Padres starting pitching in good hands after Latos trade

Cory Luebke is one of the rising stars in the Padres rotation. (Jack Dempsey/AP)

What does the Mat Latos trade mean for the San Diego Padres 2012 starting rotation and beyond? One of the reasons the Padres made such a bold move to bolster their offense was their organizational pitching depth. First, the Padres get a former All-Star in Edinson Volquez on top of the three MLB-ready player prospects. Without going into extreme detail, Volquez has had his share of injuries and maturity questions, as well. The Padres obviously believe he can rebound in PETCO Park’s pitching-friendly environment. In a sense, the Padres got a pitcher with Latos-like stuff who also has shown flashes of excellence, hoping he can rebound to his 2008 All-Star glory. Another possibility: The Padres flip Volquez for a position player before the season starts or at the trade deadline if they’re out of contention.

The Padres are stocked with starting pitching. With Tim Stauffer, Clayton Richard, Dustin Moseley, Cory Luebke and Volquez all having MLB experience under their belts. Stauffer seemed to run out of gas at the end of the season, but looked like a solid #2 pitcher for the majority of the year. So far, Richard doesn’t have the home/away peripherals you would like to see. Many thought he would improve last year, but a bout with injuries shut him down. Moseley proved to be effective, and not just in PETCO Park, but, like Richard, was shut down due to injuries.

Luebke started out of the pen for the Padres and looked dominant against some of baseball’s better hitters in key situations. He then got the chance to start, due to the other aforementioned pitchers’ injury problems coupled with his success out of the bullpen. Luebke did not disappoint and is a lock for the Padres 2012 rotation. The Padres contribute some of Luebke’s success to bullpen seasoning before being thrown in the fire as a starter. Anthony Bass looked strong coming out of the pen showing a fearless mentality in challenging hitters. Internally, Bass is viewed as being more ideally suited for the bullpen, while others believe his makeup and arsenal of pitches will play well as a starter, too. Luebke and Bass showed promise starting at the tail end of the season and will compete for the #5 spot in the rotation in 2012.

This brings me to the up-and-coming Padres prospects who could pay dividends in 2012 upon promotion due to performance, injuries or trades. Casey Kelly, the #3 prospect in the Padres organization according to Baseball America who came over in the Adrian Gonzalez trade, could join the Padres sooner than later in 2012, despite an underwhelming repeated stint in double-A. The Padres and scouts still love his ceiling, makeup and athleticism that enable him to repeat his delivery effortlessly. This will be a big year for Kelly.

Simon Castro is another interesting pitcher. He has the swing-and-miss stuff and ideal frame to be a starting pitcher, so I could see him being brought up by mid-to-late 2012 staring out of the pen, much like they did with Bass. It would make sense seeing how that path has helped other starters. It would also answer questions of Castro’s ability as a starter. Coming over in the Mike Adams trade last year were a pair of prospects, Joe Wieland (#7 Padre prospect according to Baseball America) and Robert Erlin (#8 Padre prospects according to Baseball America). Both pitchers dominated last year, and while both are young, we could see both as early as this year.

Honorable mention: Juan Oramas, while not listed as highly as some of the other prospects, he could see time as early as 2012.

The Padres have some talent on the lower levels that could shoot up shortly, but the names above are the ones we’re most likely to see in the rotation in 2012. This post includes stats and scouting reports on the players mentioned above.

There is no doubt, even with the loss of Latos and the addition of a fairly established pitcher like Volquez, the Padres are absolutely stacked at starting pitching for now and years to come.

Immediate depth chart:

1. Tim Stauffer

2. Cory Luebke

3. Edinson Volquez

4. Clayton Richard

5. Dustin Moseley

6. Anthony Bass

7. Casey Kelly

8. Robert Erlin

9. Joe Wieland

10 Simon Casto

11. Juan Oramas


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