While the Padres did trade their best player -- three-time All-Star first baseman Adrian Gonzalez -- to the Red Sox for four players, Hoyer feels the composition of the 25-man roster will be better top to bottom.
Hoyer spent the winter dealing from a position of strength, trading away relief pitchers, to upgrade the offense and defense.
Hoyer's efforts to make the Padres stronger up the middle saw him acquire or sign three players -- second baseman Orlando Hudson, shortstop Jason Bartlett and center fielder Cameron Maybin -- who he's convinced will fare well, especially in a ballpark like PETCO Park where runs are precious commodities.
"The positions we were weak last year, we're better at now," Hoyer said.
Pitchers and catchers report
Full squad reports
First Spring Training game
vs. Seattle, Feb. 27, 1:05 p.m. PT
at Cardinals, March 31, 1:15 p.m. PT
Triple play: Three questions that need answers
1. How do you replace Adrian Gonzalez?
Well, by first admitting that you can't -- at least not completely -- replace the three-time All-Star and two-time Gold Glove first baseman, who was dealt to the Red Sox for four players in December. The Padres could be looking at a platoon of sorts at first base this season, with free-agent signings Brad Hawpe (a left-handed hitter) and Jorge Cantu (a righty) seeing time at first base. The Padres also feel that with the additions of Orlando Hudson, Jason Bartlett and Cameron Maybin, their offense will be more balanced this season.
2. Which player is set for a breakout season
How about right fielder Will Venable? Granted he wasn't very good against left-handed pitching (.154) in 2010, but he's one of the best athletes on the team and is regarded as a good defensive outfielder. He also offers a rare power-speed combination, having hit 13 home runs to go with 29 steals. He was also very good in September (.347 average, .372 on-base percentage). You could see a lot of Venable in the leadoff spot, especially with a right-handed pitcher on the mound.
3. Can the Padres win 90 games again?
It's going to be awfully difficult, even if -- despite their notable losses -- the team appears to be more balanced and better defensively than they were a year ago. The pitching staff, especially the back end of the bullpen, should rank among the league leaders. But there's some sentiment that these Padres overachieved in 2010 and that a regression to the mean or a market correction could be in store for 2011. We know scoring runs will again be a chore. But the pitching-and-defense formula that the Padres hang their hat on works and works well, especially at home where PETCO Park devours fly balls and suppresses offense as well as any ballpark in baseball. Pitch it, catch it and scratch out a few runs. That's the Padres way.
90-72, second place in National League West
Projected batting order
1. SSJason Bartlett
.254 BA, .324 OBP, .350 SLG, 4 HR, 47 RBI in 2010
2. 2BOrlando Hudson
.268 BA, .338 OBP, .372 SLG, 6 HR, 37 RBI in 2010
3. 3BChase Headley
.264 BA, .327 OBP, .375 SLG, 11 HR, 58 RBI in 2010
4. LFRyan Ludwick
.251 BA, .325 OBP, .418 SLG, 17 HR, 69 RBI in 2010
5. 1BBrad Hawpe
.245 BA, .338 OBP, .419 SLG, 9 HR, 44 RBI in 2010
6. RFWill Venable
.245 BA, .324 OBP, .408 SLG, 13 HR, 51 RBI in 2010
7. CNick Hundley
.249 BA, .308 OBP, .418 SLG, 8 HR, 43 RBI in 2010
8. CFCameron Maybin
.234 BA, .302 OBP, .361 SLG, 8 HR, 28 RBI in 2010
1. Mat Latos
, 14-10, 2.92 ERA in 2010
2. Clayton Richard
, 14-9, 3.75 ERA in 2010
3. Aaron Harang
, 6-7, 5.32 ERA in 2010
4. Tim Stauffer
, 6-5, 1.85 ERA in 2010
5. Dustin Moseley
, 4-4, 4.96 ERA in 2010
Closer: Heath Bell
, 47/50 saves, 1.93 ERA in 2010
RH setup man: Mike Adams
, 4-1, 1.76 ERA in 2010
LH setup man: Joe Thatcher
, 1-0, 1.29 ERA in 2010
The new guys
RHP Aaron Harang:
Harang is one of several players the Padres signed who they hope can have a "bounce back" year with a new team. It's a good bet Harang won't suffer as much whiplash, going from one of the most hitter-friendly ballparks in Cincinnati to a ballpark that suppresses offense like very few others do. A native of San Diego, Harang is healthy and figures to be an integral part of the rotation. Could he do what Jon Garland (14 victories) did a year ago? Pitching at PETCO Park will help.
RHP George Kontos:
A Rule 5 Draft addition in December, it might be tough for the Padres to keep Kontos on the roster the entire season. He could get squeezed out during Spring Training, but the Padres will give him a look. Kontos, who has a plus-slider that plays well against right-handed hitters, missed most of 2009 season after having Tommy John surgery and was just regaining his previous form during 2010 in the Yankees farm system. Keep an eye on his early appearances in Arizona.
RHP Dustin Moseley:
Moseley, who pitched for the Yankees in 2010, will be one of several pitchers the team will look at for the fifth spot in the rotation this spring. He could also pitch in long relief, essentially filling the role Edward Mujica filled last season. Bud Black had Moseley in Anaheim and endorsed the righty before the Padres agreed to terms with him in December.
RHP Chad Qualls:
No need to sugarcoat Qualls' 2010 season: It was bad. But the Padres, with the recommendation of former D-backs manager (A.J. Hinch) and general manager (Josh Byrnes), both who now work in the Padres front office, signed Qualls to help solidify a bullpen that lost several members in the Cameron Maybin and Justin Bartlett trades. Qualls has a career 3.82 ERA and general manager Jed Hoyer isn't about to discard a player for having one bad year (see Brad Hawpe, Aaron Harang and Jorge Cantu). Qualls figures to handle the sixth inning for the Padres.
C Rob Johnson:
The Padres obtained Johnson from the Mariners in December with the hopes he could compete for the backup catching job to Nick Hundley or, at the very least, add organizational depth to a vital position. Johnson will be at full strength for the first time in several years after having surgery on both labrums in his hips as well as undergoing a wrist surgery prior to his difficult 2010 season. He'll compete with Gregg Zaun for the backup job.
C Gregg Zaun:
Zaun kicked around the idea of retirement after his 2010 season was cut short after having surgery to repair a torn labrum in his right shoulder. But the 16-year veteran said his recovery and rehabilitation have gone well and he'll be ready to compete for a job right out of the chute this spring. The Padres would like Zaun to win the job, as he would add a veteran presence, be yet another sounding board for catcher Nick Hundley and is a switch-hitter. He comes to Arizona as a non-roster invitee.
SS Jason Bartlett:
One of the Padres' biggest needs this offseason was getting better up the middle. Getting Bartlett in a trade with the Rays and then signing him to a two-year deal means the Padres will have some stability at a vital position. Hoyer calls Bartlett a "pest" and a "winning player." Bartlett, who was a Padres farmhand briefly before being traded to the Twins, has appeared in over 125 games at shortstop in each of the last four seasons.
2B Orlando Hudson:
The Padres made a significant investment in Hudson -- a deal worth $11.5 million over two years -- to give them stability at second base. He is a four-time Gold Glove winner who figures to benefit from PETCO Park's sweet infield (groundskeeper Luke Yoder gets credit here) and will give the team a table setter at or near the top of the order. Hudson knows the division and certainly won't be fazed by spacious PETCO Park, not after playing at Target Field in Minnesota last season.
INF Jorge Cantu:
The Padres think they may have struck gold in getting Cantu -- without surrendering too much of it. Cantu signed a one-year deal for $850,000, and will bounce around the infield and provide a bat off the bench and a DH option during Interleague Play. Cantu could platoon with Hawpe at first base and spell Chase Headley at third base, something the Padres struggled to do in 2010 because they had no true third baseman on the roster other than Headley. Cantu has knocked in 90 or more runs three times in his career.
1B Brad Hawpe:
Hawpe qualifies as one of those 'bounce back' candidates after struggling in 2010, first with the Rockies and then the Rays. Hawpe, an outfielder during his Major League career, returns to his natural position, the one he came up playing with the Rockies. Hawpe is a career .279 hitter with a .373 on-base percentage who has the kind of power that can work at PETCO Park (five career home runs).
UTIL Eric Patterson:
Patterson might end up the answer to a good trivia question someday: Which player from the Adrian Gonzalez trade made it to San Diego first? The Padres like Patterson's speed and his athleticism and Hoyer thinks he's a natural fit as a National League bench player. He can play second base, but figures to be used as a pinch-hitter, pinch-runner and play some outfield if he makes the team out of Spring Training.
CF Cameron Maybin:
The Padres traded for Maybin in November and feel he is one the verge of some very big things. The former No. 1 Draft pick will have stability in San Diego, knowing that he's their every day center fielder. Maybin, who will turn 24 in April, will be a nice fit in a big center field in PETCO Park and has raw power and good speed that figure to play well in his new home as well. He'll hit lower in the order and should see better pitches to hit there, giving him a better chance to succeed.
INF Kevin Frandsen:
Like Zaun, Frandsen comes to Arizona with no guarantee of a job, though Hoyer likes his ability to bounce around the infield. Frandsen can play anywhere in the infield, and could make the team as a utilityman.
Prospects to watch
LHP Cory Luebke:
Luebke impressed during a four-game stint late last season and figures to challenge for the fifth spot in the rotation this spring. Ideally, he'll begin the season with Triple-A Tucson. And since teams rarely finish the season with the same starting five they begin it with, look for the left-hander with good control to end up in San Diego at some point.
RHP Ernesto Frieri:
Yes, we realize Frieri appeared in 33 games last season after a promotion from Triple-A Portland and that he's 25 years old. However, the team would like nothing more than for him to develop into a dependable late-inning option. Frieri did show dazzling stuff at times, allowing just 18 hits in 31 2/3 innings.
RHP Casey Kelly:
OK, that's a bit of a tease because there's little to no chance that the 21-year-old Kelly, the prized player the Padres got from the Red Sox in the deal for Gonzalez, will wear a Padres uniform in 2011. But it's certainly worth watching his progress at Double-A San Antonio. The Padres love Kelly's electric arm and his ability to command his secondary pitches. He could move fast.
On the rebound
1B Kyle Blanks:
Blanks, coming off Tommy John surgery last season, is well on his way to being able to take live batting practice when the rest of the hitters arrive for the start of Spring Training. Blanks is also well into his throwing program. He began the year in left field and struggled; he hit just .157. Once he's cleared to play in games, Blanks will end up with Triple-A Tucson.
LF Ryan Ludwick:
Ludwick struggled after the trade that brought him from the Cardinals to the Padres, hitting just .211 in San Diego. He's vowed that he'll be better this season and with Gonzalez gone, the Padres will need him to produce.
LHP Wade LeBlanc:
When Chris Young went down with an injury during the first week of the season, LeBlanc stepped up and pitched well. He won eight games and made 25 starts, but faded in September and lost his spot in the rotation to Tim Stauffer. He'll get a chance to win the fifth starter job in Spring Training.
RHP Kevin Correia:
The righty went 22-21 over two seasons with the Padres and tossed 198 innings in 2009. He lost his spot in the rotation in San Diego and signed a free-agent deal with the Pirates.
2B David Eckstein:
Eckstein hit .263 in two seasons with the Padres and gave the team veteran leadership in the clubhouse. Injuries limited him to 116 games a year ago. He has yet to sign with another team.
RHP Jon Garland:
Garland won 14 games and again proved to be a dependable starter in the rotation. He signed a free-agent deal with the Dodgers.
INF Jerry Hairston:
The way he filled at shortstop and second base might well have made Hairston the Padres' unsung hero last season. They had some interest in bringing him back, but he signed a free agent deal with the Nationals.
1B Adrian Gonzalez:
Of course everyone knows where Gonzalez ended up -- with the Red Sox. The Padres, seeing there was no way to resign Gonzalez after his contract expired, dealt him to Boston for four players.
C Yorvit Torrealba:
Torrealba -- who signed with the Rangers as a free agent -- was very good with the Friars. He handled the pitching staff very well, was a mentor to Nick Hundley and was good in the clubhouse.
OF Matt Stairs:
Stairs signed a Minor League deal with the Nationals, where he will try to complete the circle of life. Stairs began his career with the Expos in 1992 and has played for a Major League record 12 different teams.
RHP Ryan Webb:
The Padres had to part with Webb in the deal that landed them Maybin. They felt Webb was on the cusp of doing some big things and developing into a nice late-inning bullpen option.
OF Tony Gwynn:
Gwynn and his off-the-charts UZR are now a part of the team that is up the road, after he landed with the Dodgers. Gwynn will have to hit to remain in the big leagues, but his glove is exceptional.