Drew Pomeranz was enjoying possibly one of the most unlikely years of any Padre now or just about ever. He had just made the All Star team after fighting for a rotation spot and possibly a roster spot in spring training.
He did it by embracing his best pitch, the knuckle curve, throwing it over 39% of the time in San Diego. To compare, during his time in Colorado as a starter he threw it about half as much as he has thrown it this year. His curveball was once rated the best in the Indians farm system and he was drafted #5 overall in 2010, meaning there was some pedigree of success behind this year.
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It is easy to latch onto the fact that the Red Sox will be his fifth organization since being drafted six years ago. It’s easy to point to the lean years in Colorado. What is not easy is to understand why the Padres would trade this left handed All Star who was making a little over a million this year and likely would have stood to make a total of less than $10M in his next two years in San Diego.
For an organization that prioritizes value, Drew Pomeranz seemed to epitomize it. Maybe the Padres preferred to cash in on the perceived value of this trade chip now instead of holding onto him and trusting his pedigree and his coaches who have guided him to the success of 2016. For sure I will tell you there is little in the way of a replacement for him.
Of the five starters at AAA El Paso the lowest ERA is 4.63 and two of the starters are in the 5s and one has an ERA of 7.08 over 14 starts. Andrew Cashner is probably the best free agent available this coming off season, and he is already on the team and probably should be used in a relief role given his extended struggles of the last two seasons. At AA Michael Kelly and Aaron Northcraft are enjoying what appears to be fine success as starters, but they are notably absent from the Padres top 30 prospects list, so likely of little long term help in the majors. Which leaves nothing of substance to replace Pomeranz on the major league club.
So, let’s examine the chances of the pitcher the Padres got for Pomeranz making the big league club. From 2014-2005, ten seasons, the Padres have had 65 pitchers act primarily as starting pitchers at High A Lake Elsinore, where Anderson Espinoza is likely ticketed this year or next. Of those only Corey Kluber has enjoyed a level of success comparable to Pomeranz. The system has also produced Colin Rea, Ernesto Frieri, Wade Leblanc, Cory Luebke, Matt Andriese, Nick Schmidt, Cesar Ramos and Joe Ross, all of whom have had some varying levels of success in the majors, but nothing extraordinary, save maybe Frieri who had a good run. That is 1 star and 8 serviceable players out of 65, which, weighting Kluber as ten times his value, would put 18 out of 65 A ball pitchers as making the majors, or giving Espinoza a 27.7% chance of making some meaningful impact in the majors.
Now, let’s look at the talent evaluators who traded him. The Red Sox. In the same time frame as above identified, 2014-2005, have traded away 56 pitchers that could be considered prospects of varying levels of importance. A single one of them has had any sort of impact, that being Anibal Sanchez, who one year finished 4th in the Cy Young voting. He never made an All Star team or threw 200 innings, and struck out 200 batters twice in his career. The ONLY OTHER players of those 56 pitchers traded by Boston to make any sort of impact in the majors were Hunter Strickland and Justin Masterson.
That’s it. 56 pitchers traded away by Boston. If you omit Sanchez, the other 55 totaled an aggregate WAR of 10.6 in their careers, or an average WAR south of 0.2 PER PITCHER! To me, that means you have a 3 in 56 chance of making any sort of impact if Boston trades you. We’ll repeat our weighting of ten times for Sanchez to make the math more pleasant and say 13 of 56, or a 23.2% chance of making an impact in the majors as a pitching prospect that Boston allowed to leave their organization. Clearly Boston should not be traded with, much like you should never get in a battle of wits with a Sicilian or a land war in Asia.
Coupling the two, or multiplying 23.2% by 27.7% gives Anderson Espinoza a 6.4% chance of making any sort of meaningful impact in the majors. The Padres traded a top 5 pick with little wear and tear on his arm and a recent All Star for a 1 in 16 chance of this 18 year old kid from Venezuela making it to the big leagues.
Anderson Espinoza throws hard, touches 99 MPH from what I have read on him, and I hear he is an advanced prospect. But, if Boston trades you and you go through the Padres farm system, you have a roughly 6% chance of making it by my math. Best of luck to you Anderson Espinoza. Drew Pomeranz, we knew ye well.