The Padres haven’t made any splashy additions to the big league roster so far this offseason, but they’ve made some under the radar moves. They gave major league contracts to two career minor leaguers and added four players through the Rule 5 draft. While none of them have spent a day in the big leagues, they’re all interesting players who could have an impact on the 2016 season.
Five of this group are pitchers, so I’ll start with the lone position player, Jabari Blash. Blash is an outfielder who was taken by the A’s in the Rule 5 draft and was the player to be named later in the Yonder Alonso trade. He’s played all three outfield positions in his minor league career, but he’s spent most of his time in the corners. The main asset that he brings to the table is power, which is something the Padres are lacking severely. The only outfield spot locked down right now is right field with Matt Kemp. The other two spots Blash will compete with Melvin Upton Jr., Travis Jankowski, Jon Jay and Rymer Liriano. Of that group Blash is the only one whose a power threat unless you think Upton can become one again.
He’s coming off a great season split between AA and AAA and caught the eye of Fangraphs’ Chris Mitchell who had this to say about Blash.
"Blash has hit a ridiculous .246/.370/.624 in 50 games at the Triple-A level this year. Prior to that, he slashed a similarly ridiculous .278/.383/.517 in 60 Double-A contests. But it’s his very recent performance that really stands out. Since August 6th, the 6-foot-5 slugger has put together a .292/.395/.785 performance on the strength of his 10 home runs. Those are essentially peak Mark McGwire numbers."
That all looks great, but Blash is a 26 year old rookie who strikes out at a ridiculous rate and neither of those things usually bode well for a MLB career. I wouldn’t expect to see him as regular starter, but he could find end up being a power threat off the bench which the Padres are currently without.
Now on to the pitchers. The most interesting pitcher is lefty Buddy Baumann. Jon Heyman of CBS Sports had reported earlier this month that Baumann had five offers of major league contracts despite never playing in the majors before. So what made at least five teams think a 27 year old career minor leaguer was good enough to offer a guaranteed contract? It’s hard to answer that question just looking through a players minor league stats and never seeing him throw a pitch. The two things I can see from his numbers is he strikes out a lot guys and doesn’t give up many home runs. He’s floated between starting and the bullpen in his minor league career, but he’ll likely be nothing more than a LOOGY is San Diego. Since he’s the only lefty reliever on the 40 man roster I’d guess he’s got a very good chance at making the team.
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The other pitcher with a guaranteed contract is Cesar Vargas. Vargas is a 23 year old righty who lacks flashy stuff, but finds a way to rack up strikeouts. He struck out 22% of batters faced in AA last year and 30% of batters in high A a year prior. With strikeout numbers like that you’d expect Vargas to have a great fastball, but his barely cracks 90 MPH. He also throws a cutter and a changeup. He only has 5 innings in AAA and has the ability to be sent to the minors unlike the three Rule 5 pitchers, which makes his chances of making the Opening Day roster fairly low, but with so many holes in the bullpen a strong performance this spring could land him a spot.
The Padres selected righty Josh Martin with the 8th pick in the Rule 5 draft. Martin has never played above AA, but he is coming off a spectacular season at the AA level. He posted a 2.27 ERA with a WHIP of .984 while striking out 30% of the batters he faced. At 26 years old he’s a little old to have never made it to AAA, but he’s great 2015 could mean he’s a late bloomer. Like I said earlier there’s multiple open spots in the bullpen, and with the upside Martin has I wouldn’t be surprised if the Padres give him a chance.
In the second round of the Rule 5 draft the Padres picked Blake Smith. Smith is an outfielder turned reliever. He also has posted gaudy strikeout numbers, but his come at the expense of a lot of walks. Smith struck out 30% of the batters that he faced in AAA last year, but he also walked 11% leading to a WHIP of 1.467. His AAA experience makes him interesting, even if it’s only 30 innings. That being said in the majors you need to throw strikes and Smith hasn’t proven he can do that yet. Also he’s 28 years old which makes his long term value less than the other Rule 5 picks.
Luis Perdomo was taken by the Rockies in the Rule 5 draft and was traded to the Padres for cash considerations. Perdomo might be the most interesting of the group. He’s just 22 years old and he hasn’t pitched above high A, but MLB.com has him ranked as the Padres. He’s a righty starter with a fastball that reaches 97. He also throws a slider and changeup, but his command of those pitches make them much less effective than his fastball. The upside of a starter who can hit 97 and has room to grow is great, but the problem is a Rule 5 draft pick the Padres must keep him on the 25 man roster for the entire season. With his upside the Padres will likely give him a chance in the bullpen, but with only one big league ready pitch they might be forced to return him to the Cardinals.
These guys aren’t quite the exciting acquisitions that A.J. Preller landed last offseason, but they could find themselves playing important roles this season. It’s unlikely that all six of these guys to make the team on Opening Day, but with the roster as it currently stands there’s plenty of open spots. Baumann and two of the righty relievers, with Martin and Perdomo as the early favorites, I would expect to make the team as well as Blash as long as the Padres don’t add another outfielder.