The year 2016 was a tale of two very different seasons for the San Diego Padres.
On the field, the team was dreadful, winning only 68 games and finishing with the worst record in the National League and tied with two other teams for the second worst winning percentage in all of Major League Baseball. In terms of actual baseball played on the field in 2016, it was a year to forget in San Diego.
However, off the field, 2016 was one of the best years in recent Padres history.
Not only did the team make several important trades, including the trades of Andrew Cashner, Matt Kemp, Fernando Rodney, James Shields, Melvin Upton, and Drew Pomeranz which netted the team Anderson Espinoza, Chris Paddack, and others, but the team also had a highly successful draft with the additions of Cal Quantrill, Eric Lauer, and many young college and high school prospects. Add to that the additions of Adrian Morejon, Jorge Ona, and many noteworthy international prospects, and the Padres very quickly rebuilt what was a bottom of the barrel farm system going into the season.
While the on field product remained poor in 2016, the long-term prospects (no pun intended) of the franchise improved exponentially. Coming off a season in which the Padres either traded away or moved on from a majority of their pitching staff, 2017 was clearly going to be a year of transition. With a dearth of pitching talent at the upper levels of the minors, and plenty of cheap options available both within the organization and outside it, the Padres took an interesting strategy in building a rotation this off-season.
With the trades of Andrew Cashner, James Shields, and Drew Pomeranz last season, and the non-tendering of Tyson Ross, the Padres were left with almost an entire rotation to fill this off-season. The good thing for the Padres was that there were not only plenty of options already within the organization, but plenty on the market as well. Now the Padres find themselves with a largely uninspiring bunch of 10-15 pitchers who could all see time in a big league rotation in 2017.
Now that spring training has begun, and we are already a week closer to the regular season, the Padres are beginning to really see what possibilities lie with the rotation this season. With at least ten guys vying for a rotation spot this spring, the Padres will have plenty of storylines to watch over the next few weeks. In fact, we have already seen some developments in this regard over the first week of spring.
As the title of this article states, the Padres rotation is muddled. It’s really hard to honestly say that anyone has earned a rotation spot at this point. There are certainly some favorites, but there is still a lot to be decided in the next three or so weeks. To make projecting the rotation a little easier, the Padres potential arms can be split into three separate groups: returning arms, new additions, and unlikely rotation pieces. To start, we will be looking at the Padres’ returning options from 2016.
From Rule 5 selection to “ace” of the Padres pitching staff, Luis Perdomo had a bit of a whirlwind calendar year for the Padres in 2016. Despite a dreadful April and May for Perdomo, in which he gave up 29 earned runs in 28 innings, Perdomo somehow made it through the entire season in the Padres’ rotation. After the dreadful start, during which many called for the Padres to either move Perdomo to the bullpen or send him back the St. Louis Cardinals per the Rule 5 draft rules, Perdomo improved in every month, culminating in a fantastic August in which Perdomo had a 3.24 ERA over 33 1/3 innings.
Going into 2017, Perdomo looks to have one of the better chances of getting a rotation spot for the Padres. However, there is a pretty significant caveat, as Perdomo is no longer required to stay on the big league roster, per Rule 5 rules. This leaves the Padres with an interesting conundrum: leave Perdomo in the big league rotation, or give him the minor league seasoning he never got last year, as the young right-hander jumped all the way from High-A to the big leagues with the Padres in 2016. Perdomo was successful in two shutout innings in his spring training debut, but given all the veteran arms the Padres have on the roster, the minor leagues may just be the best place for Perdomo to start the season.
If Perdomo was a success story for the Padres, Friedrich was an interesting test case in volatility. After failing to live up his first round draft pick billing with the Colorado Rockies, Friedrich found himself signing a minor league contract with the Padres in late March of 2016. After earning a call up in mid-May, Friedrich dazzled over the remainder of the month, giving up only three earned runs in his 16 and 1/3 big league innings that month. However, the rest of the year would not treat Friedrich quite so well, as the right-hander finished only one other month with an ERA below 4.50. Friedrich certainly had his flashes of brilliance, but all in all he was nothing more than an innings eater for the Padres.
With all that being said, that role could be just what the Padres need at this juncture. Given the Padres lack of upper minors pitching talent, and several players on the roster with either injury problems or increasing age, Friedrich could be the durable starter the Padres need. At this point, the Padres just need players to eat innings, and Friedrich appears more than capable of pitching a lot of innings. That may just earn him a rotation spot by itself.
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