5 Things We Learned from Padres Spring Training
We finally can say the words we have wanted to hear for the last few weeks: spring training is over. Not that it wasn’t enjoyable, as it certainly was, perhaps the most enjoyable in years with exciting prospects in major league camp and positive results on the field. We are less than 48 hours from Opening Day. Let’s take a moment to digest what we learned from 2018 spring training and what it might mean for the upcoming regular season and beyond.
Here are five things we learned about the Padres during spring training.
1. The Padres’ #1 Farm System Ranking is Valid
MLB Pipeline recently ranked the Padres as the number one farm system in all of baseball. Spring training saw three of the top 50 MLB prospects start in major league camp in Fernando Tatis Jr. (8th), Luis Urias (36th), and Cal Quantrill 40th), along with two other top 10 organization prospects in Joey Lucchesi and Franchy Cordero.
None of these names above disappointed during their time (some of which was brief) in big league camp. Fernando Tatis was the headliner and immediately made a splash, hitting an opposite field home run in his first spring game of the year. He wasn’t a one-trick pony either, making a handful of stellar defensive plays as well as a 4-4, five RBI day on March 4th, and he also stole three bases. He was sent down to minor league camp after his game on March 12th and he finished with a slash line of .281/.343/.469, a home run, eight RBI, and three doubles.
#SpringTraining gave the @MLB world a taste of what the #Padres have known for almost 2 years: Fernando Tatis Jr. is a star in the making: https://t.co/v8sZ1JP04T pic.twitter.com/ENDnBrWYhX
— MLB Pipeline (@MLBPipeline) March 13, 2018
Urias may have shown even more maturity at the plate. His approach is that of a 10-year veteran, and it showed early in spring games. He hit .286, and that was with a significant slump to end his major league camp tenure. He led the team with five doubles as well. He very well could be on the Padres’ roster by the All-Star break.
Quantrill didn’t make the huge splash the previous two did, but after a rough first outing (four earned runs in one inning), he settled down in his second and final appearance, tossing two scoreless innings with two strikeouts. The important thing is that he looked healthy and poised for another jump.
Lucchesi outperformed Quantrill this spring, no doubt about it. He may be on the Padres’ roster before I finish typing this sentence. After his scoreless streak ended at 7 1/3 innings, he still finished with a 1.54 ERA in 11 2/3 innings. He has major league-caliber deception and went toe-to-toe with the big boys, retiring the likes of Jose Ramirez, Rajai Davis, Jean Segura, Nelson Cruz, and Kyle Seager.
"He's a guy that — whether it's April, May, June, July or August — we expect to see him."#Padres No. 9 prospect Joey Lucchesi made a strong impression in spring and could make his @MLB debut later this year: https://t.co/9URE5XJ98K pic.twitter.com/YhsEcT8RvQ
— MLB Pipeline (@MLBPipeline) March 23, 2018
Lastly, Cordero certainly made the outfield decisions hard with some electric moments in the spring, which included an inside-the-park home run. He hit .343 with a 1.179 OPS in 16 games, but with limited action down the stretch because of injury, he looks to start the season on the disabled list and not on the Opening Day roster. That doesn’t mean we won’t see Cordero in the majors again soon, as he is an elite speed threat with great defensive metrics to go along with a powerful bat.
These young prospects have a lot of work to do, but the anticipation and excitement is palpable among Friars fans.
2. Starting Pitching Depth is a Concern
Lack of arms is not the issue here, but rather the lack of quality arms. The wound opened a bit more with the sudden injury to Dinelson Lamet, who was penciled in as the number two starter in the rotation. He looked to be building off of a strong rookie campaign (10.9 K/9, most among rookie starting pitchers). The hope is Lamet will only be out until May, but we all know that elbow issues could turn south quickly.
The rotation currently sits at Clayton Richard, Bryan Mitchell, Luis Perdomo, and Tyson Ross. Richard will start Opening Day on Thursday with Perdomo slated to pitch Saturday’s Game 3. Game 2 is now up in the air with Lamet’s injury. Robbie Erlin seemed to emerge as the first starter off of the rotation and he may be inserted at the end of it, especially if Ross or Mitchell pitch Game 2 against Milwaukee.
Depth is now a concern because aside from Lamet’s injury, Colin Rea and Matt Strahm are also not healthy. Rea is a 60-Day DL candidate and may require an extended spring training, after never appearing this spring with a strained lat. Strahm is still recovering from mid-season knee surgery last year. He didn’t suffer any setbacks during spring, but the Padres are easing him into the workload they need from him. Strahm appeared in four spring games with a 9.64 ERA. Clearly, some work needs to be done there.
AJ Preller said Lucchesi is a “realistic option” to be in the rotation during Lamet’s absence. I hesitate in putting him on the OD roster but it sure would bring a buzz. He looked ready in ST. #Padres https://t.co/1o3QR1sGd5
— Nick L. (@NickLee51) March 27, 2018
Lucchesi may be called into duty early this season, perhaps within the first few weeks of April. As mentioned before, he looks ready to take on a major league lineup. He is the Padres’ ninth-best prospect in the organization.
Besides the list of arms available in the rotation, the question is, how good will they be? You can slate five pitchers in a rotation, but that doesn’t mean they will be any good. You can’t put lipstick on a pig and call it beautiful. The Padres were ranked 23rd with a 4.83 ERA among starting pitchers last season, and that was with Jhoulys Chacin leading the way, who has now departed for the Padres’ Opening Day opponent, the Brewers. There are a lot of question marks with some of these names. Can Tyson Ross really bounce back, and if he does, how much does he have left in the tank? He hasn’t turned in a full season since 2015 and is coming off of a significant health issue. The spring results were encouraging as he had a 3.00 ERA in five games, striking out 11 in 15 innings.
Another is how legit is Bryan Mitchell? The Padres seemed to be really high on him since they were willing to tow Chase Headley’s 2018 salary of $13 million to get him. Mitchell has pitched in 48 major league games, starting in just nine of those. In those nine starts, he has a 3.76 ERA in 40 2/3 innings, not exactly a big sample size. Mitchell had a rough spring, with a 8.25 ERA in four games. However, the Padres’ front office has shown recently they have a good eye for talent, so we will wait and see.
Can Luis Perdomo improve from his 2017? He struggled at times and ended with a 4.67 ERA, although that was an improvement from his 2016 ERA of 5.71. With a 5.74 ERA in the spring, questions still remain. Perdomo totes a 60.4% ground ball rate, well above average, so he may benefit from a stronger defensive infield.
Richard is the de facto ace for the moment and he has earned his first career Opening Day start. He started 32 games with 197 innings last season and will set the example of a “workhorse mentality” for the younger starters. His 3.75 ERA in four spring starts would certainly be a welcome sight in the regular season. Top pitching prospects like Quantrill, Adrian Morejon, and Michel Baez are still a ways off, so the Friars need to make due with what they have now, unless they want to trade for a guy named Chris Archer…
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Native of Escondido, CA. Lived in San Diego area for 20 years. Padres fan since childhood (mid-90s). I have been writing since 2014. I currently live near Seattle, WA and am married to a Seattle sports girl. I wore #19 on my high school baseball team for Tony Gwynn. I am a stats and sports history nerd. I attended BYU on the Idaho campus. I also love Star Wars.
Excellent rundown. I agree with all five points, though the rotation is suspect because there will be a couple guys returning from injury, and a couple guys who are stopgaps who may be replaced as early as later this year. It looks like we’ll have Erlin and Ross instead of Lamet and Lyles, and both are returning from injury, but looked good in ST.
The stopgaps are Richard and Mitchell, and I could see Lucchesi replacing Richard before the year is out. Lauer may replace either Ross or Erlin if either falters too. I’m high on the substitutes being improvements on the guys they may replace, but it’ll take all season to make that determination.
I’m most pleased that Hosmer, Asuaje, and Headley will increase OBP enough to dramatically increase run production. All that would be needed is for Pirela and Myers to drive them in, and maybe Renfroe will start hitting homers with a guy or two on base too. Better defense and just league-average pitching could shave off enough runs allowed for the offense to win at least ten more games than last year. That would be an 81-81 season! Is that too much to ask?
Lorenzo you hit it on the head! Padres executive Ron Fowler has said his goal for this season is to get to .500. I think that would be a big step forward and if a few breaks bounce our way, it is certainly possible.