Taking a look at the 2020 bullpen for the San Diego Padres, which should be dominant.
After watching a good chunk of the postseason every year, one thing becomes very clear. Pitching matters.
There have been some pretty amazing appearances, and some pretty awful performances by pitchers this past month. However, it was also apparent that no matter how good the starter was, if the team didn’t have a strong and deep bullpen, it may not even matter who starts. Organizations that are successful in the postseason have good bullpens that can close out games.
Historically, the San Diego Padres have had great closers and good bullpens. From Hall of Famer Trevor Hoffman to Heath Bell, Brad Hand, and Kirby Yates, the Padres seem to always have a great closer. A good bullpen is also pretty standard for the Padres, but not last season. Injuries and a revolving door of young, inexperienced arms lead to runs and blown leads. Let’s take a look at the projected 2020 bullpen for the Padres and see if next year will be any better.
Kirby Yates RHP
In true Padre fashion, a dominant closer is the anchor of this team. Kirby Yates led the league in saves last year and was the best relief pitcher in baseball. The only question about next year is whether or not the team will trade him. He is very valuable, and would fetch a top prospect, or could be packaged to attain a significant contributor. But if the team is serious about contending in 2020, they will need a good closer. Poor performing teams don’t trade for closers, so the question for A.J. Preller is, do you want him pitching for you or against you?
Andres Munoz RHP
It the Padres do choose to move Kirby Yates, the bullpen would undoubtedly suffer. However, the heir apparent is currently on the team. Young Andres Muñoz took the Padres by storm at the end of 2019. Armed with his 100+ mph fastball and power slider combo, Munoz is a hitter’s worst nightmare. Just as soon as hitters think they can catch up to the fastball, he pulls the string on his slider, producing strikeouts and avoiding barrels. Having Muñoz as an eighth-inning weapon is a luxury most teams do not have.
Jose Castillo LHP
Part of the reason why the Padres bullpen was so bad in 2019 was due to injuries to top players. Jose Castillo pitched all of two-thirds of an inning in 2019 due to multiple injuries. In 2018, he had a 3.29 ERA over 37 outings. If he can get healthy and stay healthy, he’s the top left-handed reliever on the Padres. A dominant lefty out of the bullpen is certainly a must for a World Series caliber bullpen.
Matt Strahm LHP
If he were on a lot of other teams, Matt Strahm would be a starting pitching prospect. On the Padres, he’s in the bullpen. He did have his chance to force his way into the starting rotation in 2019. Unfortunately, multiple games giving up multiple home runs resulted in Strahm being sent back to the bullpen. Strahm had a dominant 2018 and will look to get back to that form once he’s consistently in a relief role in 2020.
Michel Baez RHP
Initially making his way through the system as a starting pitcher, Michel Baez was used almost exclusively out of the bullpen in 2019. Baez showed he has the quality to be a major league pitcher, but a lack of innings pitched may have forced the move to the bullpen. He could still develop into a starter, but with all the arms already in the rotation, he’s a welcomed addition to the bullpen. In 2019, he kept a 3.03 ERA and gave up zero runs in 19 of 24 appearances. Baez is 6 foot 8 inches and can reach 98 mph. An imposing force like that could also develop into a closer.
When healthy, and if retained, these five relievers could be the backbone of a dominant bullpen. One that could shut down an opposing team when October baseball comes around. Although, to get through the grueling regular season, upwards of nine or ten pitchers could be used at a time. Let’s take a look at the remaining relievers the Padres could use in 2020.
Aaron Loup LHP
Signed to a two-year contract before the 2019 season, Aaron Loup was supposed to play a significant role for the Padres. Unfortunately, Loup only managed four appearances before going on the IL with a forearm strain that eventually shut him down for the season. If he can return to health, and return to his career 3.45 ERA, Loup could be the third left-hander in the bullpen. Those are big “ifs,” however.
Adrian Morejon LHP
The top signing of the Padres’ 2016 international spending spree was Adrian Morejon. Injuries have limited Morejon over the past couple of years. There’s also the distinct possibility his upside is cashed in on via a trade. MLB Pipeline has him at number seven in the organization, falling out of the top 100 in the league since moving to the bullpen. However, another team could still value him as a starter, and Morejon could be a significant trade chip. Otherwise, when healthy, he should continue to come out of the bullpen for the Padres. His limited MLB innings have him at a double-digit ERA, but not enough innings to devalue him in a trade scenario.
Luis Perdomo RHP
Originally a Rule 5 selection, Luis Perdomo has a history of being inconsistent. 2019 was the same, just with better results. Perdomo gave up two runs in all of June and only one in August, showing how dominant he can be. He also had poor outings that looked like he was throwing batting practice. He ended with a career-best 4.00 ERA and even had positive WAR for the season. If Perdomo can gain a bit more consistency, he can be a great piece of this bullpen.
Trey Wingenter RHP
At 6-foot-7 inches, Trey Wingenter is another imposing figure on the mound. The young right-hander has shown flashes of brilliance and big-game ability. Inconsistency marred his 2019 season as he was sent to the minors multiple times. Wingenter is only 25 years old and has numerous years of team control remaining. He should be apart of the bullpen for years to come, but he will need to earn his playing time.
David Bednar RHP
Originally a 35th round draft pick, David Bednar has already outperformed expectations by earning a September call up in 2019. Before his final MLB outing, Bednar had an impressive 2.61 ERA over 12 appearances. If Bednar can continue pitching well into spring training, there’s a chance he could make the 26 man roster.
Carl Edwards Jr. RHP
After a 2019 season to forget, Carl Edwards Jr.is more likely to find himself released from the team rather than in the 2020 bullpen. However, Edwards’ track record in the Chicago Cubs World Series run may keep him in the organization and thus give him a second chance in the Padres’ bullpen.
Javy Guerra RHP
Recently the Padres converted shortstop Javy Guerra into a relief pitcher after it became apparent he was not going to develop into an MLB contributor in the field. He was quickly promoted through the system and made his Padres debut as a reliever in September. The only thing he likely showed was that he needs more time to develop as a pitcher. Guerra may be able to save his once-promising career, but 2020 may not be the year he does it.
Eric Yardley RHP
Another September call-up was Eric Yardley. The right-handed submarine pitcher performed quite well. In 10 appearances, he only gave up three earned runs. His delivery is so different; the team may value him more than his stats would suggest. Yardley first needs to be retained by the team and survive the 40 man roster cuts. After that, he can focus on earning a spot in the 2020 bullpen which is a distinct possibility.
Robert Stock RHP
In 2018, Robert Stock had quite the rookie season. Contributing to a dominant Padres bullpen, Stock carved out his role for 2019. However, Stock was inconsistent and lost a bit of control. His fastball can touch 100 mph, so if he can get back to 2018 form, there’s undoubtedly a spot for him in the upcoming season. (However, this will not come to pass as Stock was claimed by the Philadelphia Phillies on October 31).
Gerardo Reyes RHP
Like Stock, Gerardo Reyes can touch triple digits with his fastball. And also like Stock, Reyes struggled with control and consistency in 2019. Reyes has a sidearm delivery that is unlike a lot of MLB pitchers, so if he can gain some control and confidence he too could find a role in 2020.
So there you have it. The 2020 San Diego Padres have the makings of an excellent bullpen. The top five arms are some of the best in baseball. There are also at least ten players vying for the remaining three to five spots. Even more, if some of the excess starting pitchers are moved to the bullpen. If the Padres are planning on playing deep into October, they need to retain these top relievers and develop a few of the remaining players into quality pieces. If that happens, the bullpen will once again be one of the strengths of the team.