When the San Diego Padres dealt their offensive MVP from the 2014 season Seth Smith, Padres fans were up in arms with whom the team received in return. Brandon Maurer was an unknown pitcher, but has proved to be a great pickup by Padres General Manager A.J. Preller.
The big right handed pitcher showed great ability last season for the Padres despite not making the teams 25 man roster out of spring training. Maurer showed great heart by not taking the demotion personally and came back with a vengeance once he returned to the Major League roster.
He had been a starting pitcher most of his career, but the Padres decided to give him a shot out of the bullpen. The 2015 season would be the first time in his professional career that Maurer made no starts on the mound. He responded well throwing out of the bullpen where Maurer was 7-4 this past season with a 3.00 ERA and a 1.059 WHIP. Maurer was in 53 games and pitched 51 innings. striking out 39 and walking 15.
His numbers do not seem overly impressive but Maurer wore down in September and was knocked around a bit before going on the D.L. with shoulder fatigue. The Padres wisely never hurried the big right hander back. In the months of May and June, Maurer had an ERA of 0.98 and a WHIP of 0.689. In 27 games those two months he only allowed three earned runs in 28 innings pitched and struck out 26 while walking only five batters.
That dominant stretch had Padres fans believing in Maurer. He could easily have closed out games for the Padres with his repertoire of pitches. Maurer has an assortment of pitches and could make a transition back to starting full-time. The Padres have another key decision to make. Will they stretch out Maurer to start?
The team is already set to lose Ian Kennedy via free agency. Andrew Cashner is also in the last year of his contract and could be a free agent after the season. Maurer is under team control for the next three seasons and the team could use his arm in the front of the rotation. The 2008 draft pick has a very high ceiling and the Mariners are surely regretting making the deal with the Padres.
In 2012 Maurer pitched only out of the rotation and was 9-2 in 24 starts for the Mariners Double-A team. He was given a chance to start for the Mariners in 2013, but did not have great results in the rotation. His career record to date is 13-16 with a 4.96 ERA and a 1.367 WHIP. He has started 21 career games in the Major Leagues so far. Maurer has the experience, he just needs the opportunity to grow.
So where is Brandon Maurer future? Is it in the bullpen or at the top of the rotation? He has the ability to do both and that is a great problem for the Padres to have. Trades will dictate where he pitches in 2016. If the Padres deal Craig Kimbrel, Maurer will likely get an opportunity to close. If the team needs starting pitchers, the Padres will likely stretch out his arm and give him a shot at cracking the rotation in 2016.