Over the past decade or so, the San Diego Padres had been known as a team whose strength centers around their pitching staff. From Jake Peavy to Tyson Ross, the Friars have had a fair amount of success in recent years when it comes to their starting staff.
The trio of Andrew Cashner, Tyson Ross, and Ian Kennedy had been among the best since 2013 and with the addition of James Shields before the start of 2015, they looked to be poised for a memorable season. However, as Padres fans are well aware of, 2015 did not go the way anyone had hoped. With Ian Kennedy now in Kansas City, and Shields, Cashner, and Ross seemingly on the trading block, Padres General Manager A.J. Preller has brought in as many pitchers as possible in an attempt to fill the large void that will be left if trades take place. One such pitcher that hopes to be as productive as possible this year is newly acquired, left-hander Drew Pomeranz.
The south paw was once a top 50 prospect early in his career. He was drafted by the Indians in 2010 and was then traded to the Rockies, the A’s, and then to the Padres in December of 2015 for first basemen Yonder Alonso and Marc Rzepczynski.
Heading into spring training, it was unclear what Pomeranz’ role would be. Though, he did begin his major league career as a starter, he found much more success in Oakland as a reliever. He posted a 1.18 ERA in 16 appearances out of the pen in 2015. That is where some Padre fans figured he was destined to land, however, due to the lack of quality arms in the current system and his fairly solid Spring, Pomeranz has been thrust into the role of starter.
During the latter portions of spring training, it appeared the fifth spot in the rotation would go to either Pomeranz or fellow lefty Robbie Erlin. The decision came down to one of the final days before the season started, but manager Andy Green and the organization thought best to go with Pomeranz.
He primarily relies on his fastball which is a trait that is seen more in relief pitchers. He also throws a curveball, cutter, and a rare change-up. Being a starter, pitching coach Darren Balsley may try to work with the 27 year old to try and get more of his off-speed pitches into his outings. His fastball sits at around 92 so it’s likely he will rely more on location than anything for outs.
Balsley has had success with former A’s that weren’t thought of as anything special at one time, E.G: Tyson Ross. Ross was never the highly rated prospect that Pomeranz was so it will be intriguing to see if Balsley will be able to help Pomeranz find what made him so effective early on. Though, Petco Park is seeing more offense than ever, it still profiles as a pitchers park which should benefit him as well.
Pomeranz must preform well at the start of season. Brandon Morrow, who is due to join the club in the near future, figures to be a starter at some point. If Pomeranz struggles, he will surely be sent back to the bullpen where he will remain unless another starter is unable to perform. Also, in the event a starter is traded, more opportunities in the rotation could be coming his way.
Pomeranz is left handed which was something that the Padres could have used last season. Five right handed pitchers meant opposing clubs could send out left-handed heavy lineups the whole year. With Pomeranz, however, he could force teams to change up their game-plan within a series and keep those other ball clubs off-balance.
It’s unclear what the long term plan with Pomeranz is. If he finds success, he could be a long term piece that can help the rotation or the bullpen. If Preller sees fit to send him to another team in order to sweeten a deal, that could certainly be an option as well. For now, though, Drew Pomeranz has a chance to make a real impact with the fans and coaching staff by proving that they made the right decision.