Recently the Padres’ bullpen has struggled to finish games, which has been a critical part of why the team has been unable to improve upon their .500 record. Nonetheless, San Diego remains only 2.5 games out of the wild-card race. Let’s take a look at the potential solutions to their bullpen woes, which is an area in which they will have to improve in if they are to be real contenders in 2019.
Following the unexpected blown save by Kirby Yates in the series finale versus the Pirates, the vulnerability of the Padres’ bullpen became more apparent than ever. To be clear, the team’s closer is not an issue at all — It was amazingly his first blown save of the entire season. By many measurements, he is the best reliever in baseball. The problem for the Padres is how to bridge the gap from their starting pitchers to Yates.
To begin, we should look at the current in-house options currently on the major league roster. Which pitchers are throwing well and have a shot at being more productive than they have been thus far in 2019? The most obvious candidate is Luis Perdomo, who has pitched to an ERA of 2.48 this season out of the bullpen. Even more impressive is that his ERA is only 0.52 in the 17.1 innings he’s thrown in June. The average exit velocity on batted balls against him is only 86.1 mph during the same time frame, which has been a key indicator of his recent success. At this point in the season, the Padres should be giving Perdomo every chance to pitch the late innings. There will have to be other pitchers who also step up, who are worthy of more prominent roles as well.
Recently moved to the bullpen from the rotation, Cal Quantrill is another arm with the potential to be a very useful reliever. His stuff should play up in relief, and the early results are encouraging. His first relief outing saw him strike out three hitters in two innings of work in which he didn’t allow a run. Unfortunately, he walked three batters in his most recent outing in Baltimore, but this can largely be ignored in the context of his previous work on the mound for the Padres. If the righty can get it together and throw strikes with more consistency, he has all the ingredients to be a quality late-inning arm for San Diego.
Those are a couple of the arms that are already with the team and have a shot at really stepping up for them throughout the rest of the year in the bullpen. The next arm we’ll look at is still in the minor leagues but can pitch the late innings right now for the Padres. Andres Muñoz is a 20-year-old pitcher whose fastball has been clocked as high as 104 mph this season. He is the kind of power arm that can truly make the Padres a legitimate contender this season. Add in a solid slider to his repertoire, and we have a guy who at least merits a chance to pitch at the major league level quite soon. Hopefully, the Padres give him the chance to do so because the back of their bullpen has not been steady recently.
While it may be a surprise to many that the Padres have converted former shortstop Javier Guerra to pitcher, his potential on the mound is immense. The right-hander already has a very hard fastball, which he has already hit 100 mph with. He has already been promoted to Lake Elsinore and has received high praise from outlets such as FanGraphs. Here’s what they had to say about him: “His first bullpen session, which took place in front of a very small contingent of Padres’ front office folks, was electric.” Furthermore, the writers anticipated that he might pitch for the Padres out of the bullpen this season. Considering the state of the team’s bullpen at the moment, combined with the velocity offered by Guerra — The Padres are likely even more inclined to fast track him to the big leagues.
These are just some of the arms that may be useful for the Padres to use out of their bullpen throughout the rest of the season. As a whole, the Padres have many pitchers in their system who will eventually impact the team later down the road. Someone such as MacKenzie Gore would likely make a fine bullpen arm right now, but is being groomed as a starter and thus cannot be expected to help the team’s bullpen in 2019. Although these pitchers can pitch well for the Padres this year, nothing is guaranteed because they have not been trusted in the team’s bullpen thus far. Regardless, they are options that must be considered when evaluating the Padres’ bullpen arms.
A sophomore at Willamette University in Oregon, Conrad is majoring in Spanish but is also a writing center assistant for other students at Willamette. He has been a Padres die-hard his whole life and hopes to bring comprehensible statistical analysis to the site.