As threatened in our look at Padres hitting prospects worth watching in 2010, we turn now to pitchers. Here, again in alphabetical order, are 15 pitchers I’ll be keeping my eye on this year:
- Anthony Bass, RHSP, 22 — Last year’s #23 prospect (rankings are per the Ducksnorts 2009 Baseball Annual) and one of my “sleepers” enjoyed a solid full-season debut, excelling at Fort Wayne and then holding his own after a mid-season promotion to Lake Elsinore. The Padres have been very cautious with his workload but he could move quickly. For his career, Bass owns a 2.45 ERA in 158 IP. The one potential negative is a relatively pedestrian strikeout rate (7.41 K/9).
- Brad Brach, RHRP, 24 — You know what I think of minor-league relievers (on the rare occasion I think of them at all), but Brach is a big kid putting up big numbers. Yeah, the former 42nd-round draft pick has dominated younger competition, but a 1.47 ERA, 12.03 K/9, and 7.19 K/BB in 86 IP will get your attention. Can Brach keep this up at higher levels? The odds are against him, but that’s why we’re watching.
- Aaron Breit, RHRP/RHSP, 24 — Last year I noted that Breit “needs to start pitching like a prospect.” Well, he did. The 3.51 ERA at Lake Elsinore looks nice and shiny (17 unearned runs helps), but what gets my attention are the improving peripherals. Hits decreased and strikeouts increased even as he moved up a level, into a tougher league for pitchers. In what is becoming an annual ritual for Breit, this is a make-or-break season. His career 4.80 ERA in 332 IP is not good, but the 8.27 K/9 offers signs of hope. If he can build on last year’s gains, then maybe… just maybe.
- Simon Castro, RHSP, 22 — He inherits Mat Latos’ title as the Padres top pitching prospect. Castro is young, the scouts like him, the numbers are good. In 303 IP, he owns a lukewarm 4.16 ERA but a sizzling 9.92 K/9. He made his full-season debut in 2009 and dominated (3.33 ERA, 10.07 K/9, 4.24 K/BB) at Fort Wayne, showing much better command than he had in three short-season stints. Castro should pitch at Lake Elsinore this year. I smell road trip.
- Chris Fetter, RHSP, 24 — The 2009 draftee (9th round, Michigan) enjoyed a fine debut (65 IP, 1.66 ERA, 10.38 K/9) at two two different levels. Fetter doesn’t have the upside of fellow draftees Jerry Sullivan (3rd round, Oral Roberts) and Keyvius Sampson (4th round, Ocala HS), but those are some eye-popping numbers.
- Steve Garrison, LHSP, 23 — Acquired in the 2007 trade that sent Scott Linebrink to Milwaukee, Garrison was positioning himself as a solid prospect (#26 last year according to moi) before missing the first half of 2009 following rotator cuff surgery. Then he blew out his right knee in the Arizona Fall League. Garrison’s calling card is excellent control (2.20 BB/9 in 433.2 IP, to go with a 3.61 ERA and 7.20 K/9). He isn’t back at full strength yet but could see action sometime this summer. If healthy, Garrison projects as a back-end rotation type.
- Jeremy Hefner, RHSP, 24 — Last year’s #29 prospect is somewhat hittable (8.49 H/9 in 363.2 IP for the career) but racks up strikeouts (9.18 K/9) and doesn’t issue many walks (2.55 BB/9). This is an intriguing skill set and I’ll be curious to see how it plays at higher levels, where hitters are more sophisticated in their approach and less likely to hack at everything.
- Corey Kluber, RHSP, 24 — Bias alert: I like Kluber too much. I saw him pitch once and he had the sinker working. I’m a sucker for groundball pitchers, but you’ll notice the sample size of one. The time I saw Kluber, he pitched great; the rest of the time, not so much. In two full seasons and change, he has fashioned a 4.60 ERA in 328.2 IP, with a more than respectable 9.28 K/9 and a not quite as respectable 3.61 BB/9. He’ll be back at San Antonio, where he finished last season, and could get a look with the big club in September.
- Cory Luebke, LHSP, 25 — Almost everyone likes Luebke more than I do. I see a poor-man’s Wade LeBlanc, which isn’t necessarily a bad thing because I happen to like LeBlanc more than most folks. Luebke owns a 3.78 ERA in 316.2 IP for the career, with a 7.76 K/9 and 2.05 BB/9 to go with it. The control is nice, but his upside is that of a #4 or #5 starter. Again, this isn’t a bad thing; teams need those.
- Jeremy McBryde, RHSP, 23 — I always confuse him with Hefner. This Jeremy, whom I ranked a slot ahead (#28) of the other one last year, is even more extreme in his tendencies (271.1 IP, 9.62 H/9, 2.02 BB/9, 9.82 K/9) and is doing a real nice Jon Lieber/Shane Reynolds impersonation. Injuries limited McBryde to just 12 starts in 2009, but if he’s healthy and able to build on what he did at Lake Elsinore last year before getting hurt, he could be useful down the road.
- Wynn Pelzer, RHSP, 24 — One of the few hard throwers drafted on Grady Fuson’s watch, Pelzer is a former college reliever who has made a seamless transition to starting and to the professional game. His numbers have been solid if unspectacular so far (270 IP, 3.70 ERA, 8.23 K/9, 2.68 K/BB), but with that arm, he is capable of even greater things. If starting doesn’t work out for him, Pelzer could return to the bullpen and make for a nice late-inning option. I rated him the Padres #21 prospect last year.
- Aaron Poreda, LHRP/LHSP, 23 — The centerpiece of last summer’s Jake Peavy deal (well, money was the centerpiece, but never mind that), Poreda throws the ball hard and all over the place, sort of like ex-Padre Wil Ledezma. Poreda, a former first-round pick out of
Pepperdine, works in the mid-90s, rare velocity for a southpaw. He owns a sparkly career ERA (3.12) in 314.1 IP, but relatively weak peripherals (3.58 BB/9, 7.85 K/9). In 2009, split between Double-A and Triple-A, Poreda’s walk rate ballooned to a John D’Acquistoish 6.31 BB/9. That usually doesn’t work. Poreda’s career, like his fastball, could go in many different directions. He could be Al Leiter, he could be Al Hrabosky, he could be Al Bundy.
- Adys Portillo, RHSP, 18 — The big Dominican signing from 2008 made his professional debut last year and struggled (52.2 IP, 5.13 ERA, 7.52 K/9). This doesn’t concern me in the slightest because he was among the youngest players in his league and still getting acclimated to life on the North American continent. The Padres aggressively started him in the Arizona League, which brings me to my next point. If you’ve ever seen a game in that league, you know to take stats accumulated there with extra buckets of salt. We’ll get a better idea of Portillo’s capabilities once he reaches full-season ball, which may or may not happen this year. No hurry, though; he’s still plenty young.
- Nick Schmidt, LHSP, 24 — The former first-round pick hasn’t been healthy or good in three professional seasons (106.2 IP, 5.32 ERA, 4.73 BB/9, 7.76 K/9). It’s still too early to give up on Schmidt, but not as early as it used to be, if you know what I mean. Now would be a good time for him to have a big year.
- Evan Scribner, RHRP, 24 — This guy is why I miss Kevin Towers, who picked up Scribner (career line: 185 IP, 2.63 ERA, 2.29 BB/9, 11.24 K/9) from Arizona in a trade for Tony Clark. He’ll start the year at Triple-A Portland and be a phone call away if needed. Scribner could be the new Luke Gregerson.
Well, there you go. Happy watching!