Following a walk-off loss to the Dodgers on Sunday afternoon, it is hard to be optimistic about the San Diego Padres’ pitching. The team’s best starter, reliever, and young bullpen arm all imploded in the same game. Yet San Diego’s stable of pitching prospects remains poised to infuse the roster with impact arms very soon.
When the Padres called up Michel Báez and Adrian Morejon recently, it showed that the team is willing to challenge its young arms at the major league level. This is a team that is going to rely heavily upon their homegrown pitchers as they move closer towards contending for a playoff spot. The last offseason in which the only significant arm added to the major league roster was the signing of Garrett Richards is evidence of the confidence that team officials have in their developing minor league hurlers.
The pitching in San Diego is only going to get better over time in the next year, which is key for the Padres to consider at this point. While Báez and Morejon were high-profile signings and are well-known among the fanbase, they are not considered to be as talented as many other arms in the Padres’ minor league system. On Fangraphs’ THE BOARD scouting reports, Báez rated as a 45 future value, which indicates that he is a solid but not spectacular contributor to a major league team. Morejon ranked slightly above that at 45+, which rates as a nearly average pitcher in the major leagues. Both pitchers have struck out nearly ten batters per nine innings thus far, only three years removed from their signings out of Cuba.
There are numerous pitchers already on the staff in San Diego who figure into the team’s long term plans to contend next season. What’s going to be exciting, is when the team has too many talented arms to keep on the roster at once as we look forward to 2020. This is all without even mentioning the impressive performances of Andres Muñoz thus far in the major leagues, who looks to be the team’s setup man despite his tough outing on Sunday.
Considering the Padres’ use of the opener at times during the 2018 and 2019 seasons, it would make a lot of sense for the team to do so with more frequency in 2020. Pitchers such as MacKenzie Gore and Luis Patiño figure to take the mound at Petco next season, assuming they continue to dominate the minor leagues the way they have in 2019. With the team needing to restrict the innings of their young arms, they look to be well-equipped to use multiple pitchers to make piggy-back starts more often in 2020. Almost any pitcher is going to be better if he only has to throw an inning or two as opposed to being stretched out for longer starts. This is something that should continue to look more and more appealing to San Diego as they evaluate their young arms at the major league level throughout the rest of this season.
Furthermore, there’s a reason to be excited about the team’s success because Garrett Richards is set to make his return at the end of this month. Although he has always struggled to stay healthy, when he is on the mound, his stuff has proved to be excellent. According to major league sources, Richards’ stuff rates very highly in terms of the spin rate on his breaking ball and fastball in particular. This is the kind of pitcher with the potential to be a reliable #2 starter for San Diego at the end of this season and in 2020.
It will be very exciting to see the Padres continue to bring up their young arms in the next year or so because there are so many potential impact pitchers in their minor league system. The reality is that some of the most highly regarded pitching prospects in the team’s system have yet to pitch in the major leagues, and that’s a key part of the way we must evaluate the Padres’ situation. When looking at the performances of the team’s rookies on the mound thus far, it’s quite easy to be optimistic about their even more highly rated pitching prospects. While it’s understandable to be frustrated that the team’s pitching has faltered more often than is ideal in 2019, the reality is that the Padres’ infusion of young arms has only just begun. The best is yet to come from the Padres’ minor league arms.