It’s common sense to never get excited about relief pitcher prospects, but the Padres have no shortage of relief pitchers who are of some interest. I never thought I would find myself writing about 13 relief pitcher prospects, but all are of some interest for the Padres moving forward. Without further ado, I present the Padres relief pitcher organizational review.
It’s probably smart to not get too excited about 27-year-olds pitching in Double and Triple-A, specifically 27-year-old relief pitchers, but Eric Yardley was one of the better relief pitchers in the Texas League in 2017 and didn’t disappoint in his short stint with the El Paso Chihuahuas in Triple-A. In 49 appearances spread out over 71 and a third innings between Double-A and Triple-A, Yardley struck out 60 batters while walking only 13, good for a 4.61 K-BB rate. Beyond that, Yardley also has a really solid batted ball profile, with over 65 percent of batted balls being on the ground, which would play nicely at the next level. Despite the concerns with Yardley already being 27, his great batted ball profile and strikeout to walk ratio should make him a viable big league reliever as early as next season.
When comparing left-hander Brad Wieck, who is listed at six-foot-nine and 265 pounds, to the other relievers on this list, it is clear that Wieck is the most imposing of the bunch. However, Wieck has been without his own lumps, even with his great size. Acquired from the Mets in 2015, Wieck has been fairly solid over his first two and a half years in the Padres’ system. In 30 and two-thirds inning in Double-A last year, Wieck struck out 51 batters, good for a strikeout rate over 40(!) percent. Despite that success, Wieck did struggle with walks, as he walked 13 batters in those 30-plus innings. Wieck also struggled in a brief taste of Triple-A, giving up eight earned with 10 walks in just seven innings. If Wieck can find some success in Triple-A, the 26-year-old could find his way to the Padres’ bullpen in 2017.
The San Antonio Missions had one of the best bullpens in all of minor league baseball, and it shows with how many names from that bullpen find themselves on this list. T.J. Weir is yet another 25-year-old-plus relief pitcher who had a great deal of success with the Missions in 2017. In 58 innings with the Missions after beginning the year with Lake Elsinore in High-A, Weir struck out 57 batters and walked just 15 batters. He wasn’t nearly as dominant as the other two already mentioned from that Missions’ bullpen, but Weir still had his share of success nonetheless. He will likely start 2017 in Triple-A with an eye on joining the Padres’ big league bullpen.
To round out that dominant San Antonio Missions’ bullpen, let’s talk about perhaps the most impressive of the bunch, Trey Wingenter. Given that he was the youngest of the bunch, at just 23 years old, it’s impressive that Wingenter put up numbers that compared to those older players in the same bullpen.
Wingenter did not have the same ERA success as the rest of those guys, and his FIP was significantly higher than that ERA, but Wingenter did strike out 64 batters in just over 47 innings. With a strikeout rate like that, you can leave with slightly elevated ERA/FIP numbers as well as a higher walk rate (just shy of 10 percent). All told, Wingenter is one of the hardest throwers in the Padres’ system and has a good chance of being a big league reliever in the future.
While it’s hard to get excited about relief pitchers in general, it’s really hard to get excited about a relief pitcher who is 24 years old and has pitched two consecutive seasons at High-A. The numbers look pretty solid at first glance, but it’s kind of hard to judge considering he’s pitched over 100 innings spread across two seasons at the same level. Blueberg’s strikeout rate and ERA both improved in his second go at the Cal League, but his walk rate didn’t make as big of an improvement as the Padres probably hoped. The big issue with Blueberg’s profile is the high fly ball rate, which will leave him prone to more home runs as he advances up the minor league ladder.
Originally acquired from the Tampa Bay Rays as part of the Wil Myers deal, Jose Castillo began his 2017 season with an impressive showing on the big stage of the World Baseball Classic. Castillo didn’t disappoint with his performance in the regular season either, as he put up a 2.87 ERA in 47 innings in High-A and a 2.89 ERA in nine and a third innings to finish the season in Double-A. The strikeout to walk ratio isn’t nearly as impressive as some other guys in the system, as Castillo’s walk rate sat about 10 percent at both levels in 2017, but he has already shown a knack for pitching well in big games and big situations.
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