By: Jorge Arce
LHP - JOEY LUCHESSI
PHOTO CREDIT: MARK COLLIER
As the dawn of another season is set to begin and teams rounding out their rosters in earnest, it looks as if the Padres and AJ Preller have settled on the group that will compete for spots in the upcoming 2020 rotation. Nothing is ever set in stone with Preller, and a late deal from an opposing GM could change things on a dime but the group currently as it stands, looks solid. Two emerging young pitchers without restrictions in Chris Paddack and Dinelson Lamet along with veteran Garrett Richards hope to comprise the front half of the rotation. Zach Davies, acquired along with Trent Grisham from Milwaukee, will battle southpaw Joey Lucchesi and former first rounder Cal Quantrill for the remaining two spots.
For the last two seasons, rumors of the Padres targeting a top of the rotation arm has come and gone with nothing coming to fruition. With names bandied about from Noah Syndergaard, to Marcus Stroman, to the possible targeting of San Diego native Stephen Strasburg. From the Mets decision of competing and the absolute avalanche of money being thrown at free agent starters this off-season, the chips have not fallen on the luck of the Friars. Targeting a front line starter is still a priority to add, but the timing must be right and more likely to happen at the trading deadline depending on how the team performs. It will also allow the team an extra half season to not only gauge the competitiveness of the big league club but also the advancement of other top prospects and how quick they are to help the team at Petco. Waiting in the wings and not far from his MLB debut is MLB.com’s top ranked LHP prospect MacKenzie Gore, who comes at you with four plus pitches and a bunch of arms and elbows to add deceptiveness on the mound. Luis Patino is also a very talented pitcher and will be nipping on Gore’s heels on the path to the show.
With an impressive rookie campaign, Paddack should continue to elevate his game after an off-season of continuing to hone his curveball. He said it was the emphasis of his off-season, getting a better feel for it and gaining confidence in throwing it in any situation. Dinelson Lamet has the potential to also have a breakout season, now two years removed from his TJ surgery. After two electric starts against playoff teams down the stretch in which he had double digit strikeout games against the Brewers and Dodgers, it doesn’t seem a stretch for bigger things to come. The veteran wildcard is Garrett Richards, a player the Padres committed $15 million dollars for truly just one season. It is a big gamble, one the Padres have rolled the dice in the past with Josh Johnson and Mark Prior with little to no success, but Richards is past the injury and finished 2019 with three starts. Davies is more a finesse pitcher and thrives on disrupting the batter's timing while splitting hairs on the corners of the plate. He brings an additional veteran presence to the rotation and has pitched in big games for Milwaukee the last couple of years.
Rounding out the rotation comes down to two solid options in Joey Lucchesi and Cal Quantrill. The reality is that we are heavy with RHP in the rotation and Joey “Fuego” Lucchesi not only had a very solid 2019 campaign, but placing him in the middle of the rotation may make sense. It’s essential the team not give opposing teams similar looks and mix in a deceptive lefty that can keep them off balance after seeing two flamethrowers in Paddack and Lamet before him. It may be a make or break season for the southpaw, especially with Gore in his rear view mirror, but Lucchesi has a great opportunity to improve on his sophomore 2019 season. Remember, Lucchesi led the staff in Wins (10), K’s (158), and innings pitched (163.2). At only 26 yrs old, Joey knows that to stay in the majors in a starter role, adding a 3rd pitch to his repertoire is key. That will allow him to go deeper into games and most importantly keeping the opposition off balance.
His deceptive wind up, heavy use of sinkers and his unique “churve” pitch created many awkward swings and misses throughout the season. Finishing the season 10-10, he headed into September at 10-7, with a chance to reach 13 wins. As we know, the organization finished with one of their worst months in history, going 7-20. Of his ten losses, seven of them were one run games. He was also snake bitten by a steady dose of low run support. Again, of his ten losses, eight of them were when the team scored two runs or less. The one statistic that was glaring were his ERA splits with a 2.56 ERA at Petco and a pummeling ERA of 6.22 away from the friendly confines.
Obviously, he must step up and perform better on the road. Several of his stats nearly doubled when working outside of Petco. Not only did his ERA more than double, but his HR/9 at Petco was 0.79 versus on the road being 1.87. And like most pitchers, he struggled heading into the third time through the lineup. Hitters who faced Lucchesi the first time around hit .222, while through the second remained pretty consistent at .221. It’s the third time through that hitters got comfortable and had a slash line of .283/.385/.542 versus Lucchesi.
Ultimately, this young staff has the potential to be very special for years to come with Paddack, Lamet, Lucchesi and the duo of Gore and Patino waiting in the wings. Don’t sleep on Lucchesi nor be surprised if he ends up being one of our more consistent starters. Call it the Fuego Factor!
BY: JORGE ARCE
SS - FERNANDO TATIS JR.
PHOTO CREDIT: MARK COLLIER
As the 2020 season approaches, here we sit a mere three weeks from pitchers and catchers reporting to Peoria, Arizona. It’s always an exciting time for all 30 MLB ball clubs because everyone has a fresh opportunity out of the gates to go chase a championship. The reality is that some of the teams we expect to compete will, others will disappoint, while others will surprise us. At the end of the day, the mission is to compete for 162 games and get in the playoffs and see where the magic takes us from there in hopes of hoisting the World Series trophy.
Padres fans have been very patient over the years of futility with only five playoff appearances over the first 50 years of existence and none over the last 13. The organization has gone through a couple of ownership debacles with John Moores divorce drama and Jeff Moorads attempt at buying the team in payments. Since Kevin Towers left town, the GM position has also rotated which has led us to our current GM AJ Preller as well as the manager carousel of five different skippers in Bud Black, Pat Murphy, Andy Green, Rod Barajas and now Jayce Tingler. The good news is we have had the right ownership in place since 2012 when Ron Fowler took over.
The Fowler group including the Seidlers and O’Malley’ have been transparent and shown a commitment to winning and winning now. They have also built our minor league system into one of MLB’s best. The intent is there, but of course it’s all about the execution both at the front office level with Preller and on the ball field. What you have to love about Fowler is that he is passionate and shown his frustrations like at the end of the 2019 season, and is not shy to call out a specific player if they are not performing at the clubs expectations (Shields/Myers).
So what’s taking so long to get back to competitive meaningful baseball in San Diego? The answer though not easy is more pragmatic than you might think. We are a lot closer than you think and the solution is as simple as one, two, three. I call it the “The Gwynning Formula” which is winning three extra games a month and hello playoffs! Allow me to explain. This past season, our beloved Padres won 70 games. Teams that clinched for the playoffs in the NL did so once they won their 88th game. Doing the math, that is a difference of 18 games, and when we divide that by the six month season it gives you a mere three additional wins extra a month to reach the playoffs. Keep in mind that the team lost our MVP and potential 6+War player in Tatis for half the season, Manny semi under performed offensively and the team had an atrocious September winning only seven games. Obviously the division was well out of reach come July, but there was a sliver of hope to compete for the wild card, especially after a decent start to April and May, which normally are rough months out of the gates for the boys. At the All-Star break, the team was a .500 group and within reach of what looked like a late summer playoff push.
As the season continued, it was exciting and easy to see that Tatis is a game changer in every sense of the word. He brings excitement to the team and fans. He lays it out 100% day in and day out. The problem is we cannot, nor should we depend solely on one twenty year old to take us to the promised land. It is a collective team effort, from the top down to the field.
Ultimately, the best way to reap this reward and attain the three extra wins a month comes down to in game management, finding players that get on base at a higher percentage and getting buy in on the expectations of winning (Patriots and Yankees). I am not going to pile on Andy Green, as I feel he did what he could with this group, but we all know he was bridging the gap for our process and players. And we may never know if the game day decisions actually came from up top or from Andy. Nonetheless, the boys out of the gate did themselves a disservice with mismanaging some games, lineups and pitching changes. The stubborn reluctance to play young players, instead opting to write into the lineup the likes of Nick Martini and Ian Kinsler.
The major factors that will get us back to playoff baseball with the three win formula:
• A healthy Tatis for 150 plus games. As we know, he is a special one and elevated everyone else when he is in the lineup. Producing a 3.6 WAR in his rookie campaign was impressive, but with a healthy season, maybe can get closer to a 6+WAR campaign.
• On Base Percentage Increase – Tommy Pham was a huge addition in terms of someone who gets on base consistently (.367 last season) and like Tatis, makes those around him better. Having him hit in front of Machado would provide even more run producing at bats that could provide more fastball counts for Manny to do damage with.
• Manny and Hosmer- Both seem to thrive when the game is on the line, when runners are on base or the stakes are high. The reality is, last season had very few of those opportunities, especially after the break.
• Base running- The Team ran themselves into too many outs on the base paths and prevented them from keeping guys on base and an opportunities to score. You can be aggressive but wise about the situation you engage the running game in. To many times we ran ourselves out of rallies before they even began.
• Tingler managing an NL game accordingly- 1st year manager Tingler who with an AL background will have several experienced major league coaches that should provide Jayce with ample resources to maximize his lineup options and in game decision making.
Ultimately if any of you watched the MLB playoffs and World Series, winning every game, inning and at bat should be prioritized from day one. It’s a long 162 game season, but if you guys can remember the few times the Padres have competed for a playoff spot, it has come down to the final week of the season. As many remember, there was that season where we had to go to Colorado for the 163rd game and loss to miss the playoffs. Yes,, managing Game #1, is equally as important as winning game number 162 and Matt Holiday still never touched home.
Jorge is a native of San Diego and an avid Padres fan. Current season ticket holder who enjoys talking Padres baseball from game analysis to the minor leagues. Other passions include family, traveling, spring training, and a future Padres World Series. #OhDoctor