As the calendar nears January, the baseball season is truly just around the corner. For the San Diego Padres, there is still a lot of work to do before the 2016 season begins.
While the Padres have holes to fill all around the diamond, with question marks at a variety of positions, one group stands out for the uncertainty attached. That group would be the Padres bullpen. As I profiled earlier this week on East Village Times, the Padres have a lot of options in their bullpen, with more question marks than answers currently.
While several players seem to be all but a lock to be a part of the bullpen in 2016, such as Brandon Maurer, Kevin Quackenbush, Nick Vincent, among others, the Padres have quite a few intriguing options that could play a big role.
Perhaps the two most interesting possibilities are Blake Smith and Josh Martin, both of whom were selected in the Rule 5 Draft by the San Diego Padres earlier this month. While I discussed both briefly earlier this week, both players warrant further examination.
First off is Blake Smith, who was selected from the Chicago White Sox as the 15th pick in the Rule 5 Draft. First drafted by the Los Angeles Dodgers in the 2009 Draft, Smith was originally an outfielder before being converted to a pitcher during the 2013 season.
Despite having only three years of pitching under his belt, Smith has been rather impressive recently. After pitching the entire 2013 season for the Dodgers high A ball team, Smith got as high as Double A for the Dodgers in 2014. He followed with an appearance Triple A in 2015, after he was traded to the Chicago White Sox.
For only having been pitching for the last three years, an appearance in Triple A last season is quite impressive. In 2015, Smith threw 30 total innings over 24 games, finishing with an ERA of 3.30 and a FIP of 2.29. Add to that a K/9 of 12.60, with 42 strikeouts in those 30 innings, and Smith may have the makings of a decent bullpen option.
The one caveat with Smith, however, is his struggles with his command at times. With a BB/9 of 4.50, with 15 walks in 30 innings, command could be an issue for Smith going forward. Despite these struggles, if he can show better control in Spring Training, he seems like a great strikeout pitcher to add to the Padres bullpen. At 28 years old, time may be running out for Smith to make an appearance at the big league level; with the Padres, he may get that chance.
The other relief pitcher the Padres selected in the Rule 5 draft is former Cleveland Indians RHP Josh Martin, who was selected by the Padres with the 7th pick. Originally drafted in the 2012 draft by the Cleveland Indians, Martin has only reached as high as Double A in the minor leagues.
After spending most of 2014 in High A ball, Martin spent all of 2015 in Double A for the Indians. Despite only pitching in Double A, Martin was even more impressive than Smith.
While Martin’s progress through the minor leagues hasn’t been quick, he has seen a steady rise each season. In 2015, Martin pitched in 67 1/3 over 44 games for the Indians Double A affiliate, finishing with an ERA of 2.27 and a FIP of 2.51. Martin struck out 10.69 batters per nine innings while only walking 2.54 batters. In total, Martin struck out 80 batters in his 67 1/3 innings, while only walking 19 batters. Profiling similar to Smith, Martin could also fill a role in the Padres bullpen as a hard throwing, strikeout-oriented right hander.
While the Padres bullpen may be filled with question marks in 2016, they may find some answers in Blake Smith and Josh Martin. Despite neither player having any major league experience, and both only having 3-4 years of professional pitching experience, both stand a pretty good chance of being a part of the Padres bullpen come opening day. Despite profiling as similar pitchers, both could definitely find a niche in the middle of the Padres bullpen. The more likely scenario is that only one of the two sticks, but you can never have too many options going into Spring Training.