San Diego Padres: Left-Handed Pitching Prospects Bring Hope
By Nick Stevens
The San Diego Padres have put together an exciting lineup at the major league level that will hopefully start to pay dividends this year. The pitching staff has the pieces, fans will just have to wait.
Patience is key for fans of the San Diego Padres. The lineup is full of young superstars who are prepared to take the next step in their career, unfortunately, the pitching staff leaves a lot to be desired. Actually, it leaves everything to be desired.
I’m not cheering for the Padres this season. Cheering for this team to produce a winning record will just lead to disappointment. Instead, I’m excited to watch guys like Manuel Margot, Austin Hedges, and Hunter Renfroe mash and become dominant fixtures in the San Diego lineup. I’m also eager for the inevitable call-ups of Fernando Tatis, Jr and Luis Urias as the first wave of offensive talent beats down the gates to Petco Park.
On a negative not, no one on the current pitching staff will be around within two-three years. I’d love to be proven wrong about Dinelson Lamet and/or Luis Perdomo, but other than the occasional flash of brilliance, when these guys are off, they crumble.
However, don’t fret Friar faithful. Be patient as the future of the pitching staff emerges.
Joey Lucchesi and Eric Lauer are on the cusp of contributing to the San Diego Padres.
Joey Lucchesi has done nothing but impress this spring training. Fun fact: in 33 career minor league starts, he’s given up more than three runs just once.
Over seven spring innings, Lucchesi has yet to surrender a run and has given up just two hits. He’s also struck out six batters while walking just two.
After his last outing against the Chicago White Sox, Manager Andy Green had this to say about Lucchesi’s development.
"“He’s good,” Green said afterward. “It’s fun to watch him pitch. Today, more than anything, he got into some 1-0 counts. You always want him to pitch ahead in counts, but when he got into 1-0 counts he was able to throw off-speed for strikes, something he hasn’t really done a ton in the minors. It’s a big step forward for him. He’s not going to do that every single time, but it’s been a big point of emphasis for him to be able to do that.”"
One of his biggest assets is his delivery. The leg kick, hitches, and reach-back all combine to keep hitters off balance and unable to pick up the ball until after it comes out of his hand. You can see how well he keeps the ball hidden in the video below. Lucchesi is the closest to reaching the big leagues of all the young pitching prospects. He should get the call-up by mid-season at the earliest.
LHP Eric Lauer has also had a successful spring and is close to the big leagues. He has 6 2/3 innings under his belt, allowing six hits, two earned runs, and two walks while striking out six.
Each time Lauer toes the rubber, he looks confident and composed. While Lucchesi could develop into more a mid-rotation arm, Lauer will slot nicely in the back end. His ceiling isn’t enormously high like some of the other prospects, but he’s already more polished.
His delivery is effortless, as you can see in the video below, making it easier to repeat his mechanics. It makes you wonder what he’s capable of if he reaches back and goes full effort in shorter stints.
The future ace of the San Diego Padres staff, MacKenzie Gore.
Last year’s first-round pick had fans, talent evaluators, and local media focused on the back-fields at San Diego’s spring training complex last week. He pitched two innings in an intra-squad scrimmage, striking out three hitters in the process. What he does to Josh Naylor in this video should be illegal.
The command and pitch sequencing is elite, and not just for a 19-year-old. He’ll move quickly through the system, beginning this season with Fort Wayne.
Next: Alex Cobb Is Still Available
I didn’t mention Michel Baez, Adrian Morejon, Anderson Espinoza, Logan Allen, or Jacob Nix. San Diego won’t hit on all of these prospects, so there needs to be a veteran presence somewhere in the rotation. Alex Cobb is still available and could provide more than just a mid-rotation arm for the Padres for the next three-four years.
Regardless of what the team does in free agency, help is on the way.