Are the San Diego Padres making a mistake by babying the young pitching prospects and continuing to let pitchers like Edinson Volquez toss up meaningless losses every fifth day? Why are the Padres hesitant to let some of the young pitching prospects battle it out right now to see who fits in the plans for the future?
The San Diego Padres have had myriad injuries the past couple years to promising pitching prospects, such as Casey Kelly and Joe Wieland among others. The Friars also have had the injury bug hit the probable Padres starters, too, such as Clayton Richard, Jason Marquis, Tim Stauffer and Cory Luebke. With the aforementioned injuries it was important to keep even the struggling pitching core intact for the time being, in attempt to keep the young, prized and advancing pitching prospects workloads under control — as opposed to rushing, which could result in more injuries.
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Having said that, the San Diego Padres have a plethora of pitchers who are close, if not MLB ready now:
Padres prospect Burch Smith, who already made his MLB debut earlier in the year (in a limited sample size), didn’t fair well. Smith, in three starts this year and six total appearances, went 0-1 with a 11.37 ERA. Although, looking at a much larger body of work this year in the minors, Smith dominated in double-A San Antonio, going 1-2, 1.15 ERA in 6 starts, 31.1 innings pitched, while only walking six, allowing one home run and striking out 37. Burch, now with the Padres triple-A affiliate (the hitters haven PCL) has been very impressive going 5-3 with a 2.14 ERA in 14 starts. In 71.1 innings pitched, he’s walked only 19 while striking out 76 batters.
Keyvius Sampson is another pitching prospect who has been electric as of late. He has added a slider to his repertoire and was recently re-promoted to triple-A where he had initially struggled early in the year. After being demoted, Sampson worked on his secondary pitches, and has been dominant since implementing a slider. Sampson has gone 10-4 with a 2.26 ERA in 18 starts. In 103.1 innings pitched, he has walked 33 batters while striking out 110. In his last start for triple-A Tuscon, he went six innings and allowed three hits and one run while striking out six and walking three. It should be noted the Padres would have to clear a roster spot for Sampson who is not currently on the 40-man roster. If Sampson continues pitching with such dominance, he will force the Padres’ hand.
The Padres have Matt Andriese who has also impressed this year in the minors. He had dominated the Padres double-A affiliate going 8-2 with a 2.37 ERA in 76 innings pitched, with 13 walks and 63 strikeouts, which prompted a promotion to triple-A Tucson. Upon his promotion, he’s gone 1-5 with a 4.14 ERA in 45.2 innings pitched with eight walks and 32 strikeouts. While not as dominant in double-A, his performance is more respectable beyond the numbers when you consider the hitter-friendly PCL and the park in Tucson where the balls jump like you’re pitching on the moon. Andriese would also need to be added to the 40-man roster.
Donn Roach is another intriguing pitcher who relies on his fantastic sinking fastball to induce ground balls. He has been inconstant this year with the Padres double-A affiliate in San Antonio. He’s gone 7-11 with a 3.67 ERA in a hitters friendly park, but with an unforgiving hard infield that undoubtedly doesn’t help his strength (his sinker). Even though his numbers may be a little misleading, it appears he needs more time to refine his secondary pitches. He would also need to be added to the 40-man roster.
Robbie Erlin, much like Burch, was promoted to San Diego in attempt to fill in for the injury-riddled Padres. In four starts and six appearances for the Padres, Erlin went 1-2 with a 7.15 ERA, ballooned somewhat by one terrible outing in which he gave up nine runs in six innings pitched, including walking four and surrendering two homers. Like Roach, after an impressive 2012 campaign, he has been inconstant. Erlin, who has been exclusively with the Padres triple-A affiliate this year, has gone a disappointing 6-3 with a mediocre 5.18 ERA in 83.1 innings pitched, allowing 103 hits and 29 walks with 76 strikeouts. The 103 hits, and the opponents batting average is indicative of him not locating the ball and just being hit far too often to advance; even in a hitters haven in Tucson in the PCL league.
A name you may not have heard of as much is Matt Wisler. Wisler’s stuff is as good as anyones in the Padres system, and he has the highest ceiling of possibly any pitcher. Wisler, who will only be 21 in September, is climbing the depth chart rapidly because of his front-of-the-rotation stuff and performance in double-A San Antonio. After being promoted from high-A Lake Elsinore where he dominated, He has gone 7-4 with a 3.10 ERA in 87 innings pitched, while striking out 80 and walking 25. While he is much more inexperienced than some of the other aforementioned pitchers, look for him to be promoted soon, barring an innings limit, due to workload. I wouldn’t be surprised to see him competing next year for a spot in the Padres rotation. Like Andriese, Sampson and Roach, he would also have to be added to the Padres 40-man roster.
That begs the question: Why are the Padres continuing to let Edinson Volquez go out every fifth day, be inconsistent, walk batters and inflate his ERA by the start, while the Padres could be scouting their young promising pitching prospects for the future on the MLB level? My guess is the concern driven by the injuries in the Padres system over the last few years, and management is hesitant to advance the future and chance further setbacks to the maturation process.
Having said that, it’s that time in the season where the Padres are seemingly out of the race, and will be promoting young pitchers shortly. Another issue might be who the Padres will have to protect for next year’s Rule Five Draft, and who the Padres believe is expendable currently on the 40-man roster to garner a roster spot for pitching prospects.
One thing is certain, Volquez does not deserve a roster spot, and it’s time to let the kids compete and see who is ready. It’s also time to start weeding out the four-A players from the true MLB mainstay players for the future. Even if the Padres have to eat the rest of Volquez’ salary, I’d rather them do that while watching other players with such promise and future as opposed to teeing up meaningless losses for a pitcher without a warranted spot on anyone’s roster, let alone the Padres.