Brett Kennedy didn’t have a successful rookie debut with the San Diego Padres. Can he turn it around with a full 2019 season?
While the odds are good for Manuel Margot to break through his sophomore slump, I’m not as high on Brett Kennedy’s odds. Kennedy dominated the Pacific Coast League, turning a very hitter-friendly league into his playground last season. In 16 starts, Kennedy went 10-0 with a 2.72 ERA and striking out 80 hitters in 89 innings for the El Paso Chihuahuas, earning himself a call-up to the San Diego Padres on August 7th.
At the major league level, Kennedy made six starts, going 1-2 with a 6.75 ERA and 1.80 WHIP. In 26 innings of work, he gave up 36 hits, six home runs, and 12 walks while striking out just 18. This included a four-inning debut against the Milwaukee Brewers in which he gave up six runs on 11 hits, including three home runs.
Kennedy’s final fWAR of 2018 was -0.3 and according to Steamer, that number is expected to rise to 0.7 in his first full season. His final projected line includes 18 starts, a 5-7 record, and 4.44 ERA.
The issue here is that Kennedy has a lot of work to do to make the starting rotation. Mainly a two-pitch pitcher (fastball/slider), Kennedy would fit into the role the San Diego Padres would like to use a number of their pitchers in next season, that of a three-four inning opener. Having the option to reach back with his fastball and slider and focus on short stints could allow his pitches to play up a bit.
Opponents hit .359 against his fastball and slugged .625, while hitters recorded a .333 average against his slider. His changeup was effective (.167 average against, 23% whiff rate), however, he only uses it against left-handed hitters.
Something to watch closely in spring training will be Kennedy’s fastball (used more than 65% of the time). It doesn’t have the big velocity (averages 91 mph) and doesn’t spin (ranked 509th among 582 pitchers who threw at least 200 4-seam fastballs) so he will have to greatly improve his command if he wants to have a successful 2019 season.
Last on our list is last year’s major free agent acquisition, first baseman Eric Hosmer.