Forecasting the San Diego Padres Starting Rotation in 2018

(AP Photo/Mark J. Terrill)

The following are some other options that could surface during the spring.

The Padres will surely bring in more arms to compete for spots as well.

A.J. Preller is working the phones presently in an attempt to improve the staff.

Colin Rea:

Colin Rea had a lengthy time down in the minor leagues, before eventually making it up to the San Diego Padres. The beginning to his major league career has been an interesting one, quickly stalled by the frequently occurring Tommy John surgery. Rea was traded to the Miami Marlins from the San Diego Padres back in July of 2016 as part of the Andrew Cashner deal at the trade deadline. He was injured in his debut with Miami and then traded back to San Diego just two days after joining the Marlins. Later that week on August 5th, 2016 he was diagnosed with a torn ulnar collateral ligament before undergoing Tommy John surgery. The surgery placed Colin Rea on the disabled list for the entire 2017 season.

Colin Rea possesses a four-seam fastball that tops out at around 93 mph and a sinker that forces lots of ground balls as his two primary pitches. He showed that he wasn’t a strikeout guy at the major league level and needs to limit his walks to improve his ERA. He throws a cutter and above average curveball as his secondary pitches. In his two seasons’ since being called up to the Padres, Rea has a 7-7 record with a 4.69 ERA, and 106 strikeouts in just 26 games. The 6 ft. 5 right hander will rejoin the team in spring training hoping to make an impact and possibly get back in the mix for one of the rotation spots, or a role out of the bullpen in 2018.

Robbie Erlin:

Robbie Erlin is another Padre whose career has been deflated by injuries  to keep him off the field. Robbie Erlin was traded to the Padres back in 2011 from the Texas Rangers and made his debut with San Diego in 2013. Since his call up, Erlin has been derailed by injuries almost every season throwing a total of 148 2/3 innings across four consecutive seasons.

Credit: AP Photo

He relies on a four-seam fastball that tops out at around 90 mph with his changeup topping out at around 82 mph. His most recent and adverse injury came on May 3rd, 2016 when he tore his ulnar collateral ligament, forcing him to miss the rest of the 2016 season. He missed nearly all of 2016 and then every bit of 2017 as he underwent Tommy John Surgery that same month. Recently, the Padres avoided arbitration and agreed to a one year contract keeping Erlin in San Diego through the 2018 season. At this point, it seems very unlikely that Erlin will have any success with the Padres after undergoing all his season-ending injuries. The 6’ foot left hander will be looking to bounce back in 2018 with the chance to earn a rotation or bullpen job.

Other Potential Options:

Walker Lockett:

Walker Lockett is currently on the Padres 40-man roster after being recalled from Triple-A El Paso on October 2nd. He spent the last six years pitching in the Padres minor league system where he finished with a 19-19 record, and a 3.93 ERA across 347 and 2/3 innings pitched. His minor league stats don’t resemble anything superb, but the Padres feel that might be ready to pitch in the majors.

Lockett competed in the Arizona Fall League this Fall to help improve his overall game and prepare for next season. His numbers weren’t great in the AFL either, which makes me believe he has significant progress that needs to be made for a smooth transition to the Padres.

My last two potential candidates to grab a spot in the Padres rotation at some point during the 2018 season are progressing fast and currently teammates on the San Antonio Missions team. Both of these young arms bolstered the Missions’ pitching staff in the Texas League last season.

Joey Lucchesi:

Joey Lucchesi is a name that lots of Padre fans have heard much about since his breakthrough last year. This talented lefty has a very funky delivery that helped him to pitch a completely dominant 2017 season in the minors. His repertoire includes two fastballs, a four-seamer and a two-seamer with great movement. He has excellent feeling on both of his heaters. His success comes from his delivery that fools hitters by throwing off their estimated delivery time of the ball to home plate.

Credit: MiLB

The Padres drafted Lucchesi in the fourth round of the 2016 MLB Draft as a prospect that they felt would add much-needed pitching depth to the farm system. Since being drafted, Lucchesi has taken giant strides forward jumping from Tri-City to the San Antonio Missions in just one calendar year. He has taken off and developed into a special talent this year. The 6′ 5″ left hander pitched for the Lake Elsinore Storm and San Antonio Missions teams in 2017 posting a 11-7 record overall, and a 2.20 ERA across 139 innings and 24 games. Currently, he is ranked #9 on the San Diego Padres MLB Pipeline Top 30 Prospects and Baseball America 2018 Top 10 Padres prospects. His size and delivery certify that he has a great chance to continue this success at the next level with the Padres. At the rate he is evolving, we should expect to see him in San Diego sometime in the middle 2018 or by the end of the season. The next season for Lucchesi should tell us more about his talent and how much it will translate once he gets to the Padres.

Eric Lauer:

Eric Lauer’s decision to play college baseball and not sign with the Toronto Blue Jays in the 2013 MLB Draft has rewarded him with an opportunity to help the Padres win for years to come. Lauer is the 8th ranked prospect in the Padres farm system according to the San Diego Padres MLB Pipeline Top 30 Prospects. The Padres drafted Lauer in the first round of the 2016 MLB Draft after he dominated his Junior season at Kent State University going 10-2 with a 0.69 ERA and 104 strikeouts across 104 innings and 15 starts. That same year, he won the National Pitcher of the Year Award before going on to sign with the Padres.

The 6′ 3″  lefty has progressed smoothly thus far since joining the Padres organization in 2016. He went 6-8 with a 3.2 ERA, and 132 strikeouts across 122 2/3 innings pitched between Lake Elsinore and the San Antonio Missions. The upside is there, as he possesses a four-pitch repertoire including a four-seam fastball sitting in the low 90’s, a curveball, changeup and slider. His arm slot and delivery make him a special pitcher with his skill set. If Lauer can continue developing at this pace he should have no problem getting a call up and making his debut at Petco Park sometime near the end of 2018. Eric Lauer must develop at his own pace and let himself grow into the pitcher he has the potential to be one day. The skills and size are there for Lauer to become anywhere from a number 2-4 starter with the Padres for years to come.

Credit: MiLB

Bryan Mitchell:

The Padres recently acquired right hander Bryan Mitchell along with former Padre Chase Headley in the trade that sent Jabari Blash to the New York Yankees at the MLB Winter Meetings this week. Most people were confused why Preller wanted to bring Headley back to the Padres and saw this as a somewhat foolish move. A.J. Preller looked past that and saw lots of value in this young reliever from the Yankees. According to Jeff Sanders of the San Diego Union Tribune, A.J. Preller is hoping that Padres pitching coach Darren Balsley can resurrect Mitchell’s career while he’s still in his prime.

Mitchell’s minor league numbers are not impressive and neither are his numbers with the Yankees the past three years, but Preller was still impressed at his complete arsenal and talent he brings to the Padres. In 2012, he had the best rated curveball in the New York Yankees system and was rated the 11th best prospect in the Yankees system in 2015 according to Baseball America. His two primary pitches are his fastball which tops out around 97 mph and his curveball which gets lots of batters swinging. A.J. Preller has stated that Mitchell will be given the chance to start in spring training since it’s a very wide-open race. The stuff is surely there for Bryan Mitchell, but he has not proved he can translate it to the major league level. Let’s hope Preller was right and Balsley can change that here in San Diego.

The San Diego Padres need to improve their rotation in 2018 as they get closer to fielding a team that can compete in the near future. Any of the guys I mentioned will have a chance to grab a spot in the rotation this season as the Padres prepare for pitching prospects to arrive the next few years. A.J. Preller will likely sign a free agent starting pitcher such as Jhoulys Chacin, Derek Holland or Tyson Ross to add depth and experience in the rotation. The rotation is looking completely wide open with nearly ten pitchers that will have a chance to battle for only five spots. The Friars’ rotation might change dramatically as the season progresses with expected injuries and new pitchers that flounder in the role. Don’t be surprised if one of the Padres top prospects make the jump and takes a spot in the rotation at some point during 2018. The race for a spot in the 2018 San Diego Padres rotation is open to any pitcher that earns themselves a role during spring training.

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Brett Harmon
A native of Newport Beach, California, Brett is just (twenty years old) and has a passion for San Diego sports and America's Two Finest Cities (San Diego and Newport Beach). He is currently a student at Drew University studying Computer Science and Business. Brett is patiently waiting on the Padres first World Series championship and will be bringing you insight and knowledge on the Padres, Aztecs and Toreros.

This article has 2 Comments

  1. That group would look a lot better if the Padres still had Luis Catillo. It’s too bad Rea’s elbow could hold out for the season, this group would have had some promise, even without dreaming on all of the kids still in AA and lower.

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