Previously, The infield.

Left field

The San Diego Padres acquired Ryan Ludwick at the trade deadline last season to help bolster their chances of reaching the playoffs. Ludwick responded by accumulating –1 WAR in 59 games played. Check out Ludwick’s performance last year with St. Louis and San Diego.

Team PA BA OBP SLG BABIP ISO K% BB%
Cards 314 .281 .343 .484 .325 .203 22.8 7.6
Padres 239 .211 .301 .330 .257 .120 27.3 10

Well, his walk rate went up. Ludwick’s play certainly hurt the Padres down the stretch and was almost embarrassingly bad for an accomplished player. Whether it was Petco or switching teams mid-season or just a prolonged slump, Ludwick bombed in his first effort as Padre.

The good news is that Ludwick is still a pretty good hitter with an established track record, and evaluating someone based on a third of a season can make one look like a fool. While Ludwick probably isn’t the guy who slugged 37 homers in 2008 (he hit a near Pujols-esque .299/.375/.591), he probably is much closer to the player who has hit .272/.343/.487 since 2007 than the version that was on display with the Pads last year.

With Adrian Gonzalez in Boston, Ludwick inherits the the title of second highest paid Padre ($6.8 million, behind Heath Bell) and middle of the order offensive threat. If the Padres are to compete in the NL West, Ludwick will have to come to life and provide the much needed spark the Padres were looking for last year.

Ryan Ludwick projection: 540 PA, .255/.335/.430

Center field

In the off-season, Jed Hoyer made perhaps his shrewdest move to date, dealing relievers Ryan Webb and Edward Mujica for center field enigma Cameron Maybin. We’ve discussed the Maybin deal at length here at Friar Forecast (elsewhere, too) and we’re big fans of the move.

Maybin, of course, is not without his warts. He has hit just .246/.313/.380 in about a season’s worth of Major League time. Last year with Florida in 322 plate appearances, he hit .234/.302/.361, striking out 92 times. His career strikeout rate is a staggering 32 percent, far too high for someone who has not yet displayed great power or patience.

Still, the key word is potential with Maybin, who has always been a favorite in the scouting world. He’ll be just 24 years old in April and under Padres control through 2015.

If Maybin can conquer his strikeout issues (not as easy task), he has a chance to develop into a star in center field. Even if he doesn’t develop as planned, Maybin should provide solid glove-work and enough offense to be a solid contributor for San Diego.

Cameron Maybin projection: 600 PAs, .255/.315/.390

Right field

Very quietly Will Venable has been a productive Padre, hitting .252/.325/.418 (106 OPS+) in his early San Diego career.

Venable doesn’t really do anything that stands out, though. He hits for a decent amount of power, has solid patience, and is a good base stealer. He’s also an excellent defender in right, rating above average in both UZR (+17 runs) and DRS (+15) for his career.

He strikes out a bunch (30 percent) and thus hits for a relatively low average, which doesn’t do a lot to promote his value amongst many in the media and baseball world. In the middle of his prime, Venable should be poised to put together another very nice year, though don’t expect to notice it.

Will Venable projection: 500 PAs, .255/.330/.430

Bench

Chris Denorfia is a nice backup outfielder, having spent significant time at all three positions. He’s played center field most frequently though he is probably better suited in a corner. Either way, he can handle any spot in a pinch.

He’s also a pretty good hitter, owner of a 104 career OPS+. Denorfia should see plenty of action spotting all three outfield positions in 2011.

Aaron Cunningham, who came over from Oakland last off-season, should also see his share of playing time this year. Cunningham debuted nicely with San Diego last year, hitting .288/.331/.417 in just 147 PAs, spending time in both corner spots.

Eric Patterson is also an option in the outfield, having spent time in left and center (bat not included).

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