SD Padres Bullpen: Depth Chart Discussions

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.

Closer: Huston Street
Setup: Luke Gregerson
Dark Horse: Dale Thayer
Longshot: Matt Stites
LOOGY: Joe Thatcher, Tom Layne

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7 Responses to “SD Padres Bullpen: Depth Chart Discussions”

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  1. jdbolick says:

    I was absolutely sure that San Diego was going to flip Street during the season given that they wouldn’t be in contention and he was an impending free agent. Instead they made a closer one of their highest paid players and made my bench full of Padres relievers irrelevant. In any case, if I recall correctly both Gregerson and Thayer were healthy when Street initially went down, and Thayer was the one who received the call to take over. Gregerson then got his chance when Thayer went on paternity leave and ran with the opportunity. I agree with you that Luke is most likely to get second shot should something happen to Street, but it’s worth noting that you would have thought the same last season and yet it didn’t happen, at least not initially.

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  2. Travis L says:

    How do you figure Gregerson is ahead of Thayer? When Street went down last year, didn’t Thayer take the job?

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    • David Wiers says:

      Better number across board, Gregerson had more saves total — albeit only by two — and Gregerson has the better K%.

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      • jdbolick says:

        Also, when Thayer returned from paternity leave he slotted in behind Gregerson instead of resuming his role. It’s definitely not clear cut, but if I had to guess then I would think that Gregerson established himself as the #2 behind Street thanks to his strong work in late August.

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  3. tylersnotes says:

    i’ve always found the SD bullpen to offer some very cheap and effective holds guys. Stites wasn’t on my radar and will be now, those are video game numbers he put up in A ball.

    No mention of boxberger here? Too much to hope for him to cut the walk rate down?

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    • David Wiers says:

      The walk rate figures to be gruesome. If you happen to play in a K/9 league, I’d consider drafting him, as his rates there will be good, but his WHIP just isn’t worth having him.

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