What is the Tommy John trio take a step backward in development and/or injury?
On paper, the Padres rotation looks to be one of the best in the NL West Division, but in reality, they are one or two reoccurring injuries away from being in big trouble. As noted, both Lamet and Richards returned from Tommy John surgery in the second half of last season. The former return on July 4, and he made 14 starts to close out the year while posting a 4.07 ERA. Lamet tossed 73.0 innings but struck out 105 batters.
He’s been tabbed as a dark horse for the Cy Young Award heading into this year, but I think most Padres’ fans would love for him to stay healthy all year. There is no doubt that he has the stuff to be a front of the rotation pitcher, and it’s just a matter of staying healthy. The same goes for Richards, who returned to make three starts to close out 2019. He hasn’t pitched a full season since 2015, but he still possesses elite stuff, again, when healthy.
Chris Paddack is the other guy to watch throughout the year. Now three years removed from TJ surgery, the 24-year-old posted incredible numbers last season – albeit on a restricted workload – but he’s cleared to a full season of work.
Should the injury bug bite one of the three, the Padres do have depth in their rotation, but there is a significant dropoff after Zach Davies. Joey Lucchesi led the team in innings pitched a year ago, and he appears to have a loose grip on the final spot in the rotation. However, if the Padres need Cal Quantrill, Adrian Morejon, or Michel Baez to play a more prominent role this year, they are likely going to see the consequences.
I would imagine that MacKenzie Gore could potentially be the first called up in the event of an injury, but there’s just no way to translate his numbers in the minors to the big-leagues directly. He has top talent, no doubt, but I’ll have to see him perform at the big-league level. The Padres cannot afford to have long-term injuries within their starting rotation.