The Padres are working hard to develop a set of reliable new rotation options with several key veterans ticketed for the open market in short order — if they aren’t traded first — as Jeff Sanders of the San Diego Union-Tribune writes. Hurlers such as Drew Pomeranz, Colin Rea, and Robbie Erlin offer future control that could make them important assets to an organization with a limited budget. Of course, all still need to prove that they can stick in the rotation.
Here’s more out of the National League, featuring a few notable early-season player observations:
- Diamondbacks starter Patrick Corbin expanded his pitch count to over 100 on Sunday for the first time since his return from Tommy John surgery, as Nick Piecoro of the Arizona Republic writes. The southpaw says he “felt comfortable” in increasing his workload and hopes “it’s something I can do in every start now.” That would certainly be the team’s hope, too, as the bullpen has been worked hard early in the year. It would also offer a chance for the 26-year-old to increase his arbitration earnings in his upcoming second trip through the process; he recorded over 200 frames back in 2013, and a similar showing would set him up for a nice raise. He’s looked good thus far in 2016, working to a 2.75 ERA with 6.4 K/9 against 1.8 BB/9 and a 50.0% groundball rate over 19 2/3 frames in three starts.
- The results haven’t been quite so promising for one-time Diamondbacks top prospect Archie Bradley. As Piecoro reports, there was a silver lining in an otherwise rough season debut yesterday, as Bradley delivered an average fastball of nearly 95 mph and topped out at just over 97. That represented a return to form in the velocity department after he registered lower on the gun in 2015. Of course, Bradley also struggled with control — as he did in his first two Triple-A outings — and notched only two strikeouts. All told, there’s still reason to hope that the 23-year-old can turn into the quality MLB starter he once seemed destined to become, but there’s still a lot of work to be done.
- Stephen Strasburg of the Nationals is showing increased dedication to a slider offering that he’s played around with previously, as Jamal Collier of MLB.com reports. New pitching coach Mike Maddux says that the organization played a role in that usage. “I think he’s had it in his back pocket,” said Maddux. “We kind of encouraged him to give it a whirl. Let’s let the hitters tell if it’s a good pitch.” If Strasburg can harness the pitch, he’d have one more weapon to use in putting away hitters — and to boost his stock in his walk year.
- Another player facing potential free agency after the season is Yoenis Cespedes of the Mets, who has the chance to opt out of his three-year deal and re-enter the market. While his overall batting line has been strong in the early going, ESPN.com’s Mark Simon observes that the veteran outfielder’s strikeout rate is way up (currently, 35.3%, with a 15.5% swinging strike rate). The issue, in large part, is that Cespedes is chasing breaking balls out of the zone. Needless to say, there’s plenty of time for him to turn that around, and it’s good to see that he’s producing despite the swings and misses — aided by a .400 BABIP driven by loads of hard contact, as well as an improved 7.8% walk rate — but it’s certainly an area for improvement.
- Both Strasburg and Cespedes featured prominently in the first iteration of next winter’s free agent power rankings by MLBTR’s Tim Dierkes, placing first and third (respectively) on that list.