The San Diego Padres need to add starting pitching this offseason. Would a former Washington Nationals hurler be an option?
While there haven’t been any official rumors yet, every national outlet has been putting out their “best fits” for many of the top free agents in this year’s class and the lists have been intriguing. National writers have suggested the San Diego Padres target a variety of different mid-level pitching free agents and one even suggested the Padres sign outfielder Adam Jones. Huh?
Targeting Adam Jones doesn’t make any sense, however, one name that has been thrown out there as a possible fit is Jeremy Hellickson, who spent the 2018 season with the Washington Nationals.
Even if San Diego goes after a true front-line starter via trade, a mid-rotation veteran would be a positive addition to a staff full of rookies and young arms. With so many left-handed pitchers on the roster, a RHP would make the most sense.
Hellickson rebounded well from a down 2017.
Hellickson split his time in 2017 with the Baltimore Orioles and Philadelphia Phillies, pitching to an 8-11 record and 5.43 ERA in 30 starts. Like most pitchers at Camden Yards recently, Hellickson struggled mightily in Baltimore, however, he rebounded well this season with the Nationals.
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Injuries, including a wrist injury, limited him to just 19 starts, finishing the year with a 5-3 record, 3.45 earned run average, and a career-low WHIP of 1.07. Opponents hit just .228 against Hellickson last year, the second-lowest mark of his nine-year career. Combine that with his 1.97 BB/9 rate and jump of more than a strikeout per inning, Hellickson had a quiet, but solid season.
One of the most notable improvements Hellickson made last year was his changeup. According to Baseball Savant, Hellickson used his changeup less often (26%) but opponents hit below the Mendoza-Line against the pitch (.189) and whiffed on 29% of the pitches. His effective changeup and curveball led to a big jump in his groundball percentage (from 36% to 47%) and much weaker contact (34% hard-hit rate in 2017, 31% in 2018).
It’s clearly understood that Padres fans want big-name pitchers and the front office to use this deep farm system to pull off a major trade but they need more than one pitcher and Hellickson is an intriguing, potentially cheap, back-end option that could help fill out the staff.