An improved Joey Lucchesi is vital to the Padres rotation

Mandatory Credit: Jake Roth-USA TODAY Sports

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Mandatory Credit: Jake Roth-USA TODAY Sports

The San Diego Padres starting rotation looks to be improved in 2020, and Joey Lucchesi is an X-factor.

With the addition of Zach Davies via trade, the health of Garrett Richards and the unshackling of Chris Paddack, the 2020 starting rotation projects to be better than the 2019 version, which ranked 18th in starter ERA and WAR.

A vital component of the rotation and just how far the Friars can ascend this season may depend on the progress of Joey Lucchesi. Without Lucchesi, the Padres do not have a left-handed starter. This is just a season removed from the rotation seemingly being too lefty-heavy, with the now-departed southpaws Eric Lauer, Nick Margevicius, and Logan Allen getting starts last year.

It is essential to mix up the rotation between right-handers and lefties to keep the opposing lineups off-balance. The Padres need Lucchesi to be a big part of the rotation to offer that different look.

Early returns this spring are concerning for the Newark, CA native as he owns an 11.57 ERA in three starts in Peoria. In his most recent start, he was unable to get out of the first inning, issuing four walks and allowing three hits, which led to four runs.

Lucchesi has allowed at least one run in each of his outings thus far. Spring stats, to an extent, do not matter; however, this is a concerning trend. The Padres need Lucchesi to be part of the rotation moving forward.

The 26-year-old southpaw showed improvement last season from his rookie campaign in 2018. During his rookie year, he tossed 130 innings with a 0.5 WAR and 94 ERA+. He improved all of those numbers last season, hurling 163 2/3 innings with a 2.0 WAR and a 101 ERA+, meaning he was actually a slightly above-average pitcher.

If Lucchesi can improve off of those numbers, this Padres pitching staff can go far. As of now, he looks to be the fifth starter in the rotation, and a two-plus WAR season from the bottom of the rotation will be most welcome.

Cal Quantrill is the biggest threat to Lucchesi’s status in the rotation; however, being a righty, Quantrill replacing Lucchesi would make the San Diego rotation completely full of right-handers, which is not ideal.

Quantrill is making a solid case for himself thus far in Peoria, allowing just one run on two hits with nine strikeouts in seven innings.

It is well documented that Lucchesi struggles with an opposing lineup a third time through, where hitters have a .943 OPS against him. He has to improve that to stay in the rotation long term.

There is, of course, another lefty in the organization that is nipping at the heels of Lucchesi for a rotation spot; that is star prospect, MacKenzie Gore. The former third overall pick has pitched one and two-thirds and has surrendered three runs, but the team has been cautious in bringing him along nevertheless. However, if Lucchesi struggles and Gore sets the world ablaze once more in the minors, a change may be imminent.

Lucchesi showed improvement from 2018 to last season, and there is hope he can improve again in 2020. If the Padres truly have aspirations of playing meaningful games at Petco Park in September, Lucchesi needs to step up.

2 thoughts on “An improved Joey Lucchesi is vital to the Padres rotation

  1. We need to get Lucchesi his innings this year and see if he’s capable of being one of the 5 for next year when we are more likely to contend for a wild card. Cal will be needed as our 6th starter. I see his upside being higher than Lucchesi’s so I pencil him in as a starter next year with Joey being a SP trade chip. I hope Gore will start the year in AAA and better ready himself. I think he’ll get some opportunities with the big club this year as a spot starter and then a regular after the all-star break when we make some deals designed for 2021 contention.

    We are deep in both SP and the pen. That includes the farm. AJ can build a stud pitching staff for years to come with patience and good pitching coaches (which we have).

    We need to get through this year with getting many questions answered and dealing players better suited elsewhere or who can bring us the pieces we need for 2021. Our outfield, infield, and catching needs to be looked at deeply and trade those who really don’t fit or are second tier players.

    We truly need to whittle down our 40 man roster without just releasing those of value. Naylor to Baltimore for minor leaguers is an example. I’m not sold AT ALL on Majia and wish AJ would swallow his pride and package him while he’s still got value as a catcher. Our farm system has better catchers coming up. Hedges should handle our young staff as the better game manager and defensive catcher so he can help them develop. In a few years after he teaches and backs up our incoming catchers, I see him being a valuable coach in the future to help our staff.

  2. Quantrill is a better pitcher than Lucchesi. He is more reliable and has better control. I’d rather use the best pitcher than use someone who is not as good just because he is left handed. If the Padres have an excellent starting rotation and they all are right-handed and help the team to make the playoffs, I’m fine with that.

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