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.