Padres right-hander Erik Johnson underwent Tommy John surgery today, reports Dennis Lin of the San Diego Union-Tribune (Twitter link). The 26-year-old was acquired by San Diego alongside Fernando Tatis Jr. in the trade that sent James Shields to the White Sox. He’ll miss the entire 2017 season as he recovers from the operation.
Johnson pitched just 19 2/3 innings with the Friars following the trade, surrendering 20 earned runs on 32 hits and and five walks with 10 strikeouts. The 2011 second-round pick once rated as one of the Top 100 prospects in the game according to Baseball America, MLB.com and Baseball Prospectus but has seen his stock dip precipitously over the past three seasons since debuting in 2014. Johnson has a 5.28 earned run average in 117 2/3 innings between the ChiSox and the Padres, and he’s averaged 6.7 K/9 while allowing 4.1 BB/9 and recording a 38.6 percent ground-ball rate.
While Johnson certainly wasn’t going to be penciled into the 2017 rotation in San Diego, news of his Tommy John surgery further depletes a Padres depth chart that is lacking in the way of quality pitching at the upper levels of the minor leagues. Opening Day proved to be the only appearance of the season for Tyson Ross, who is now weighing shoulder surgery. The team’s other internal options for next year’s rotation include Christian Friedrich, Luis Perdomo and Paul Clemens. Right-hander Edwin Jackson and lefty Clayton Richard finished out the season in the Padres’ rotation, but each veteran is eligible for free agency this winter.
Suffice it to say, pitching figures to be a prime target for the Padres’ front office, even if the team doesn’t have an eye on contending next season. Simply adding depth in the form of starters that can take the ball every fifth day will be paramount, and it seems logical to expect the Padres to target pitching help in any trade talks that might arise over the duration of the offseason.