In recent years, the Padres have made some outstanding waiver claims.
In 2016, it was Brad Hand who went from a struggling starting pitcher in Miami to a stud high-leverage reliever in San Diego. In the two years that he has been with the Friars, Hand has twirled a shiny 2.61 ERA in 155 innings pitched, an innings total that ranks at the top among MLB relievers. During this span, the Minnesota-born pitcher has accumulated a 11.50 K/9 rate while also walking batters at a decent 2.85 rate per nine innings. At the deadline, he was even compared to perennial all-star lefty, Andrew Miller.
This year, success off the waiver wire has been smaller, but still significant. The biggest prize of Preller’s claims is 30-year-old righty Kirby Yates. A career journeyman who has pitched for the Rays, Yankees, and Angels, Yates has been a welcome surprise to San Diego’s relief corp. In the first half of the year, Yates dominated opposing teams with a 2.48 ERA, 13.34 K/9 rate, and a 2.48 BB/9 mark. Within 29 innings, Yates solidified his place as one of the Padres’ best relief options.
The same success continued in late July, except the native Hawaiian was even more dominant. Over 10.2 innings in July, Yates was lights out, as evidenced by his 0.84 ERA. One may wonder, then, how the new Padre currently possesses an underwhelming 4.09 ERA. The answer lies within the month of August. In 8.2 innings, he has given up thirteen earned runs. Most of the that damage came in three appearances, each where more than one run was allowed to cross home plate. However, the most defeating appearance Yates had was August 4 against the Pittsburgh Pirates. In just 0.1 of an inning, the righty endured a harsh six-run beating. As a result, his numbers ballooned and look poor now.
There are some signs that Kirby Yates can bounce back and finish the year strong. A 15.59 K/9 rate is better than his normal, which points to how effective Yates is at sending batters right back to the dugout. A .467 BABIP suggests that the 30-year-old is suffering through terrible luck and should see positive regression in time. Lastly, a 7.27 BB/9 is very unlikely to be held for extended periods of time as no MLB pitcher is that terrible at locating their pitches. Otherwise, they wouldn’t be playing at the highest level. Overall, expect him to continue being a valuable asset for Andy Green to turn to. Since these two former waiver wire picks have become quality players for the Padres, San Diego has plucked starting pitcher Tim Melville off waivers.
Originally drafted by the Kansas City Royals in the fourth round of the 2008 MLB Draft, righty Tim Melville started his career as a highly regarded prospect. After the draft, Baseball America pronounced the Missouri player as the best high school pitcher taken in 2008, and a future star. As such, he was put in Single-A in 2009, a huge step considering he skipped the rookie and short-season leagues. While there, Melville looked worth the investment as he had a solid season among players that were years older than him. In 21 games started, he threw for a decent 3.79 ERA.
This early showing granted him a place on Baseball Prospectus’ Pre-2010 prospect rankings, where he sat at 93rd best in the minors. Yet, his unpleasant 2009 walk rate of 3.98/9 and FIP of 4.37 would soon catch up with him. In the next seven years, the right-hander struggled to control his pitches and limit the amount of walks he gave up, as evidenced by a dreadful 4.73 BB/9 rate in the Royals’ 2014 Double-A rotation. As a result, his ERA stayed at a poor 4.00 and above. This failure to pitch meaningful games sent Melville’s stock plummeting and made him into a career minor leaguer. In fact, with depth being his only remaining role, the now 27-year-old bounced around from the Royals to the Tigers to the Reds in 2016, never succeeding.
However, 2017 was finally a turning point for the young pitcher as he looked good in a Long Island Duck uniform. Although he pitched in the independent Atlantic League, his 3.45 ERA and 18 walks in nine starts and 47 innings thrown stood out, especially since it was against players with high-minors and major league experience. With the Twins signing Melville to a Triple-A contract, the once future star was ready to restart his career.
Luckily for him, the 2017 season would be his best in the minors. As a Rochester Red Wing, he would go on to put up an outstanding 2.70 earned run average with a good 3.66 FIP in 66.2 innings. In addition, the new Red Wing lowered his walk rate to below four per nine for the first time since 2011. These improvements gave him a chance to start in Minnesota’s rotation. Sadly the call-up was short-lived as 3.1 innings of five-run ball was enough for him to be designated for assignment. Thus, here we are with Tim Melville being claimed by the Padres and becoming a Chihuahua in El Paso.
While the results have never warranted Melville an extended audition in the majors, his stuff is exciting. Armed with a consistent 95 mph fastball and a possibly plus slider, Melville could be a great pickup for the Friars. He may never be considered as a long-term starter because of his weak command and miserable career outcomes, but he could be another intriguing relief option in the Padres’ pen due to his strong fastball/slider combo.
Like Yates, Melville could succeed in San Diego, where his spotty locating skills can be hidden. Yet, the former Royal might also be a serviceable swing man or spot starter since he can also mix a dependable change-up and curveball into his set of pitches. After all, the Padres won’t have any dependable starters in 2018 as Clayton Richard and Jhoulys Chacin will both be free agents and neither Luis Perdomo nor Dinelson Lamet have proven enough to be relied on yet. As such, Tim Melville has ample opportunity to establish himself as a good reliever/long-man as a Padre. San Diego might yet again reap the rewards of a low-cost waiver take.