In the coming weeks, we’ll be covering each team’s potential depth charts in an effort to shine a spotlight on the interesting playing time battles that will be waged this spring. Obviously none of these depth charts are set in stone — rather they should function to focus your attention in the right places to find cheap fantasy value.
Bullpen arms come and go. The nature of pitching a mere 40-70 innings in a season leaves plenty of room for random variation. With that caveat out of the way, there might not be a better team to find cheap rate stats and holds than San Diego.
As our very own Jeff Sullivan noted earlier in the week, the Padres are moving the fences in at Petco Park. While this may increase the home run total, run scoring may not increase much — if at all. From a reliever standpoint, perhaps the most important thing to watch isn’t home run numbers, but the health of current closer Huston Street.
No one could argue Street’s effectiveness when healthy, but I have made standard operating procedure of handcuffing the setup man with Street when drafting him. I’ll refrain from making a 911 Huston Street, home of Dr. James Andrews joke here. While Street managed just 40 appearances last year, his statistics in those games are indicative of a talent cursed with poor health. He posted the best K% of his career as well as his best WHIP. Of course WHIP is clearly tied to BABIP, and unsurprisingly Street’s 0.72 WHIP came with a .179 BABIP.
I expect Street’s K% to dip slightly from last year’s high, but his SwStr% is strong enough that he should be able to maintain something near his career average of 28% strikeout rate. With Street firmly cemented in the closer’s role for now, it is a matter of speculating who will be the first to replace him when he goes down with the inevitable shoulder/elbow/calf strain. The most likely candidate is Luke Gregerson. He was second of the team in saves last season and has made at least 60 relief appearances every year since being in the majors. Gregerson possesses an excellent strikeout to walk ratio of over 3:1 for his career and he keeps the ball on the ground. Last year he managed to post his highest GB% of his career, up to a hair over 50%. He is a fastball-slider-changeup pitcher that has held opposite handed hitters to a .300 wOBA for his career. He is the odds on favorite to grab the title of closer when Street makes his annual DL visit. Given that Gregerson had the most shutdowns on the team is clear indicator that he “has what it takes” to be a closer.
A dark horse candidate to grab the occasional save is Dale Thayer. Last season Thayer had more shutdowns than Street himself, and was second to only Gregerson in that department. Thayer doesn’t have the track record of brilliance that Gregerson does, but Thayer did grab seven saves himself last season. Looking way ahead to September, it is possible that Matthew Stites could see some action. His 2012 numbers in Single-A are amazing. Drafted out of college, Stites is 22 and dominated a Midwest League where there are some quality players. Seeing how Stites fares in Double-A will be a real test, but if he excels there I could see him getting more than a cup of coffee in September. The organization thinks highly enough of Stites to invite him to spring training. He is definitely one to keep an eye on.
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