The San Diego Padres have a strong back end to their bullpen, but could be vulnerable during the middle innings in 2017 if the team’s starters struggle.
Expectations are not high for the San Diego Padres in 2017. And while many will point directly towards the rotation as the roster’s weakest spot, San Diego will need to solidify their bullpen before they can seriously consider contending.
However, the addition of one big name reliever to close out opponents is not the solution. The Padres already have a strong back end, coming in the form of a well balanced quartet. Carter Capps, Brandon Maurer, Ryan Buchter, and Brad Hand will pitch in the later innings, two right-handers and two southpaws.
If the Padres can maintain the lead into the eighth inning, they will be in good shape. The problem will be the middle innings, where a lack of depth in the pen rears its ugly head.
This weak spot on the roster is exactly why the household name closer won’t do the roster any good at this point. Maintaining the lead through seven needs to become more of a priority.
One way to achieve this more effectively would be if San Diego had a stronger rotation. This, unfortunately, isn’t the case. In fact, beyond 33-year-old Clayton Richard, uncertainty is a common theme. The rest of the rotation figures to be composed of unproven starters including Jhoulys Chacin, Trevor Cahill, Christian Friedrich, and Luis Perdomo.
The rotation is the main reason fans have lowered their expectations for 2017. But from management’s perspective, the state of the rotation merely underscores the need for strong middle inning relief options.
After all, the Padres aren’t about to go sign three Clayton Kershaws before the season starts. The rotation will end up being approximately what it is now, so San Diego will need to transcend the negativity surrounding them an be proactive.
Their current middle relief options include players such as Kevin Quackenbush, Tyrell Jenkins, Jose Torres, and Buddy Baumann, among others. The club can also add starters who don’t make the rotation to this group, which will likely include Paul Clemens, Jarred Cosart, and possibly current minor leaguers such as Dinelson Lamet or Kyle McGrath.
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The major liability comes in the middle innings, when this weak rotation may see many of their outings end. If the Padres have solid middle inning relievers to back the starters up, they can compensate for a thin rotation. If they don’t, however, which seems to be the case, the middle innings could be a major struggle and there may be no need for a closer on the roster.
The solution to this major problem would be to sign a proven starter such as Jered Weaver or Jake Peavy. This would then cause one of the current starters to fall to the bullpen, where a more reliability option such as Cahill or Friedrich could provide more certainty.
Or, the Padres could exercise patience with this portion of their bullpen, and endure the hardships and growing pains which are inevitable. And at this point, it seems that this will be their course of action, leaving middle inning relief as a significant liability.