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Sarah's Take: Young Padres have tough climb

MLB.com

The National League West was a powerhouse during 2017. The Los Angeles Dodgers went to the World Series for the first time since 1988, and the Arizona Diamondbacks and the Colorado Rockies were the NL Wild Card teams. After a quiet offseason, many baseball pundits expect the NL West to thrill again.

No one quite knows what to expect from the San Diego Padres. Although they were 20 games below .500 and trailed the Dodgers by 33 games, they showed glimpses of improving after the All-Star break.

The National League West was a powerhouse during 2017. The Los Angeles Dodgers went to the World Series for the first time since 1988, and the Arizona Diamondbacks and the Colorado Rockies were the NL Wild Card teams. After a quiet offseason, many baseball pundits expect the NL West to thrill again.

No one quite knows what to expect from the San Diego Padres. Although they were 20 games below .500 and trailed the Dodgers by 33 games, they showed glimpses of improving after the All-Star break.

The Padres are a young team, averaging 26.6 years of age, and with plenty young players ready to be promoted to the Major League level. Manager Andy Green must teach baseball fundamentals in the Major Leagues, a rarity, and exhibit utmost patience with his young players who will make mistakes sometimes while playing in San Diego.

At Petco Park, the games are low-scoring -- even after the Padres brought in the outfield fences. The air at night is cool and damp, discouraging many home runs from being hit. Thus, San Diego needs to rely on great defense and good pitching to be successful. The Padres committed the second-most errors in the NL and had the 11th-lowest ERA in the NL.

The Padres also scored the fewest runs in the NL. Their best hitter was Wil Myers, who had by his track record a poor offensive season while attempting to learn first base. This offseason, San Diego reacquired third baseman Chase Headley in hopes of generating more offensive production while stabilizing the problematic third-base position. The Padres need to concentrate on manufacturing runs instead of hitting homers. They need to cut down on strikeouts and increase their walks.

Nowadays with the increased emphasis on the bullpen, no team can win without a satisfactory relief corps. In 2017, San Diego had the 12th-best bullpen in the league. This must improve if the Padres want to be competitive. Historically, general managers have viewed the bullpen as an area where they could save money. However, when virtually no starter ever pitches a complete game, now the bullpen must be viewed as one of the most important aspects of any team.

The Padres don't have depth, being a small-market team facing budget restrictions. Nevertheless, in the past few years with trips to the disabled list becoming more frequent than in the past as teams try to protect their players from having career-threatening injuries, depth is essential for a team with postseason aspirations.

It is difficult to say where the Padres will finish in the highly competitive NL West. At the end of the 2017 season, they were playing better than they did at the start. It will be difficult for them to compete with the Rockies, the D-backs and the Dodgers. San Diego might have a break-even record in 2018.

Sarah D. Morris can be reached at sarahmorris27@gmail.com.

San Diego Padres