Last week, the injury-plagued Tim Stauffer and Dustin Moseley elected to become outright Free Agents after they both cleared waivers without being claimed. It comes as no shock that both cleared waivers as both have had their fair share of ailments, and only started 1 game apiece during the 2012 season. Overall, this move all but signified that the Padres are ready to look elsewhere for help in their starting rotation. As it stands, the Padres appear to have three rotation spots set aside for veterans Clayton Richard, Edinson Volquez, and the surprising Eric Stults for the 2013 season. But with the release of Moseley & Stauffer, plus the elbow injuries and subsequent rehab. of Cory Luebke and Joe Wieland, San Diego could have as many as two rotation spots available and open to competition this offseason and during Spring training.
Do not get me wrong, I am sure that the Padres will explore the Free Agent/Trade markets for starting pitching help and fully expect at least one starter to be signed. G.M. Josh Byrnes has shown he is not averse to pulling the trigger on trades and will likely be ready to wheel & deal this offseason. Yet if the Padres brass’ elect not to break the bank or even trade for multiple starters over the next few months, they might be wise to look within their own organization for the solution. In fact, the Padres have a group of young starters that have gained some big league experience over the last couple of seasons: Anthony Bass, Andrew Cashner, Andrew Werner, and Casey Kelly.
Bass and Cashner last season were moved from the bullpen to the starting rotation after injuries destroyed the projected staff and were able to log a combined 57 appearances (33 for Cashner, 24 for Bass) and 20 starts (5 for Cashner and 15 for Bass). Unfortunately for both players, injuries struck both at midseason as Bass went down with a shoulder injury during the summer and did not return until September. Cashner had some issues with his lat muscle and was shut down twice during the regular season after he was moved from the Setup role early in the year.
Werner and Kelly on the other hand are the proverbial “dark horses” in this race, behind Cashner and Bass. While both began the 2012 season at the Double (Werner) & Triple-A (Kelly) levels, Werner and Kelly were pressed into action for the same reasons that Bass and Cashner were, injuries. Werner was quite the pleasant surprise for San Diego last season as the Undrafted Free Agent made his major league debut in late August and won 2 of his first 4 starts. Unfortunately for the Rookie, he was knocked around in his final three starts of the season and failed to make it past the 4th Inning in none of them. Kelly performed solidly in his big league debut to earn his first career Win, but like Werner, Kelly struggled over his final five starts and went 1-3 the rest of the way after some tough outings against the Giants and Diamondbacks. And just like so many other Padres pitchers, Kelly’s elbow bothered him throughout the year, and he was later shut down by the team and forced to miss the Arizona Fall League to rest.
To me, Cashner and Bass have the best chances to start based on their experience at the big league level. Werner and Kelly were both probably not scheduled to make their debuts until this upcoming year or even 2014, and another season to season and a half at the Triple-A level would definitely benefit both Pitchers and allow them to develop further after they gained some terrific big league experience last season. Assuming Cashner and Bass are both healthy and can stay that way, the Padres will need at least one, if not both to hold down at least one spot in the back-end of the rotation until Luebke and/or Wieland come back from their elbow surgeries.
For now, these four appear to have the best chance to duke it out for spots to round out the Padres’ starting rotation next season. But with eons of time to go before the team reports to Peoria, and moves still to be made I am sure more competition will begin to enter the mix soon enough. Nevertheless, it would not shock me if one to two of these players made a decent amount of starts (15+) for the Friars in 2013.
Stats Courtesy of: Baseball Reference