Can San Diego Padres third basemen Chase Headley build on a career year that he had in 2012? Or will he return to his production of the prior five years? And will he do either in San Diego?
While playing for a team that finished 76-86 under manager Buddy Black, Headley put together offensive and defensive statistics good enough to earn him Silver Slugger and Gold Glove Awards. He finished the season offensively with a .286 batting average, 31 home runs and an NL leading 115 RBI. Before 2012, his previous highs for home runs and RBI were 12 and 64 respectively in 2009.
There was no reason to believe that the then 27 year old Headley would have the season he did. He had never come close to hitting 20 homers in a season or driving in 100 runs. Baseball is a funny game in that you can never predict when a player’s power numbers will increase. A scout may say that they see 30 home runs and 100 RBI seasons in a player’s future, but until it happens can not prove that it will.
Now, Headley must come back and perform at the all-star level he did in 2012. The Padres do not have much to put around him so are counting on Headley to be the one batter who is feared in their lineup. This is of they do not trade him. Now that Headley is a proven commodity, teams like the New York Yankees will definitely try to get him away from the small market of San Diego.
If history is any indication and he stays, Headley’s numbers may decrease this season, but he should be a steady .280 average hitter with 20 to 30 home runs and 90 to 100 RBI. If San Diego finds some hitters to go around him, those numbers could increase. There is only one thing holding Headley back from really putting up good numbers and that is the ballpark that he plays in.
Petco Park is a graveyard for power hitters. What Headley did by hitting 31 homers and leading the NL in RBI is amazing considering his home ball park does not reward long ball hitters. It does not reward many hitters as Headley’s .286 average attests. If Headley played in a hitter’s park like the Baltimore Orioles Camden Yards, he could be the next Mike Schmidt. This is stretching it a bit, but you get the picture.
At 28, Headley is just reaching his prime and with seven years of experience behind him should be ready to take off. The numbers that he put up in 2012 may be an aberration at the moment but five years from now we may look back and see it was when a good, young player finally reached his potential.