With the confirmation of the signing of former Rockie/Ray Brad Hawpe to play 1st base, the 2011 Padres starting line up has finally taken shape.
And it has a completely different look and feel from the 2010 version w/only 3 opening day starters from 2010 returning - Headley, Hundley and Venable.
So without further ado, your 2011 San Diego Padres starting 8:
SS Jason Bartlett
2B Orlando Hudson
1B Brad Hawpe
LF Ryan Ludwick
RF Will Venable
3B Chase Headley
C Nick Hundley
CF Cameron Maybin
The projected opening day starting lineup has aged significantly (4 players over 30 vs 1 on opening day 2010) and improved offensively even with the departure of Adrian Gonzalez.
Bartlett > Cabrera
Hudson > Eckstein
Maybin > Gwynn
Ludwick > Blanks (at least the 2010 version of Blanks)
And we can
What we will continue to see is a focus on speed and defense.
The only positions with a significant decline on defense are CF, which had the NL best defender Tony Gwynn in 2010, and 1B, which sees Gold glove defender Gonzalez replaced by Hawpe, who only has 72 innings at 1B in 7 season as a major leaguer.
Team speed may have actually increased a little with the additions of Bartlett and Hudson, who stole a few more bases than their 2010 Padres opening day counterparts. Maybin also has significant speed, swiping 14 bases in 115 games between AAA and the Marlins in 2010.
The Padres bench will also be very different in 2011 with only Oscar Salazar returning from the 2010 opening day roster. Likely it will include as many as 4 players who saw playing time in 2010 - Salazar, Chris Denorfia, Aaron Cunningham and Everth Cabrera.
UT Oscar Salazar
OF Chris Denorfia
OF Aaron Cunningham
Catcher - Rob Johnson
Middle Infield - Everth Cabrera/Jarrett Hoffpauir/Eric Patterson
Gone is the Hockey Coach and his power bat off the bench. Gone are the Hairston brothers. Kyle Blanks is recovering from Tommy John surgery and likely to start 2011 in AAA to regain his batting stroke. Gone is team spark plug and coach on the field David Eckstein. Hopefully what remains is a fire for the game we saw in all the young players in 2010.
What absolutely remains the same is the Padres having one of the lowest payrolls in baseball.
With 39 players on the 40 man roster and only a few possiblities for signings or trades remaining (a backup middle infielder, a #4-5 starting pitcher - Chris Young?, and a veteran reliever - Joe Biemel?), a realistic estimate for the Padres 2011 payroll including signing all their rbitration eligible players stands at $42.0 - $42.5 million.
So can the Padres catch lightning in a bottle a second straight season with this very inexpensive and very different lineup?
IMO it depends on the arms. If the performance of the 2011 Padres pitching staff can come close to the 2010 staff and the veteran players can stay healthy, then this Padres club can contend in a largely unimproved NL West.
I've had my say. Now what do you think?