Now that we have thoroughly covered the Mat Latos situation in part one of this weeks feature, it is time to turn our attention to the remaining rotation candidates. This year, unlike previous years, the Padres have excellent pitching depth. The fifth starter could and probably will have many faces this season but we will highlight some of the favorites to win that spot (Mat Latos excluded) leading up to opening day. All of these guys saw limited time in the majors last year and had both moments of promise and pain. The man who has the best spring will likely begin the season as the fifth starter, since Bud Black has made it clear that there are NO favorites among this group in a recent interview. One of these men will have to earn the final spot by showing that he has improved since the last October.
Wade Le Blanc: Age: 25 2009 in NL: 9 GS, 46.1 IP, 3.69 ERA, 30 Ks, 19 BB, 1.17 WHIP
2009 in PCL: 20 GS, 121 IP, 3.87 ERA, 95 Ks, 31 BB, 1.16 WHIP
In the interest of full disclosure i will confess that Le Blanc is my emotional favorite in this race. He is a slender southpaw at 6’2″ 180 lbs. There is just something about a guy who is smart or savvy enough to survive on an 85 mph fastball. What really gives Le Blanc the ability to get outs is not the fastball however but a nifty change-up. When Le Blanc is at his best he commands the fastball at both corners of the plate with an occasional curve and uses the change-up as an out pitch. Doing so he generates a lot of poorly hit balls and a less than occasional strikeout. Therein lies Le Blanc’s biggest problem though, his stuff is never overpowering and when his location is not dead on he gets hammered. At his worst he is basically a batting practice machine. For Le Blanc to be successful he will have to continue to show impeccable fastball command while continuing to develop a cutter and curveball as well as continuing to use his change up effectively. The statistic that most favors Le Blanc is his WHIP, (walk+hits/innings pitched) if he can maintain a WHIP between 1.2 and 1.4 he should be able to have a decent year in the rotation. Odds to make the rotation: 10 to 1
Tim Stauffer: Age: 27 2009 in NL: 14 GS, 73 IP, 3.58 ERA, 53 Ks, 34 BB, 1.44 WHIP
2009 in PCL: 4 GS, 23 IP, 2.35 ERA, 16 Ks, 4 BB, .87 WHIP
2009 in TEX: 0 GS, 19 IP, 1.89 ERA, 12 KS, 4 BB, .89 WHIP
Stauffer began last season still recovering from Labrum surgery, hence the 14 relief appearances in San Antonio. He was the Padres first round selection in the 2003 draft (fourth overall) but shortly after being selected Stauffer confessed shoulder pain to the Padres and actually accepted a smaller signing bonus. (give the man extra points for honesty if nothing else) So the year after he was drafted Stauffer had his first shoulder surgery. After making a nice pro debut in Lake Elsinore in 2004 the three years that followed were a struggle for Stauffer. It appeared that Stauffer would soon wash out after his second shoulder surgery in ’08 but he came back stronger. When he is at his best Stauffer uses a pretty consistent mix of four league average pitches, with the fastball and slider being his best. He has shown above average control, especially in the minors. which allows him to spot his pitches where they can produce a lot of ground balls. (about 45% of his outs came on the ground last year) When things are going badly for Stauffer his command falters and he has shown the ability to issue a lot of walks when he gets flustered. When the walks start piling up Stauffer leaves his fastball over the plate, and since he doesn’t have the stuff to miss bats consistently, he often gets crushed. When healthy Stauffer has often had a nice walk to strikeout ratio, and that will have to carry over to the majors if he wants to lock down a rotation spot. He is out of minor league options this year so if the Padres don’t find a spot for him they risk losing him. Odds to make the rotation: 6 to 1
Sean Gallagher: Age: 25 2009 in NL: 0 GS, 5.1 IP, 0 ERA, 4 Ks, 5 BB, 1.88 WHIP
2009 in PCL: 11 GS, 42.1 IP, 2.35 ERA, 31 Ks, 12 BB, .92 WHIP
Obviously Gallagher didn’t pitch a whole lot last year. He spent the early part of the season rehabbing his right knee with what is known as platelet-rich plasma therapy. When he finally did come back Gallagher got some starts in Sacramento and Portland before being used as a reliever with the big club. San Diego is Gallagher’s third team in as many years (he was drafted by the cubs) which seems to indicate that he has above average talent but has also seen his share of struggles. Sean uses a slightly above average fastball mixed with an above average slider and an excellent curveball. When Gallagher is at his best he uses the sinking fastball effectively while getting a lot of mileage out of his breaking pitches. When he’s at his worst however he tends to issue a ton of walks and seems much more comfortable pitching from the wind-up as opposed to the stretch. Gallagher is out of minor league options this year so the Padres will have to find either a rotation or bullpen job for him if they want to keep him. Strikeouts will be key if Sean is going to stick in the Majors. During his best stretches in the minors averaged a little more than a strikeout per inning, if he can make that translate to San Diego he should be fine. Odds to make the rotation: 4 to 1
Aaron Poreda: Age: 23
I will let you take a look a Poreda’s stats for last year on your own (just click on his name) since he played for five different teams across five leagues. Poreda was the 25th overall pick in the ’07 draft by the White Sox. He came to San Diego last year as what many considered the centerpiece of the Jake Peavy trade. Of all the candidates we have covered, Poreda is the only one who can approach the upside of a Mat Latos. Aaron is a 6’6″ 240 pound southpaw who looks like he was bred to pitch. His natural size and talent have blessed him with an excellent mid 90’s fastball that has late life to it. Poreda’s biggest problem however, has been his inability to develop a worthy secondary pitch. His command suffered after being traded last year but he did to a lot of work with Darren Balsley to clean up his delivery and make it more consistent. At his best Poreda can blow away any batter, though at the moment he is essentially a two pitch guy. He can rack up strike outs quickly and has flashed plus command in the minors, as well as the ability to severely limit the power of opposing batters. At his worst (which is basically what we saw while he was in San Diego) Poreda has a sloppy delivery and looks like he can barely find the plate. He is however, still very young, and has plenty of developing still to do. So if he makes the rotation great, if not, he will go back to AAA. Odds to make the rotation: 10 to 1.
Well thanks for checking out part two of this weeks feature. As always feel free to comment or email me email@example.com. Harumph and goodbye.
Thanks to: theb
aseballcube.com, fangraphs.com, XX 1090 am San Diego.