The 2010 season abruptly ended for the San Diego Padres, who were hungry for a postseason berth. The Pads fell one game short of forcing a tie in the NL West, and needed to sweep the Giants or have the Braves be swept instead. Sadly, the Padres finished second in the West, and could not qualify for the wild card position. 

The San Diego Padres made countless roster changes in the 2010 offseason, which began with a jaw dropping trade. Cameron Maybin, a 24 year old center fielder from Florida, was acquired by the Padres in exchange for two relievers from the best bullpen in the Majors.

Another trade occurred on December 6th, when Adrian Gonzalez, San Diego Padres’ slugger, was traded to GM Jed Hoyer’s former team: the Boston Red Sox. Padres fans were expecting big names in return, like CF Jacoby Ellsbury or CP Jonathan Papelbon. Instead, the Padres got prospects, including Casey Kelly. Most people don’t know who he was, however, Kelly was named a top baseball prospect and has won countless awards in the Minor League system. 

The Padres have also signed a few big names this offseason. Hoyer has inked contracts with: SP Aaron Harang, INF Orlando Hudson, and RP Chad Qualls. Jason Bartlett and Rob Johnson were also acquired in trades.

Despite big gains, the Padres have also lost leadership and talent this offseason. David Eckstein and Miguel Tejada, two main pieces in the infield, were not re-signed. The brothers Scott and Jerry Hairston are also not returning, and son of Padre great Tony Gwynn, Jr. was also not signed to a new deal.

Some fans find the new lineup frustrating, because so many faces are gone, replaced by new ones. These fans must understand that the payroll is tight, and Jed Hoyer is doing the best with what he has.

In 2011, the Padres must do many things to replicate the unthinkable playoff run that occurred a season before. First of all, the Padres must hit successfully with runners on base, especially with runners in scoring position. Last year, the Padres left runners on base countless times. Potential runs were not scored. Believe it or not, this was the main reason why the Padres lost games in 2010. If the bats can produce hits in clutch situations, the chances of victory increase for the Friars.

The Padres must also continue the great work in the bullpen. The Padres ‘pen was the best in the MLB last year. Despite some losses, the Padres still have main pieces returning in 2011, with some new additions. Also, many prospects or Minor Leaguers in the Padres system are ready for MLB action. There is always room for flourishing Minor League stars on the Pads’ roster. 

The team must also find a leader who can emerge and fill the enormous gap left by Adrian Gonzalez. Adrian was the Team Captain, no doubt. As a San Diego native, Gonzalez led the team in offense and defense, however, lacked in enthusiasm. Especially with other veteran leadership leaving, like Tejada and Eckstein, the Padres must search from within to find their Captain.

Most of the Padres lineup and roster are young. Many of the players 30 and older are new additions, like Orlando Hudson, Jason Bartlett, and Brad Hawpe. If one of these players can put up monstrous numbers to begin the 2011 campaign, they could become the Team Captain, which is needed in San Diego. 

Most importantly, the Padres need fan support. For much of the early part of 2010, the average attendance of a Padre game stood at around 19,000. Petco Park holds 42,000 people. When the Padres started to look “for real” in the NL West, attendance soared into the 30,000’s. In 2011, fan support is key for the Padres.

If the Padres could replicate the miraculous run from 2010, the Friars’ chances of playing October baseball are great. Despite a rather new lineup, the Padres still have great pitching, and a few sleeper players who could step up.

My player to watch in 2011 is Nick Hundley, San Diego Padres Catcher. He calls a great game behind the dish, and had some clutch moments in 2010 that show promise for this young player. 

Watch out for Jason Bartlett, who is in for another All Star year in the infield. Bartlett is a tough out who gets on base frequently and scores runs often. The man playing by his side, Orlando Hudson, is also a guy who can deliver RBIs for San Diego. This could be a successful one-two punch in the infield.

The Padres will replicate another spectacular run in 2011. Even though they will not win the West, they will finish runner up and clinch a spot in the playoffs via Wild Card. The Padres will finish the 2011 season with a 94-68 record, winning the majority of their games at home.

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