Feb 21, 2014; Peoria, AZ, USA; San Diego Padres starting pitcher Matthew Wisler (75) poses for a photo during photo day at Peoria Sports Complex. Mandatory Credit: Joe Camporeale-USA TODAY Sports
Probably the least hyped group you will find in our Thick as Thieves series is the San Diego Padres pitching staff, but don’t sleep on them. The system has a good balance of potential front of the rotation starters, mixed with plenty of mid-to-late rotation arms, which creates a system that could produce a very strong big league rotation in the not too distant future.
At the top of the rotation there are Matt Wisler and Max Fried.The 21 year old Wisler has struck out nearly a batter an inning with a WHIP of just 1.07 and pitched much of 2013 in Double-A. He has a plus fastball and slider, with an above-average change and curve. Meanwhile, Fried has not put up the same impressive numbers of Wisler, and he is currently sidelined with arm trouble, but he has all the makings of a top-of-the-rotation left-handed pitcher. Fried does not have the 100 mph fastball of his high school teammate, Lucas Giolito, but he can touch 95 to go with a deadly curve and a developing change.
While no longer young or a front line prospect, Casey Kelly was the top arm the Boston Red Sox gave up in the Adrian Gonzalez trade. Kelly won’t pitch until the middle of this season after undergoing Tommy John surgery late spring of 2013. He got his first taste of the big leagues in 2012, getting six starts but struggled. Despite the struggle and injury trouble, Kelly still projects as a solid number three starter, and could be just that by the All-Star break of this season.
Burch Smith got his first call up to the big leagues in 2013, and is currently battling to earn a spot on the opening day rotation. He had a near 5/1 K/BB ratio in the minor leagues, but his control was an issue in ten games at the big league level. If he can regain control this season, he should become a solid number four or five pitcher in the rotation.
The Padres also have Keyvius Sampson, Joe Weiland, and Matt Andreise who all pitched in Triple-A last season, with Weiland getting a handful of starts in the big leauges. All three could produce in the majors this year, and even if Sampson doesn’t stick in the rotation, his fastball and slider could make him a quality arm in the back of the bullpen.
Lower in the minors, the Padres also have Zach Eflin and Joe Ross. Eflin has a big body that suggests he could become a solid innings eater, and he led the Midwest League in ERA in 2013. Ross is the younger brother of current Padres pitcher Tyson Ross and projects to be better than his brother, but even if he doesn’t pan out in the rotation, his likely floor is that of a power reliever.