PT TOMORROW: NL West—Padres rotation keeps chugging along

San Diego Padres

When the Padres decided to include Chris Paddack (RHP, SD) and Matt Strahm (LHP, SD) as part of the Opening Day rotation, they likely anticipated having to walk a bit of a tightrope throughout the season—attempting to monitor their blossoming young pitchers’ innings while still remaining competitive in 2018. So far, so good, thanks to relatively good health as well as some contributions from rookies Nick Margevicius (LHP, SD) and, more recently, Cal Quantrill (RHP, SD).

Quantrill’s 5.14 ERA through 21 IP doesn’t exactly jump off the page, but he’s lasted 5 innings in three of his four starts while flashing a bit of strikeout upside, including a 9-K outing against the strikeout-prone Blue Jays last time out. Entering the year as the team’s #11 prospect, Quantrill’s best weapon is his change-up, which he mixes in with a slider and occasional curveball. Of particular interest is the recent uptick in velocity, which had fallen to the low-90s before touching the 95 mph range in his last few starts. He was sent down on May 26, but he should be up again before long.

The next youngster to step up could very well be Logan Allen (LHP, SD), who entered the year as the team’s #10 prospect and who owns an 8B rating in the Minor League Baseball Analyst. Allen posted a 2.54 ERA across two levels last year, and his current 4.01 ERA somewhat understates how good he’s been this year in the PCL—where he’s allowed 2 ER or fewer in each of his last 8 starts, striking out 10 (vs. 1 BB) in 7 IP during his last outing. Seeing Allen make his MLB debut in the next week or two wouldn’t be at all surprising.

More help could also arrive in the coming months, as 2017 breakout Dinelson Lamet (RHP, SD) recently began a rehab assignment after 2018 Tommy JOhn surgery and was already clocked hitting 98 mph on the gun. Manager Andy Green seemed hopeful for a return as soon as late June, but even something slightly beyond that would provide the rotation with some much-needed length. 

And though perhaps unlikely, it is not inconceivable to think that Garrett Richards (RHP, SD) could make a token start or two in September. Richards signed a two-year deal with the team this offseason and has been rehabbing from his Tommy John surgery last July. When healthy, Richards has long flashed intriguing skills, including a 3.15 ERA, 8.5 Dom, and 3.2 Ctl dating back to his breakout in 2014. At a minimum, the possibility of Richards returning at something close to full strength should provide Padres fans with even more excitement heading into 2020. 

 

Los Angeles Dodgers

Austin Barnes (C, LA) hit the IL earlier this week with a minor groin strain, which is expected to only keep him out of action for the minimum 10 days at this point. Barnes has enjoyed a slight bounce-back from his unsightly 2018 (.205 BA, 67% ct%), but his .231 BA (.246 xBA) is still well short of the .289 BA (.295 xBA) he flashed in limited time in 2017. That said, his contact rate (76%) has improved to be more in line with career levels, and his 4 HR and 2 SB are nothing to sneeze at when considering the rest of CA player pool.

With Barnes out, the team called up Will Smith (C, LA), who had two hits and threw out a would-be base stealer in his MLB debut Tuesday night. Smith was covered in detail in our CALL-UPS section earlier this week, where it was noted that his power and defense should be enough to secure him MLB at-bats at some point, even if that comes with a more modest contribution in the BA department. Smith was taking a nice step forward (.290/.404/.551, 8 HR and 35/25 K/BB) down at Triple-A, and could contribute later in the year, even assuming he gets sent back down when Barnes returns.

One way Smith could get a longer look would be at the expense of backup catcher Russell Martin (C/3B, LA). Martin missed a couple of weeks in April with back inflammation, and he’s been serviceable (.254 BA, 2 HR) in his 59 at-bats so far this year. The Dodgers aren’t financially committed to Martin beyond this year, so it will be interesting to see whether they envision him as part of their plans for their expected playoff push.

Down at Double-A, the team’s #2 prospect, Keibert Ruiz (C, LA), is rebounding nicely after a slow start. Over his last 10 games, Ruiz has gone 14-for-35 (.400 BA) while walking more than he's struck out—with a 1/6 K/BB in his last 10 games, and 7/14 K/BB on the season. He’s likely at least a year away, but the future is bright for the 20-year-old Venezuelan.

 

Arizona Diamondbacks

After leading the PCL with 21 HR (in just 165 at-bats), the Diamondbacks called up 26-year-old Kevin Cron (1B, ARI) late last week. Cron entered the year with the look of an average 1B with plus power and, given his fringe ct% and lack of line drives, the potential to be a BA burden. Then came this year. In addition to the power outburst, he’s seen an improved contact rate (from 74% ct% to 80%) and increase in walks (from 8% to 14%). Cron only started in 2 of his first 6 games since joining the Diamondbacks, but he could emerge quickly—especially if he can carry over the gains he displayed in Triple-A.

On the flip side, Christian Walker (1B, ARI) may see his playing time start to dwindle sooner rather than later. Walker shot out of the gate with 7 HR before May 1, but has hit just 1 HR in May (87 at-bats) while posting a .161 BA (.201 xBA). During that stretch (i.e., May), he’s seen his contact rate drop from 66% to 63%, walk rate drop from 11% to 7%, and xPX fall from 191 to 70. Absent some rediscovery of his previous plate skills, he could quite easily find himself on the outside looking in when it comes to playing time.

While Cron and Walker offer right-handed power, it’s worth remembering that left-handed Jake Lamb (3B, ARI) could be rejoining the team at some point as well. Shelved since April 5 with a Grade 2 quad strain, Lamb was recently backed off his running drills, although manager Torey Lovullo expressed optimism that it wasn’t much of a setback. Lamb emerged from spring training set to handle the bulk of 1B duties, and is just a year removed from his 30-HR campaign in 2017.

 

Colorado Rockies

Closer Wade Davis (RHP, COL) hit the IL last week with an oblique strain, but after resuming his throwing program this past Wednesday, Davis said he feels confident he’ll be back “pretty soon.” When he does return, he’ll look to improve upon his 6.1 Ctl and 52% FpK, numbers that typically don’t lead to positive results from the closer role.

In his absence, Scott Oberg (RHP, COL) has been tabbed as the man to anchor the back of the bullpen. Oberg was exceptional last year, with a 2.45 ERA (2.81 xERA) and 0.97 WHIP, riding a 14% SwK to a career-best 8.7 Dom. This year has been a bit of a different story though, where his 1.88 ERA provides a false impression of his dominance—much of which is attributable to a 21% H% and 88% S%. His velocity has been down a tick from last year, although it has started to recover over his past four outings, where he’s sat close to the 95 mph mark he was at in 2018. Oberg was able to convert his first save opportunity on Wednesday night, and could keep the run going until Davis returns.

Beyond Oberg, the most likely candidates to close would be Bryan Shaw (RHP, COL) and Carlos Estevez (RHP, COL). Shaw struggled to the tune of a -19 BPV in April, but has bounced back nicely (8.6 Dom, 14% SwK, 63% FpK) across 15 innings this month. Estevez, on the other hand, owns premium velocity (97 mph), but has seen his walk rate (4.6 Ctl) drift back upward toward his career (4.2) mark, which would likely keep him from a successful run if indeed he ever inherited the role.

 

San Francisco Giants

The Giants’ seemingly endless quest for an answer in LF took yet another turn last week when the team DFA’d Mac Williamson (OF, SF), likely ending any hope that he could deliver on the promise he’d shown at various times the past few years. Williamson earned some buzz early last season when, after working with noted hitting instructor Doug Latta, he hit 6 HR in his first 39 AB in the minors and then 3 HR with the big league club before suffering a concussion while making a catch in the outfield. He never really regained that form, and the continued contact issues (65% ct% in 2019) were ultimately his undoing.

In his place, the team looks like they will go with a platoon—with Tyler Austin (1B/OF, SF) getting starts against LHP and newcomer Mike Yastrzemski (OF, SF) getting at-bats against RHP.

Austin, who came over from the Twins in April, has contact issues of his own, as seen by his career 59% ct%. What he doesn’t struggle with, however, is power against LHP. In 162 career at-bats against lefties, Austin has hit 16 HR (210 PX) and owns a .994 OPS. The 27-year-old has upped his walk rate (13%) in the early going, but he’s also riding a lofty 39% h% through 62 at-bats this year, so expecting something closer to his career .235 mark (and current .229 xBA) sounds prudent.

Yastrzemski, meanwhile, spent seven years in the BAL organization before coming over this past offseason. The 28-year-old lefty doesn’t profile as much of a prospect, but has proved passable in recent years in the minors, where he owns a career .263/.341/.441 line with 73 HR in 2600 AB. Like many Triple-A hitters, however, he’s enjoyed more success (.316, 12 HR) so far this season, and has 3 hits in his first 11 at-bats so far in the majors.

If Yastrzemski struggles, the team could reconsider Mike Gerber (OF, SF), who is hitting .344 with 10 HR at AAA-Sacramento. Gerber has a lot of swing-and-miss to his game—as evidenced by his 9 strikeouts in 15 AB in a Giants uniform earlier this year—but he would provide a powerful lefty bat to platoon at either corner OF position, if needed.


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