Matt Strahm: Starter or Reliever?

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Prior to the 2017 trade deadline, the San Diego Padres sent Trevor Cahill, Brandon Maurer, and Ryan Buchter to the Kansas City Royals in return for Travis Wood, Esteury Ruiz, and Matt Strahm.

At the time, many experts believed that Esteury Ruiz was the centerpiece of this six-player trade.

However, left-handed pitcher Matt Strahm is slowly starting to look like the prize of this trade. Ruiz is still very young so only time will tell. At the time of this trade, Strahm was recovering from a knee injury that he suffered at the beginning of 2017 and has also had Tommy John surgery before. Prior to this trade, Strahm was once a top 100 prospect, and some considered him to be the best overall prospect throughout the Royals’ farm system.

While Strahm has electric stuff, his control has been a little shaky. His fastball, at its peak, can hit 95-96, but often sits somewhere in the range of 91-93 mph. He possesses a slider and curveball that, paired with his fastball, give Strahm an effective three-pitch mix. Strahm also has a changeup, but it is a below average pitch that needs a lot of work to be considered “big league ready”. His control has been shaky in the past, but in camp, Strahm has commanded his pitches well and looks a lot more fluid then he has in the past. He does have some deception to his delivery and Strahm is primarily good against left-handed batters.

With a fifth spot available in the Padres’ pitching rotation, and some bullpen spots still up for grabs, the question that has been floating around camp is this: Will Matt Strahm break camp with the team as a starter or a reliever?

For starters, it is unlikely that the Padres start Strahm in Triple-A El Paso unless he is still showing struggles related to his injury. There is no benefit in sending Strahm down to a hitter-friendly league for him to potentially have struggles and lose confidence. At 26 years old, it’s time for Strahm to finally break camp with a big league club.

As for what role he will have in the pitching staff, it should be very well documented that Strahm has the potential to be successful as both a starting pitcher and a reliever. His uptick in velocity at the beginning of any outing makes Strahm an interesting relief option, but his three-pitch mix gives him a strong enough arsenal to excel as a starter.

Ultimately, Matt Strahm’s role on this staff will come down to how healthy his knee is, as well as how other pitchers perform in camp. Last week, Andy Green indicated to James Clark of EVT and other scribes that Strahm is still roughly 80 percent in terms of his health. He is getting better, but the knee is a major factor in what the club does with him.

Based on what he’s shown thus far, the Padres will more than likely start Strahm in a bullpen role. Will he stay there all season? Probably not. The team doesn’t want to rush Strahm, and by starting him in the bullpen he is able to get his feet wet with Major League-level hitters. However, I do envision seeing Matt Strahm in the starting rotation at some point this season as he does have the stuff to be a quality starter at the big league level.

Matt Strahm is a great young pitching prospect for the San Diego Padres. A few years down the road, Strahm might be a staple on a pitching staff that is competing for a playoff spot year in and year out.

3 thoughts on “Matt Strahm: Starter or Reliever?

  1. Not enough room at the inn for another starter. I’d let him start in the bullpen and stretch himself out. Maybe have him be the long reliever initially and then if there is an injury or someone sucks, move him up. Rotation should be as follows:


    Perdomo and Erlin start in AAA
    Rea on DL
    Strahm bullpen

  2. The chicken or the egg debate is short term results vs. long term results. This organzation is not in a WIN NOW mode at the ML level. I think Strahm has the ability to be a solid starter in the near future. If you place him in the bullpen now you will get short term results this season but he will focus on that task and not continue to develop his secondary pitches like he would as a starter in AAA. I believe that Strahm, Erlin, Rea, and Perdomo should make up 80% of the rotation in AAA to start the year. Any of the 4 could be relievers down the road but I don’t think that decision should be made now. We have other options for the bullpen as of now. I believe that is much easier to go from starting to relieving then the other way around. Ross and CY surge in ST to make the rotation out of camp plays heavily in taking this route, it keeps ALL 6 players in the mix for now. In season results will determine where to go from here.

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