At the time, the trade appeared to be a brilliant move by Padres general manager A.J. Preller. Blash, a career minor leaguer, really had no impact on the team and the Padres’ haul appeared to be a good one.
While Chase Headley has been a serviceable big league third baseman throughout the entirety of his career, the “prize” of the trade was, and still is, Bryan Mitchell. The young right-hander was someone who A.J. Preller had his eyes on all along. Primarily used as a reliever by the Yankees, Preller envisioned Mitchell as someone who could be at the upper end of the big league rotation in 2018. The team knew it was an experiment in its own, throwing a young, inexperienced pitcher into their starting rotation, but Andy Green and company put their trust in the 27-year-old.
That plan has backfired completely. In seven starts this season, Mitchell is 0-3 with a 6.47 ERA and a 1.84 WHIP. His 26 walks are the most by any pitcher in all of baseball, and he is also averaging only 4 ⅔ innings per outing.
His biggest issue all season has been his ability to command all of his pitches, as shown by the high walk totals. In all of his outings, Mitchell has been unable to get ahead of batters and establish his pitches early in the game. His calling card to being a big league pitcher is a nasty curveball, but when it can’t be thrown with any sort of command, a good pitch essentially becomes useless.
After a rough outing against the Dodgers, in which he only lasted 2 ⅓ innings, it is safe to say that Bryan Mitchell’s days in the Padres’ starting rotation are probably coming to an end. He clearly needs more development and time to establish control over his pitches.
So, what will the Padres do with him?
There are really only two options. If the team views him as a starter long term, Mitchell will be on his way to El Paso (after hopefully clearing waivers) where he will continue to get innings and opportunities to work on his stuff. This is probably the more likely route (as who would claim him at this point?) the Padres will go, as he was acquired with the intent to be a starter, and it is highly unlikely that they give up on that goal after only seven starts. If the tides have turned, however, and the Padres believe that Mitchell is suited better for a reliever role, expect the team to move him to the bullpen and for someone else to be sent to El Paso, or possibly even released in a numbers crunch.
As for who could take Mitchell’s spot in the rotation, there are many qualified candidates. Luis Perdomo has pitched well for the Chihuahuas and the front office may want to see what adjustments he’s made. Brett Kennedy has been phenomenal thus far, as in six starts with El Paso, he has a 2.45 ERA, a 1.21 WHIP, and 35 strikeouts in 33 innings pitched. The team is high on him and might give him the opportunity to showcase his talents at the big league level. Long reliever Robbie Erlin has already made one start this season and could be in line for more as Mitchell’s replacement.
For whoever takes Bryan Mitchell’s role in the rotation, they surely couldn’t perform as poorly as he has all season. The stuff is there, the ceiling is high, but right now Mitchell does not appear to be big league-ready whatsoever and needs to work on commanding all of his pitches at a much higher rate. His time will come soon, if he can make the adjustments, but Bryan Mitchell’s tenure in the Padres’ rotation is probably over for now. The Padres need to make a change.