By Blake Chadwick
On Opening Day, if I asked who you thought would be leading the NL West at the All-Star break, most would say either the Dodgers, Rockies, or Giants. Hell, even the Diamondbacks might come up a few times. All of those answers are wrong. The San Diego Padres are the cream of the West crop at the halfway point with a three game lead. This is a truly amazing feat. Let’s go through the lineup. It looks like a Spring Training squad mixed with veterans, prospects, and Triple-A lifers.
The heart of this team is clearly 1B Adrian Gonzalez. Arguably the most underrated player not only at his position, but in the entire game.He is a former #1 overall pick to the Florida Marlins back in 2000, and in four and a half major league seasons has become a force. He has 17 HR’s and 54 RBI’s with .302 avg and .929 OPS at this point of the season. He is the only player on the team with more than 8 HR’s and 32 RBI’s. He is joined on the roster by such players as Everth Cabrera, Kyle Blanks, Chase Headley, David Eckstein, Tony Gwynn Jr., Oscar Salazar, the list of mediocrity goes on and on.
The one truly consistent point this season for the Pads has been their pitching. The rotation has a bunch of no-names ever since Jake Peavy left town and Chris Young has been injured. Jon Garland is perhaps the most well-known of this bunch. But they get the job done. 4 of the 5 guys in the rotation boast a 3.56 ERA or better including Mat Latos and his lights out 2.62 with an equally nasty 0.96 WHIP. Talk about a fantasy sleeper. Also, no names like Clayton Richard and Wade LeBlanc have more than proved their worth with 20 Quality Starts between them.
If the Padres want to make that second half push into the postseason, they will need to pick up their bats a bit. With balanced squads like the Rockies, Giants, and Dodgers all nipping at their heels, the offense will need a shot in the arm. Will the Padres actually be buyers at the deadline? That remains to be seen. For now, however, Petco Park is a party and everyone is invited. Unless your in the NL West.
By Blake Chadwick
So your AJ Hinch and you take a look at the NL West standings and realize your team is 12 games under .500 and already 11 1/2 games back in the division race in mid June. What’s the main problem? As usual with teams struggling, it’s the bullpen. In this case, a bunch of nobodies in the form of Daniel Stange, Blaine Boyer, Juan Gutierrez, Esmerling Vasquez, and my personal favorite former Mets prospect bust Aaron Heilman. To make matters worse, the closer is Chad Qualls who has a measly 75% conversion rate and is 12 for 16 in save opportunities. So as this team blows saves almost as often as Pujols homers, they need to make some changes. Unfortunately for this club, Heilman might be their best bet. A converted starter while in the Mets organization, Heilman tortured Mets fans for 6 seasons and never living up to his expectations as a 1st round pick. He was 22-33 with 9 saves and an ERA close to 4.
In 2010, I guess it’s safe to say he’s the “crown jewel” of the D-Backs bullpen. He’s 2-1 with a 2.83 ERA, a WHIP of 1.26 and 6 holds. Flashy numbers I know. He also leads the team in appearances. Now with Chad Qualls having an ERA hovering at close to 8.5, I think it’s safe to say a change is imminent. So as a fantasy player, knowing a closer is about to become available, do you jump at the chance? Do you rush to the waiver wire for AARON HEILMAN?! Well you can’t blame AJ Hinch for giving it a shot as his team needs stability and Heilman has been the most consistent arm he’s had. So it looks as if for the forseeable future, the 9th inning will belong to Mr. Heilman. Some people might follow Hinch’s lead and give him a shot, but don’t but see surprised if he comes back to bite like a snake in the grass.