting .312/.349/.597. The Padres will run out either John Baker (.258 BA) or Eddy Rodriguez who has all of three at-bats to his name.
Thanks again to Justin for helping us preview this series. Here are this weekend's pitching matchups: