Seth Lugo is considered the “Swiss Army knife” of a pitching staff each season. He can pitch as a spot starter or in the setup role coming out of the bullpen. Versatility is a curse. Lugo’s opportunity to become a full-time starting pitcher with the New York Mets was put to rest by his success as a high-leverage reliever.
Seth Lugo: One of the top setup relievers in baseball
The data does not lie. Lugo is one of the top setup men in the majors. He relies on a devastating curveball and fastball to get batters out. Opposing teams hit .159 and .171 against those two pitches. This past season with the Mets, Lugo posted a 3.60 ERA with 69 strikeouts in 65 innings pitched. He finished 2022 with a 25.4 strikeout percentage.
Despite success in the setup role, Lugo desired to become a starting pitcher. His confidence never wavered, even though he started only 13 games since 2017. But the San Diego Padres threw a lifeline to Lugo by signing him to a two-year/$15 million deal last December. Now he is eager to contribute to a memorable season with the Friars.
San Diego Padres value Lugo as starter
It is fair for the Padres to have questions about Lugo beginning his first MLB season in the starting rotation. Team manager Bob Melvin must have concerns about whether the right-hander will survive the grind of pitching every five days. However, using Lugo out of the bullpen because of his proven track record was never an option.
The Padres are breaking camp with one of their starters out of the rotation. Joe Musgrove will open the regular season on the injury list after fracturing his left big toe in a weight room accident. His return to the mound is unknown as the Friars will be cautious in their approach. It is too risky of a move to bring Musgrove back early.
The Padres prepared themselves for such an incident. They added veteran pitching depth to the roster by re-signing Nick Martinez and signing free agents Lugo and Micheal Wacha. Each move prevents injuries from derailing the effectiveness of the starting rotation.
Padres Starting Rotation: Veterans Need Apply
The Friars top starting pitching prospects are not ready to contribute in 2023. Next year, this storyline might change as Dylan Lesko and Robby Snelling could progress through the organization at an accelerated rate that gets them into the conversation.
Seeing what Lugo can do as a starting pitcher will be one of the great mysteries this season. He thrust himself into the role by being a thinking man’s pitcher. Lugo possesses the best two-pitch combo in the majors. He does not walk (6.7 career ratio) many batters, and nearly half of his recorded outs (43.7 career percentage) are ground balls. All are characteristics of a solid starting pitcher.
If Lugo can start 25 games (his career high was 18 starts in 2017), the Padres’ path to the postseason will be much smoother.