The Padres have probably had to wear some of those "HELLO MY NAME IS" badges around spring camp, because they have an entire new outfield, a new pitcher at the top of the rotation, a new starting catcher, and other players who are only in their second year with the team such as closer Joaquin Benoit, who took over and did a very good job after Huston Street was traded.
The Padres revamped their entire outfield with the trade acquisitions of Justin Upton, Wil Myers and Matt Kemp. They took some chances with Kemp, who has been returning from injury and was pretty good the second half of last year. Myers was also injured and didn't play well after his Rookie of the Year season. Upton had a nice year for the Braves last year and got some downballot MVP consideration.
To this they added San Diego resident James Shields. Will "Big Game James" produce the way he did for the Royals last year? Petco Park has been an extreme pitcher's park for most of its existence and having a solid rotation can go a long way toward helping a team win in a place like that. They will be hoping Andrew Cashner and Brandon Morrow can come back from injury-plagued seasons. Derek Norris brings some playoff experience from Oakland where he had a good offensive season in 2014 and posted 3.0 bWAR.
That's a lot of hoping, but the Padres did win more games than the Cubs last year (77, to the Cubs' 73) and they have certainly improved their offense. That's a low bar to hurdle as the Padres were dead last in the major leagues in runs in 2014 by a considerable margin. They scored 535 runs. Next-worst was the Braves at 573.
To give you an idea of how bad that is, only eight other teams in the divisional play era (since 1969) scored fewer than 535 runs in a non-labor-dispute season. (And of those eight, three were Padres teams.) They'll probably do better almost by default. And they were very good at run prevention last year: fourth-best in fewest runs allowed (577). The addition of Shields could put them right near the top.
The Padres will visit Wrigley Field April 17-18-19 and the Cubs will travel to San Diego for a three-game series May 19-20-21. Thus the Padres will become the first team to complete its season series with the Cubs, just 43 games into the 2015 season.