In 2018, the San Diego Padres featured many young hurlers in the starting rotation attempting to get their feet wet at the Major League level. Here is a glimpse of the starting pitchers and their grades for the 2018 season:
The second of three end-of-season grading articles from EVT will focus on a group that left much to be desired in 2018–the starting rotation.
As is consistent throughout this series, the grading system will primarily emphasize pure on-field production, but will also take into account preseason expectations, availability, and improvement as the season progressed.
It is also important to note that these grades will be presented on a league-wide scale; there are no Mike Trouts or Jacob deGroms on this roster, so don’t expect anyone in any of the three articles to be graded comparably.
One last thing–these grades are subjective and open for debate, so, please, feel free to debate or challenge any of these evaluations in the comments. I’d be happy to further explain my reasoning and hear other opinions.
RHP Brett Kennedy – 26.2 IP, 6.75 ERA – Grade: C-
Kennedy was one of many Padres starting pitchers to make their Major League debut in 2018, although he came in much less heralded than many of his rookie counterparts. A limited two-to-three-pitch repertoire with not a ton of life or movement certainly showed in the limited action he saw this year, but he’s still just 23 with plenty of time to improve. Kennedy was one of the tougher ones to grade simply due to the small sample size, so 2019 will undoubtedly be a huge year in determining his big-league future.
LHP Eric Lauer – 112.0 IP, 4.34 ERA – Grade: B
Former ninth-ranked Padres prospect Eric Lauer also made his Major League debut in 2018, recovering from a pretty rough start to ultimately turn in a very good rookie campaign. His Achilles heel was undoubtedly the consistency with which he issued free passes, and that is something that can’t happen going forward for someone lacking elite stuff, but a 1.33 September ERA and league-leading 10 pickoffs validated Lauer’s first MLB season as a success. As for next year, I hesitate to call anything a lock in baseball, but he should have as good a chance as anyone to secure a spot in the starting rotation once again.
LHP Joey Lucchesi – 130.0 IP, 4.08 ERA – Grade: B+
By any measure, Lucchesi was the most consistent and reliable starter for the Friars in 2018. He did battle injuries at a couple different points throughout the year and navigated the ins and outs of his rookie season with just two effective pitches, both of which limited his 2018 season grade, but also provide great optimism for the future. “Solid” was the word for Lucchesi in 2018. With the development of a strong third pitch and sustained health, “star” may be the word in 2019.
RHP Bryan Mitchell – 73.0 IP, 5.42 ERA – Grade: D-
Mitchell was bad in 2018. There’s no way around it. None of his three pitches were effective with any regularity, and he spent time in both the starting rotation and the bullpen. Oddly enough, he did spin a gem in his final start of the season, but that is not close to enough to believe that Mitchell is going to be a workable starting pitcher in the Major Leagues. The only thing it really did was save him from receiving an F. I certainly hope he turns it around in 2019, but 2018 didn’t give me any reason to believe that will happen.
RHP Jacob Nix – 42.1 IP, 7.02 ERA – Grade: C-
Nix only made nine starts in 2018–the first nine of his career. The first four, all things considered, went pretty well. The next five, unfortunately, not so much. Despite stumbling to the finish line, he showed flashes of brilliance that would suggest he is better than his numbers showed, and it is for this reason that he’ll be a key guy to watch for in spring training and early next year. As is the case with many of the Padres’ young arms, the year 2019 will surely be a critical one for Nix.
RHP Luis Perdomo – 44.2 IP, 7.05 ERA – Grade: D
2018 was seemingly a make-or-break season for Perdomo, and he failed to show improvement in the areas he needed to most. He’s always had the physical tools to succeed at the highest level, but stuff alone isn’t enough to consistently get Major League hitters out. Until he reins in his command, he won’t ever progress past being simply a raw arm talent. Much like Mitchell, Perdomo’s final outing of the season was his best. But also like Mitchell, I’m not sure it matters much at this point.
LHP Clayton Richard – 158.2 IP, 5.33 ERA – Grade: C-
Opening Day starter Clayton Richard (yikes, I know) was about as good as any reasonable baseball person would expect him to be in 2018. His reputation as an innings-eater somewhat held true, but eating innings while simultaneously giving up runs isn’t very beneficial for a club seriously trying to win ballgames. He is under contract through the 2019 season, but taking innings away from younger, more promising arms isn’t something that the Padres organization should be particularly interested in. Look for a possible low-stakes trade of Richard this winter.