2018 was a huge year for the San Diego Padres’ right-handed pitcher Robert Stock. The hard-thrower came on to the scene showcasing a dominant fastball with improved breaking stuff. There are whispers he could be given the opportunity to start in 2019 and that is exciting.
Roughly two years ago, Robert Stock uploaded a video to his YouTube page of him throwing baseballs in a park, with a radar gun set up next to a net. There was no catcher, just a 27-year-old former 2nd round draft pick who was hoping for another shot.
Stock, a two-way player in college at USC who wanted to be a catcher professionally, was taken by the Cardinals in the 2009 Amateur Draft. He originally got off to a solid start in pro ball, hitting .322 for the Cardinals’ Appalachian League affiliate, before starting to trend downward and ultimately give up hitting altogether.
As a pitcher, Stock also struggled. He never made it past A-Ball and struggled to find the strike zone consistently. Over his career with the Cardinals, Stock had an atrocious 6.5 BB/9 ratio. He was subsequently released in 2014, while also signing minor league deals with the Pirates and Reds. After not lasting long with both the Pirates and Reds, Stock played for the New Jersey Jackals of the Independent league in 2016.
Fast forward to this season, and that same player who struggled to throw strikes in A-Ball was making a push for a job in a Major League bullpen. The Padres took a flyer and signed Stock to a minor league deal in 2018. Stock impressed tremendously and started the season in Double-A, where he posted a 2.00 ERA and 15 strikeouts over nine innings (3 BB’s).
Stock was quickly promoted to Triple-A El Paso where he enjoyed similar success, putting up a 1.59 ERA for the Chihuahuas and racking up eight saves over 28.1 innings pitched. Stock’s dominance was good enough to earn him a promotion to the big league club on June 24th.
In his first Major League season, Stock was a solid option for the Padres out of the bullpen. He threw hard, and more importantly, he threw strikes. He became somewhat of a workhorse for manager Andy Green‘s bullpen in the second half of the season, throwing 39.2 innings in roughly three months of service time. Stock wound up with a 2.50 ERA to end the season while walking only 13 batters and striking out 38.
Due to his sustained success at the Major League level, Stock will at the very least be granted a spot in the Padres bullpen in the upcoming season. However, with the seeming lack of starting options, Stock’s name has been thrown around as an intriguing possibility.
In a recent interview with MLB Network, Green alluded to the idea of Stock potentially transitioning to a starter, though didn’t elaborate any further. Nevertheless, the idea of Stock as a starter could be fascinating, especially with his high-octane fastball and a wipeout slider.
The main issue standing in Stock’s way is his conditioning towards becoming a starter, and the need to improve his control. As a reliever, he can get away with a free pass here and there, but those opportunities are maximized in a starter’s role and pitch count plays a much bigger part.
Ultimately, it’s an interesting idea. Stock possesses one of the hardest average fastballs in the majors and he certainly has the body type and durability to become a starter, even if it’s only as a fill-in on a mediocre team. There’s a decent chance that it may be experimented with in Spring Training, even though Stock’s long-term life will most likely be in the bullpen.
But it’s the offseason, and it’s one of the many possibilities to consider as we close within 100 days until Opening Day.