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Bits: Thoughts on Headley, Padres offense

4/18/2013

The San Diego Padres organization as a whole had a pretty decent Wednesday, as third baseman Chase Headley came off the disabled list after recovering from a small fracture in his left thumb, and the team blasted three home runs off the usually invincible Clayton Kershaw. Headley hit third in Wednesday's surprising 7-2 win at Dodger Stadium, though the news of his return was muted a bit by center fielder Cameron Maybin taking his place on the shelf with a right wrist impingement.

Maybin was already among the most-dropped players in ESPN standard formats, which makes sense since he was hitting a paltry .091 (three hits in 33 at-bats), with nary an attempted stolen base. The reason for his DL stint might explain his slow start, but then again, maybe we've already seen his best. Maybin's ride to fantasy relevance seemed to take a while and involved three organizations. Perhaps he peaked in 2011 when he stole 40 bases and scored 82 runs. Last season he slipped back to fantasy free agent status when he hit .243 and ran less. Maybin clearly has tools; he's fast enough to steal many bases, defends well and seemed a good candidate to finally reach double digits in home runs with the adjustment of the fences at Petco Park, but now there seems to be little reason to believe in him, even when his wrist is healthy. Only 26, Maybin is a career .248 hitter and hasn't developed the power once expected of him.

But let's focus on the good: Headley is back. He singled and walked in four at-bats Wednesday against tough customer Kershaw, and just about every night will be easier than that. I'll take the under on the switch-hitter slugging another 31 home runs and knocking in 115 runs, just because the performance was so shocking last season and it's hard to believe he won't regress some. Plus, he hit 19 homers in the final eight weeks, which is ridiculous, considering Headley hit 27 home runs total in the three seasons prior to 2012. I think he can steal 20 bases and hit closer to .300, but I'll go with a 23-homer, 85-RBI, 17-steal season. It's still going to make him, I believe, one of the top five third basemen from here on out.

Chris Denorfia led off in Maybin's center field spot against the lefty, but the Padres have some outfield decisions to make against right-handed pitching when Carlos Quentin is done serving his eight-game suspension early next week. I'd like to see 6-foot-6 slugger Kyle Blanks get 400 at-bats. It has never happened before, mainly due to injury but also odd personnel decisions. Blanks was called up earlier this week, homered off Kershaw and is hitting .455 in four games. Blanks has always hit for power and showed modest plate discipline, and he has proven himself in the minors. He's not a center fielder, but useful Will Venable can platoon with Denorfia there. Play Blanks and Quentin regularly in the corner outfield spots -- I think each is capable of 20-plus home runs.

The other aspect of the Headley activation is it moves sweet-swinging Jedd Gyorko over to second base. He's hitting only .236 -- buy low! -- and he has already played 12 games at third base, earning dual eligibility. I think Gyorko can look statistically a bit like Pittsburgh Pirates second baseman Neil Walker, with 14 or so home runs and a .280 batting average. Hey, isn't that enough? And Gyorko could draw 60 walks, for those of you in OBP formats.

Box score bits (NL): Pirates right-hander A.J. Burnett took a no-hitter into the seventh inning Wednesday, finally allowing a double to St. Louis Cardinals outfielder Carlos Beltran. When Burnett is on, he can shut down even top lineups. He fanned eight, and so far has a 2.63 ERA and 35 strikeouts in 24 innings. In each of his four starts, he has struck out eight or more. Call me crazy, but everything Burnett did in 2012 I think it happens again. ... Shelby Miller didn't exactly struggle for the Cardinals, allowing two runs over six innings. In a year, we're probably raving about Miller like we currently are for New York Mets phenom Matt Harvey. ... Every time I see Washington Nationals lefty Ross Detwiler pitch, I wonder how he thrives. He doesn't throw hard or miss many bats. But after being the latest to shut down the Miami Marlins -- well, except Dan Haren -- his ERA sits at 0.90. I could see his ERA ending up around 3.00. No, really. ... Cincinnati Reds shortstop Zack Cozart hit his fourth home run Wednesday, and had three hits. And still he's hitting .228 with a .237 OBP. Don't be fooled. What he did last season -- hitting .246 but with 15 home runs and four steals -- is about what you'll get.

Box score bits (AL): I watched Kansas City Royals right-hander Wade Davis in his first outing from the press box in Philadelphia, and his location was a mess. The Phillies tagged him for nine hits and four runs in four innings. Since then, he hasn't allowed a run. On Wednesday, he shut down the powerful Atlanta Braves (seven shutout innings). Add Davis and activate him even with his next start being against the Detroit Tigers next week. ... The 12-4 Oakland Athletics continue to mash, getting 11 hits and seven runs Wednesday, but it's worth noting they've beaten the Houston Astros six times (45 runs in those games). This lineup does have depth, though. Seth Smith hit three singles Wednesday and is hitting .447. Struggling Josh Reddick hit a two-run double. And while I remain skeptical that shortstop Jed Lowrie can get 400 at-bats, since it hasn't happened in his first five seasons, he's a top-10 middle infielder right now with that .373 batting average and power. ... I added Chicago White Sox lefty Jose Quintana to a few teams after his seven shutout innings of one-hit ball in Cleveland last Friday. On Wednesday night, he didn't allow the Toronto Blue Jays any runs over 6 2/3 innings, striking out seven. This is not a big K guy, but he's 24, so perhaps there's growth ahead.