Baseball preview: San Diego Padres

It's hard to say who is the most popular player in San Diego, but it's a pretty safe bet that Colorado Rockies outfielder Matt Holliday is one of the least favorite players in the city.

Holliday scored the winning run on Jamey Carroll's shallow fly ball in the 13th inning of the one-game tiebreaker last season against closer Trevor Hoffman, but it was questionable if Holliday actually touched home plate. Nevertheless, the Rockies eventually advanced to the World Series and the Padres were left out of the playoffs.


The Padres lost outfielders Mike Cameron and Milton Bradley in the offseason, but they signed Jim Edmonds to take over center field. The team also signed second baseman Tadahito Iguchi, but it made its most interesting move by signing starting pitcher and San Diego native Mark Prior.

Prior didn't pitch at all last season and he hasn't had a good year since he was 11-7 with a 3.67 ERA in 2005. However, the Padres only signed him to a one-year deal worth $1 million, so it's not a big gamble. It will be a valuable deal if Prior is able to contribute as the fifth starter this season.


San Diego Padres

2007 record: 89-74 (3rd in NL West)

Key additions: CF Jim Edmonds, 2B Tadahito Iguchi, LHP Randy Wolf, RHP Mark Prior

Key losses: CF Mike Cameron, LF Milton Bradley

Most valuable fantasy performers:

1. Jake Peavy, RHP – Last year, Peavy led the NL in wins (19), ERA (2.54) and strikeouts (240). He won the NL Cy Young and pitched a career-high 223 1/3 innings. Peavy will likely have 15-20 wins and he'll be among the league leaders in strikeouts again in 2008, so he should be the first pitcher selected.

2. Chris Young, RHP – Although he was only 9-8 last season, Young finished fifth in the NL with a 3.12 ERA. Young has a chance to win 15-20 games this season, but he'll need the offense to help him. There's no way he'll win fewer than 10 games again this season if he's able to keep his ERA around the same number. You can also count on 160-170 strikeouts from Young. He should be drafted in the sixth or seventh round.

3. Adrian Gonzalez, 1B – After hitting .282 with 30 home runs and 100 RBIs last season, Gonzalez has emerged as one of the better options at first base. He'll be 26 in May, so there's a chance that he hasn't even reached his full potential yet. Gonzalez will likely hit 25-30 home runs with 100-110 RBIs in 2008, so it would be good to draft him in the sixth or seventh round in most draft formats.


4. Trevor Hoffman, RHP – Even though he's 40 now, Hoffman hasn't shown any signs that he's headed for a decline. He's saved at least 40 games in the last four seasons and nine times in his career. While he may not reach 40 saves this season, he's still one of the five best closers in the major leagues. Hoffman will probably still be available in the middle rounds of your draft, so there's no need to rush to select him.

5. Khalil Greene, SS – Greene needs to be able to consistently hit around .270 in order to be a popular choice at shortstop. He had 27 home runs and 97 RBIs last season, but only hit .254. Greene will likely have 20-25 home runs and 90-100 RBIs in 2008, but he shouldn't be one of the top shortstops selected because he won't have a good batting average. He should be picked in the middle rounds of your draft.

Hidden gems:

1. Greg Maddux, RHP – Maddux has 347 career victories and he won 14 games in his first season in San Diego. Still, he's a hidden gem because a lot of people will overlook him since he'll be 42 in April. Grab him in the later rounds of your draft if the other owners let him fall that far. He'll win 10-15 games with an ERA around 4.00.

2. Kevin Kouzmanoff, 3B – Kouzmanoff hit .275 with 18 home runs and 74 RBIs in 145 games in 2007. He can likely be picked in the later rounds and he'll hit around .285 with 20-25 home runs and 85-95 RBIs. There are a lot of third basemen ahead of Kouzmanoff in the rankings, but he'll give you good value for a late-round pick.