For a team in the Padres’ position on the win curve, you need to maximize talent acquisition and find talent wherever you can.
Over the last few years, the Padres have tried to exploit a market inefficiency by taking full advantage of the Rule 5 Draft. With three players, Miguel Diaz, Allen Cordoba, and Luis Torrens, currently on the 25-man roster after being selected in the Rule 5 Draft, and another, Luis Perdomo, selected in the previous year’s draft, the Padre are attempting to make it work. Now this obviously is not an easy strategy to implement, as players selected in that draft are minor leaguers who often have had no big league experience. Given that these players must remain on the big league 25-man roster for the entirety of the season, it is often difficult to find and keep players using this method.
However, at the same time, the Padres have also taken full advantage of another oft-used method of talent acquisition: the waiver wire. In recent years, the Padres have had some resounding successes with players acquired off the waiver wire. Look no further than Brad Hand, who has had nothing but success since being claimed off of the Miami Marlins at the very beginning of last season. Since joining the Padres last April, Hand has thrown 120 and 1/3 innings for the Friars, striking out 152 batters and giving up only 35 earned runs during that time. After not being wanted by the Marlins, Hand has turned himself into not only the most important player in the Padres’ bullpen, but perhaps one of the best relievers in all of baseball, and a potential hot-ticket trade item this summer.
This year, the Padres are looking to have the same waiver wire success, as the team has already claimed two players off of waivers. Ironically enough, both players were claimed out of the Los Angeles Angels bullpen. While Jose Valdez is currently having some struggles in Triple-A after clearing waivers himself, right-hander Kirby Yates is showing the Padres waiver wire strategy might have paid off in a big way yet again.
Through his first 16 and 1/3 innings with the Friars this season, Yates has given up just three earned runs. He has given up his share of hits, 14 to be exact, but he has struck out 22 batters and walked only six batters overall. With his 1.88 ERA and 2.34 FIP, Yates has arguably been one of the Padres’ best relievers outside of Brad Hand and Brandon Maurer. More so than perhaps any other Padres pitcher outside of Brad Hand, Kirby Yates has been a model of consistency through the first two months of the season.
After nine straight appearances without an earned run to start his Padres career, Yates gave up one earned run to the Mets on May 23 and then two earned runs to the Nationals on May 26 in back-to-back appearances. Since then, Yates has thrown four straight scoreless innings, including a scoreless third of an inning against the Rockies on Friday night, and two scoreless frames again on Sunday.
Not only does Yates have one of the highest strikeout rates on the team, but he also sports the second-highest whiff rate behind Brad Hand, the fourth-lowest expect batting average, the second-lowest isolated power, and the second-lowest expected weighted on-base average on the team. Yates hasn’t been dominant by any stretch, but he has been surprisingly effective for a guy who was freely made available on waivers.
Yates’ radial chart above shows all batted ball events, and demonstrates the success Yates has had on those balls. So far Yates has given up only four barrels and two balls that were categorized as solid contact. Out of his 40 total batted ball events, a combined 24 have come as either topped balls, which are classified as ground balls, and balls that were hit under, which are usually pop-ups or lazy fly outs. So by this measure, Yates has had some pretty good success on batted balls, even if his other batted ball numbers, such as soft, medium, and hard hit percentages, don’t really stand out.
Very quietly, right-hander Kirby Yates has been a great find for the Padres’ bullpen. Yates is getting strikeouts, limiting damage, and excelling in a variety of situations. If Yates can continue this performance over the next month or so, the Padres may have themselves yet another tradeable asset in their bullpen. For now, Yates is just another example of the Padres’ new talent acquisition methods paying off.