An outlook at the 2021 San Diego Padres’ rotation

Mandatory Credit: Ron Chenoy-USA TODAY Sports

Mandatory Credit: Orlando Ramirez-USA TODAY Sports

Taking a look at the current San Diego Padres rotation. 

The San Diego Padres went 37-23 in the 2020 regular season before taking the Wild Card Series in three games against the St. Louis Cardinals. The Padres were swept by the eventual champion Los Angeles Dodgers in the National League Division Series, but there is much to be excited about. 

This past year, the Padres’ strengths were both at the plate and on the mound, ranking near the top of the league in many statistics on both ends. San Diego’s pitching staff ranked eighth in the league in ERA (3.86), third in WHIP (1.20), fifth in strikeouts (565), and fourth in quality starts (22). 

Even with an improved starting rotation and a bullpen that heated up in the second half of the season, many questions surround the entire pitching staff going into the offseason. 

Will Dinelson Lamet and Mike Clevinger be healthy before Spring Training? Will San Diego bring back Trevor Rosenthal and Kirby Yates? Will they look to sign a veteran arm or two for the starting rotation, or will they dip into their stash of young prospects to make the leap to the rotation? 

Even after the best regular season in franchise history, the Padres got booted by the Dodgers in the NLDS. San Diego still has a lot of work to do to dethrone them from NL West supremacy. Let’s take a look at what the 2021 starting rotation could look like for the San Diego Padres: 

Locks:

Dinelson Lamet- Lamet was the Padres’ ace this season and was also one of the best pitchers in baseball. In 12 starts this season, he ranked fifth in the league in ERA (2.09), seventh in strikeouts (93), third in WHIP (0.86), and tenth in WAR (2.4). Lamet missed the postseason due to injury but does not expect to undergo surgery this offseason. The Dominican pitcher will likely be the No. 1 starter for San Diego next season and will be a Cy Young candidate. 

Mike Clevinger- Clevinger was acquired by San Diego at the MLB Trade Deadline and was phenomenal in his starts for the Padres. In his four starts, Clevinger recorded a 2.84 ERA, 0.87 WHIP, and 19 strikeouts in 19 innings. He injured his arm in his last regular-season start, forcing him to miss two weeks. Clevinger came back against the Dodgers in the NLDS but lasted only one inning due to an arm injury once again. “Sunshine” is already a fan-favorite in San Diego and is expected to recover in time for Spring Training. Clevinger will likely be the No. 2 starter next season, although he and Lamet may be interchangeable. 

Zach Davies Davies was one of the Padres’ best starting pitchers this year in his first season in San Diego. He was a workhorse as he led the team in innings pitched (69 1/3). The right-handed pitcher put up a 2.73 ERA and a 1.07 WHIP, both of which ranked top-15 in all of baseball. His seven wins ranked second in the league. Davies had a great year for the Padres despite two underwhelming postseason starts. He will look to be a middle-of-the-rotation starter in 2021. 

Mandatory Credit: Orlando Ramirez-USA TODAY Sports

Chris Paddack Paddack had an underwhelming year in which he was very inconsistent. The Texas native finished with a 4.73 ERA and a 1.22 WHIP as his strikeout numbers dropped to 8.8 K/9. In his Game 1 start of the NLDS, the Cardinals rocked him for six runs in 2 1/3 innings. Over the offseason, “The Sheriff” desperately needs to add a third pitch to his arsenal. Going out on the mound with essentially only a fastball and changeup will not be effective like it was during the first half of his 2019 rookie season. Paddack will be facing a huge 2021 season as he looks to bounce back and be a middle-of-the-rotation starter or better. After a tough season, Paddack will need to be much better, but he should surely be in the 2021 Opening Day rotation. 

Other possible starters: 

The top of the rotation is set with Lamet and Clevinger, followed by Davies and Paddack, who will very likely be in the rotation to start the 2021 season. That leaves a wide-open spot that many pitchers will be vying to take. 

The top options will likely be Luis Patiño and Adrian Morejon. Patiño, who turned 21 this week, had a 5.19 ERA and 1.85 WHIP this season. Although these aren’t inspiring numbers, he was just 20 years old all season long and has a lot of work to do now that he has made his MLB debut. His 21 strikeouts in 17 1/3 innings show promise in his stuff, though.

Morejon, 21, recorded a 4.66 ERA and 25 strikeouts in 19 1/3 innings. Both of these young pitchers had a huge opportunity on this Padres team this season to showcase their abilities. 

Another pitcher who is worth looking at is Joey Lucchesi. Lucchesi was one of San Diego’s workhorse pitchers in 2018 and 2019 but only made three appearances this past season. With Lucchesi and Morejon currently being the only two LHP with a solid chance to break the rotation, one of them will likely make it. Manager Jayce Tingler would likely go with the younger Morejon for 2021, as shown by his usage in 2020.

Two other left-handed pitchers that turn heads are Ryan Weathers and MacKenzie Gore. Weathers, 20, made his MLB debut in Game 1 of the NLDS against the Dodgers. In 1 1/3 shutout innings, he walked two batters and struck out Cody Bellinger. Weathers is the Padres’ No. 6 prospect and will be intriguing to watch if placed on the roster in 2021. 

MacKenzie Gore. The Padres’ No. 1 prospect, the top pitching prospect in all of baseball, and the No. 3 prospect in all of baseball. Gore, 21, is expected to be a future top-of-the-rotation starting pitcher. Due to COVID-19, Gore, along with all minor league players, did not have a season.

He was at San Diego’s alternate site at the University of San Diego. He struggled with command at times at USD and did not make an appearance in the majors this season, but expect Gore to be on the Padres at some point in 2021. 

San Diego has a deep farm system featuring many prospects who would break the starting rotation in 2021. But they could still choose to dip into the free-agent class, which features the likely 2020 NL Cy Young winner Trevor Bauer, along with Marcus Stroman, Taijuan Walker, and Masahiro Tanaka. Garrett Richards is a pending free agent but likely will not be brought back. 

The San Diego Padres will look to carry their momentum from this season into 2021 as they hope to continue to be one of baseball’s top teams.

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Bobby Murphy
Bobby is currently a sophomore at Arizona State University and is majoring in Sports Journalism in the Walter Cronkite School of Journalism and Mass Communication. He is from San Diego, loves to write, and has a deep passion for baseball, football, and basketball. He also co-hosts the "Devils Talking Padres" podcast.

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Bobby Murphy
Bobby is currently a sophomore at Arizona State University and is majoring in Sports Journalism in the Walter Cronkite School of Journalism and Mass Communication. He is from San Diego, loves to write, and has a deep passion for baseball, football, and basketball. He also co-hosts the "Devils Talking Padres" podcast.