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March 8, 2006

Team Health Reports

San Diego Padres

by Thomas Gorman and Will Carroll

Click here for the Padres' 2006 depth chart.

Red light C Mike Piazza / Yellow light Doug Mirabelli: This is a goofy one. Piazza's risk goes down as his playing time decreases, and if the 90 game target is where he ends up he'll practically be a yellow light. But if his workload is that limited, Mirabelli, who will be 35 next season, will be needed for more games than he's ever played. So, if Piazza catches so few games that he almost goes yellow, Mirabelli will have to catch so many that he almost goes red.

Yellow  light 1B Ryan Klesko: Klesko has back problems, he's old and he has a history of troublesome Acromioclavicular (AC) joint issues in his throwing shoulder. Easy yellow.

Green  light 2B Joshua Barfield / Mark Bellhorn

Red light 3B Vinny Castilla: At the center of our Team Health Report system is a core risk assessment based on a player's position and age. There really aren't very many comps for Old Man Castilla, and of the comps we do have, a lot hit the DL. Our THR numbers also see his performance dropoff last year and suspect attrition (just like PECOTA). The red is justified, but guys like Castilla, Jamie Moyer and Julio Franco are sometimes just special.

Green  light SS Khalil Greene

Red light LF Dave Roberts / Green light Terrmel Sledge: Roberts is old (34), depends on speed and mobility, and is hamstring-impaired.

Red light CF Mike Cameron : The doctors say his vision is OK, but that was a pretty ugly blow to the head. If he really is fine, this shouldn't affect his confidence the way a beaning often does, but we're not ready to sign off until we see more out of him in Spring Training.

Yellow  light RF Brian Giles: Guys this old don't have great records in right field, a position that we are discovering to be a lot trickier than conventional wisdom suggests. But take it from Will, this guy's in great shape.

Red light SP Jake Peavy: The cover of BP2006 says he's the best pitcher in the NL. We don't like all the pain and weakness he was getting in his right shoulder last year, the location of which seemed similar to Bartolo Colon's lat issues. Shoulder pain, skipped starts, and weird rib fractures; we don't like it one bit.

Red light SP Chris Young: You too can get a THR red light if you complain of shoulder fatigue, miss time, and look shaky down the stretch.

Green  light SP Woody Williams: Old guys who can pitch a lot of innings are usually special. Williams isn't and there are actually more and more of these guys. It's a bit of evolution and a lot of the survivor effect.

Green  light SP Shawn Estes: Who cares if he's healthy? You don't want him pitching for you anyway.

Green  light SP Chan Ho Park: See Shawn Estes.

Yellow  light CL Trevor Hoffman: At one time, Hoffman and Troy Percival were nearly the equivalent of Mariano Rivera. Hoffman still might be (in quality anyway, if not in quantity), or he might look more like Percival next year. We'd bet more towards the former, but the risk of the latter gives him the light.

--

Even before you look at the health concerns, it's hard to see how this will be a winning team. The Padres are getting older, and the older, risky players coming in don't have enough upside in them for the moves to make sense.

Cameron is a great defender with a horrifically injured face, and Petco should murder his all-or-nothing approach. They desperately needed Giles' bat, but the big slugger will be 37 in his last season under this new contract. If Piazza goes down, Mirabelli will likely struggle under the workload of a starting backstop. Vinny Castilla is old, and the retreads in the back of the rotation are green lights largely by virtue of the fact that we don't project anything like 200 IP from either of them.

No wonder Towers flirted with Arizona's ownership for so long. This is a mess and injuries could easily turn the Padres' 2006 into a disaster. Giles isn't a huge risk next year, but his offensive output is absolutely necessary for the Padres to win games; if he falls so does the team. Jake Peavy's weird shoulder problems scare the bejeezus out of us, and without Peavy this rotation is the ugliest in the National League West (and that's saying something). If other aging players like Dave Roberts and Woody Williams get injured the impact won't be as severe, but it will be significant.

Is there good news? Well, the Padres certainly have lots of depth. Mirabelli and Piazza balance out the other's risk. Terrmel Sledge is a solid 4th outfielder. Bellhorn and Barfield give each other some cover depending on how the fight for second base works out. Adrian Gonzalez could arguably compete for the starting 1B job after his tremendous campaign in Oklahoma last year. After Estes and Park the Padres have Clayton Hensley, Tim Stauffer, and Dewon Brazelton ready to take emergency starts.

As medheads we love to see a team take the concept of depth seriously, but we wish the mediocre weren't set to cover for the slightly less mediocre. If you're going to go get aging health risks, get ones with some real upside. If you're going to spend a lot of time and effort on backups, maybe you should first make sure that your first string is that great.

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