The 2020 San Diego Padres’ bullpen is poised to be useful for the team this coming season.
In this day and age of baseball, it’s vital to have a good bullpen. A shortened season will amplify the strengths and flaws of a team’s pitching staff.
The Padres were 19th in bullpen ERA last season, which was part of the reason why things fell apart for the squad late in the year. Heading into the shortened 60-game slate for 2020, the Padres look to have one of the best bullpens in all of baseball.
MLB.com just released their bullpen rankings and slotted San Diego at number two, just behind the Yankees for the top spot. This means the Padres could have the best bullpen in all of the National League.
— MLB (@MLB) July 15, 2020
Among holdovers from last season, Kirby Yates returns as one of the best closers in baseball. Any way you look at them, his numbers from 2019 are eye-popping, with a major league-high 41 saves and a ridiculous 358 ERA+. For reference, Trevor Hoffman’s single-season career-high for ERA+ was 265, in 1998. Last season for Yates was one of the best seasons by any closer ever.
Craig Stammen has been an above-average arm all three years he has been in San Diego, with a 134 ERA+ and 4.3 total WAR in 209 total appearances. Cal Quantrill is in the mix for a rotation spot, but either way, it was clear he belonged in the bigs after his effort last year. There was a seven-game stretch from June to August, where he posted a 2.15 ERA in 50 innings. With his versatility, he could bounce between the rotation and the bullpen. Out of relief is where he found most of his success last year, with a 0.79 ERA in five appearances.
Top prospects Michel Baez and Adrian Morejon are also competing for an outside shot at the rotation and, at the least, should land in the bullpen. Especially with rosters expanding to 30 for Opening Day, both of these hurlers should get a chance to be part of the bullpen moving forward. Baez made 24 appearances last year, all but one of them was via the bullpen, and he posted a 3.03 ERA and 141 ERA+, earning an extended look this year.
Morejon has battled injuries and inconsistency despite being wildly talented. In five big-league appearances last year, he showed flashes of his top prospect status but mostly disappointed.
In terms of newcomers, the Padres have two arms that will be instant upgrades for the ‘pen. Drew Pomeranz, a former Friar, finished the 2019 campaign on fire for the Brewers, with a 2.39 ERA and 188 ERA+ in 25 games. If he can continue the momentum he found in Milwaukee into his 2020 campaign in San Diego, he will be the team’s most reliable lefty late in games.
Emilio Pagan also came to San Diego via trade. With 20 saves in 66 appearances for the playoff-bound Tampa Bay Rays in 2019, Pagan adds a ton of value to the Friars bullpen. His 192 ERA+ in 2019 would have been second-best on the Padres’ pitching staff last season. Adding Pagan essentially added a second closer to the group.
On Thursday, the Padres swung a trade to acquire yet another bullpen arm. A lefty who is an alum of Palomar College in San Marcos, Tim Hill. The 30-year-old pitched two seasons in the Royals’ bullpen, a total of 116 games. His 2019 season goes unheralded, but his 3.63 ERA and 131 ERA+ suggest he is a quality southpaw. Add him to the pile of reliable options for manager Jayce Tingler late in games.
Plenty of options remain after the arms mentioned above in the bullpen. Matt Strahm looks to bounce back as a reliable lefty option. He struggled in 2019, but if he can recapture his form of 2018 when he had a 188 ERA+ and a 2.05 ERA in 41 games, the Padres will have an embarrassment of riches in the bullpen.
Jose Castillo will miss a chunk of the beginning of the year due to injury, but if he can return and regain his 2018 form as well, that will be yet another viable weapon from the left side at San Diego’s disposal.
Javy Guerra, the shortstop-turned-pitcher prospect, will likely get a long look as well. Though he has been pitching for a short time, the Padres know better than anyone than to dismiss a player who started as a failed infield prospect, since they have a statue of one beyond their outfield wall.
The Padres have a bullpen that stacks up against any other team in the National League. The Brewers have a strong case with closer Josh Hader, but they are not as deep as San Diego behind their closer.
All in all, if the Padres have postseason aspirations in 2020, it will be solidified by the health and performance of a bullpen that, on paper at least, looks to be one of the best in the game.