With all the young pitchers on the San Diego Padres’ roster, should the team just evaluate talent this season and not look to bring in veteran pitchers? Maybe the kids should be just allowed to play.
Part one of two of a fan’s outlook on the 2019 San Diego Padres’ offseason. In this article, we will examine the current pitching staff and whether the need for an elite pitcher is there.
In the ’80s, there was a famous show known for the saying “champagne wishes and caviar dreams,” and for most Padres fans, this offseason has been nothing but that.
The temptation of free agency and trades involving the vast stable of prospects A.J. Preller has assembled has run wild, but so far the biggest transaction has been for a 36-year-old stopgap at second base: Ian Kinsler
Most of the chatter involves trading for or signing a big-name, front-line starting pitcher. Trades for Corey Kluber, Noah Syndergaard, and Sonny Gray have been thrown around, as have Dallas Keuchel, Nathan Eovaldi, and the likes in free-agency. But much like the Philadelphia 76ers, who recently went through a “process,” so are the Padres currently. One of the best things Preller has done is load the system up with young arms at all levels. The first wave hit in late 2017 and continued throughout the 2018 season. The next wave is expected to start this year and should be in full force by 2020. It is this next wave of prospects that have the greatest upside, but the current wave should provide what is hoped to be a strong back end to the rotation by the time the higher-ceiling pitchers are called up.
All of this is gearing up for a playoff push in 2020 and beyond. 2019 should be a year in which they sift through the glut of pitchers currently on the roster that are MLB-ready, but are more middle-of-the-rotation pitchers than aces. Currently, there are eight pitchers that deserve a chance to earn one the five spots in the rotation; 10, if you count Matt Strahm and Cal Quantrill. This next year will be the most important year in these young pitcher’s careers, as the Padres are expecting to pick up some steam in 2019. If they are not careful, some of them will be left behind.
Joey Lucchesi, Eric Lauer, Robbie Erlin, Luis Perdomo, Bryan Mitchell, Jacob Nix, and Brett Kennedy have all gone through the rigors of the minors and deserve to be at the top of the list for a shot at a spot in the rotation. All these pitchers have some question marks that will need answering, and this is the year we get those answers.
We know what Lucchesi and Lauer can do for short stints, but we need to see them do it over a full season. Consistency is what is needed from Robbie Erlin, as he should use this year to figure out if he is a starter or if he is better suited as a reliever. He pitched effectively as a reliever last year, but really struggled at times as a starter. He may be best suited as the long arm in the pen. Perdomo and Mitchell are similar to each other in that they have stuff that can be dominant at times, but they have just not been able to put it all together.
As for Nix, he had one great outing early, but was pretty much lit up the rest of the way. It seemed like things were going too fast at times for him, and if he gave up a hit, it would snowball very quickly. Hopefully, with experience from last year, he can slow it down a bit. Kennedy was the opposite in that he got better as the season progressed until an injury shut his season down. He will be looking to bounce back this season and should be healthy at the start of spring.
Cal Quantrill was drafted in the first round with the idea that once he recovered from Tommy John surgery he had in 2015, he would rise through the ranks quickly. He struggled somewhat early last year, but came on strong towards the end. He is very close to being ready and should be up in the bigs sometime this year. And then there is Matt Strahm. Strahm was impressive as a reliever last year, but has left the possibility open to being moved to the starting rotation this year. If he can produce while starting as he did as a reliever, the Padres may have something special.
Last, but most certainly not least, is Logan Allen. Acquired in the Kimbrel trade with Boston, Allen was good at double-A last year, but absolutely dominated the hitter-friendly PCL after being promoted mid-July. He really does not have much left to prove in the minors and will be in camp with a real shot at a spot.
Likely, we will be looking at a group of Lucchesi, Lauer, Nix and Erlin/Perdomo/Mitchell/Strahm in the mix for the last two spots, with the rest either going to the pen or to Triple-A. For a young team, they should be fine with this rotation for where they are in the “process.” This should be a serviceable group for at least the first few months of the season when injury/poor play may cause one or more to be replaced. Or, better yet, they find themselves flirting with .500, are in a race and can go for a top-tier starter at that time.
An argument can be made for the need of a veteran presence in the rotation, and the Padres may want to seek a low-priced, low-risk veteran for the back end, or just to compete in spring training. However, the staff is not as young as you may think. Erlin is 28, as will be Bryan Mitchell, and both have five years of Major League experience under their belts. Perdomo turns 26 in May and will be a fourth-year veteran. Lucchesi and Lauer, while young, were heavily mentored by Clayton Richards, even going so far as to spend time training in the previous offseason at his home in Lafayette, Ind. They demonstrated last year that they can handle being in the big leagues, and now is a good time to spread their wings a little bit. In addition, there is veteran leadership in the bullpen in Kirby Yates, 31, and Craig Stammen, 34, who both have a strong presence in the locker room and have been with the club for the last two seasons. The Padres also signed long-time former Angels pitcher Garrett Richards this offseason. He won’t pitch, but he will be around for the youngsters to pick his mind. This is a young team, but there absolutely is a veteran presence. It’s the starting spots in the rotation that may not be.