I’ve often remarked here at Chicken Friars that Jon Garland, Chris Young, and Kevin Correia make a far better 3-4-5 punch than a 1-2-3 combination. The hole at the front of San Diego’s rotation is clear, and it needs to be filled before the team can compete with Ubaldo Jimenez, Tim Lincecum, Dan Haren, and Clayton Kershaw.
The problem is that the Padres have only two pitchers in the entire system who look to ever be #1 or #2 starters. Those are Mat Latos and Simon Castro.
If Latos and Castro meet their 1-2 upside, the Padres could slot any number of guys behind them: Sean Gallagher, Clayton Richard, Wade LeBlanc, Dexter Carter, Wynn Pelzer, Correia, Keyvius Sampson, Adys Portillo, Cory Luebke, etc.
But that places an awful lot of pressure on Latos and Castro.
Obviously, with Latos coming off a strong rookie year and Castro ready for Double-A after an impressive showing in camp, everything looks good right now.
Still, how many guys have gotten this far without any hiccups and gone on to flop? Greg Miller, Adam Miller, Mark Prior? Heck, Tim Stauffer (to use a Padres example)?
Any number of things can happen to Latos and Castro. Injury, for one. Mechanical losses, velocity losses, inability to develop their changeups, inability to adjust to big league hitters once hitters adjust to them, nibbling too much in the majors, Steve Blass disease, anxiety issues, or simply not living up to the hype.
This isn’t to take the whole “forget young guys; you can’t trust them…put your stock in veterans” approach; I strongly dislike that line of thinking. All I’m saying is that you want to have options. Get 5-7 projectable young pitchers and hope two of them pan out to become your front-of-the-rotation guys. The Padres have a lot of hopes invested in two pitchers to fill the two most important slots on the staff in 2012 and beyond.
Of course, it’s always possible someone else takes a step forward. Carter, Sampson, and Portillo are the most likely candidates to step forward and be plausible #2 starters in the future, but none has a significant track record of professional success.
Unless a couple of pitchers take big steps forward this year, I’d like to see the Padres select a high-ceiling arm with their first pick in the draft, and possibly their second pick as well. As the team builds to be a future contender, getting more potential aces is a must–the more you have, the better the chance there is that enough pan out to give the team a solid core.