Previously, the infield and the outfield.
Mat Latos, the 23 year old right-hander, transformed from the The Future to The Present during the course of the 2010 season. The young righty threw 184.7 innings, logging at 2.92 ERA while striking out 189, walking 50, and giving up 16 homers.
A 2.92 ERA can come in many forms, especially when a guy spends a significant amount of time pitching in the friendly confines of Petco Park. Latos earned every bit of it, though, with very solid peripherals across the board. He struck a lot of batters, didn’t walk many, and didn’t allow many homers. That recipe will succeed just about anywhere.
Further, if there were any worries that Latos’ success was a product of Petco’s heavy air, consider that he threw 112 innings on the road and only 73 at home. His road ERA was a respectable 3.14, and his peripherals were actually better at visiting venues than at home.
There’s every reason to expect a “sophomore slump” in 2011 – simple regression to the mean, injuries, fatigue after a near 200 inning campaign. Then again, Latos is a special talent, and he’ll have every chance to come up big again for the Padres. They’ll definitely need him.
Mat Latos projection: 3.23 ERA, 185 innings
While Latos is a power pitcher, Clayton Richard relies more on finesse. Still, Richard is pretty adept at his craft – he knows what he’s doing out there. He struck out just under seven per nine last season and walked 3.5. He kept the ball in the park, too, allowing only 16 homers in 210.7 innings.
Richard’s 3.92 ERA is not nearly as shiny as Latos’, especially considering he spent more time at home than on the road. Still, he’s your prototypical lefty innings eater, and that has value in the middle of the rotation.
When you consider he’s provided almost as much value for the Padres as Jake Peavy has for the White Sox since the trade – Richard came over, along with three others, for Peavy in July of ‘09 – at a fraction of the cost, it makes things that much sweeter.
Clayton Richard projection: 3.50 ERA, 190 innings
Aaron Harang has two issues to overcome this season – injuries and performance. Those are two semi-big issues for a base ball pitcher. The big 6-7, 230 pound right-hander threw just 111.7 innings last year with the Reds, with an ERA north of five and a K/BB ratio just over two. And he’s always had issues with the long ball.
While that may not sound like a ringing endorsement for Harang’s future in San Diego, it isn’t all bad. For just $3.5 million on the free agent market, he’s worth the risk. This guy was pretty valuable from 2005 through 2009. If he stays healthy and recaptures some of his past glory, he could be a perfect fit in the middle of the rotation. He has a career ground ball rate of just 38 percent (career 1.22 HR/9), so Petco might be just what the doctor ordered.
Harang is much better as a fifth or sixth option, and in this rotation, he’s more than that. I mean, it’s good that he’s here and all, but the Padres are counting on Harang and he’s a wildcard at best.
Aaron Harang projection: 4.23 ERA, 131 innings
Wade LeBlanc is a left-hander very much in the mold of Clayton Richard. He’s posted similar strikeout and walk numbers to the Padres other lefty. However, LeBlanc has shown much less velocity, sitting around 86 miles per hour with the heater. Further, his groundball rate (36 percent) and home run issues (1.6/9) are particularly worrisome.
A pitcher can get by with guts and guile and all that good stuff, but sometimes you just need the ability to blow it by a hitter, and LeBlanc can’t rely on that. It’s much harder to keep hitters off balance when your fastball travels in the mid-eighties.
Still, Leblanc has shown what it takes to at least flirt with success at the big league level, and the Padres may need him to step it up and fortify the back-end of the rotation in 2011.
Wade LeBlanc projection: 4.15 ERA, 140 innings
The back-end of the Padres rotation – and really, this could include anyone not named Latos – is largely up for grabs, and will likely come down to who performs better and/or who stays healthy.
The former first rounder, Tim Stauffer, is coming around nicely later in his career. Stauffer started just seven games last season, but overall in 82.7 innings he posted a 1.85 ERA while allowing just three long balls. As a starter in 2009, he wasn’t too bad either, notching a 3.58 ERA in 73 innings. Stauffer’s career groundball rate sits at 46 percent, aiding his solid home run numbers.
Dustin Moseley, the former Yankee and Angel, was picked up in the off-season as a free agent. Like Stauffer, Moseley has experience both out of the rotation and in the pen, and he could fit in either role. Then again, like Stauffer, he also doesn’t strike out many (5.1 K-rate career).
Further, he’s given up 32 homers in 233 innings (though Petco should help that). He could make the rotation, but I’m not sure that’s a scenario you want to draw up.
Lefty Corey Luebke has come into his own in the minors, recording sub-three ERAs in each of the last two seasons. He’s given up just 33 home runs in 430.7 minor league innings, while striking out 361 and walking 100.
He was pretty impressive in a cup of coffee last season for the big club, striking out 18 and walking six in 17.7 innings of work. He may get a chance to rack up some starts for the Padres in 2011, especially if injuries plague a thin Padres staff. Ben is also a big fan.