Joey Lucchesi (LHP): After a great rookie season that included a 4.08 ERA and 145 strikeouts over 130 innings, Lucchesi is well deserving of the opening day nod. However, there are plenty of other pitchers knocking on the door in Amarillo and El Paso. In order to be a long term piece in this rotation, he’s going to need to hone his control a lot more in order to get deeper into games as well as develop a good third pitch.
Eric Lauer (LHP): He had a harsh welcome to the majors in his first start against the Rockies in Denver, but after that, he was able to settle down and find his place in the rotation. For much of the season, Lauer looked like a much more polished pitcher than Lucchesi but his lower velocity seemed to get him into trouble at times. He looked his best in a start against the Dodgers when he nearly went nine innings and was throwing as hard as he had all season. He’s a decent number two for 2019 who I believe will end up having a better career than everyone other than maybe the next guy.
Matt Strahm (LHP): Strahm should be fully prepared to make the transition into the rotation in 2019 after a full winter of preparation. Following his recovery from knee surgery in 2017, he was a great piece out of the bullpen for the Padres who at times went multiple innings in relief or to open up games. For a longer look at Strahm’s 2019 potential, check out this piece I wrote that was published the other day.
Jacob Nix (RHP): The first righty in the rotation. Nix got knocked around hard in 2018 and ended up with an ERA north of seven in 42.1 innings. I expect the Padres to give him another shot for at least the first few months of the season as he just turned 23 and has significantly more upside than someone like Brett Kennedy who also did not look like a rotation piece during his limited usage last season.
Luis Perdomo (RHP): The former Rule 5 selection is on his last leg with the organization. He spent much of last year with El Paso and showed a moderate improvement in his command during his time in AAA. This should be his final shot to prove he’s worth keeping around before Chris Paddack and Logan Allen get their first taste of the majors.
Kirby Yates (RHP): Yates should be back in the closer role that he took over following the trade of Brad Hand to the Indians. Since the Padres claimed him off waivers, he’s been absolutely solid out of the bullpen and is another great example of this team’s ability to find quality bullpen arms from another team’s rubbish heap. Because he’ll be 32 this year, I don’t see the team hanging onto him through the season and see him being another bullpen arm that they make and then flip for a prospect or two.
Phil Maton (RHP): After debuting in 2017, Maton has been serviceable but has struggled at times with his command and the long ball. He’s still a young pitcher trying to find his place in a bullpen and with the team likely not being anywhere near competitive in 2019, this is another great season for him to continue to do so and improve.
Jose Castillo (LHP): Castillo has shown the type of stuff to likely be a closer one day. He has high strikeout rates and great splits against righties and lefties. His control was also solid this past season as he walked just 2.8 batters per 9 IP. For being just 22 last season, he has already shown significant upside and still has tons of time to improve as he continues to face the top talent at the major league level.
Robbie Erlin (LHP): Erlin was very good when used out of the bullpen last season but struggled mightily when employed as a starter. It’s clear that hitters start to key in on his pitches and tendencies the second time they see him and he’s best used pitching no more than two innings at a time. His control was exceptional all season as he walked just 12 batters against 88 strikeouts in 109 innings. He received a well-deserved pay increase this offseason and looks to be a key piece out of the ‘pen again in 2019 now that he seems to be fully recovered from Tommy John surgery,
Craig Stammen (RHP): At 35 this season, Stammen is the oldest of the bullpen arms but is coming off of back-to-back very good, and very cheap years. Stammen is arguably the best free agent signing that Preller has made so far unless you’re considering the return James Shields eventually got the team. Much of his success has come from pounding the zone early in the count, he rarely falls behind hitters and makes himself vulnerable. He’s also garnered quite the reputation for stranding any runners that he inherits. Like Yates, I see him being traded to a contender in desperate need of bullpen help before the deadline.
Robert Stock (RHP): After starting his career as a catcher and then spending some time out of affiliated ball, Stock burst onto the scene with the Padres last season with a scorching fastball. That fastball is so devastating that he’ll sometimes show it over and over again in the same at-bat and embarrass the hitter. There’s been talk about him potentially being used as a starter this year after he made a few extended appearances last season, but his best home is probably in the bullpen where he doesn’t have to worry about holding back on that heater for later match ups.
Trey Wingenter (RHP): Like Stock, Wingenter has a high-velocity fastball but it’s less refined and he’s about five years younger. He sometimes struggles with his command of it, which can get him into trouble. Because of this, he barely holds onto the last spot in the bullpen and after any extended signs of trouble, he’ll likely go back down to El Paso to work out the kinks against lesser competition. But like Castillo, I see Wingenter’s ceiling as being a guy who can be trusted in high leverage situations, particularly due to his ability to blow away hitters.
There you have it. While this isn’t exactly how I’d like the opening day roster to shake out, it is what I expect to happen barring any unforeseen circumstances like injuries or trades. So let’s hear it Padres twitter, do what you do best and tell me what I got wrong and we can discuss why.
Growing up in Dodgers country, Bradley would proudly display his Padres fandom through the roughest years of non competitiveness and rebuilding. With the Padres on the verge of contending, he’s excited to get the opportunity to cover them on a regular basis along with their minor league system.