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.