Breaking down 2022 San Diego Padres bullpen order

SAN DIEGO - APRIL 7: General view of the exterior of Petco Park before action between the San Diego Padres and the Pittsburgh Pirates on April 7, 2005 at Petco Park in San Diego, California. (Photo by Christian Petersen/Getty Images)
SAN DIEGO - APRIL 7: General view of the exterior of Petco Park before action between the San Diego Padres and the Pittsburgh Pirates on April 7, 2005 at Petco Park in San Diego, California. (Photo by Christian Petersen/Getty Images) /

Whenever the Major League lockout ends, the San Diego Padres will get back to work building their bullpen for the 2022 season. The process may take longer because of an abbreviated spring training might be implemented. New Padres skipper Bob Melvin will need time to figure out how each piece fits into his order of preference.

San Diego Padres general manager A.J. Preller did add a few pieces to the bullpen mix before the start of the lockout.

The Friars signed relievers Robert Suarez and Luis Garcia to free-agent deals, but you can expect another addition or two to fill out the length of the pen before the start of the season. It could mean a lefty specialist or another late-inning option brought into the fold.

As things currently stand, the Padres have four locks for their 2022 bullpen staff. However, the remaining seven spots are up for grabs. Those pitchers guaranteed a spot in the bullpen include Suarez, Garcia, Craig Stammen, and Emilio Pagan.

Is Robert Suarez a legitimate MLB closer?

The Friar Faithful might be concerned that the team does not have a proven closer coming out of the pen. But you cannot ignore the statistical data that shows how dominant Suarez has been in Japan over the last two seasons. He posted a 1.16 ERA with a 0.770 WHIP and 8.4 K/9 in 62 appearances. Suarez allowed zero home runs in 62.1 innings pitched last season.

The numbers are impressive, but the right-hander has never pitched in MLB, so the question remains if Suarez’s pitching repertoire will translate well against Major League hitters. If so, then Padres have their next closer.

Luis Garcia excellent choice to replace Drew Pomeranz in Padres bullpen

Suarez will be joined in the back end of the Padres bullpen by Garcia, who is one of the top setup relievers in baseball today. All of his pitches are above average. Garcia will replace Drew Pomeranz, who pitched the eighth inning for the Padres over the last two seasons. Pomeranz will miss the 2022 campaign due to torn flexor tendon surgery.

Garcia has impressive pitching stats as he posted a 3.24 ERA with a 0.99 WHIP in 34 appearances last season. The 34-year-old reliever only allowed two home runs in 33.1 IP. Garcia’s role could expand if Suarez falters in the closer’s role. Nevertheless, his addition will bolster the Padres bullpen.

Austin Adams’ control issues prevent larger bullpen role

One name that jumps out is Austin Adams, who was part of the package received in the 2020 trade deadline deal with the Seattle Mariners. Adams has been plagued with control issues that have overshadowed his outstanding strikeout ratio.

Last season, Adams averaged just under 14K/9 but averaged 6BB/9 during the same timeframe. He excelled at striking out 76 batters, but Adams walked 35 and led the majors with 24 hit batsmen in 52.2 IP. Despite all of his control troubles, Adams only allowed one home run in 65 appearances.

If he could rein his skill level, Adams could be in the conversation as a candidate for the closer’s role. He will get a long look once spring training begins in Peoria. If not, he continues in his current role within the order of the Padres bullpen.

Andrew Chafin is perfect lefty option for Friars

Versatility is a popular term in today’s baseball. Relief specialists on either side of the rubber have been replaced by relievers who are effective against both lefty and righty hitters.

Currently, the Padres do not have a proven lefty reliever on the 40-man roster. It is a clear need that will have to be addressed once the lockout concludes. An excellent candidate is free agent Andrew Chafin who had an outstanding 2021 season for the Chicago Cubs and Oakland A’s.

His stats were off-the-charts as he posted a 1.83 ERA (career-high) with a 0.932 WHIP, 8.4K/9 and 2.5BB/9 in 71 appearances. Chafin is another relief pitcher who limits the number of long balls (three in 2021 and 21 in an eight-year MLB career) served in a given season.

Chafin’s slider is rated the most effective in the majors. It tails away from left-hander hitters who strikeout at a 50 percent rate. Overall, they hit .173 against Chafin last season. Signing him would be a wise investment for the Friars.

Reuniting with Craig Kimbrel is a possible trade option

If Preller is looking to acquire a top-tier closer, then old friend Craig Kimbrel could be available in a trade for the right price. The Chicago White Sox picked up his option ($16 million) for 2022. Preller must decide if it is worth trading a top 10 minor prospect to acquire a player who is one year away from free agency. Remember, Kimbrel’s first tenure with the Friars was a very up-and-down season.

In 63 combined appearances with the Chicago Cubs and White Sox, he posted 2.26 ERA with a 0.905 WHIP and 14.1K/9. Kimbrel struggled in the setup role with the White Sox as he allowed 32 baserunners in 23 IP. However, Kimbrel limited the damage by striking out 36 batters in 24 appearances with the Sox.

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Preller has options in the back end of his bullpen, but depth is key to playoff success.