The Padres have an abundance of starting pitching, but no clear ace. As winter approaches, who would currently get the Opening Day nod?
The San Diego Padres likely have no idea who their opening day starter will be entering 2017. They have options, but no starter which stands out as the early favorite. Even though spring training is not yet approaching, it is worth taking a look at who would get the nod if the season were to start now.
According to the team’s official depth chart, Jarred Cosart is listed as the number one starter. But last season, Cosart’s ERA ballooned to 6.03 in nine starts. Averaging just over four innings a start, it seems unlikely for the 26-year-old to come away as the ace.
Still, this can not be certain given the state of the Padres’ rotation. Cosart is coming off a successful surgery, and he should be fully healthy in less than two months. But he has never been regarded as an ace, and isn’t likely to in his career.
Clayton Richard is likely the most underrated in the rotation. The 33-year-old veteran had the best season of any San Diego starter in 2016, putting up a 2.52 ERA in 53 2/3 innings.
Richard has had very productive seasons in the past, including several during a previous stint in San Diego. But he has never been an ace. In order to win the job this year, Richard will need to have a fabulous spring training and catch the eye of coaches. If he doesn’t though, the Padres are more likely to go with a younger arm who they will build their rotation around in future years.
Edwin Jackson is by far the most experienced and well known starter for the Padres. Pitching in his 14th season, San Diego is his tenth career stop. His case to be 2017’s opening day starter mostly rests on the fact that he does have experience, and can teach the younger starters.
Whether or not he truly deserves the opportunity is a serious question though. Going 5-6 in 2016 with a 5.89 ERA, Jackson is far from ace material. He does have the ability to pitch in games of greater magnitude, but it isn’t likely that San Diego will see any of these for a while. This is why it seems best to keep Jackson in the role he plays best, as a third or fourth starter.
2016’s opening day starter was Tyson Ross. Though his future is uncertain due to injury, he still seems to be a legitimate contender for the same role in 2017. In 2014 and 2015, Ross pitched more than 195 games in each season, posting a 2.81 and 3.26 ERA.
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This is the best and most consistent a Padre starter has performed in recent memory. This alone makes the 29-year-old well within question. His injury and age remain hindering factors though, as San Diego is in it for the long run, and Ross may not be around to see the rebuild come together. Mostly though, the main question about Ross is whether or not he can return to previous form. If he can, he is still likely the front-runner at this point to start on opening day in 2017.
The bottom line is that the Padres have no true ace. One of these pitchers will need to play this role in 2017, but contributions will be needed from each member of the rotation if the team wants to have a chance at improvement in the pitching department.
In the end, it’s really all about depth. Whoever wins the opening day job is just another starting pitcher. Each of these four options will serve a purpose on the 2017 roster, as the pitching staff is going to need all of the help they can get. As for who will start on opening day, that is still to be determined.