The Mets head back to Citi Field for a four game set with the Padres and that means we've got another edition of Amazin' Avenue's Five For Five series preview lined up for you! The Padres currently sit at 16-29, in 5th place in the National League West and are fourteen and a half games behind the Dodgers. I got in touch with Dex and Jbox, managers of SB Nation's Padres blog Gaslamp Ball and here's what they had to say about the state of the Friars coming into this series:
SS: With the Padres early offensive struggles, who do you think are the best bets to improve offensively as the season goes on? Do the Padres have any players not on the major league roster at the moment who could help out soon?
GB: The most obvious candidates for improvement are Nick Hundley and Cameron Maybin, who both received contract extensions in the offseason. Neither has seemed to find the groove that made last season breakouts for both. Position-wise, there wasn’t much offense seen out of the middle infield, but that should hopefully improve with the subtraction of Jason Bartlett and Orlando Hudson in favor of Everth Cabrera, Andy Parrino and Alexi Amarista. At this point, we prefer young hungry and underproducing as opposed to overpaid, overcontent and underproducing.
Amarista and Cabrera were the "help" that would’ve been coming "soon" as of a couple of weeks ago. Now that they’re with the big league club, I wouldn’t be surprised if Jedd Gyorko saw a little bit of big league time especially as the season moves along. Gyorko recently got the promotion to the AAA roster and is a top prospect. The Padres have been playing him at third and second and really like his stuff.
SS: Josh Byrnes took over for the departed Jed Hoyer as GM last offseason and is in the midst of rebuilding the team. How far away do you think they are from contention and of the players on the current roster, which ones would you say have the best shot at being around at that point? I know it’s early but how would you rate the job he’s done since taking over?
GB: Contention always depends a little bit on the opponents. 2012 was always looking like a season where .500 would be a victory. The current crop of players make it appear that 2013 is the season were the Padres push back up over .500. If the NL West falters that year, or if competition for wild card slots is light, contention’s always possible with a winning record. Otherwise, 2014-2016 are the prime years to contend.
Anybody who was on the starting rotation pre-injury has the best shot at having jobs during the Padres’ big windows. Cory Luebke, Joe Wieland, Anthony Bass. Position players: Yonder Alonso, Cameron Maybin.
Based on trades, he’s doing well. The Mat Latos for Yasmani Grandal, Yonder Alonso, Edinson Volquez looks to be a very solid move to improve in a few areas (first base, pitching depth, catching depth) in exchange for a great player who would be soon demanding a contract that the Padres didn’t want to take on given Latos’ supposed personality risks. Based on a winning big league record, Josh Byrnes has some work to do.
SS: The Padres gave out team friendly multi-year extensions to CF Cameron Maybin and C Nick Hundley last offseason but both have gotten off to poor starts coming off of nice 2011 seasons. What has gone wrong for both of them so far and is there any concern?
GB: Both players seem to be the types that feel the need to take on more responsibility in response to the contracts (as opposed to the guy who shows up fat to spring training after getting paid). They could be both pressing. The big concern is that 2011 was not a "breakout" year so much as it was a very strong positive outlier. Either way, the contracts are not crippling to the Padres and this didn’t appear to be a postseason type season, so they both have some time to turn it around.
SS: Who would you say has been the biggest success so far this season and who’s been the biggest disappointment? Any surprises?
GB: The biggest success so far has been Yonder Alonso. With the assumption that his glove and power numbers will continue to improve, he should be our starting first baseman for a while. Biggest disappointment has been Cam Maybin (just edging out Nick Hundley). Last year looked like you could build a team around Maybin, but this season, he’s been very ho-hum. The biggest surprise is Anthony Bass. On a team stocked with pitching prospects, Anthony Bass didn’t appear to be slotted for much going in, but he’s made the most of the opportunity and looks like future #1, #2 type material.
SS: We’ve all heard about the run suppressing tendencies of Petco Park over the years and there were rumors last month that the team was considering moving the fences in a bit. What are your thoughts on the stadium’s walls and how much of an effect do you think it has on the team?
GB: We firmly believe that the Padres should just move the fences in and get over with it already. The only demonstrable effect it has on the team is that some offensive players have complained about it, which might sound silly, but is just as good a reason as any to go ahead and move them.
Thanks again to Dex and Jbox of Gaslamp Ball for taking the time to answer these questions for us! First pitch of tonight's matchup at Citi Field is scheduled for 7:10 PM. Jeremy Hefner makes his first career big league start for the Mets and he'll face off against journeyman lefty Eric Stults.