Though Trey Wingenter has had a rough few months, there are still plenty of reasons for the San Diego Padres to be excited about his future.
The bullpen was the strength of the San Diego Padres in 2018, but the current relief corps has been one of the team’s most prominent sore spots.
As a group, they combined for a 3.53 ERA in 2018, which ranked 6th in the MLB. This year, the ERA is up to 4.02. One reason for an increased ERA is several Padres relief pitchers are having down years. One pitcher that stands out in this regard is Trey Wingenter.
Wingenter has always found success throughout his tenure in the Padres organization. After the Padres drafted him with their 17th round pick in the 2015 draft, he wasted no time establishing himself in the minors.
Wingenter pitched very well in the Arizona Fall League, posting a 2.79 ERA in 9 2/3 innings. A promotion was in order, as the tall right-handed pitcher started the 2016 season in Fort Wayne. Through 11 innings in low-A, Wingenter had an incredibly low ERA of 0.82. Once again, he was promoted by the Padres- this time to A+ Lake Elsinore. He was promoted for the second time in 2016 after 44 1/3 innings, as he tallied a 2.03 ERA. Wingenter spent the entire 2017 season Double-A San Antonio. He pitched 47 2/3 innings there posting a 2.45 ERA. Wingenter would begin the 2018 season in Triple-A El Paso, which is historically known for not being pitcher-friendly. Despite the PCL’s reputation, the relief pitcher put up substantial numbers. In 44 1/3 innings, his ERA was 3.45 for the Chihuahuas. A.J. Preller was pleased with his performance enough to give Wingenter the call-up to the majors.
Trey Wingenter did not disappoint, as he had a standout rookie season for the Friars in 2018. The right-handed pitcher recorded a 3.79 ERA and 27 strikeouts in 19 innings. It is also notable that in those 22 appearances, he only allowed multiple runs once. Unfortunately, 2019 has not been as kind to the pitcher. His ERA has spiked to 4.60, and he has walked 24 guys in 46 appearances. On the surface, his performance can be discouraging. If you take a more in-depth look at it, there’s still a ton of promise.
Wingenter only pitched 19 innings for the Padres in 2018, but he’s totaled 45 innings in 2019. The workload increase can lead to two things: more game footage for opponents and fatigue on the pitcher. It is very safe to say that both factors have harmed Wingenter as of late. As the season has been winding down, the Padres are facing teams that they have already played before this season. If you were to ask any MLB hitter, they would all agree that it is easier to hit a pitcher that you have faced previously. For young players like him, numbers tend to trend upwards as the season moves along.
If you look at Wingenter’s stats by the month, there is a drastic difference in ERA. The former Auburn product was incredible in April and May, tallying a 2.55 ERA with 25 strikeouts in 17 2/3 innings. Combining his early 2019 numbers with his MLB stats, Wingenter profiles as an elite reliever. That is the player that Padres see and need for the future.
After a brief IL stint, his performance didn’t quite match the standard the pitcher set earlier in the year. His monthly ERAs rose to 4.97 in June, 7.04 in July, and 6.43 in August. His recent decline has lead the Friar Faithful to lose confidence in him, even though he has shown that he can be a capable reliever in high leverage situations.
Wingenter’s high profile fastball often reaches the upper 90s, sitting at 96-97 mph comfortably. His 6-foot-7 frame poses an intimidating figure with a high release and spin rate. His high-velocity fastball paired with a heartbreaking slider makes for a nasty 1-2 punch. He pitches his slider 40% of the time, so Wingenter is very confident in it and has shown that he can throw it in any count.
Should the Padres keep him in the bullpen for the foreseeable future, they’ll get a swing-and-miss pitcher, as his slider generates whiffs 23.53% of the time. His 63 strikeouts this season and .188 opponent batting average are among the league’s best for relievers. If Wingenter limits his walks, he will undoubtedly have a future in the Padres pen. He has allowed runs in 13 of his appearances thus far, but only five of them have come when he didn’t walk an opposing player that inning. Wingenter is an elite pitcher when he doesn’t award free bases. Two rough months, following an injury, shouldn’t ruin Wingenter’s reputation as a great bullpen pitcher. Give him time.