Feb 21, 2014; Peoria, AZ, USA; San Diego Padres starting pitcher Matthew Wisler (75) poses for a photo during photo day at Peoria Sports Complex. Mandatory Credit: Joe Camporeale-USA TODAY Sports

Thick as Thieves: San Diego Padres Pitching

Probably the least hyped group you will find in our Thick as Thieves series is the San Diego Padres pitching staff, but don’t sleep on them. The system has a good balance of potential front of the rotation starters, mixed with plenty of mid-to-late rotation arms, which creates a system that could produce a very strong big league rotation in the not too distant future.

At the top of the rotation there are Matt Wisler and Max Fried.The 21 year old Wisler has struck out nearly a batter an inning with a WHIP of just 1.07 and pitched much of 2013 in Double-A. He has a plus fastball and slider, with an above-average change and curve. Meanwhile, Fried has not put up the same impressive numbers of Wisler, and he is currently sidelined with arm trouble, but he has all the makings of a top-of-the-rotation left-handed pitcher. Fried does not have the 100 mph fastball of his high school teammate, Lucas Giolito, but he can touch 95 to go with a deadly curve and a developing change.

While no longer young or a front line prospect, Casey Kelly was the top arm the Boston Red Sox gave up in the Adrian Gonzalez trade. Kelly won’t pitch until the middle of this season after undergoing Tommy John surgery late spring of 2013. He got his first taste of the big leagues in 2012, getting six starts but struggled. Despite the struggle and injury trouble, Kelly still projects as a solid number three starter, and could be just that by the All-Star break of this season.

Burch Smith got his first call up to the big leagues in 2013, and is currently battling to earn a spot on the opening day rotation. He had a near 5/1 K/BB ratio in the minor leagues, but his control was an issue in ten games at the big league level. If he can regain control this season, he should become a solid number four or five pitcher in the rotation.

The Padres also have Keyvius Sampson, Joe Weiland, and Matt Andreise who all pitched in Triple-A last season, with Weiland getting a handful of starts in the big leauges. All three could produce in the majors  this year, and even if Sampson doesn’t stick in the rotation, his fastball and slider could make him a quality arm in the back of the bullpen.

Lower in the minors, the Padres also have Zach Eflin and Joe Ross. Eflin has a big body that suggests he could become a solid innings eater, and he led the Midwest League in ERA in 2013. Ross is the younger brother of current Padres pitcher Tyson Ross and projects to be better than his brother, but even if he doesn’t pan out in the rotation, his likely floor is that of a power reliever.

Tags: San Diego Padres

  • James Adams

    Matt Andreise was traded to the Rays.

  • ballybunion

    You left out lefty Robbie Erlin. He got his feet wet last year too, first as a reliever and mid year as a starter. Thet didn’t work out so he was sent down, but was brought back in late August for five starts, pitching to a 1.98 ERA. His last two starts, he pitched seven innings with seven strikeouts, and he’s the first call-up if the Padres need another starter. He could be very effective as a knows-how-to-pitch control lefty (top FB=92-93) in a rotation of power right handers.

    Another way below the radar guy you missed was another lefty, Juan Pablo Oramas. He had TJ surgery in early 2012 after elbow problems the year before, and came back late last year to pitch in AA and got in 55 innings, striking out 64. Even before the TJ, he was noted as a bulldog who challenges hitters, uses both sides of the plate, and misses bats. One Padres scout said he’s the kind of pitcher who, once he gets in a rotation, will stay there for 10-12 years. One comp given for him is Mickey Lolich.

    Add those two, and you have a very good pipeline to a current staff of Andrew Cashner (27), Tyson Ross (26), and Ian Kennedy (29). The signing of Josh Johnson just allows all the pitchers in the system another year of seasoning. Why so few know about the pitching riches in the Padres system is a bit of a mystery, but the fact that even you looked, and missed two likely major league mid-rotation lefties might be a clue.