3. The progress of rookie pitchers
At the start of the season, it was all about Chris Paddack, and for a good reason.
Through May 6th, Paddack owned a 1.55 ERA and 2.41 FIP in seven starts. He emerged as not only a front-runner for Rookie of the Year but also was getting early votes in polls regarding the Cy Young award. As most rookies do, Paddack has run into some bumps in the road down the stretch, with a 4.24 ERA in 12 starts since his hot start.
The Padres are likely to get stingier with his innings as the season winds down, but it will be interesting to see how he finishes his season. He is must-watch television with his relentless approach on the mound. He pitches with a flare and emotion not seen often, especially from young pitchers.
Aside from Paddack, the Padres have five other pitchers who are still developing before our very eyes at the big league level as rookies.
Cal Quantrill has had a roller-coaster season but has handled it as well as anyone could ask for and now boasts an ERA+ of 119 through 10 starts and 15 appearances overall, second-best among Padres starters. He will get more looks as the season closes but also with the caveat of an innings limit, still just a few years removed from Tommy John surgery.
— San Diego Padres (@Padres) May 7, 2019
Trey Wingenter, for most of the season, was a staple in San Diego’s bullpen. He has hit a snare in the second half of the year, with a bloated 11.81 ERA in six games since the break. In the first half, he posted a 3.44 ERA in 34 appearances. With the Friars’ bullpen continuing to be over-worked, expect Wingenter to get a chance to adjust at the big league level.
Perhaps the most exciting addition to the bullpen is 20-year-old Andres Muñoz. He started his big league career with seven straight scoreless appearances before a hiccup on Sunday against the Dodgers. He will only get better as he works on commanding that electric 100-plus MPH fastball and should develop into a legitimate weapon late in games.
Adrian Morejon and Michel Baez each have gotten a small taste of the big leagues in the second half of the year. Twice, Morejon has started games as the so-called “opener.” The results for him have been mixed, with a 6.43 ERA but remember, like Muñoz, he is only 20 years old. Baez found more immediate success, still boasting a scoreless streak to start his career that is now at 6 2/3 innings.
All of these rookie hurlers should get plenty of action down the stretch and a chance to audition for big roles in the 2020 pitching staff picture.
4. Can Luis Urias find his big league stroke?
One of the most hotly-contested subjects in Padres-dom all season long has surrounded second base prospect Luis Urias and the second base position in general. He started the year down in Triple-A El Paso, then quickly got promoted, only to bat .083 with a 37.9 percent strikeout rate in 11 games. He was then sent back down for a big chunk of the season, lighting up the stat sheet in El Paso with a .315 average and .998 OPS. Finally, on July 20th, he broke back into the big leagues.
KEEP THE DINGERS COMING
— FOX Sports San Diego (@FOXSportsSD) July 30, 2019
However, it has been anything but smooth sailing for the 22-year-old Mexican. He is still struggling, batting just .132 with a 58 wRC+ since his return. The encouraging fact is that he has cut his strikeouts by more than half. This would indicate he is seeing the ball better and a breakout is coming.
This could be one of the most intriguing parts of the final two months of San Diego’s season. Can Luis Urias realize all his elite hitting potential, so many scouts have given him? It may be unfair to pin his entire future on the final two months of this year, but this is now his third trip to the big leagues, and in this day and age, the leash is shorter than it has ever been.
It’s time for Luis Urias to shine.
5. Imminent September call-ups
Don’t let the immense talent the Padres have fielded this year distract from the fact that they still have the best farm system in baseball, even with the likes of Fernando Tatis Jr. and Chris Paddack graduating. According to MLB Pipeline, the Padres have three of their Top 30 prospects on the 40-man roster, but not in the big leagues in Austin Allen (12), Edward Olivares (20) and Ty France (24). Olivares is the only one of the three yet to make his big league debut, and the 23-year-old outfielder has been putting up call-up worthy numbers in Double-A Amarillo (.297 average, 16 HR, .847 OPS, 135 wRC+).
How strong is the @Padres farm system?
A top 50 prospect in baseball can't even slot into the top 3 👀
See where Taylor Trammell ranks in our new Top 30: https://t.co/W8jzEWrLM9
— Baseball America (@BaseballAmerica) August 3, 2019
Aside from them, the Padres can call up a whole host of prospects not yet on the 40-man roster. Pitching prospect MacKenzie Gore is making waves in Double-A and has been dominant most of the season. A promotion for him is unlikely, but not impossible nor unprecedented.
The Padres just recently acquired former Reds’ top prospect Taylor Trammell, who is now in Double-A Amarillo. The Padres may opt to give him a taste of the big leagues as he is 21 years old and in his fourth professional season. He has an outside shot at competing for a roster spot next season.
It is almost a given that the Padres will take advantage of September and let a few young players loose, especially as the innings limits pile up on the major league roster, they will need to dip into some pitching from somewhere.