It is no secret that the San Diego Padres lack starting pitchers for the 2017 season. Tyson Ross still does not seem right and the team has to proceed with caution in regard to their big right hander. He is no given to be able to perform in the 2017 season, which happens to be his last year under contract. At one point the Padres had thought about locking Ross up long-term but nothing came of it. The team was also reportedly shopping him during the winter of 2015. It is difficult to think any team would take a chance on Ross at this point. Also, as mentioned, the Padres are not ones to trade a player while their value is down. Look for Ross to remain in the rotation, provided he is healthy to start the 2017 season.
Behind Ross, the next best starting pitcher currently in the Padres rotation is probably Luis Perdomo. There has been some talk that the team might take it easy on the young man next year and have him start in Triple-A, but with the progression he has shown in recent starts, that might not be necessary. His stuff is fantastic and his control has gotten better throughout the year. Perdomo is the only Padres starter to throw a complete game this season and it is no coincidence. For a pitcher who was pitching in Single-A last season, his growth has been phenomenal.
Christian Friedrich, Jarred Cosart and Paul Clemens presently make up part of the Padres current rotation, but their ability to hold the job for next season remains to be seen. The trio has been very hit-or-miss so far in their starts. Friedrich looked very solid early, but has hit a wall. He has passed his innings limit for the year, and that might have more to do with his recent inabilities than anything else. Clemens and Cosart are both end-of-the- rotation options at this point. Neither pitcher has done anything spectacular, though Cosart does occasionally show some ability. Erik Johnson is another option for the team, but the right hander did not do himself a favor by being lit up after his acquisition from the White Sox in the James Shields trade. Cesar Vargas will also be back for the Friars, and the Mexican right hander will probably get another extended look on the staff. He threw really well early this year, before injuring his elbow.
There are some youngsters who could also step up next season, but that is asking a lot for each to make the leap. Michael Kelly, Dinelson Lamet and Walker Lockett appear the closest to pitching for the Padres. Each has progressed really nicely and each could be factors in 2017. Edwin Jackson and Clayton Richard are both due for free agency after the season and both have been great for the Padres. Jackson has shown excellent athletic ability and has even pinch hit for the team. He does still have occasional outings that are categorized as “stinkers”, but he has also been flat-out dominating from time to time. As for Clayton Richard, the Padres could have not asked for more from the left hander. He is 2-2 with a 1.15 ERA in seven games (five starts) and 31 innings pitched. The team will probably seriously consider trying to re-sign Richard.
The only given for next season in the rotation are Ross and Perdomo. Tyson Ross still has to show he is healthy, so in reality, the only near-lock is Perdomo for next year. The team could use an innings eater or two in the rotation. You do not want to have to count on younger pitchers to eat innings, and the Padres do not need to tax their bullpen like they have this year. Expect Preller to look for a 200-plus innings a year starter. That will probably have to come via trade as there are not very many options in the 2016 MLB free agency pool. This might be the team’s #1 goal in the off season. A starting pitcher or two they can count on.
The future of Brandon Maurer still seems cloudy. He has done well as the teams closer, but there is still a feeling that he could be a starter. He has three adequate pitches to get batters out, and that bodes well for him developing as a starter. You can see where that makes sense for the Padres, as they need starting pitchers. However, if it ain’t broke, don’t fix it. He is doing well as the team’s closer and perhaps he has found his niche. Who knows.
Another pitcher who has a cloudy future is Brad Hand. The lefty has been great this season out of the pen, and there are whispers that the Padres could try to transition him back into a starting role, something that he has done in the past while with the Marlins. Ryan Buchter has been refreshing as a left hander that was acquired off the scrapheap. With only one career appearance in the majors before the Padres signed him, the team did not expect much. He turned out to be one of the most reliable pitchers out of the pen for the Padres. Kevin Quackenbush, Leonel Campos, Jon Edwards, Buddy Baumann, Keith Hessler and Jose Dominguez make up the rest of the early candidates for bullpen spots. Nothing spectacular out of this solid group, but with Maurer and Hand a question mark (possible rotation options), the Padres will need options.
There are options in the minors as well. Brad Wieck, Jason Jester and Phil Maton have progressed really well in the minors. Keep an eye on this group of youngsters. Luckily for the Padres, every spring you can find talent on the free agent market. You can also find talented minor leagues like Buchter and Baumann ( like Preller did last off season) and pluck them from their franchises. A.J. Preller is a great evaluator of talent and you can expect the team to make a move or two under the radar to acquire bullpen options.
Is Luis Sardinas the answer at short? He has looked like the base answer for the team for a long time. However, it has been a very small sample size, and what we see now might just be an illusion. He comes with much hype about his defense but we have yet to witness it firsthand. He also came with the reputation of being soft with the bat, but we continually see him drive balls (especially from the right side of the plate). Sardinas is an intriguing option, in that the Padres have yet to have any answer at the position since the days of Khalil Greene. Sure, Everth Cabrera had his moments, but all that ended after his suspension for PEDs.
The team cannot go through another season of Alexi Amarista and Adam Rosales at the position. Sardinas may be looking like the man now, but there are far more questions about his game than answers. In the minors, Jose Rondon is the closest to being ready for major league action. He got a cup of coffee earlier this season after the team deemed Alexei Ramirez a liability at the position. Rondon looked overmatched and needs more cultivation. Javier Guerra and Ruddy Giron are prospects at this point and there is no guarantee of their success. Each has struggled at some point this season and Guerra in particular looked lost at the plate. His defense has been suspect as well.
So do the Padres make a move for a shortstop? That would depend on the quality of player they could acquire. I have to think the team is pretty comfortable with Sardinas at this point and he would have to fall on his face to lose the job. However if a deal falls in the Padres lap where they can acquire a difference maker at the position, then they will not hesitate. Though Sardinas seems like a decent bet to be serviceable, the team can ill afford another flop at the position. Expect A.J. to sniff around for a shortstop, but the position is just one of sparsity around the league. Those that have quality shortstops available for trade want the house for them.
One thing is for sure when you talk about the future team. There will be plenty of youth. With Hedges, Myers, Renfore, Margot, and Jankowski in the lineup, the Padres future is hard to predict. Each player could easily take their game to a whole new level. It is exciting to have youth like that on the team. The uncertainty of these young players is exciting, but at the same time, each is also capable of regressing as a prospect and a player. The 2017 season will probably be about growth. Manager Andy Green will be learning his new players, and with that, the team will still most likely be in a rebuild of sorts. The Padres need pitching above all else right now, but they do have the depth to make a trade or two if need be. Expect plenty of action this winter as the Padres start their stroll to the top of the National League standings. How long that stroll will take is anyone’s guess, but the team will be headed in the correct direction after a season of chaos.