The San Diego Padres' starting rotation will look very different heading into the 2024 season. Though still unsigned, it's a virtual certainty that Blake Snell will not be coming back to America's Finest City. The Friars also lost Nick Martinez, Michael Wacha, and Seth Lugo to free agency this offseason.
But the Padres did bring in several new hurlers after trading Juan Soto to the New York Yankees. It's a good bet that Michael King will be joining Yu Darvish and Joe Musgrove atop the Padres' starting rotation when the upcoming season begins.
But the back end of the rotation looks a little less settled. Sure, Pedro Avila and Randy Vásquez will both receive opportunities to land one of those coveted roster spots, but there are a handful of under-the-radar pitchers whose strong spring could earn them a slot in San Diego's Opening Day rotation.
1. Jay Groome
Jay Groome brings one thing to the San Diego starting rotation that no one else on the roster can - he's a left-handed pitcher. The Padres have failed to add a left-handed starter this offseason, and that alone vaults Groome up a few spots.
However, he's going to have gain some measure of command, because a 16.7-percent walk-rate just isn't going to cut it. In 30 starts last season in the minor leagues, Groome walked nearly as many batters (112) as he struck out (137). If he doesn't get that straightened out once spring training begins, Groome can kiss his chance at a spot on the Opening Day roster goodbye.
There is another thing working in Groome's favor, and that's minor-league options; he has none left. Oftentimes, teams hesitate to jettison young players from the 26-man roster without the ability to yo-yo them back and forth between the major and minor leagues. Groome's lack of options would force San Diego to DFA the southpaw and hope he passes through waivers in order to keep him as part of the organization.
Groome is far from a lock to make the Padres roster coming out of spring training, but his repertoire is impressive. The lefty feels like more of a spot starter that a team would typically stash on their Triple-A roster, but there's an outside chance that Groome could do just enough this spring to sneak onto the Opening Day roster and join the Padres rotation.