- Eric Karabell, ESPN.com Senior Writer
Perhaps you're like me and can't wait to see what San Diego Padres outfielder Cameron Maybin is going to do next. When he plays well, like he and many of his teammates did in this week's sweep of the Florida Marlins, you think he's going to be a future star. And then a few days later, when he's flailing away at every off-speed pitch that bounces up there, we all question ourselves. The fact is that Maybin and quite a few other Padres have stepped up their play over the past few weeks, and as a result, I thought I'd play soothsayer and check in with this bunch. Hey, let's face it, the Padres do matter. We do pay lots of attention to the West Coast. Petco Park is a beautiful place. And I can't get enough of the movie "Anchorman."
Let's start with Maybin, because he appears to be the "hot" Padre for fantasy purposes of late. Then we'll discuss a few other Padres. A week ago, Maybin, an inconsistent 24-year-old tantalizing us when he makes contact, was hitting .262 with 12 stolen bases in 75 games. Maybin might have future seasons with 20 home runs and 40 steals in him. He reminds me of a young Mike Cameron.
However -- and there always seems to be a however -- we're talking about this year. A fancy series in South Florida, with nine hits in 15 at-bats, five runs scored and five stolen bases, shouldn't fool us. It's not the beginning of some Matt Kemp-like emergence. Maybin sports a .353 BABIP, and it's .397 in July (after .375 in June). He has walked 14 times since May 1 (with 50 whiffs). His OPS at beautiful Petco Park is a brutal .615, and, unfortunately, he is headed there next week. By 2013, Maybin should be a valuable fantasy player. Today, he's going to drive you nuts, except for the random stolen bases.
Still, I predict Maybin will end up as San Diego's top offensive option for the season on the Player Rater, somewhat by default, but the 30 stolen bases (despite a .261 batting average) will help. He will not end up No. 1 among all Padres, though, because the next guy will.
Mike Adams: It's been presumed that not only will closer Heath Bell end up on a new team by Aug. 1, but dominant setup man Adams will be on the move as well. Maybe. Recent reports suggest Adams has been told he's staying. If that's the case, we have a top-10 closer -- in a week -- sitting on fantasy free-agent wires in nearly 80 percent of leagues. Act now and enjoy later. And by the way, Bell is no lock to close for whatever team acquires him. It's quite possible Adams is the far more valuable relief pitcher in fantasy the rest of the way (or if both go, it could be Luke Gregerson).
Will Venable: I liked Venable more than Maybin back in March, though the gap has closed. I'd trust the team's leadoff hitter more if he were competent against lefties (.192 batting average) or hit even a little at home (.257 slugging percentage), but he has done a better job making contact than last season, and his speed is clear. Since his recall from the minors, he has hit .292 with 11 walks, 19 strikeouts and seven steals. I think he can keep doing this, hit six more home runs and, like Maybin, pique interest in standard leagues.
Cory Luebke: It's a bit early to trust this 26-year-old left-hander in road games, or definitively for all outings, but I do think he's a decent spot-start option Friday night in Philadelphia. The Phillies' best hitters hit left-handed, and Luebke has controlled lefties to the tune of a .152 batting average against and three extra-base hits all season. Luebke does sport a 1.82 road ERA (3.24 ERA at home) and a crazy 1.50 ERA over his four starts (four walks, 26 strikeouts!), all of which is nice, though unsustainable. This is what we call small sample size. He isn't Randy Johnson. Own him even in standard (10-team) leagues as your last pitcher until his fortunes change, but rely on him primarily at home.
Tim Stauffer: Sorry, but I still trust this right-hander more than Luebke. Like Luebke, Stauffer isn't going to win much on this team, but he has more of a pedigree. Stauffer's xFIP (expected fielding independent pitching) is easily the best on staff at 3.26 and tells us not that Stauffer will continue to pitch well, but that his current 2.83 ERA isn't fluky. Plus, his home/road splits are nearly identical, and he was better on the road last season.
Kyle Blanks/Jesus Guzman: For now they're competing for first base attention, at least until Ryan Ludwick is traded. Either fellow can play the outfield, in theory. Guzman has 10 RBIs in his past three starts, after knocking in four runs in his first 10 starts. He's a journeyman with some pop, but Blanks is the one to target. Blanks was on the fantasy radar three years ago, and he hit 10 home runs in 54 games in 2009. He's back from Tommy John surgery and destroyed Triple-A pitching (.351 batting average, 11 home runs, 1.137 OPS in 35 games). On a team desperate for power, Blanks will lead all Padres in home runs for the remainder of the season.
Also: Anthony Rizzo was demoted Thursday after hitting .143 in the bigs. He looked overmatched. Most rookies are. This could be Freddie Freeman in 2012, though, so don't ignore him. ... Shortstop Jason Bartlett ranks third among all middle infielders in stolen bases, yet is owned in only 8.2 percent of leagues. Seems odd. ... Orlando Hudson has a career-high 13 steals, although nine came before May 1. ... Chase Headley and his safe .300 batting average return to the lineup Friday. He has no home run power, but batting average counts, too. ... I'm past my Chris Denorfia stage. He's a fourth outfielder against lefties. ... The Padres should get whatever they can for right-hander Aaron Harang. Fantasy owners should, too.
Eric Karabell assesses the San Diego Padres from a fantasy perspective, discussing such players as Cameron Maybin, Mike Adams and Cory Luebke.