It has definitely been a fun season to be a fan of the San Diego Padres organization.
The Major League team has had their share of problems on the field, but there has been plenty to watch throughout the various levels of the minor-league system. Although the Padres have had varying levels of success throughout the minor league system, the Tri-City Dust Devils have been one team that has really been a lot of fun to watch progress throughout the season.
The most entertaining thing to watch about the Dust Devils has been their youth. The roster not only houses several players just drafted in this year’s draft, but also has quite a few players signed by the Padres on the international market just last year. While the offense for the Dust Devils has struggled for most of the season, the pitching staff has been one of the best in all of minor league baseball in recent weeks.
Although the team lost both Adrian Morejon and Osvaldo Hernandez to promotions to Fort Wayne, reinforcements from the Arizona Rookie League has really helped solidify what has been a fantastic rotation. Currently, Henry Henry, Nick Margevicius, Aaron Leasher, Thomas Cosgrove, and Ben Sheckler have been leading the way for the Dust Devils’ rotation. Will Stillman has also been included as a part of the rotation, although he has struggled a bit this season. However, the results from the rest of the rotation over the last month have been pretty astounding.
To really see how good the rotation has been in recent weeks, let’s take a look at those guys mentioned above, one by one. Out of all the guys mentioned, right-hander Henry Henry is probably the biggest name of the bunch, and not just because he has two first names. Save for one start in the AZL, Henry has spent all of his season with the Tri-City Dust Devils, pitching 48 and two-thirds total innings with a 3.51 total ERA. Henry has been pretty consistent with getting strikeouts, striking out just over 19 percent of batters, while maintaining a walk rate under seven percent. After a bad start to begin the month of August, in which he gave up six earned runs in only four innings of work, Henry struggled in his next start before being demoted to the Rookie League for one start. Since then, Henry has made solid starts, giving up just five hits and one earned runs in six innings in the first start before leaving his start last night in the second inning.
Next up, left-hander Nick Margevicius has been really impressive since being called up from the Arizona Rookie League. After 19 stellar innings in Arizona following his selection in the 2017 MLB Draft, Margevicius has been just as good in 24 innings in Tri-City. His strikeout rate has taken a noticeable hit since his promotion, but that was to be expected when facing better competition. The most encouraging sign of all is probably his walk rate, as he has walked just three batters since joining the Dust Devils. Margevicius has given up two earned runs or fewer in every start since joining the Dust Devils’ rotation, and has had two scoreless outings out of his five starts.
Next up is another guy who was selected by the Padres in the 2017 MLB Draft, right-hander Aaron Leasher, who has been solid in his own right in recent weeks. Through his first 12 innings with the Dust Devils, Leasher has given up just three earned runs. However, Leasher’s numbers don’t jump out the same way Margevicius’ numbers do because of Leasher’s first start in which he walked five batters. He only walked three total in his next two starts, but that will be something to monitor going forward. Even so, he has been getting the job done for the Dust Devils over the last two weeks.
Moving on, there is yet another 2017 MLB draftee, 12th round selection, left-hander Thomas Cosgrove, who has 35 and a third solid innings under his belt with the short season Dust Devils. Cosgrove does sport a slightly elevated walk rate, but over his last four August starts, he has given up only five earned runs in 19 innings while striking out 17 batters to just seven walks. As with some of the other guys, the numbers don’t jump off the page, but Cosgrove has been very steadily getting the job done for the Dust Devils in the second half.
Last but not least, the guy who would probably be considered the ace of the staff based on seniority alone; right-hander Ben Sheckler. After starting his season with the Fort Wayne TinCaps, and running into some trouble, Sheckler has pitched with the Dust Devils for the entirety of their season, accumulating 64 and two-thirds innings and striking out 52 batters with a 2.64 ERA. Sheckler has been even better in recent weeks, as he has given up only six earned runs in five August starts, striking out 24 batters in 32 August innings. In an impressive bunch of pitchers, Sheckler may be the most impressive of all of them in the month of August.
Taking all these numbers together, it’s clear the Dust Devils rotation has been one of the best in not only the Northwest League, but perhaps all of minor league baseball. The team doesn’t have the names that the TinCaps’ or Missions’ rotations have, but they more than make up for that with the performance on the field. With less than a week left in the regular season, the Dust Devils look to be in great playoff position. If they can get there, their rotation gives them as good a shot of any team at taking home a Northwest League Championship.