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Dr. Lineup: The 2011 San Diego Padres
| Tuesday February 22nd, 2011
New addition Jason Bartlett should lead off for the Padres. (Getty)
New addition Jason Bartlett should lead off for the Padres. (Getty)
The biggest move of the Padres' off-season was the trade of slugger Adrian Gonzalez to the Boston Red Sox.  Making up for the loss of production from their best hitter in the past five seasons will not be easy.  However, even with Gonzalez in the lineup a year ago, the Padres managed just a .246 team batting average, which ranked 15th in the National League.  Their .371 slugging percentage, also 15th in the NL in 2010, is sure to take a hit as well.  If not for a solid .263 batting average with runners in scoring position (RISP), this team could've fallen even further down in offensive rankings last season.

The Gonzalez trade netted the Padres three prospects, but none of the additions are expected to make an impact in the major leagues right away.  The team did add some contact hitters to their lineup (and to fit spacious Petco Park), in the hopes that a contact-driven approach will help produce more runs in 2011.  They traded for shortstop Jason Bartlett from the Tampa Bay Rays, signed outfielder Brad Hawpe away from the Colorado Rockies, and signed second baseman Orlando Hudson from the Minnesota Twins.  The Padres hope all three can rebound from sub-par 2010 seasons and provide a spark to the lineup.  Here is how the Padres could line up to start 2011:
  1. Jason Bartlett, SS
  2. Orlando Hudson, 2B
  3. Chase Headley , 3B
  4. Ryan Ludwick, LF
  5. Brad Hawpe, 1B
  6. Will Venable, RF
  7. Cameron Maybin, CF
  8. Nick Hundley, C
  9. pitcher spot
The Padres are showing a lot of faith in outfielder Ryan Ludwick, who they acquired from the St. Louis Cardinals in a deadline deal last year.  Since a breakout 2008 season in which Ludwick mashed 37 home runs, drove in 113 runs, and posted a .299 batting average, his numbers have declined.  While he is still driving in runs, his inability to make consistent contact dropped his average from a career-high .299 in 2008, to .265 in 2009, to a meager .251 last year.  After joining the Padres, he struggled immensely, hitting just .211 and posting a poor .631 on-base-plus-slugging average (OPS).  He's projected to hit cleanup for the Padres, but he will need to find a way to replicate that 2008 season and prove it wasn't fluke.

Padres manager Bud Black has a decision to make at the top of his order, specifically who will leadoff.  Without a clear choice on the roster, the leadoff candidates include Bartlett and Will Venable.  There has been early talk that Venable will get a long look in the top spot this spring.  While he did post 29 stolen bases and clearly has the speed, Venable doesn't appear to have the plate discipline to be the full-time leadoff hitter, due to his concerning 128-45 strikeout-to-walk ratio in 2010.  He also struggled against lefthanded pitching in the past two seasons, hitting just .154 against them last year and .225 in 2009.  Bartlett is likely the best choice for this role because of his speed (30 stolen bases in 2009) and his ability to consistently put the ball in play.

The Padres are hoping centerfielder Cameron Maybin comes of age at just 24 years old, since they certainly liked him enough to acquire him from the Florida Marlins for a couple of bullpen arms this off-season.  Nobody questions Maybin's elite speed on the basepaths, but he simply isn't getting on base enough thus far and has struggled mightily to make consistent contact, even in his minor league stints.  A full season of production may be too much to ask of him.  He should hit in front of light-hitting but defensively sound catcher Nick Hundley at seventh in the lineup.

Overall, the Padres need a lot to go right to be good in 2011.  If Ludwick finds his 2008 form, Hawpe relives his 2007, and Bartlett hits like he did in 2009, they will have success.  If not, it could be a long season for the friars in 2011.