Kyle Lloyd– RHP, Triple-A, El Paso Chihuahuas
33 IP, 27 H, 8 ER, 6 BB, 27 K
We all know the Padres’ farm system is loaded with pitching talent. Sure there are plenty of interesting position players, some of which were discussed above, but it’s clear that pitching is where the Padres’ farm really shines. While most of that talent is focused on the bottom levels of the system, there are a few guys who are turning heads at the higher levels. One such guy is Kyle Lloyd, who pitched so well over the first month and a half of the season that he found himself moving from Double-A to Triple-A.
After beginning the season with 53 strikeouts and just 20 earned runs over his first 56 and 1/3 innings with the Missions, which included a no-hitter, Lloyd earned a promotion to Triple-A. In his first and only start of the month for the Missions, Lloyd threw six innings, giving up three earned runs on 11 hits. Not his best start of the year, but his body of work for the month of May speaks for itself. Lloyd hasn’t really dominated yet this year, aside from that no-hitter, but he has done a fantastic job of getting batters out and putting zeros on the scoreboard. It remains to be seen how he handles Triple-A, but if successful, he could find himself in San Diego at some point in the not too distant future.
Michael Kelly– RHP, Double-A, San Antonio Missions
32 IP, 17 H, 4 ER, 9 BB, 32 K
Right behind Lloyd is Michael Kelly, who arguably pitched even better than Lloyd over the last month of the season. Kelly has followed closely behind Lloyd and may do so once again with a promotion to Triple-A. That has yet to happen, but if Kelly’s May dominance is any indication, that could happen very soon. Kelly has now struck out more batters than he has pitched innings, and he has only walked 20 batters compared to 57 strikeouts. For a Padres system that was supposedly devoid of high-level pitching talent, Kyle Lloyd and Michael Kelly are sure doing a lot to prove that assumption wrong.
Jerry Keel– LHP, Double-A, San Antonio Missions
25.1 IP, 21 H, 11 ER, 10 BB, 23 K
While Lloyd and Kelly were two guys who were expected to do well this season, one guy that came a little bit by surprise is big left-hander, Jerry Keel. Originally drafted in the ninth round of the 2015 draft, Keel is excelling after a 2016 season in which he struggled following promotions to High-A and then Double-A at the end of the season. Keel started this season all the way back down in Low-A, which proved to be a great decision, as the lefty gave up only 16 earned runs while striking out 50 batters over his first 48 and 2/3 innings. This dominance was enough to get Keel a call all the way up to Double-A, where he impressed in his 2017 debut with the Missions, as he fired six and two-thirds shut out innings. Keel still has plenty of work to do, but he has certainly put himself on everyone’s radar with his early season performance.
Cesar Vargas– RHP, Double-A, San Antonio Missions
15.2 IP, 3 H, 0 ER, 8 BB, 17 K
You remember Cesar Vargas right? He came up for the Padres last year and had a string of solid starts in late April and through May before being shut down for the remainder of the season with lingering elbow issues. Going into this season, it was expected Vargas would be competing for a spot in the Padres’ non-existent rotation. However, in a somewhat surprising move, the Padres demoted Vargas to Double-A early in spring training. After having some decent success over his first few starts this season, Vargas was moved to the bullpen for the Missions. This turned out to be a very smart decision for the Padres’ front office.
To this point, Vargas has excelled in a relief role, giving up only 11 earned runs on the season with 34 strikeouts in his 34 innings of work. In fact, Vargas has not given up a single earned run since April 30, as the right-hander made nine appearances in May and did not give up an earned run in any of them. In Vargas, the Padres may have found yet another useful bullpen piece to add to the list. If Vargas keeps this up, he could be even better than anything the Padres expected.
Eric Lauer– LHP, High-A, Lake Elsinore Storm
24.1 IP, 19 H, 3 ER, 7 BB, 28 K
Viewed by many as the most polished college pitcher in the 2016 draft, lefty Eric Lauer was taken with the 25th overall selection in the first round. In his professional debut, Lauer did not disappoint, as the left-hander gave up only three earned runs in his first 21 professional innings in short season ball before two innings thrown to end the year at Fort Wayne. Rather than start Lauer at Fort Wayne again this year, the Padres decided to move Lauer quickly and start him at High-A. Considering Lauer had the lofty expectation of pitching in the big leagues a year after he was drafted, this wasn’t really much of an aggressive assignment.
So far, Lauer has been everything the Padres could have imagined. The argument can be made that Lauer has been not only the Padres’ best minor league pitcher this month, but perhaps their best pitcher all season. In May, Lauer appeared in four games, giving up no earned runs in the first three, and three earned runs in the last one. With a four-to-one strikeout-to-walk ratio, and a great feel for all his pitches, it should really be only a matter of time before Lauer climbs to the next level with his eyes fixated on San Diego.
Joey Lucchesi– LHP, High-A, Lake Elsinore Storm
32.2 IP, 25 H, 11 ER, 8 BB, 37 K
If not for the aforementioned Eric Lauer, and other fellow left-hander, Logan Allen, Joey Lucchesi might be the most impressive Padres pitching farmhand. Believe it or not, Lucchesi was actually a lot worse in May than he was over the first month of the season, as the left-hander gave up only two earned runs in his first 21 innings of the season. Even with the more frequent earned runs in May, Lucchesi has still solidified himself as one of the most well-rounded pitchers in the Padres system. He may not look as polished as Lauer and Allen, but Lucchesi is right there with those other two guys.
Logan Allen– LHP, Low-A, Fort Wayne TinCaps
28.2 IP, 19 H, 4 ER, 8 BB, 31 K
I love watching Logan Allen pitch. Given that he pitches in Low-A ball for a team across the country, watching him pitch is few and far between, as Low-A games are rarely televised on MILB TV. With that being said, Allen has been truly impressive this season, with May being an even better month for the lefty than April was. Despite many thinking Allen would start the season in High-A, he has somehow remained in Low-A for a full two months. Given how Allen has carved up hitters to this point, it is clear he needs some better competition in High-A with the Storm. Hopefully that promotion comes soon so I can go watch Allen pitch in person.