Previewing the bullpen for the 2022 San Diego Padres

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Padres Austin Adams
Credit: Baseball Savant

Austin Adams | Throws: Right | 6-foot-3/220 pounds
2021 Stats: 52.2 IP, 4.10 ERA, 3.89 FIP, 1.196 WHIP, 4.8 H/9, 0.2 HR/9, 6.0 BB/9, 13.0 K/9

Austin Adams just had the single strangest pitching season in baseball history, and I don’t think some fully grasp that fact. Adams was simultaneously the most inaccurate and most unhittable pitcher in all of baseball in 2021, setting a record for the most hit by pitches in a single season in the process. Adams bafflingly had 1.2 BB/9 more than he did H/9, a statistic that just seems impossible. Simply put, you can’t hit him, but you can be hit by him.

The right-handed pitcher primarily throws a devastating 86-90 mph slider, a pitch that almost found more bodies than bats in 2021. He occasionally mixes in a 93-95 mph fastball. Adams is such an interesting case as a pitcher because if pitching coach Ruben Niebla can help him find even just below-average command, you could conceivably have the single best relief pitcher in baseball in Adams. It’ll be interesting to see how Adams does next year.

Austin Adams should be a candidate to see middle relief work for the 2022 San Diego Padres.

Dinelson Lamet | Throws: Right | 6-foot-3/228pounds
2021 Stats: 47.0 IP, 4.40 ERA, 3.94 FIP, 1.489 WHIP, 9.2 H/9, 1.1 HR/9, 4.2 BB/9, 10.9 K/9

Dinelson Lamet may be the single most intriguing arm to watch in the bullpen. Lamet, in theory, should have performed better as a reliever following a 2020 campaign in which he finished in fourth place in National League Cy Young Award voting. His two-pitch mix of a high octane 94-98 mph fastball and a lethal 85-89 mph slider is tailor-made for the back end of the bullpen, but the results were puzzling.

Lamet posted a 3.99 ERA as a starter in 2021 and posted a 5.09 ERA as a reliever. Strangely, opponents only hit for a .747 OPS against Lamet as a reliever as opposed to the .768 OPS hit against him as a starter. If there’s one factor, besides simple bad luck, that played into Lamet’s higher ERA as a reliever, it could be his command. Lamet surrendered thirteen walks in 17.2 IP as a reliever as opposed to nine walks in 29.1 IP as a starter in 2021. Perhaps it was this higher traffic on the bases that led to Lamet’s inflated ERA as a reliever.

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Lamet’s role in 2022 is up in the air as of now. The team would like him to start, but it’s more likely he ends up in the bullpen. While he currently would be lined up as a candidate for middle relief, a return to his 2020 100 mph throwing self would make him an imminent leading candidate for the closer role.

Craig Stammen | Throws: Right | 6-foot-2/228 pounds
2021 Stats: 88.1 IP, 3.06 ERA, 3.75 FIP, 1.042 WHIP, 8.0 H/9, 1.3 HR/9, 1.3 BB/9, 8.5 K/9

Why am I discussing Craig Stammen so late into this piece? Well, I wanted to separate the relief options into the different roles they would hypothetically occupy late-inning relievers, middle-inning relievers, long relievers, and minor league options that could break camp. Going into 2022, I believe it would be foolish of the Padres not to take advantage of Stammen’s surprising ability to eat innings out of the bullpen and make him anything other than a multi-inning reliever.

Stammen throws a sinker with heavy arm side run in the 91-94 mph range, pairing it with a hard cutter/slider at 86-90 mph and a knuckle curveball at 78-81 mph. Stammen has always exhibited excellent command on all his pitches and knows where to effectively locate every pitch. He has been a staple of the bullpen since 2017 and should continue to be one in 2022.

Stammen will likely be used in a variety of roles out of the bullpen, but after providing 88.1 quality innings for the Padres in 2022, Stammen should be used in close games in which multiple innings are needed. He is a unique weapon for the Padres to use.

Nabil Crismatt | Throws: Right | 6-foot-1/220 pounds
2021 Stats: 81.1 IP, 3.76 ERA, 4.20 FIP, 1.365 WHIP, 9.6 H/9, 1.1 HR/9, 2.7 BB/9, 7.9 K/9

Nabil Crismatt was another arm that was able to establish himself as an effective long reliever, often being praised as the unsung hero of the Padres bullpen.

Able to throw up to five Innings at a time, Crismatt ate 81.1 crucial innings down the stretch for a severely depleted Padres pitching staff and surprised everyone with an ERA under four and a 7.9 K/9.

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Crismatt leans on an 82-84 mph changeup with tremendous movement, generating plenty of whiffs and weak contact on the pitch by controlling it well at the bottom of the zone. He pairs it with a 69-74 mph 12-6 curveball and a 88-92 MPH fastball, often pitching backward to hitters.

Crismatt seems like a lock for a long-relief role in the Padres bullpen. While he may not be the go-to option with Stammen in the mix, there are far worse options to have in the “mop-up” role.

James Norwood | Throws: Right | 6-foot-2/215 pounds
2021 Stats: 5.0 IP, 0.00 ERA, 3.77 FIP, 1.80 WHIP, 10.8 H/9, 0.0 HR/9, 5.4 BB/9, 5.4 K/9

James Norwood only gets a brief mention here, as there’s not much to say about him.

Norwood had a handful of appearances in MLB last year and wasn’t particularly impressive. Despite having no earned runs charged to himself, Norwood gave up plenty of runs not charged to him. He posted a lackluster 10.8 H/9, 5.4 BB/9, and 5.4 K/9, resulting in a 1.800 WHIP. His Triple-A numbers weren’t very inspiring either, posting a 4.43 ERA in 44.2 innings there. However, he managed to post an impressive 14.3 K/9 during this stint.

Norwood’s stuff is undoubtedly the reason he currently remains a Padre. He throws a fastball that consistently hits 99-100 mph and pairs it with a solid 89-90 mph Splitter. It’s this high velocity and strikeout numbers that keep Norwood on A.J. Preller’s radar.

Norwood would serve as organizational depth for the Padres bullpen but has the type of stuff to make an impact when least expected.

Ray Kerr | Throws: Left | 6-foot-3/185 pounds
2021 Stats ( Double A/Triple A): 39.2 IP, 3.18 ERA, 1.059 WHIP, 5.9 H/9, 0.5 HR/9, 3.6 BB/9, 13.6 K/9

The acquisition of Ray Kerr is one that should excite Padres fans.

Kerr flew onto everyone’s radar in 2021, regularly reaching 100+mph in Double-A and Triple-A in the Mariners organization. Kerr also showed improved command and a drastically improved slider in the high 80s.

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Despite struggling a bit more in Triple-A than Double-A and being a late bloomer at 27 years old, Kerr has the type of stuff to make an immediate impact out of the Padres bullpen. Left-handed relievers that throw 100 mph with plus sliders aren’t exactly a common commodity in the MLB.

Kerr’s 2022 role is hard to pinpoint. With his tremendous arsenal, he could pitch his way to the back of the Padres bullpen before you know it with a good Spring Training.

Kevin Kopps | Throws: Right | 6-foot/200 pounds
2021 Stats (Rookie/High Single A/Double A): 14.2 IP, 0.61 ERA, 0.75 WHIP, 3.1 H/9, 0.0 HR/9, 3.7 BB/9, 13.5 K/9

Kevin Kopps was only drafted six months ago but already seems poised to make the jump to MLB.

After a season of pure dominance at the University of Arkansas that culminated in him winning the 2021 Golden Spikes Award, Kopps entered the Padres system after being selected in the fourth round of the 2021 MLB Draft. From there, Kopps threw 14.2 innings of destruction in the minors leagues, posting a 3.1 H/9 and a 13.5 K/9 and reaching Double-A in the process.

Kopps throws various uninspiring pitches, a fastball at 90-94 mph, a curveball at 74-78 mph, and a low 80s changeup. All of these pitches pale in comparison to Kopp’s primary pitch: a three-in-one monster of a cut fastball. The pitch ranges anywhere from 82-88 mph, and Kopps has mastered it to the point of being able to throw it with a variety of breaks and speeds, all with good command.

Like Kerr, Kopps’s role come Opening Day is hard to pinpoint when considering his minor league dominance, and could easily earn himself a bullpen spot out of Spring Training. Kopps has pitched up to 8 innings at a time in college, so could find himself in a long-relief role, but his ability to miss bats and limit runners makes him suited for any role in the bullpen.

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Steven Wilson | Throws: Right | 6-foot-3/221 pounds
2021 Stats (Rookie/Triple A): 42.0 IP, 3.21 ERA, 0.881 WHIP, 4.9 H/9, 1.5 HR/9, 3.0 BB/9, 15.2 K/9

Last but not least, we have long-time Padres farmhand Steven Wilson. Wilson has been grinding away in the Padres system since 2018 and has turned heads with impressive seasons in 2019 and 2021 with astounding strikeout numbers and much-improved command.

Wilson has two plus pitches, a 93-97 mph fastball with solid movement and an 82-85 mph wipeout slider. While Wilson’s 3.21 ERA is a higher mark than last year, this may have been Wilson’s most impressive minor league season yet, posting the best K/9, BB/9, and WHIP of his entire career. These numbers show Wilson has improved with time at striking hitters out and limiting baserunners, and he should undoubtedly be ready to make the jump to MLB in 2022.

Wilson will have plenty of competition for a middle relief role in 2022, but he could lock up a spot with a strong showing in Spring Training.

There are a few notable names that have been left out for varying. Javy Guerra is still on the Padres 40-man roster and processes a fastball that can reach 100 mph. Still, the converted shortstop just hasn’t done anything to impress in his pitching career, and likely won’t be able to compete with the rest of the competition. On top of that, injuries have led him to pitching very few innings in recent years, so there isn’t much to go by anyway. He, along with Norwood, seem like the most likely DFA candidates once Nick Martinez’s deal is (hopefully) finalized.

Adrian Morejon and Michel Baez have both impressed at different points in their careers with the Padres, but both are coming off of Tommy John surgery, and it’s unclear how much time they will need to recover. Baez should be ready closer to Opening Day than Morejon.

Lastly, pitchers Chris Paddack, MacKenzie Gore, Ryan Weathers, Reiss Knehr, Adrian Martinez, Efrain Contreras, and Pedro Avila will likely work as starting pitchers in 2022.

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