The San Diego Padres have a plethora of pitching down on the farm, but at the major league level, there are still plenty of unknowns. Perhaps a six-man rotation will help ease the franchise’s young pitchers into action in 2019.
Six-man rotations have not been popular in Major League Baseball and are seldom used. Cole Hamels certainly voiced his displeasure last spring when Rangers manager Jeff Bannister was toying with the idea. With a team with a true ace or two, like Hamels, it might not make as much sense.
This might be shocking to some but the Padres do not have a true ace at the moment.
Is that ace on the way? It’s almost certain, just the question of “who?” Perhaps the Padres can answer that question with a six-man rotation this season, at least to start. Six-man rotations are not completely foreign to baseball, as they typically use it in college and Japan. Especially with the talk of possibly expanding rosters to 26 or 28 players in the near future, six-man rotations may become more popular.
For the Padres, it could be a matter of getting their best pitching prospects experience while also limiting their innings and maybe even service time. Currently, the projected rotation according to Rotochamp is Joey Lucchesi, Robbie Erlin, Bryan Mitchell, Eric Lauer, and Luis Perdomo. Matt Strahm, Jacob Nix, Chris Paddack, and Logan Allen are also competing for a spot.
The Padres have a lot of starting pitchers but at the same time, they have little to no top of the rotation types of pitchers. The jury is still out on Lucchesi and Lauer but one could argue the arms looming down on the farm (such as Paddack) could potentially knock them down a rung.
Why not slowly introduce these arms into the big leagues? A six-man rotation would be a good start.
Chris Paddack is gaining momentum and some, including myself, are clamoring for him to get the nod on Opening Day. If that doesn’t happen, he should still be allowed to get his feet wet in a less strenuous environment, such as a six-man rotation.
Having a six-man rotation means a few things. One, it will lessen the workload of the rotation as a whole, which could limit fatigue as the season gets into its dog days of late August and September, which could also help lessen the likelihood of injuries. The six-man rotation does not have to be equally divided into six pitchers all getting 27 starts over 162 games. The sixth man could be skipped when there are timely off days. The top of the rotation could still get 30-plus starts.
Here is a possible breakdown of a six-man rotation:
It would be a lot easier for a pitcher like Chris Paddack to be a regular part of the rotation and yet still be on an innings limit if he could be the sixth man in a rotation. Considering an uneven distribution of starts, with the top getting more than the bottom of the rotation, Paddack could easily round up 23 to 25 starts and be safely under an innings limit the Padres have on him.
If the Padres want to get creative with manipulating service time, they could use the sixth spot as a rotating “prospect” or unproven slot, with guys like Paddack, Logan Allen, Jacob Nix and Matt Strahm taking turns at that slot, while sending down guys with options still, thus preserving service time.
The cons to a six-man rotation would be, obviously, the top of the rotation would have fewer starts, which actually could be a benefit if they are more rested. Another could be the fact that this would mean taking up an extra roster spot, either having one less arm in the bullpen or one less position player substitute. One of Hamels’ complaints, when the Rangers toyed with the idea, was the effect on momentum and rhythm, with a pitcher going almost a week between starts.
All in all, the Padres would benefit from a six-man rotation to give their young pitchers experience and also keeping them within their innings limit and maybe even save a year of service time.