Which minor league pitchers are next to possibly make their debuts for the San Diego Padres in 2018?
Joey Lucchesi gave the Padres’ rotation a much-needed boost after the terrible news of Dinelson Lamet’s injury and impending Tommy John surgery. Lucchesi has a well above-average ERA+ of 141 with a 2.70 ERA and 9.8 K/9 rate through five major league starts. He’s had two dazzling starts against the Rockies, combining for 11 shutout innings with 15 strikeouts. Growing pains are inevitable, as seen in his last start on Sunday against Arizona, but Joey Fuego has been a breath of fresh air.
Eric Lauer now enters the mix after Luis Perdomo’s demotion. In his debut, he had everything between man and acts of God working against him, as he allowed six earned runs in three innings at Coors Field, after a near-hour rain delay, it being near-freezing temperatures, and facing one of the better lineups in the National League. He surely will bounce back as it looked like he could never get comfortable on that mound in Denver; he wasn’t the first and he won’t be the last.
Lucchesi and Lauer, the two L’s who hope to be giving other teams the like, have reshaped this rotation just a month into the regular season. With Bryan Mitchell likely on notice, Clayton Richard struggling, and the inevitable return of the injury plague, other farm arms must be standing at the ready.
Let’s take a look at some pitchers who may be pressed into duty sometime this season who have yet to make their Major League debut:
Lockett is 25 years old and in his seventh year of minor league ball. This is also the third separate year Lockett has appeared in Triple-A El Paso. Last year, in 10 starts with the Chihuahuas, he had a 4.39 ERA and FIP of 5.46, which is far worse than average. He has been mostly uninspiring in 17 career starts in Triple-A, with a 4.34 ERA. Despite his pedestrian numbers, Lockett will likely be one of the next in line should the Padres need another starter as he currently has a spot on the 40-man roster.
Kennedy was drafted in the 11th round of the 2015 draft by San Diego. He has been average, and occasionally above average, everywhere he has been. This year he appeared in three games with the big league club during spring training and posted an 8.31 ERA. In four starts in El Paso so far this season, he has been much better with a 1.21 ERA and a solid 4.00 FIP. He won’t blow anyone away with stuff and strikeouts, but he gets the job done with a 53.1% ground ball rate so far in 2018. He has a career 3.38 ERA in 67 starts in the minor leagues.
Entering his fifth season in the minor leagues, Huffman has started where he ended last year; in El Paso. In 10 starts in Triple-A, he has a solid 2.98 ERA. This season, he has an above-average 4.02 FIP to go along with a 2.41 ERA in three starts. He is not on the 40-man roster, but he would likely make a start for the Padres if multiple injuries or subpar performances occurred. With Tyson Ross pitching well, there is a chance the Friars could deal him and the conveyor belt of pitchers would keep moving on up.
Allen is ranked as the 8th-best prospect in the Padres’ loaded system and has some exciting potential. He has made four starts for Double-A San Antonio with mixed results. He allowed six runs and 10 hits in his second start of the year, but besides that, he has been solid. He is coming off of a six-inning, two-run, six-strikeout start on Tuesday and he boasts a 10 K/9 rate so far in 2018. This being his fourth season in the minor leagues, he should get better and press for time in El Paso, and maybe beyond. A season can take a lot of sharp turns and Allen would likely need a real doozy to make it to Petco Park, but weirder things have happened.
Obviously, most of these names are not as exciting as Lucchesi and Lauer, but that doesn’t mean they can’t add value. The Padres used 13 different starters last season, and so far this year, they have used seven. One can expect that the Padres will need several more over the course of an arduous season.