If you’ve followed the Padres farm system even a little bit in the past year, you’re well aware that much of the high-end talent is on the pitching side, and is found at the lower levels. This is especially the case in High-A Lake Elsinore. They just sent starting pitchers Cal Quantrill, Eric Lauer, and Joey Lucchesi to the California League All-Star Game, and cases could easily be made for rotation-mates Jesse Scholtens, Jacob Nix, and Jerry Keel (although all three were latecomers to the Storm, as Scholtens and Keel started the year in Single-A Fort Wayne, and Nix has just four starts after returning from an injury).
While San Diego isn’t (and shouldn’t be) trying to rush any of these young arms up to the majors as fast as they can, it’s worthwhile to project when any possible promotions might be happening. Usually, after the All-Star break (which took place yesterday), there tends to be some movement within organizations, promoting their top talent.
Quantrill has the highest upside on the Lake Elsinore squad, but a look at the numbers show that he hasn’t fared quite as well as some of his teammates.
|Cal Quantrill||22||1st Round, 2016||12||61||3.69||65||21||.266|
|Eric Lauer||22||1st Round, 2016||11||62.2||2.15||76||16||.243|
|Joey Lucchesi||24||4th Round, 2016||13||71.2||2.39||89||18||.196|
|Jacob Nix||21||3rd Round, 2015||4||24||3.00||18||2||.306|
|Jesse Scholtens||23||9th Round, 2016||12||74.2||2.53||74||17||.223|
|Jerry Keel||23||3rd Round, 2015||11||74.1||3.03||74||20||.229|
The numbers that pop out at you are Lauer’s ERA, which is the lowest among qualified pitchers in the Cal League, and Lucchesi’s strikeout totals, which ranks third in the league. The aforementioned Scholtens and Keel look good here, too, but about half of their starts were with other teams (Scholtens with Fort Wayne and Keel with Fort Wayne and Double-A San Antonio).
It’s a good problem to have, but for anyone to be promoted, there needs to be an opening. The San Antonio Missions just finished up the first half by winning their division and securing a spot in the postseason. They’ve largely been carried by their pitching staff, which led the league in ERA, shutouts, hits allowed, home runs allowed, strikeouts, and WHIP. While they lack the potential that some of the Storm pitchers do, they aren’t slouches. Realistically, for a Storm player to get moved up, one of them has to get moved up.
Brett Kennedy (2.34 ERA, 56 K, 12 BB in his last ten starts) and Enyel De Los Santos (.234 average against) have been solid for San Antonio, but could definitely use some more time at the level, and are still just 22 and 21-years-old, respectively. Chris Huffman (24-years-old) already had a short stint at Triple-A, in which he recorded zero outs while giving up four runs (via a pair of home runs, a double, a single, and two walks), so chances of him going back, at least in the immediate future, seem slim.
That leaves us with Michael Kelly and Kyle Lloyd. Kelly is a former first round pick (2011), who has progressed slowly through the system, but is having his best year to date. It’s possible that Lloyd has had an even better year than Kelly, after throwing a no-hitter in May and getting promoted to Triple-A for a few starts. A look at their Double-A numbers:
|Michael Kelly||24||1st Round, 2011||15||84.2||2.98||91||30||.221|
|Kyle Lloyd||26||29th Round, 2013||12||71.1||3.03||70||21||.205|
Lloyd wasn’t great in a three-start stint with El Paso (6.75 ERA in 17.1 innings), and Kelly’s ten game run with the Chihuahuas last year wasn’t spectacular by any stretch (4.89 ERA, 41 K, 23 BB in 49.2 IP), but it’s safe to say that they don’t have much more to prove at the Double-A level.
So, for those two, a move should happen soon. The Padres just DFA’d Zach Lee, and Dillon Overton, the pitcher they picked up off waivers immediately afterwards, seems more of a bullpen piece. Outside of Walker Lockett (who’s on the disabled list and hasn’t pitched since May 25th), the rotation is pretty uninteresting, unless you believe that Tyrell Jenkins (a 24-year-old with a 7.44 ERA and almost as many walks as strikeouts) is on his way to regaining his former first-round status.
The question becomes, in regards to the Lake Elsinore rotation, who do you promote to Double-A?
Lucchesi is the oldest of the bunch and has some of the gaudiest numbers, so he makes sense. When Lauer was drafted out of Kent State, he was billed as the player to make it to the majors first, because he was already so polished. Nothing that he’s done in High-A so far can lead you to believe that anything has changed. With a rotation of Kennedy, De Los Santos, Huffman, Lucchesi, and Lauer, the Missions should be set for the second half.
This doesn’t mean that Quantrill needs to be stuck in High-A all season, however. The Missions could do what the Storm have been doing for almost a month, having a six-man rotation. Or perhaps later in the year, they give Huffman another shot at Triple-A and they make room for Quantrill that way. Baseball America’s Kyle Glaser watched Quantrill’s last start of the first half, and the feeling I got from his report, while not explicitly saying it, was that he wasn’t long for a promotion.
With Lauer and Quantrill, two of the Padres most promising pitching prospects, you’d think that they’d want to get them time in Double-A this year, with the hope that at some point next year they’d be getting regular starts in Triple-A, and perhaps be primed for an MLB debut when rosters expand at the end of 2018. Yes, there’s a lot that needs to happen before then, but if the Padres are serious about that 2020 window, that would appear to be a decent route for that first wave of talent to manifest itself.
If the Storm rotation clears itself out a bit, look for one of Fort Wayne’s All-Star representatives, Logan Allen, to get promoted. He has mentioned that, as of yesterday, he wasn’t aware of any pending call to Lake Elsinore, but the 20-year-old has pitched well enough (2.02 ERA, 75 K, 24 BB in 62.1 IP) to warrant a move to the Cal League.