Padres Editorial: Padres Need Another Starting Pitcher

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May 8, 2015; Phoenix, AZ, USA; San Diego Padres pitcher

Brandon Maurer

against the Arizona Diamondbacks at Chase Field. The Padres defeated the Diamondbacks 6-5. Mandatory Credit: Mark J. Rebilas-USA TODAY Sports

Who is next on the staff remains a mystery. Ian Kennedy rejected his qualifying offer. As it stands now, the number four and five spots are looking…scary.

Odrisamer Despaigne followed up a solid 2014 with a worse than pitiful 2015. He put up a 5.80 ERA in 125.2 innings including 18 starts. I could cover his horrendous hits per nine, home run rate, and strike out rate, but noting that he had a 5.80 ERA is enough. Despaigne will be 29 in early April. Will he improve enough to make the rotation? Doubtful.

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Could Brandon Maurer start? He had a 3.00 ERA in his 51 innings along with very good peripheries. But Maurer has two good pitches with a third in a changeup that needs work before he can become a good starter. This is likely why he has a 6.62 ERA in his 21 career starts and a 3.40 ERA out of the bullpen. After the trades of Joaquin Benoit and Craig Kimbrel, the Padres’ pen is looking thin. Maurer is actually the best arm out there on the present roster. Preller and manager Andy Green might call upon Maurer to be a setup man if not the closer.

Colin Rea looked ok in his 6 starts, compiling a 4.26 ERA. He will enter his age 25 season as a prospect on the rise with some Major League experience. But he was so inefficient last year that in those 6 starts he pitched only 31.2 innings. Look for him to be a solid option, but there is always a risk with prospects.

Robbie Erlin came to the Padres in the deal that sent reliever Mike Adams to Texas. He was said to be a good prospect with great control. But Erlin has failed to translate that into good numbers in the Major Leagues. He has a career 4.60 ERA in 133 innings over three years. He will be 25 for all of the 2016 regular season. The peripheries on his three starts this year indicate he has improved. But 17 innings is a very small sample size. Erlin remains a question mark.

Another question mark is surrounding a former top prospect Casey Kelly. The Padres have essentially gotten Andrew Cashner and poor performances out of Kelly in exchange for Adrian Gonzalez. Kelly either can’t stay off the disabled list or can’t keep his sinker low enough to induce ground balls depending on the season. He surrendered 19 hits and 13 runs (11 earned) in his 11.1 innings in September. His career ERA in 40.1 Major League innings is 6.69. The fact that Kelly is a viable option for the rotation is perhaps the most frightening fact.

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The only prospect in MLB.com’s top 30 Padres prospects list that has any chance of being ready by the end of Spring Training is Justin Hancock, who is number 28 on the list. Between 22 starts at AA San Antonio and 2 starts at AAA El Paso, Hancock posted a 3.51 ERA in two hitter-friendly leagues. Hancock turned 25 in late October. But he allowed more hits than he had innings pitched. While he has a good fastball with good control and heavy sink, his secondary pitches are inconsistent. Sounds like a coin toss as to whether or not he will be a solid rookie.

Regardless, the Padres need another starter either via free agency or a trade. A big-three starter might very well be packaged in a deal. One starter is likely to be on the disabled list at any given time. Three for sure with a few other question marks isn’t going to cut it.

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