Padres rotation candidates feature a little bit of old & new
From now until Spring Training concludes, Fox Sports San Diego will preview each player at each position that is in big league camp.
The preview began with taking a look at the catchers who are currently at the Peoria Sports Complex in a Padres uniform. It continues on with a look at the starting pitchers.
Locks for the rotation:
Coming into camp, manager Andy Green stated that there were only two locks for the big league rotation. The first is Clayton Richard, a 34-year-old southpaw who had an effective 2017 in San Diego. So effective, in fact, that the Padres rewarded him with a two-year, $6 million extension in September. Although his 2017 numbers weren't "eye-popping" per say (8-15 with a 4.79 ERA), the organization values his leadership and ability to eat innings. In what was a tumultuous 2017 for the Padres rotation, Richard was an important stabilizing force; throwing 197 1/3 innings. That was good for 16th in all of baseball. Richard's high ground ball rate helped him produce a 2.3 fWAR, which tied him with Jhoulys Chacin for the best mark on the staff. Richard displayed his leadership qualities most recently this winter; hosting and working out with starting pitching prospects Eric Lauer and Joey Lucchesi in Indiana.
Richard is likely the favorite to start on Opening Day.
Bryan Mitchell was acquired along with Chase Headley for Jabari Blash in December, a move that caused some confusion among Padres fans. Seeking another starting pitching option that was not on the free agent market, Preller contacted Yankees GM Brian Cashman, who was looking to shed payroll to get under the luxury tax. The two settled on Bryan Mitchell, and the Padres, taking on the entirety of Chase Headley's $13 million contract, only had to give up Blash in return. Once a 16th round pick in the 2009 draft, Mitchell worked his way up the Yankees system but was never given much of a chance at the big league level (98 1/3 IP, 4.94 ERA). The 26-year-old is a ground ball pitcher who throws plenty of strikes. Last year, in AAA Scranton, Mitchell walked only 13 batters in 63 2/3 innings while posting a 3.25 ERA. The Padres were willing to "buy" their chance at Mitchell, and are hoping that purchase will pay off.
Likely, but not guaranteed:
Luis Perdomo took a step forward in 2017, starting 29 games while going 8-11 with a 4.67 ERA. These are not eye-popping numbers, but for a Rule V pick in his second professional season, they are more than fine. At 61.8%, his ground ball rate was elite and his 163.2 innings pitched was good for third on the Padres staff. That was the good. The bad? Perdomo allowed a .267 BAA with a .722 OPS his first time through the batting order. His second time through, opponents hit .279 with a .795 OPS. His third time through, they hit .312 with a OPS north of 800 (.834).
Perdomo is a near-lock for the rotation, and this is the season for him the Padres are really looking for improvement. He certainly has the stuff, he just needs to put it all together.
Dinelson Lamet is clearly the most exciting big league rotation piece that the Padres have. Among starting pitchers with 100 or more innings pitched last season, Lamet ranked 13th in all of baseball in K/9 (10.9) and ninth in K% (28.7%). He does lack a consistent third pitch and struggles against lefties, two things that are probably somewhat related. Lefties slugged .502 against Lamet last season with a .364 wOBA (as opposed to .296 SLG with a .239 wOBA against righties). Despite this, his third pitch (changeup) did look effective at different points last year. He is on the radar of many as a breakout performer in 2018, and may very well do so if the stars align.
Competing for a rotation spot
Tyson Ross signed a minor-league deal with the Padres prior to the new year; coming back to an organization in which he had his best run in the majors as a starter. Following a 2015 season in which he struck out more than a batter per inning and put up a 3.26 ERA, Ross has struggled with injuries for the past two years. The Padres are hoping his injury troubles are behind him, and by all reports that are coming from camp, so far so good.
Chris Young is another former Padre vying for a rotation spot. The 38-year-old has said he would like the pitch for two more years, and his old organization is giving him a chance. Pitching mostly out of the bullpen in 2017, Young posted a 7.50 ERA in 30 innings with Kansas City. He was released by the Royals in June.
Matt Strahm was acquired mid-season last year as part of a deal that sent starter Trevor Cahill and relievers Ryan Buchter and Brandon Maurer to the Royals. The 6'3" southpaw suffered a torn patella tendon that required surgery last July, but he is fully healthy and impressing so far in camp. With a mid-90s fastball and a plus curve, the 26-year-old will likely make the big-league roster, but it is undetermined whether or not he will start or come out of the bullpen.
Having been traded to the Marlins and then being traded back following injury, Rea is making his way back from Tommy John surgery.
Like Rea, Robbie Erlin is also recovering from Tommy John surgery. It has been a long road back for the 27-year-old who has not thrown a pitch in the majors since 2016.
Looking for affordable rotation candidates, the Padres signed Jordan Lyles to a big-league contract in the offseason. As a Padre in 2017, Lyles went 1-3 with a 9.39 ERA. Despite the underwhelming numbers, he does have some intriguing stuff.
Minor league starters in camp:
The Padres will kick off their Spring Training slate on Friday against the Mariners. Coverage of the game starts at 12 p.m. on Fox Sports San Diego, with first pitch at 12:10 p.m. PT.