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!
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