Entering spring training, the San Diego Padres’ rotation is fairly well set, except for the fourth and fifth starting positions. We examine the club’s options to fill these roles.
At this point, the beginning of spring training, Opening Day is imminent. For the San Diego Padres, this is very exciting. It does, however, mean that many decisions still need to be made and a lot of work has to be done over the course of the next seven weeks.
One area where this is especially true is with the team’s rotation. Three starters, Clayton Richard, Jhoulys Chacin, and Luis Perdomo, can pretty much be considered locks to take the first three positions.
60% of a rotation doesn’t make a rotation though, and the Padres are going to have to find a way to fill the other 40%. With two spots most certainly up for grabs this spring, several pitchers will be analyzed to a great extent by the coaching staff and fans.
Christian Friedrich likely has the inside track to the fourth starter role as spring training begins. 2017 will be the left-hander’s second season with the Padres, coming off of a career best 2016 campaign.
Several aspects of Friedrich’s game work into his favor when being considered for the rotation. Of course, the fact that he is a southpaw makes him a more valuable commodity, as him and Richard could make up 40% of the rotation, one which would have a lot of balance.
Also, the 29-year-old has slowly built up endurance to the point that he is now ready to make it through a full season without any injury concerns. Pitching in 129 and 1/3 innings last season, Friedrich’s work doubled from 2015 to 2016, much like it did from 2014 to 2015 with the Colorado Rockies.
For Friedrich, it will all come down to how well he performs in spring training. A disappointing March could set back the lefty’s development, and keep him out of the Opening Day rotation for another year. But there is a lot for the coaching staff to like in Friedrich, meaning that he will get many chances to prove himself.
One of the forgotten starters for San Diego who is looking to have a bounce back 2017 season is Jarred Cosart. To some, it seems the 26-year-old is in contention to start only because he is listed on the depth chart or has some experience. After all, Cosart’s recent stats are far from impressive on the surface, with an ERA of 6.00 in 2016 between his time with the Marlins and Padres.
There is reason to dig deeper for the League City, Texas native, as his potential is what makes him worth the look. Cosart is still young, and is still developing, yet has 66 major league starts under his belt. Last season’s numbers are concerning without a doubt, but injury which required elbow surgery certainly resulted in the lack of command which yielded 23 walks and 25 earned runs in just 37 innings with San Diego.
Now, after a successful procedure, Cosart is ready to move beyond his 2016 form and return to what allowed him to ascend to the big league level despite being drafted in the 38th round. If this right-hander can once again find the off speed pitch which defines him as a pitcher, the strikeouts will increase and the command will be sharper. And all of a sudden, fans can’t count Cosart out of possibly sneaking into the Opening Day rotation.
Paul Clemens is currently the seventh starter according to the club’s depth chart, giving him the longest odds of the four on this list to make the rotation. Not long ago, Clemens was in good shape to notch the fifth starter role, but recent signings have changed the way this rotation is coming together.
Still, the 28-year-old right-hander provides quality immediate depth behind the club’s top six starters, and will be in the mix for a starting job this spring. Of course, it would take several combining factors for Clemens to sneak into the fifth role, as his lack of experience and high career ERA works against him.
There may be some hope for a solid season for Clemens based on how he finished 2016. As a former Miami Marlin much like Cosart, the Braves draft pick started 12 games for San Diego down the stretch in 2016, logging a total of 61 and 1/3 innings. Clemens was able to post a 3.67 ERA during this time, surrendering less than a hit an inning and just over 1/3 of a walk an inning.
The dilemma for Clemens remains his inability to get deep in starts. Averaging less than five innings per start with the Padres last season, San Diego will be hesitant to hand the keys to a starter who will assuredly put more pressure than necessary on a vulnerable bullpen.
To say the least, it is nice to have an experienced starter in this position. An immediate return to the rotation would take quite a spring though.
As the latest San Diego acquisition, Trevor Cahill finds himself on the brink of returning to a starting role. Signing with the Padres partially due to his desire to get back into a major league rotation, the 28-year-old will still need to overcome Clemens and Cosart to secure the fifth job.
The central question surrounding Cahill is whether or not his recent bullpen success with translate to a longer outing. The Padres will need depth from every starter this season, so if Cahill is still unable to last beyond five innings, this is a major negative to his case in this competition, and could be virtually disqualifying.
What works in Cahill’s favor though is just how effective of a pitcher he has turned into. His 2.12 and 2.74 respective ERAs in 2015 and 2016 are a testament to his excellent combination of command and movement. Cahill struck out 66 last season in 65 and 1/3 innings, surrendering just 49 hits all year.
While many will point to San Diego’s rotation as their weakest link, these four capable starters each have the potential to become consistent starters occupying the back end of the rotation. Since the final two spots will come down to these four in all likelihood, the importance of the upcoming spring training is evident. Fans will certainly be interested in how it all shapes out.
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