The San Diego Padres enter the 2018 season with one of the weaker starting rotations in all of baseball. With a plethora of young, unproven talent at the core of their starting five, there will certainly be a lot of ups and downs for the Padres throughout the marathon that is a baseball season.
Their bullpen, however, is a different story. When the Padres were a competitive playoff team, a strong bullpen was at the core of their success. Boasting the best bullpen in baseball in 2010, the team looks to get back to that elite level status they once held.
Oozing with young talent and established veterans, San Diego’s bullpen could surprise some this season.
Time will tell which pitchers should crack the big league pitching staff, but there is certainly no shortage of talent on this roster. Relievers Phil Maton and Buddy Baumann had success at the major league level last season. Miguel Diaz is young and has absolutely filthy stuff, while Matt Strahm has been turning heads all of spring training.
Both Craig Stammen and Kirby Yates had surprise success last season, Japanese submarine thrower Kaz Makita looks to be a headache for opposing hitters, and Brad Hand is quickly cementing himself as one of the best closers in baseball. Don’t forget about the plethora of young arms on the way up from a farm system that boasted some of the best bullpens in all of minor league baseball. The Padres are well on their way to having the elite level bullpen they once had.
If all that wasn’t convincing enough, throw Hall of Fame closer Trevor Hoffman into the mix. Recently selected for induction into Cooperstown, Hoffman has been extremely active in Padres camp this spring training. He has embraced a mentorship role in which he works with developing these young Padre pitchers and getting the most out of them. Hoffman typically meets with two or three relievers at a time and just talks with them about the game, pointing out ways in which they can improve and opening the floor to any questions with him.
Many relievers have spoken out about how they feel about Hoffman’s presence. “Every word he says, you try to soak it up as much as you can” says Phil Maton “Anything he says, it could be that little edge you need to take that next step forward” (He told A.J. Cassavell in a recent interview). Left hander Buddy Baumann says he views Hoffman as a “sage” that “has so much to give.” I know that pitching coach Darren Balsley is an absolute wizard, but I think that these bullpen guys will especially connect with Hoffman since he is one of the greatest relief pitchers of all time.
There is no doubt that Trevor Hoffman could have a significant impact on the success of the Padres’ bullpen this season. A pitcher of Hoffman’s pedigree can offer insight like no other, like what he does in certain situations and his mentality going into specific games. Meeting with Hoffman could especially help Brad Hand, who is on his way to becoming one of the best closers in all of baseball. Learning from one of the greatest to ever do it at their position is certainly a luxury that every relief pitcher in camp will take advantage of. Don’t be surprised to see the San Diego Padres’ bullpen take a step forward in 2018.