The Payoff Pitch: 2/25/2016

Matt Kemp looks like he just spent an evening with an AmWay salesman.

San Diego Padres outfielder Matt Kemp. (Photo by Joe T.) 

The Payoff Pitch begins its look at the National League West

San Diego Padres

Last Year: 74-88, 4th in NL West

Key Addition: Alexei Ramirez, SS: 1 year, $4 Million

Key Loss: Jedd Gyorko, Util: Trade with St. Louis

We’re a little partial here to Mr. Gyorko because of his super sub ability and the fun Vin Scully used to have with his name. At the same time though, the Padres will miss the jack-of-all-trades at his various spots in the infield. The Padres shipped him off to the Cardinals for new starting leftfielder John Jay. Jay joins Melvin Upton Jr. manning center and former Dodger Matt Kemp in right. 5 Years ago, this is a top flight outfield (2011 was essentially a banner year for this trio). Now? Not so much. The Padres made huge waves in the offseason last year and ended up in 4th. This offseason was far quieter and now they’ll end up worse.

The rotation is solid, if they can stay healthy. Tyson Ross has been named the opening day starter for the Padres, effectively finalizing the end of the “Big Game” James Shields nickname. Shields fits this team (specifically the outfield) well: 2011 was his best year as a major leaguer. He likely has more left in the tank, however, as he was solid if unspectacular during the 2015 campaign.

Following Shields in the rotation is enigma Andrew Cashner. The former top prospect has been hampered by injuries in the past but finally pitched a full season last year and showed glimpses of what he could do. For the Padres to contend however, they’ll need Cashner to step up and get some development and clarity from the back of the rotation.

The back of the rotation isn’t set yet, as there is a multitude of pitchers vying for the spot, including Brandon Maurer, Brandon Morrow, and Colin Rea. The rumor mill whispers of attempts by the Padre brass to sign former Giant Tim Lincecum (no truth to the rumor that Ned Colleti is assisting the Padres front office).

The bet here is that the Padres will sign Lincecum and give Robbie Erin a fair shot in the rotation before handing the ball to Colin Rea. Maruer, Morrow and new acquisition Carlos Villanueva will work out of the bullpen, with one of them potentially unseating Mariner castoff Fernando Rodney as the closer in the middle of the year. Despite the potential success of the pitching, this team still does not have the talent necessary to be close to playing October baseball.

Best Benchwarmer: Alexi Amarista. It was close call between Amarista, Jabari Blash and Austin Hedges, two guys with names that sound like they were generated by the NCAA Football games. But in the end, we can’t pick against a guy with the nickname “Little Ninja.”

Prediction: Another lost season as the Padres offense stutters throughout the year and a somewhat solid rotation lacks the run support it needs to be successful. The Padres will find some hope in Rea and the Maruer-Morrow two headed monster in the bullpen, but the team is still lacking the talent it needs to compete.

Final Finish: 69-93, 5th in NL West

Next week we’ll continue with part two of our five-part series previewing each NL West team and predicting their fate for the 2016 season.

Those Bench Warmers are Derek Cheng (on twitter @DCheng110), Rob Diaz (@_RobJoc) and Riley Saxon (@coachrileysaxon). They enjoyed their time on the bench during their playing days and produce a weekly Youtube show on Tuesdays. Those Benchwarmers can be reached by email at or on twitter @warming_beches.

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