The closer spot in San Diego is open for auditions, but I will have to say that Carter Capps is an early favorite for that role. The Friars just recently avoided arbitration with Capps by paying the reliever $987,500. While Capps did not play in 2016, the Padres certainly must think highly of him. Capps has yet to record a save for the Padres with his funky, hop-step delivery. He has certainly made a name for himself with his unorthodox pitching style. Before his injury in 2015, Capps was killing it with the Miami Marlins. In 31 innings pitched for the Fish, Capps posted a 1.16 ERA and a 0.806 WHIP. David Ortiz put Capps along with Sonny Gray, Mike Mussina, Pedro Martinez, and Mariano Rivera as the toughest pitchers he has ever had to face. Ortiz even said” I have never seen anyone pitch like him before”. Capps is a very nice addition to the team this season. It’ll be interesting to see how he gets on after Tommy John. Early reports are he may be ready in late April or early May, but we will have to wait and see.
From the probable closer, we go to the probable long-man for the 2017 Padres’ bullpen. There are several candidates for the long-man role in the Padres’ pen this season with all of the fresh signings. We have Tyrell Jenkins, Zach Lee, Jarred Cosart, and even Cesar Vargas that could land in the long-man role. The reason I put Clemens above the rest for that role, and below the rest for a starting pitching role, is because of his numbers in 2016. Clemens did have his moments in 2016, posting a 4.04 ERA for the Friars. In 71 and a third innings, Clemens only had 53 strike outs and a shocking 1.44 WHIP. Not good enough for a starting role, in my opinion. Another reason why Clemens belongs in the bullpen is because of his numbers out of the pen in 2016. In four games out of the bullpen, Clemens allowed no earned runs. If it’s not broke, why fix it?
The bullpen battle should be intense throughout spring training in 2017. There are guys who pitched in 2016 with the Padres, like Buddy Baumann, Keith Hessler, and Kevin Quackenbush. Then there are also outside options to make the Padres’ pen, like Rafael De Paula, Michael Dimock, Bryan Rodriguez, Carlos Fisher, and Jose Torres. Among all of these pitchers, Carlos Fisher is the one that stands out to me. What can be so special about a 33-year-old who has posted a 4.74 ERA in 74 games with the Cincinnati Reds? 2015 was a solid year for Carlos, as he posted a minuscule 1.61 ERA in 43 games with the Gwinnett Braves. He also excelled with Los Mochis in the Mexican Pacific League, posting a 2.66 ERA and a 0.934 WHIP in 11 games. 2016 was better for Fisher in the LMP, but not better for him in Triple-A. Carlos played with the Round Rock Express, and posted an ERA of 4.40 in 42 games. His numbers in the Mexican Pacific League were literally all-star caliber. In 32 innings, Fisher went 3-0 with a save, 40 strikeouts, a 1.69 ERA, and an impressive 0.88 WHIP. If Fisher can keep it going heading into spring training he will earn a spot on the Padres’ bullpen.
The final member I have making Doug Bochtler‘s crew come opening day is Rule-5 draft pick, Miguel Diaz. The 22-year-old was selected by the Twins in the Rule-5 draft, but that didn’t stop A.J. Preller from getting his main target from the draft, as he traded for him. Diaz has only pitched as high as Single-A in his short professional career. Last season, with the Wisconsin Timber Rattlers, Diaz posted a 3.71 ERA in 26 games (15 of which were as a starter). Diaz stands 6-foot-1 and possesses a fast ball which reaches the mid to upper 90s. I have Diaz being Luis Perdomo circa 2017. At first, Diaz may cause some problems in the bullpen, like Perdomo once did, but the sky is the limit for this kid. We may even see him in the rotation at some point in 2017 depending on how fast he develops.
That does it for the official bullpen, but let’s not forget that the Padres possess a secret weapon in super utility man, Christian Bethancourt. He will play all around the baseball field come 2017 for the Padres. It is very likely that we will see him pitch out of the bullpen as well as catch and play an occasional outfield. The Panamanian has been playing ball in his home country and recently began to pitch. Christian Bethancourt pitched a scoreless inning on Sunday in which he reached speeds of 93-96 MPH. The Padres’ bullpen will be one of the most interesting in all of baseball with guys like Hand, Capps, Bethancourt, and company. They just might surprise you.