A Sensible Plan For Luis Perdomo

Luis Perdomo may have had the most lauded 5.71 ERA/71 ERA+ season of all-time in 2016.

While I think there’s a tad bit of hyperbole around Perdomo’s 2016 campaign, given the circumstances, it was, indeed, quite the story of an in-season turnaround. After getting shelled to the tune of a 10.04 ERA and 47 hits in his first 26 innings, primarily as a reliever, the Padres stuck Perdomo in the rotation and watched him . . . turn into a pretty good pitcher. There are still some concerns, sure, but by September, Perdomo was good for six or seven innings a start, double digit ground balls, and a 6-to-1 K:BB ratio. The improvements were obvious.

Right now, he might be the de facto ace for 2017, which says more about the rotation than Perdomo. Still, Perdomo’s last few months give hope that one day he might be able to develop into a real ace or, more likely, a reliable mid-to-back-end starter on a good team. Under control through 2021, at least, it’s possible that Perdomo actually becomes a steady starter on a good Padres team. The Padres goal, in a strict forward-looking “yup, we’re rebuilding” sense, is to do everything they can to make sure Perdomo fulfills those expectations, and that when 2019 or 2020 rolls around, they can comfortably pencil him into a big-league rotation, hopefully around names like Anderson Espinoza, Adrian Morejon, and Cal Quantrill. Here’s my plan, then:

The Padres should send Perdomo back to the minor leagues to start 2017.

Taken in last year’s Rule 5 draft, like this year’s Rule 5 selections, Perdomo still hasn’t tasted minor-league baseball above High-A. When the Padres took him last year, he had just cracked that level in the Cardinals organization, and the jump to the majors seemed like a big one. It went better than expected in many ways, as we’ve discussed, with Perdomo not only clinging onto the major-league roster but actually providing league average-ish performance by late summer. There’s still a large chunk of development sacrificed in making an unnatural A-ball to MLB jump.

What’s often taken for granted as we watch players excel (and fail) in the majors are the little things—mechanical adjustments, trying out a new pitch, working on setting up hitters, etc. Those things aren’t necessarily eliminated upon reaching the majors, but it’s often times harder to try tinkering with an arm slot or introducing a new pitch when you’re facing the best hitters in the world. As the spotlight gets bigger, the little things, sometimes, can be forgotten or pushed aside. Instead of worrying about the getting more whiffs on Perdomo’s breaking ball, or his mental state, a major-league coaching staff may be preoccupied with other distractions, like winning ball games and handling the media. And Perdomo, himself, might be focused on just gutting out another inning rather than what’s best long term.

The trip back to the minors wouldn’t have to be long. A good two months spent in Double-A San Antonio with, perhaps, a quick cameo in hitter-friendly Triple-A El Paso should work, giving Perdomo more foundation under a still inexperienced arm. If all goes well, Perdomo gets a break from the rigors of the majors while building confidence against less advanced minor-league hitters, and he’s back in The Show come June or July for another stretch run. Of course, there’s a decent argument against this move, and the Padres wouldn’t be fools, by any means, to let him start next season in the majors. In fact, they probably will. One of the benefits of sneaking someone like Perdomo through a season as a Rule 5 pick, however, is that you can send him back to the minors in the following season for further refinement. It’s a little outside the box, but it’d possibly help Perdomo become a better pitcher in the long run.

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  • Virginia Padres

    Dustin, glad you are back writing. I always appreciate your take. While I don’t disagree with the value of your minor league tinker with your pitching approach, I think two things favor Perdomo, assuming a solid spring training, staying with the big club. One, he performed so well down the stretch that his confidence is high – he believes he belongs. It might actually hurt him mentally to send him down. Secondly, Perdomo is the only starting pitcher that the fans have to look forward to as we start 2017. He is the come from nowhere success story that we all love in baseball. While it might make him a better part of the rotation in 2019 to send him down now, we have several exciting pitchers destined for Petco and ahead of him on the depth chart by then. What we don’t have is someone to get excited for this year

    • Thanks a lot. I can’t really argue with anything you said. While I would concede that sending Perdomo to the minors might deflate his confidence some, if he gets hammered in April and *then* sent to the minors, we might not hear from him again for a while. The main thing, I think, is whether the Padres really think he’s ready to be a big-league starter. If they determine he is, for some of the reasons you mention, it probably does make sense to keep him up.

  • Adam

    If you were to eliminate Perdomo’s stats as a reliever, what did his 2016 season look like?

    • As a starter: 117 innings, 4.85 ERA, 81 K, 30 BB, 18 HR.

      Obviously much better, but still leaves something to be desired. The strikeout rate isn’t great, plus that’s too many home runs for a groundballer. But, yeah, much better than expected given the lack of experience and the first couple of months as a reliever.

  • ballybunion

    Not to knock the pitching coaches in the minors, but I like to think Perdomo will develop more quickly under Balsley. There’s also the situation that got Perdomo in the rotation in the first place – not many other options – making sending him down for more seasoning a bit of a problem. As much advantage for Perdomo as it might be, sending him down is probably not going to happen. Preller and ownership don’t want a new loss record, just the #1 pick in 2018.

    • They could just give Perdomo’s innings to Miguel Diaz or something. But, yeah, it probably won’t happen.

  • GT500KR

    The link goes to the wrong Luis Perdomo. Subconscious slip? The original is playing Indy ball these days.

    There is indeed some hyperbole around Perdomo Mark 2. There’s not much There there. He feels like Will Cunnane, for those whose memories go back to the last century. The history of the Padres would not be noticeably changed without Will Cunnane.

    Putting aside Perdomo’s major league performance, his minor league numbers don’t suggest he’s a future quality starter, either. Sure, he could be of value to a good team. He could help win a big game in a pennant chase or the playoffs, some obscure dudes with mediocre stuff have done so before. But those are the kind of odds that keep casinos in business.

    I’d keep him up because I’m a cold-hearted bastard. We need the innings and his upside seems limited. If he gives the fans someone to cheer for, all the better, although that fan adulation will wear off quickly if he doesn’t improve.

    • That’s actually a slip in the B-Ref player linker, but it also could work as an ominous subconscious slip.

      I’m not the high man on Perdomo, by any means, but I think I might like him better than you. The numbers in the minors aren’t great, sure, but there’s enough there to hint at future success, particularly as a groundball specialist type who eventually learns to avoid homers in the bigs. Plus his work in the major-league rotation last year, small sample and mixed results and all, was pretty impressive. Still a project, but I think there’s a decent chance he sticks around the fringes of the Padres rotation, at least, even when they start getting good.

      • GT500KR

        Even the non-emotional software of B-Ref looks at Perdomo out of its synthetic side eye.

        4+ decades of watching baseball has (or should have) taught me not to deal in absolutes, but you definitely like Perdomo better than me. A minor league pitcher with fewer than 8 strikeouts per nine, when he wasn’t all that young for his competition, hardly ever turns into much. Note that I keep the door open.

        As you point out, there’s value in healthy, affordable, mediocre pitchers. You can win with them at the back — hopefully way back — of the rotation or soaking up damage in the pen. But because the supply of mediocre pitchers is relatively large, there’s less reason to fuss about any particular one.

        Another reason to keep him up, which runs counter to what others have said, is that if he’s a bad major league, he helps the organization. We’re probably in for another long, brutal year of getting our asses handed to us, but at the end of that crap-colored rainbow there’s a top 3 draft pick and a big ole draft bonus pool for a GM who, whatever his failings, can scout the hell out of amateurs.

      • Given the state of the rotation, I’m not sure even a struggling Perdomo would really help the Padres lose any more than a number of other potential options.

        My only other pro-Perdomo argument is that Preller and the Padres staff thought highly enough of him to nab him in the Rule 5 and keep him around all year, and he showed signs of being a capable big-league starter last year without experience beyond A-ball. The idea that they took him in the Rule 5, stuck with him all year, etc. bodes well for Perdomo’s future in the org, I think. In other words, they’ve got something invested in him and (probably) really like him, so if sending him to the minors for a month or two might make a slight difference in him reaching his potential, they’d probably do it. (Not that they don’t believe the majors is just as good of a place for him.)