As the offseason rolls on, the San Diego Padres have yet to solidify their pitching. If they were to go with their current staff, what would the rotation and the bullpen look like?
There are undoubtedly numerous questions for the San Diego Padres as they look towards 2017, but none is more compelling than their pitching staff. Both the rotation and bullpen appear incomplete, as acquisitions are most likely coming in the near future.
Of course, the most pressing question is free agency. Five San Diego pitchers are currently free agents, two starters and three relievers. Depending on where Clayton Richard and Edwin Jackson sign, the rotation could look significantly hold true. The same goes for the bullpen, as Carlos Villanueva, Brandon Morrow, and Zack Braddock weigh their options.
But for the sake of argument, we will continue this analysis under the very poor assumption that none of these pitchers end up being extended by San Diego. This will most likely not be the case, but the Padres will still need to break down their pitching needs based on who is currently on their roster.
Other than free agents, injuries are another major question. Most notably, Colin Rea just had Tommy John surgery, and Jarred Cosart and Tyson Ross are still recovering from injuries. Rea as well as Erik Johnson will miss 2017, and Robbie Erlin could as well. Thankfully, Cosart appears to be almost completely recovered, and Ross is expected to recover from Thoracic Outlet Syndrome surgery in time for Opening Day.
With all of this in mind, here is the most likely starting rotation for San Diego by the end of spring training.
- Tyson Ross
- Christian Friedrich
- Luis Perdomo
- Paul Clemens
- Jarred Cosart
Of course, Richard and Jackson could throw this rotation off completely, which would be a welcomed sight.
Ross, who missed virtually all of 2016, has the inside track to once again be San Diego’s ace assuming he is healthy. After him, there will be a lot of controversy in spring training. But in the end, Christian Friedrich is most likely to emerge as the second starter, as the organization would like a left-hander near the top of their rotation.
Luis Perdomo and Paul Clemens follow due to their experience starting games for the team last season. While Clemens will not be seen as one of the top rotation arms, it is quite possible that the 28-year-old will burst onto the scene and make a name for himself in 2016.
Finally, Cosart rounds out the rotation as the fifth starter. With just nine starts last season and a 6.03 ERA, not many will like Cosart’s chances to shine coming in. But he could serve as a sufficient fifth starter, giving the Padres several innings every fifth day.
As far as relief pitching goes, it isn’t as concrete at the rotation. There is no routine followed at all times, and there isn’t even always defined roles assigned to each pitcher. For the sake of this analysis, we will generally describe our predicted roles for each member of the ‘pen.
- Jon Edwards: Right-handed specialist
- Kevin Quackenbush: Right-handed specialist
- Ryan Buchter: Left-handed specialist
- Buddy Baumann: Left-handed specialist
- Jose Torres: Multiple inning reliever
- Leonel Campos: Multiple inning reliever
- Keith Hessler: Late inning left-handed specialist
- Brad Hand: Seventh inning reliever
- Carter Capps: Eighth inning reliever
- Brandon Maurer: Closer
Every member of San Diego’s bullpen is important. However, Jon Edwards, Kevin Quackenbush, Ryan Buchter, and Buddy Baumann, will play much less significant roles, entering most often in the middle innings of a close game or the late innings of a lopsided contest.
The most critical arms for the Padres will be the back end of their bullpen. Keith Hessler may be the most underrated key piece to the puzzle, as he is a left-handed specialist who can enter late in a game to get one or more left-handed hitters out. The formula for victory for San Diego in a close game with this bullpen would consist of Brad Hand, Carter Capps, and Brandon Maurer in the seventh, eighth, and ninth innings. Hand and Capps could be moved around based on matchups, as Hand is the lone southpaw in the back end of the ‘pen. But what seems certain barring a surprising acquisition is that Maurer will serve as the team’s closer.
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While the current makeup of San Diego’s roster will not be identical to the Opening Day roster, there is a chance the pitching will be similar. As we have learned from breaking down the rotation and bullpen if the season were to start today, there are some pieces for the team to be confident about. However, there is still work to be done if the pitching staff is to be better than average, especially when it comes to the top of the rotation as well as rotation depth. This underscores the need for the team to either re-sign Richard or Jackson, and/or make acquisitions through free agency or trades which will benefit the pitching staff.
Next week we will explore the minor leagues, and how AA and AAA pitching staffs may have an impact on the major league roster in 2017. We will break down the most qualified candidates to make the jump to the big leagues next season. This will help us get a better understanding of the future of San Diego’s pitching, and its impact on 2017.