There aren’t very many perceived weaknesses when you look at the San Diego Padres. A star-studded rotation, position depth that’s the envy of teams across the league and a lineup dripping with potential All-Stars and MVPs.
That’s not to say the bullpen is a question mark, because it’s definitely not. AJ Preller shored up his relief staff in the wake of losing Trevor Rosenthal and Kirby Yates in free agency, bringing in hard-throwing Keone Kela and seasoned veteran Mark Melancon. They’ll join a mix of Emilio Pagan, Drew Pomeranz and the rest of the bullpen mix – giving Jayce Tingler a wide range of options in the late innings.
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The only problem here? All of those guys are one-and-done arms, meaning they’re good for one inning before handing the ball to the next reliever. The only pitcher capable of throwing multiple innings? Right-hander Craig Stammen, who is coming off one of the worst season of his big league career.
At 37 years old, Stammen is nearing the end of the line. He’s in the final year of his deal and, barring a very solid showing in 2021, it’s pretty unlikely San Diego picks up his option for next season. Despite that fact, the veteran could prove to be a critical part of the bullpen mix this year.
Last season, he ranked in the 97th percentile in barrel rate and the 96th in walk rate. The sinker-baller excels at keeping the ball on the ground and inducing weak contact – which is what’s allowed him to play well into his 30s.
Padres hoping their young arms step up and aid Craig Stammen
Now, this isn’t final. A lot can change over the final two weeks of spring training. But MacKenzie Gore and Ryan Weathers haven’t proven they’re ready to take that next step and win the final spot in the rotation, left empty by the injured Dinelson Lamet.
At some point this year, Lamet seems likely to return. But for now, that means Adrian Morejon is likely going to slot into the rotation – taking him out of the long relief role he’d otherwise be destined for.
Make no mistake. A team doesn’t need to have shutdown long relievers, especially with a rotation as deep and talented as San Diego’s. But it’ll definitely be something to keep in the back of our minds as the season gets underway and the Padres look to play October baseball once again.