Impressive spring showing vaults Matt Waldron ahead of Padres trade acquisitions

Matt Waldron appears to have locked up a spot in the Padres starting rotation.

San Diego Padres pitcher Matt Waldron
San Diego Padres pitcher Matt Waldron / Mark J. Rebilas-USA TODAY Sports

Heading into spring training, most Padres fans assumed that some combination of Yu Darvish, Joe Musgrove, and Michael King would be atop San Diego's starting rotation. Darvish has been named the Padres Opening Day starter for next week's opener in South Korea, and Musgrove will be on the hill for the second game of the Seoul Series.

But until the recent trade for Dylan Cease, the rest of the Padres rotation has been a bit muddled this spring. There'd been an argument for three or four pitchers to grab those final two spots, but with Cease in the fold, there's just one spot left.

According to MLB Insider Jon Morosi, right-hander Matt Waldron has the inside track. That would seem to indicate that both of Randy Vásquez or Jhony Brito will either be opening the 2024 season in the bullpen or in the minor leagues.

Impressive spring showing vaults Matt Waldron ahead of Padres trade acquisitions

Waldron has certainly seized an opportunity this spring. Part of the Padres trade with the Cleveland Guardians from 2020 that also included Mike Clevinger, Waldron has a sparkling 1.35 ERA this spring and has yet to issue a walk. Waldron has 11 punch outs in just over 13 innings.

Brito has been dealing this spring as well. The longtime Yankees farmhand has allowed just three runs in 13 innings of work and owns a 30.2% strikeout rate during four Cactus League appearances. Brito was a bit of a hybrid hurler, pitching out of both the starting rotation and the bullpen, last season in New York. The right-hander could take on a similar role with the Padres in 2024.

But while Waldron and Brito have been having success this spring, Vásquez has been struggling. Acquired alongside Brito, King, and Drew Thorpe (who was recently traded to the Chicago White Sox), Vásquez has allowed six runs on 10 hits, including four home runs. That's not going to win you a spot in the rotation, and Vásquez's performance has been bad enough that he may have punched a ticket to El Paso rather than Seoul.

Vásquez appeared in 11 games for the Yankees last season and posted a 2.87 ERA. But walks were a problem for Vásquez last season in the Bronx, and his five free passes in 8.2 innings this spring suggest that it's still an issue.

Vásquez has minor league options remaining, so it's not the end of the world if the Padres send the right-hander down to Triple-A to begin the season. But both Vásquez and Brito are looking up at Waldron at the moment, as the 27-year-old has displayed tremendous command and control this spring