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February 12, 2009
Team Health Reports
San Diego Padres
Trainer: Todd Hutcheson
Trend: Negative. In 2008, the Padres added nearly a thousand days to their previous year's injury total. That could just be bad luck, because over the last three years they've rated as dead average, one of the best, and then one of the worst; their won/loss records in those years reflect those ratings, which just goes to show how important it is to keep guys on the field. If you discount the DL days of Mark Prior and Tim Stauffer, plus account for some bad luck as far as the injuries to Chris Young and Michael Barrett, the totals aren't quite as bad as they look in total, but they've got just as many possible days to look forward to in the coming season after having taken fliers on the likes of veterans David Eckstein and Cliff Floyd. If the Padres are going to have any shot at all, they'll need Hutcheson and his staff to get them back to average.
Shape of the Season:
Big Question: Craig Elsten of 619sports asks, "Barry Axelrod, Jake Peavy's agent, and I have argued this for months: Barry believes that pitching in the World Baseball Classic led to nagging shoulder and elbow injuries that season, and 2006 is certainly the outlier among the past five. Peavy loves pitching for Team USA ,and says he'll have no problems this year. But if Axelrod is right, it puts the Padres in a tough position. Do you believe the WBC is the cause, and should a team stop a player from playing in it?"
It's nearly impossible to tell exactly what the effect of the Classic has been on any one player; the series has only been played once before, after all. Nevertheless, for pitchers we can assume that it's dangerous. Why? Because it throws them out of their routines, begins their seasons early, and shortens their rest time. For a pitcher like Peavy, a staff ace who already carries a heavy workload, any additional stress could be that proverbial last straw. Just as pitching deeper into the playoffs can disrupt a player's rest patterns and add to his total workload, I believe that the same is true for the Classic. Taking part in the tournament might not a problem in itself, but it could lead to the onset of fatigue at an earlier point in the season than usual, and that would be disruptive. If I'm Kevin Towers or Jeff Moorad, there's no way I let Peavy, or any key pitcher, participate in any event where he's not wearing a Padres uniform.
Fantasy Tip: No matter what color we put on Peavy, he's going to be a high draft pick in your league. There's a point at which even a risky player with a dominating fastball should be a good value; in fantasy, it's just finding that sweet spot on draft day where he makes sense for you, and not kicking yourself when someone else makes the mistake of taking him too high. Where real value can be found is in drafting behind injuries: when you see a player that you expect will miss some time due to injury, you can actually find some values in their probable replacements. With five starters rated yellow or red, the Padres are going to have to look down their depth chart to guys like Chae Sung Baek and Will Inman, who, depending on the timing of injuries to the starters ahead of them, could be counted on for a lot of innings. It's better if you do this with a team like Boston or New York, since there are more wins to gain there than there will be in San Diego, but if you don't like the top five on your team, the sixth slot isn't always a bad place to look.
C Nick Hundley: He's not that young and not that injury prone, but to the THR system, he's a guy who hasn't proven that he can take the abuse of the starting catching role. Add that to the high baseline for the position, and it's small wonder he's red here, but the facts are a bit more complex. If Hundley is catching 100 games, that's far different than 120 or even 140 for the elite starters.
SP Josh Geer: After the initial reaction ("Who?"), you notice that he had a nice enough season last year... until he hurt his UCL. That's never good, and while he's avoided surgery for now, he's probably not worth the risk.
OF Cliff Floyd: The Padres know that Floyd will be unavailable for part of the year due to one of his various inevitable injuries, but given his track record at making it to the playoffs, maybe that long-shot bet on the Pads isn't such a bad idea. Just because you're injury-prone doesn't mean you're a bad player, it just means that the team needs to be smart enough to use you correctly.
SP Jake Peavy: The more I look at Peavy, the more that John Smoltz PECOTA comparable makes sense to me. Yes, Smoltz's 2004-2005 numbers are a bit skewed due to the strike, but it's clear that he paid dearly for all of those innings, and that he took a step back that even the extra time off didn't completely fix. Smoltz eventually returned to form and was dominating again, but we all know the cost of that time. With the long-term deal in place, the Pads have to hope that they get the same kind of production. If Peavy has an '09 that looks like Smoltz's off years, I don't think anyone will mind-or even notice much, given the Pads' likely place in the standings.
SP Chris Young: Young wants to throw 200 innings, finally achieving the one benchmark he hasn't reached in his time as one of the games' better second starters. The problem is that it seems that every year, no matter what he tries to do, what he changes, or what he does in the offseason, something keeps him from getting there. Surviving a comebacker off of Albert Pujols' bat would be enough to end the season for most, but Young actually came back relatively quickly and pitched well. Maybe this is the year that he finally clears that innings-pitched hurdle. I don't want to have to tell a guy that tall about his ceiling.
SP Wade LeBlanc: LeBlanc hit a wall around the time he got called up last year, but given his total innings load, it happened at about the point you'd expect. If he goes much past 180 innings in '09, he'll be in a danger zone, but as far as young guys go, he's no more risky than the next, and he does have some upside.
SP Kevin Correia: Everyone seems to think he's much younger than he actually is (28). The other misconception is that not having arm trouble is a positive. Well, it is, but that's just because Correia's never been healthy or good at the same time. According to scouts, the potential is there, but neither PECOTA nor I think he'll be able to reach it.
SS David Eckstein: There is no adjustment for scrappy in the THR system, but when this kind of high-effort player loses even the slightest measure of their physical gifts, they tend to spiral downward quickly. That groin strain last year in Toronto is just the kind of thing that can begin such a slide.
CF Jody Gerut: Let's see, somehow a torn ACL, a torn rotator cuff, a bad knee, and a strained finger only add up to a yellow light? OK... but let's just say that it's a high yellow based on PECOTA's expectation of about 100 games from him.
RF Brian Giles: I'll resist the cheap jokes here and just remind everyone that Giles' age has been the biggest factor in his downturn. There's no reason to believe that the curve will change direction or even slow. More interesting to me is that, at 38 years old, he's been remarkably consistent, and that despite minor injuries and the ravages of time. For someone often suspected of juicing in the pre-testing era, he's aging well and passing his tests.
2B Matt Antonelli: There's a question here about whether he'll be able to open the season or even stick at second base, but he's still a more interesting proposition than the alternative (Edgar Gonzalez), and not as risky as you'd expect for his age and position.
3B Kevin Kouzmanoff: PECOTA still loves Kouzmanoff despite two years of relative disappointment. I'm worried that his shoulder came up clean in off-season surgery; a real problem there could have at least helped to explain his poor second-half performance.
LF Chase Headley: The position change isn't that big of a deal, but if he shifted back to third base, he'd inch very close to the yellow area, assuming that he gets about half of the starts there.
CL Heath Bell