2016 San Diego Padres Bounce-Back Candidates

San Diego Padres pitcher Andrew Cashner

Looking back at it, the expectations for the 2015 San Diego Padres were too high. For the first time in a long time, the team was filled with big-name stars, but the trades that brought those stars to town left big gaps in the rest of the roster that led to the team finishing with just 74 wins on the season (18 games out of first place in the division).

This offseason has been much quieter, with GM A.J. Preller doing his best to fill in some of the gaps in hopes of building a team that can compete for a playoff spot in 2016.

In the coming days, we’ll introduce you to some of the newer faces you’ll see in blue and yellow (oh yeah, that’s new too) this season, but today I wanted to go over some of the players that had disappointing seasons last year that could potentially do much better this year.

 

Matt Kemp

In the first half of the season, Matt Kemp wasn’t all that he had been billed to be. He hit just .250/.291/.382 (AVG/OBP/SLG), despite a good average on balls in play. Simply put, Kemp wasn’t getting the bat on the ball, and he wasn’t walking much either.

The second half is when Kemp really got comfortable with his new team and new surroundings. He hit .286/.339/.528 and led the team with 15 second-half home runs. If that’s the player that can show up in April and stay healthy all year, we could see Kemp get back to the All-Star Game (in San Diego) and into the MVP conversation (he finished 2nd in MVP voting in 2011).

 

Melvin Upton

Another guy that got going in the second half, but this one was more the result of injury than a simple slow start. After coming back from a foot injury, Upton played in just 87 games for the Padres in 2015.

With just 69 plate appearances in the first half, Upton hit .213/.294/.361. Despite playing great defense in Center Field, there was some talk that Upton may not have the bat to play at the major league-level anymore. Then, just like that, the man formerly known as “Bossman Junior” turned it on. He hit .278/.342/.458 in the second half of the season, accumulating a 1.3 WAR in just 159 plate appearances. 

Melvin is 100% healthy heading into the 2016 season and is desperate to finally prove that he’s worth the large contract the Atlanta Braves signed him to in 2013. He’ll get his chance with the 2016 Padres.

 

Wil Myers

Arguably the most effective hitter on the team when healthy last season, Myers started the season hitting .277/.327/.459.

However, just 200 plate appearances into the season, a wrist injury that had bothered Myers the year before in Tampa Bay flared back up again.

This season, Myers is moving to a new position, going from CF to 1B full-time. He seems noticeably energized by the switch, and said that he greatly prefers to be in the infield after playing 22 games at 1B last season. The switch should make Myers, who was not a good defensive CF but seems to be a natural at picking it at 1B, much more valuable to the Padres in 2016.

Now, he just has to keep his wrist healthy all season. The hope is, after getting surgery and taking a lot of time off, that those wrist injuries are a thing of the past for San Diego’s young slugger.

 

Andrew Cashner

The big Texan showed up to Spring Training last year with bad news. His mother, Jane, had been diagnosed with leukemia. Later, she had her right leg amputated below the knee, the result of a bout of E. coli. He was obviously shaken, and flew home to be with his family before the season began when he found out that his mother was in the hospital on a breathing machine, and receiving dialysis.

Cashner returned to the Padres for opening day, and pitched more innings than he ever has in a single season while staying healthy all year, but never seemed to be completely focused on baseball. When he got into jams, Cashner regularly lost control or hung breaking balls that ended up scoring runs for the other team.

By just about every statistical measure, it was the worst season Andrew Cashner ever had as a pitcher. It was obvious that his mother never left his thoughts, and that kept him from being the pitcher that Padres fans had grown to love.

Three weeks ago, Cashner posted a picture to his Instagram account of him and his mother at PETCO Park. In the caption, the pitcher announced that the family had received news that day that his mother was in full remission from her cancer.

We are so happy to hear the great news regarding Jane Cashner’s health, and we can see how this emotional burden being lifted from Andrew Cashner’s shoulders could lead him to a return to his 2013-14 form as one of the best young pitchers in baseball.

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