Most fans of the team know what the 2018 season is all about. It is about developing the young pups on the major league roster and getting all those blue chip prospects one or two steps closer to putting on a Padres uniform.
2018 has seen a few of these touted prospects find their way up to the big leagues, mostly pitchers; guys like Joey Lucchesi, Eric Lauer, Walker Lockett, Brett Kennedy, and now, Jacob Nix, the 14th ranked prospect in the organization, according to EVT’s list and MLB Pipeline.
Jacob Nix had every reason to be nervous on Friday.
He had about 60 family and friends in the stands and a mixture of friends and foes among the almost 27,000 in attendance, but he wasn’t nervous — at least he didn’t look like it.
Of these debuts, Nix clearly had the best appearance so far this season. He went six innings of shutout ball while striking out four and walking two.
Lucchesi was the first debut of this season and he allowed three runs and seven hits in 4.2 innings.
Lauer was tagged for six earned runs in his debut.
Lockett was hit hard, allowing four earned runs and walking five in 3.2 innings.
Kennedy made his debut earlier this week and was roughed up in the first inning, allowing six runs total over four innings.
— MLB Pipeline (@MLBPipeline) August 11, 2018
Nix was head and shoulders above them, at least in his debut. Certainly, a career cannot be based on one’s debut. One of these pitchers can far exceed the other in the long haul. Of course, all Padres fans hope most, or all, of these guys can hold rotation spots next season.
Let’s break down Nix’s debut. He sent twitter abuzz with his borderline NSFW changeup.
Jacob Nix, Disgusting 79mph Changeup (grip/release/spin axis/slow). ?
— Rob Friedman (@PitchingNinja) August 11, 2018
EVT’s own Patrick Brewer broke it down into pitch types throughout his night.
Brooks Baseball had Nix throwing 57 fastballs, 12 changeups, 1 slider, and 18 curveballs last night. Eight swinging strikes in total. Fastball sitting 94 with the changeup around 81. With some better command that could be a successful combo. Curveball might need some fine tuning
— Patrick Brewer (@patrickbrewer93) August 11, 2018
Nix certainly was not perfect, but he looked like the moment was not too big for him. In fact, in Dennis Lin’s recap on The Athletic, he quoted manager Andy Green as saying Nix was “bigger than this moment.” He seemed calm, cool, and collected in the face of one of the better lineups in the National League in the Philadelphia Phillies.
Rhys Hoskins, a MLB All-Star Game Home Run Derby participant who has hit 40 homers in his first full season’s worth of games, was the victim of that nasty changeup above. He also struck out accomplished power hitter Carlos Santana, and 2016 All-Star Odubel Herrera went hitless in three tries.
He got his fair share of ground balls, with a 52.9% groundball rate, well above the league average of 44%. Keeping the ball on the ground is how you win games in this era of baseball.
He tip-toed out of a bases-loaded jam in the first inning and didn’t face much adversity after that. The Phillies were just 1-for-9 with runners in scoring position in the Padres’ 2-0 victory Friday night.
Nix’s debut is encouraging for a few reasons, one being the Padres have several rotation spots open now. And it looks as if, for now, Nix has earned at least another look. Another is this could set the stage for more exciting debuts later this year, especially as rosters expand next month.