We are now four days away from Opening Day 2017 and it’s getting exciting.
This week, the San Diego Padres announced that Jhoulys Chacin will be the Opening Day starter, followed by Clayton Richard and Jered Weaver as the first three members of the rotation. It was also announced that Erick Aybar has won the starting job at shortstop and has been officially added to the roster. While some questions have finally been answered, there are a few more that are still pending.
It seems that the largest elephant is the room at this point, is the question of where Luis Perdomo will find himself on Opening Day?
A week ago, I wrote a piece in which I asserted that Perdomo should be sent down to Triple-A, in essence, to protect service time. My rationale was this; while it’s evident that he deserves a spot on the roster, keeping him down for a little under a month as a trade-off for longer control in the future seems like a small price to pay. Especially during a rebuilding year where expectations are not high.
Over the week, I’ve had a chance to think this notion through more carefully and have slightly altered my opinion. In 2016, Perdomo started the season off as a Rule-5 pick who had to remain on the 25-man roster or be sent back to the St. Louis Cardinals. So the Padres stashed him in the bullpen hoping he would step up to the challenge of the major leagues. He struggled mightily at first, but the Padres’ pitching staff became plagued with injuries and he found ways to stick around. By early June, he added a sinker to his repertoire, which drastically improved his production, turning him into one of the best ground ball pitchers of the year. He stayed on the roster all season and the Padres have been able to keep him.
In 2016, Perdomo made 35 appearances and threw 146.2 innings. He started 20 games, and posted a 5.71 ERA with a 1.59 WHIP. The pitcher racked up 105 strikeouts with a K rate of 15.9% and a BB rate of 7%. He went 9-10 and with HR/FB % of 21.7 and the most impressive stat, a GB% of 59. He arguably ended the season as the Padres most dominant starting pitcher, so by that logic he should be in the starting rotation on opening day, right?
He has carried his success of 2016 into spring training 2017. In five appearances, he’s thrown 18.2 innings, allowing five runs on 16 hits with 11 strikeouts and 8 walks. He’s also only given up one home run. His sinker has been effective again and hitters have made very little hard flyball contact against him. So he’s looking sharp and doing everything he can to make his case for one of the last rotation spots.
On Monday, A.J. Cassavell, the Padres beat writer at MLB.com, sat down with James Clark and Patrick Brewer, who do our weekly East Village Times podcast. You can listen to that here. During his interview, Cassavell opened my mind to fact that Perdomo could actually start the season in the rotation (a spot that he rightly earned) and still protect a year of service time.
The service time rule states that a player must spend under 172 day on the 25-man roster in order to come under the year mark. It never says that all the time spent away from the 25-man has to take place of the beginning of the season. It can be broken down into a mid-season, maintenance period; sort of like what the team did when they sent Colin Rea down to Triple-A for a couple of weeks at the end of May in 2016. Not only did this help in protecting service time, but it also gave Rea’s young arm a chance to rest. This exact thing could be done with Perdomo and it would be the absolute best solution. Perdomo only pitched 146 ⅔ innings with the Padres last season. In his second year at the major league level , the 23-year-old will need time to rest at some point in the season. Cassavell suggested that the Padres could send him down to El Paso to pitch maybe a couple of relief innings over a span of two weeks so that he can get the rest that he needs.
The Padres have a starting rotation that lacks excitement. The best thing they can do is put their five best starters out on the mound during the opening week of the season. Perdomo is one of the five. Now that I realize that slotting him into that rotation to start the season won’t prevent him from being part of a hopefully great Padres team for an extra year in the future, making it a no-brainer. The team can have their cake and eat it too. Perdomo is one of the most exciting young players on the team in 2017 and it would be great to see him square off against the Giants next week.