The San Diego Padres came into the 2016 spring training season with four Rule-5 draft picks on their roster, an unheard of number of young unproven talents for a major league team to claim. Each player needed to be placed on the Padres’ 40-man roster and moves had to be made.
The Padres cut veteran players Odrisamer Despaigne and Rymer Liriano in subsequent deals. Liriano was dealt to the Milwaukee Brewers for left-handed minor league pitcher Trevor Seidenberger, and Despaigne was traded to the Baltimore Orioles for right-handed minor league pitcher Jean Cosme. The addition of Cosme turned out to be great, especially as he has blossomed under the Padres tutelage. Seidenberger had an off-year, but the pitcher is left-handed and still has plenty of time to develop.
Luis Perdomo, Jabari Blash, Blake Smith, and Josh Martin were all claimed by the Padres in the spring. Each were certainly projects, but their skill was evident. The Padres scouting staff did well in selecting these young men. Blash stayed with the team for the first few weeks of the season, but was unable to prove his worth as a part-time player. The Padres ended up making a trade with the Seattle Mariners to retain his rights, so it all worked out. Blash will be given an opportunity to make the team this spring. If he can gain some plate discipline, he might be able to stick in the major leagues. He has a solid group of youngsters ahead of him on the depth chart though.
Smith and Martin showed great promise. Both were ultimately sent back to their original teams (White Sox & Indians) though, as the numbers crunch was just too difficult for them to overcome. Each pitcher performed well this season in Triple-A (Smith 3.38 ERA in 71 innings/Martin 3.41 ERA in 66 innings), so the Padres were onto something in putting in a claim on them. Unfortunately, both were just too raw to gamble on for an entire major league season.
Instead of the two before-mentioned pitchers, the Padres chose to keep the 23-year-old right-handed Dominican pitcher, Perdomo. He was the least experienced of the three pitchers claimed, but he also had the best natural ability. The St. Louis Cardinals, who owned his rights, had failed to challenge him, and he has toiled at the A-Ball level for the past few seasons. A.J. Preller and the San Diego Padres baseball operations department recognized the potential of Luis Perdomo and he was claimed and kept by the team.
Things did not start out well for Perdomo in a Padres uniform. He was roughed up on opening day by the Dodgers to the tune of six earned runs in only one inning of mop-up work. In his next outing two days later, he allowed a run in one inning of relief, and I can vividly remember tons of fans calling for his head immediately. Thankfully, the Padres did not lose their patience with this young man, despite him finishing the month of April with a 10.97 ERA.
We all know it was a bumpy road for Perdomo in 2016. His stats are not impressive by any means, because quite frankly, he was knocked around very hard from time to time. However, by the end of the year, he looked to be the Padres most consistent starter. His two-seam fastball had found new life, and with that, his future looks to be extremely bright. At one point it was thought Perdomo would need more seasoning in the minors after the year, but that doesn’t appear to be the case anymore. He should start the 2017 season with the team, and most likely in the rotation. Lets take a look at this young pitcher and analyze him a bit. His numbers are mediocre, but those that saw him daily know his potential.
He has some of the best movement on his fastball of anyone on the entire Padres staff. His two-seam fastball has excellent run on it and can sometimes remind you of a Greg Maddux type fastball. He obviously does not have the command that Maddux has, but that’s not to say it cannot come with more time. The growth from him as a pitcher has been phenomenal. He went from a 2016 on-the-bubble player, to the staff ace. That is really remarkable. The trades of James Shields and Andrew Cashner, along with the injury to Tyson Ross, forced Perdomo into a bigger role. He responded well, and that look is a great sign for his future with the team. Take a look at this video in which Perdomo induced six double plays against the Marlins. He has excellent movement and knows how to use it at an early age. If he can alleviate some issues he has, then his ceiling is very high. That is a big if at the moment, but do not count this young man out.
This was not the case when Perdomo first landed in a Padres uniform, as he was easily overwhelmed by the nature of being in the big leagues. Over time, and with more innings on the rubber, he certainly developed a presence. The once timid Dominican right-hander now looks like he belongs toeing the rubber at the major league level. It cannot be overstated how proud the Padres are of his growth as a player. Take a look at this video in which Perdomo once again pitches very well against the Marlins. He can be nasty to face when he hits his spots.
The man worked his tail off to get to where he is. There is no debating that. To come to a new organization and perform like he has, tells you that this young man has a tremendous work ethic. Perhaps the fact he was under a microscope, after being selected by the Padres, lit a fire under this young man. I really do believe he was not challenged in the Cardinals organization, and needed to get out from within the herd there to find himself. Sometimes a young player finds it difficult to excel in the game when they feel as though they are not special. Perdomo was one of dozens of pitching prospects within the Cards’ organizations and perhaps he needed a new team to breathe life into his baseball future. Whatever it was, the man is eager to improve, and will get better with age.
The strike zone can come and go on this young man, and like most pitchers his age, that is his biggest limitation. Perdomo has all the stuff in the world to be a dominant pitcher, but there are times when he looks lost with his command. It’s too early to condemn him for his wild streaks. As we all know, he is vastly under-experienced at this the highest level of professional baseball. With time, he will get better with his command. The Padres will just need to take the bad with the good in this regard. In reality, Perdomo will have far more quality starts than bad starts. He will be maddening to watch from time to time, but every young pitcher was at one point in their career.
This isn’t exactly a huge black mark against Perdomo as he was only in Single-A prior to the 2016 season. He will obviously gain more experience in time, and that game time action will improve his ability on the mound. Both his first two issues are easily solved. It will just take time. The Padres are not presently built to hoist the World Series trophy. It may take a season or two before we see the best from this young man, and that timing might just be perfect for what the Padres are trying to accomplish. Perdomo could very easily be the veteran presence for an excellent crop of young Padres prospects that are on their way.
Not that speaking perfect English is a requirement by any means, but it can only help you as a player. The game is played at a high pace and every little advantage you can get will make you better. Not being able to completely understand your teammates, coaches, and umpires has to be a handicap to some degree. Perdomo has reportedly taken up a challenge from his pitching coach Darren Balsley. The veteran coach challenged Perdomo to come into camp next season speaking semi-fluent English. If he does, Balsley will buy a Rosetta Stone program and learn Spanish. Let’s see if the young man takes the challenge. If I were Darren Balsely, I’d get an early jump on learning Espanol.
Heading into the 2017 season, Luis Perdomo looks to be a solid member at the top of the rotation. In fact, if the team fails to add any veteran pitchers in the off-season, Perdomo could very well be the opening day starter. That’s pretty remarkable, considering this kid was nothing but a Single-A pitcher 12 months ago. There is an outside chance he starts the season in Triple-A or in the bullpen, but he would have to look pretty bad during the spring or be recovering from an injury. Look for him to remain a vital part of the team, as the Padres want him out there facing major league quality hitters as much as possible. He needs to build up that experience.