The San Diego Padres and their fans are likely to play out the rest of the 2019 season with one eye on the future.
Fernando Tatis Jr. is likely out for the season, Chris Paddack is approaching his innings limit, and the Padres are seven and a half games back in the Wild Card race and 24.5 games out of first place.
Barring a run of great games, the team is probably thinking more about the future than the present. This includes performing player examinations to see which players can be built around and which areas on the team need improvement.
One part of the team that has taken its lumps is the starting rotation. The current rotation may be vying to get into only three or four available spots, with Garret Richards and (potentially) Mackenzie Gore starting next season in the rotation.
Let’s take a look at the current power rankings of the pitchers to have a better understanding of who might be in the rotation next year and who may be on the outside looking in.
Cal Quantrill is having a solid rookie season thanks to a slider/changeup combo that has proven to be devastating at times. Even when not getting the strikeout, his pitches have enough movement to avoid hard hits. His ERA sits at 3.23 on the year, which is lower than Paddack’s 3.44. However, those ERA numbers come with a slight asterisk as Quantrill has tossed fewer innings than Paddack. Quantrill is one of the few Padres pitchers that are not on a pitch count, making him one of the more valuable pitchers in the rotation. Just before the All-Star break, he was relegated to the bullpen, where he pitched quite well, which likely earned him another crack at starting.
In his six starts since the break, he has had only one bad outing, giving up four earned runs to the Dodgers. In his other starts since returning, he has allowed just two earned runs or less. If he can continue his run of good starts until the end of the year, Cal Quantrill will earn himself a spot in the 2020 rotation. His recent run of games earns him the top spot on the current power rankings.
The rookie right-hander Chris Paddack has had a fantastic rookie season. Starting off the year, it looked like Paddack would rival Tatis Jr.for the NL Rookie of the Year award. Paddack has since had up and down outings. When he has command of all three pitches in his arsenal against the Miami Marlins, he looked unhittable. Just three starts later against the Dodgers, the command was not there, and he was roughed up for six runs in four innings. His future seems to be locked to his curveball. If he can master it, he has the potential to be an ace. If not, he still projects to be a good pitcher, just a middle of the rotation starter. His last few outings have not been great, so his current power ranking is second. However, his high ceiling and solid rookie season have likely already locked up his spot in the starting rotation for 2020.
In only seven starts this year, Dinelson Lamet has reminded Padre fans of what they were missing. Lamet possesses a 95-98 mph fastball and a devastating slider to induce swing and miss strikeouts. His shining moment came on August 6th, when Lamet took a no-hitter into the seventh inning against the Mariners. However, in his other six starts this year he has given up at least two runs in each. Lamet is heavily reliant on his slider and fastball and, like Paddack, may need to develop a more reliable third pitch to take him to the next level. There are going to be growing pains for Lamet as he’s coming off Tommy John surgery which means he likely will have a pitch and innings limit well into 2020. His one fantastic start and ace-potential is enough to put him in the top three in this edition of the power ranking.
After starting the 2019 season opener, Eric Lauer is not assured even to have a spot in the 2020 starting rotation. Lauer has had an up and down season, from dominating the Los Angeles Dodgers to giving up eight runs in Colorado. His record is 6-8 with a 4.55 ERA in 23 games. Lauer, like many of the Padres pitchers, struggles to pitch deep into games as he has only completing six-plus innings eight times. If he wants to make the 2020 rotation, he will need to become more consistent and efficient. Despite possessing the ability to throw five different pitches, he lacks a dominant put out pitch. Lauer does, however, have one of the best pickoff moves in the majors as he keeps runners close and can steal an out every so often. Lauer has also struggled facing batters the second and third time around the order. If his problems go unchecked, it could send him to the bullpen which could be his final destination anyway just due to the sheer number of pitchers coming up in the organization.
Like Lauer, Joey Lucchesi is likely pitching for either the sixth starter role or a bullpen position next year. His year has somewhat mirrored Lauer’s as he carries a record of 7-7 with a 4.25 ERA in 23 games. He does get more strikeouts, usually with his Churve. Some concern has been raised after his velocity has dipped late in games in his last two starts, but he is yet to see any time on the injured list. Lucchesi, like many young pitchers, struggles with consistency and in turn, does not typically pitch late into games. For a left-handed pitcher, he also lacks a good move to first base. He certainly has some work to do to improve his pitching and get himself higher up on this list.
There is still a lot of baseball left this season, and any of these pitchers could move up or down several spots in just a few outings. For now, it’s the rookies on top of the rankings. All five are young, and as such, are expected to have ups and downs. Will one of these pitchers climb the proverbial ladder? Or will A.J. Preller be forced to sign more than one starter in the offseason? Only time will tell.