On Friday afternoon, the San Diego Padres claimed Sean Poppen off waivers from the Arizona Diamondbacks and added him to the team’s 40-man roster.
Poppen, who will turn 29 during the upcoming season, owns a career 5.08 ERA at the big league level. He’s logged 67 ⅓ innings since debuting back in 2019 with the Minnesota Twins and threw 28 ⅔ innings as a member of the Diamondbacks in 2022.
His numbers off the bat aren’t inspiring, but a deeper dive suggests there may be something with Poppen as a middle-relief option moving forward.
He’s been rather unsuccessful against left-handed hitters throughout his career, allowing a .943 OPS with nearly as many walks (16) as strikeouts (23). Those numbers change drastically against right-handed hitters, however, who own a career .794 OPS against him with 14 walks to 44 strikeouts.
A big reason for this drastic split is Poppen’s slider. It’s a pitch that he’s able to generate heavy sweeping action on from the right side of the rubber. It’ll spin away off a horizontal axis to right-handed hitters but barrel inwards to lefties.
New Niebla Toy, Sean Poppen. pic.twitter.com/aXEpqwqWFi
— Danny (@TatisMVPszn) December 2, 2022
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He won’t ever have success against left-handed professional hitters unless he increases the velocity of his slider, but there is a path to continued success for Poppen as a relief weapon against right-handed hitters.
Further tinkering with placement of his slider and using his fastball to set his slider up could actually improve Poppen’s production moving forward. With this waiver claim, the Padres are banking on pitching coach Ruben Niebla working his magic and molding this clay into a quality middle relief arm.
Diego works at Prep Baseball Report as an Area Scout in Illinois and Missouri. He graduated this spring with a Bachelor Degree in Communications and played four years of college baseball, logging nearly 50 innings of work in a relief role. Diego hopes to work in an MLB front office one day and has been a Padres fan since he was six years old.