This may be a futile exercise. The team’s situation will certainly dictate when certain prospects are called up to the big league club. However, I’ll still take a look at some of the Padres’ exciting prospects, and try to determine when we may see them in a San Diego uniform.
Robbie Erlin and Joe Wieland seem to be the two players who have a lock on 2012 debuts. Both came over to the Padres from the Texas Rangers in the Mike Adams trade. While nothing is finalized yet, Corey Brock of Padres.com predicts Erlin will start the season at Double-A San Antonio and Wieland will start at Triple-A Tucson. He agrees that both players should crack the Major League roster in 2012.
In 2011, Erlin went from A-ball to Double-A with Texas, then he came into the Padres organization and played in the Texas League. His K/9 ratio was impressive at each stop. In nine Single-A games, Erlin had a 10.21 K/9, he had a 10.73 K/9 in six games of Double-A ball in the Rangers organization, and he finished up the year with a 8.24 K/9 in Double-A San Antonio with the Padres. He did so primarily as a starter. While his numbers would indicate he struggled with San Antonio, the Padres expect him to get his HR/9 ratio under control and put up much better numbers. It make sense for him to start in Double-A this season.
Joe Wieland has had more experience on the minor league level. He also went from Single-A to Double-A last season, and he split time between the Rangers’ Double-A affiliate and the Padres’ San Antonion Mission team. While starting five games for San Antonio, Wieland put up a fantastic 2.77 ERA. In 15 starts with the Rangers Single-A club in 2010, he had a 3.34 ERA. In high-A ball last year and Double-A with the Rangers, Wieland had ERA’s of 2.10 and 1.23 respectively. He’s shown a remarkable ability to keep his ERA low in the minor leagues, and that will certainly translate well to playing in San Diego and PETCO Park.
Because of Wieland’s success in San Antonio relative to Erlin’s, Brock’s prediction may very well be true. Wieland starting in Triple-A Tucson should be short-lived. Depending on injuries, I would expect to see Wieland in San Diego before the July 31st trade deadline. Whether he gets an immediate shot at starting is yet to be determined, but he has certainly proven himself as a starter on the minor league level. For a team that prides itself on pitching, Wieland may be a huge addition to the 2012 staff. If he can prove himself as a number three starter, the Padres will have made out very nicely on the Mike Adams trade. If Robbie Erlin can earn a starting role, the Padres will have made out incredibly in the Mike Adams trade (one that was panned by many fans if you remember). Erlin may not be seen until rosters expand in September. This of course is because he will have to work his way up to Triple-A Tucson before making the big league club. It may be a case where Erlin earns his promotion to Tucson when Wieland earns his promotion to San Diego.
In 2011, Kelly put up very respectable numbers, but not the type of numbers a highly-touted prospect should put up in a Double-A pitcher’s park. In 27 games with the Missions, Kelly posted an 11-7 record with a 3.98 ERA. To be fair, his FIP was 3.59. Most people still expect Kelly to make a contribution on the Major League level. He has continued to slowly lower his ERA in each of his last three minor league stops. He just simply hasn’t been as dominant as most thought he would be.
Because both Erlin and Wieland are likely 2012 call-ups for the Padres, I wouldn’t expect to see Kelly until 2013. He should finish out the year at Triple-A Tucson, but barring a slew of injuries to Padres pitchers, Kelly will not be making a 2012 debut.
Gyorko is probably ready for a 2012 call-up, but he is a man without a position. Third base is currently occupied by Chase Headley. The Padres may look to move Headley during the 2012 season, but that doesn’t seem likely. Headley has given the team consistent performance and above-average third base play. Gyorko, who hit .288/.358/.428 with Double-A San Antonio, may have to continue to wait in the wings. It does;t seem like the organization wants to change his position, so until Headley is traded, hits free agency, or changes positions himself, Gyorko has nowhere to go.
Because Gyorko is likely ready, he may still get called up during the 2012 season. He would likely be used for pinch-hitting duties and spot starts to test him out on the Major League level, but he won’t get very many at-bats. Gyorko should start the 2012 season in Tucson, and if not, he will be there very soon.
These are just four of the Padres impressive minor league prospects. There are many more waiting for 2013 and 2014 call-ups. Perhaps a few will surprise us all and get an early call-up during the 2012 season. But Erlin, Wieland, Kelly, and Gyorko are the obvious candidates. With as much talent as the Padres have stock-piled, the upcoming litany of draft picks, and Josh Byrnes’ style of rebuilding, it is an exciting time to be a padres fan.