Even though people overlook the San Diego Padres, they are a team that could make a run for the playoffs. Like the rest of the National League West, they have been undermined by injuries. If they can get healthy sooner than those other teams, they should have a legitimate chance of winning the division.
Since 2010, when the Padres finished second in the division and manager Bud Black earned the NL Manager of the Year award, they haven't caught many headlines.
Last season, the Padres were bought by a group of investors, including former Dodgers owner Peter O'Malley, and the new ownership should stabilize the organization. The last two seasons prior to this, the Padres had to keep their payrolls low to help the sale of the team and lessen the stress on the current ownership. They even traded Adrian Gonzalez, their best player, who was supposed to establish many franchise records if he remained with the Padres, but the team couldn't afford to keep him.
According to many media sources, the Padres have one of the strongest Minor League systems in baseball. When these young players get ready for the Major Leagues, the Padres should be perennial competitors for the NL West title. This is probably why the new ownership didn't spend much money on acquisitions this past offseason.
During Spring Training, many members of the media believed the Padres would surprise many people this season. After struggling to score enough to win since Petco Park opened in 2004, the Padres decided to move in the fences to generate more offense. After years of having the least runs scored in the NL, the Padres have the sixth most runs scored thanks to being an extremely aggressive team. They have the most stolen bases in the league, but their stolen-base rate will slow down while Everth Cabrera -- their shortstop who leads the league in stolen bases -- is on the disabled list with a mild hamstring injury.
Even before the regular season began, the Padres performed at a disadvantage. Last year's NL Most Valuable Player Award candidate Chase Headley broke a bone in his hand and being hit by a pitch. Although Headley returned to the lineup quickly, he hasn't had the same offensive production as he did last year. He should improve his offensive output in the second half of the season because his hand will get stronger.
The Padres were depending on center fielder Cameron Maybin to contribute to the offense, but, even in Spring Training, he couldn't play because of a sore wrist. Now he has a torn ligament in his knee, and no one knows when he will be able to return.
Yonder Alonso, the Padres' young talented first baseman, had his hand broken when a pitch hit it; the hand hasn't healed quickly. Alonso was a major contributor to the offense.
Jedd Gyorko was a surprising rookie infielder before he pulled his groin. He hit eight home runs before going on the DL. Gyorko is expected to return in July.
Huston Street, the Padres' closer, missed two weeks with a calf strain. He's back now, and the Padres have been on a run. They have moved into second place, just three games behind Arizona.
On Friday the Padres suffered a blow to their starting rotation when Clayton Richard had to leave the game after making two pitches. The team immediately put Richards on the DL with a shoulder joint problem.
The Padres have the second best defense in the NL, so they rarely beat themselves. Since 2004, San Diego has always been at the bottom of the league in home runs, but this year they have the sixth most.
If the Padres continue being aggressive on basepaths, scoring runs, and playing excellent defense, they will be a contender for the NL West title.
Sarah D. Morris can be reached at email@example.com.