In a story reported on MLB Trade Rumours, writer Bill Center of the San Diego Union-Tribune believes that the San Diego Padres are looking for left-handed hitting help as well as bullpen arms and are willing to deal a starter to get them.
Center specifically cites three players competing for the #5 starter spot for 2014, Burch Smith, Robbie Erlin and Eric Stults. Stults is a 33 year old, soft-tossing lefty veteran who may not garner much interest on the trade market. It’s the other two, Smith and Erlin, who are both 23 and could garner interest from teams who are looking for some pitchers who are young, controllable and are ready for the big leagues.
Smith is a 6’4″ Texan who can hit the upper 90s with his fastball but has had some control issues. Rated the #9 prospect for the Padres by MLB.com, Smith is highly touted for his fastball but it’s acknowledged that his supplementary pitches need more development. His four-seamer averaged over 93 mph for the first three months of his time in the big leagues but fell to 91.83 mph in September. Smith also throws a sinker, a change and a curveball. As a starter in September, Smith was throwing about 62% fastballs, 20% changeups and about 17% curveballs.
Robbie Erlin isn’t a hard thrower, but coming from the left side, he doesn’t quite need the heat. At 5’11″, Erlin is on the short side but he still throws in the low-90s who is tailor-made to pitch in the spacious Petco Park. Erlin had elbow issues in 2012 but appears to have recovered and made Marc Hulet’s Top 15 list for the Padres in 2013. Judging by Brooksbaseball.net’s numbers, Erlin’s big, looping curveball is his best pitch, getting hitters to hit .151 (with a .192 slugging percentage) against it. That’s followed by his changeup which hitters hit for only a .229 average and .314 SLG. By contrast, his fastball was pulverized for a .283 average and .462 slugging percentage.
Which of these two young pitchers would you like to see your team trade for: the polished, crafty lefty or the hard-throwing fireballer who needs to bring the secondary pitches along a lot more?