Twitter Mailbag: For Richard, Not Poorer

Light mailbag today, so a few thoughts on the news of the week first.

The Padres signed Clayton Richard to a two-year, $6 million contract extension on Wednesday. Richard’s an odd breed of pitcher; he’s essentially a replacement level innings eater, at least if you use Baseball Prospectus’ pitching metrics. By BP, Richard’s at -1.1 WARP for his career, and -0.5 this season. While he isn’t good, he’s adequate enough to chew up innings and not embarrass anyone, and he’s got an outside chance of reaching 200 innings this season for the third time in his career.

My guess is he starts 2018 in the starting rotation, but shifts to the bullpen (or pasture) whenever the young arms are ready to take over. At just $3 million a year, there’s really not a whole lot that could go wrong here. The only downside could arise if the Padres are committed to keeping Richard in the rotation, thereby stealing opportunities from younger and more exciting arms. They’ve already indicated they won’t do that, however, so ultimately this is just a mild overpay for a little continuity.

Can I go with door no. 3 (complete overhaul)? I’d still like to see Wil Myers take a good hack without that weird thing he does with his back leg/foot, which Sac Bunt Chris discovered and I’ve subsequently written about a few times. It could just be an unimportant quirk, for sure, and it might not have anything to do with performance, like MacKenzie Gore‘s leg kick, Rich Hill‘s post-pitch recoil, or Craig Counsell‘s stance. But . . . maybe it’s more than that. Maybe it’s the byproduct of a broken swing, one that’s too hand-sy and not enough lower body, one that’s sapping Myers of power or contact, or both.

Of course, with that said, it’s still working—to a degree, anyway. Myers is better than a league-average hitter, but it could just be natural talent that’s got him to that level. Maybe a refined swing—and not more effort, or more concentration, or whatever—could take him to the next level, turning him into the kind of player we’ve imagined him as. Next year is still a good one for experimentation, so I’m all for tinkering with stuff that could be improved.

“Who’s gonna play short next year?” is the most Padres question of all time, and I think I’ve already gotten it three times since starting these mailbags. My last answer was Jose Rondon, but I’ve changed my mind there. It just feels like the organization doesn’t view him as a legitimate major-league contributor, as they’ve yet to call him up to be a part of the big club. He still makes more sense right now than Erick Aybar, given the state of the team, but apparently the Padres disagree. Another in-house candidate is Yangervis Solarte, but I’d be surprised if they decide to run him out there daily.

My wild card guess for next year is Eric Sogard. After a hot start, Sogard’s predictably cooled, but he’s still hitting .274/.391/.387 with 40 walks and 35 strikeouts in 275 plate appearances. That’s nearly a 170-point OPS jump from his 2010-2015 run with the A’s, making him a mortal lock to regress next season. Still, he’s fun and useful as a stopgap. Another possible (and familiar) option is Jurickson Profar, whom I discussed a couple of weeks back. Not sure if the Padres still have interest there, but he’s somehow only 24.

As far as pitching prospects for next year, I’ll just stick to one guy. I think Joey Lucchesi‘s going to get a long look in the majors. He posted a 2.20 ERA and a 4.48 strikeout-to-walk ratio this season in 139 innings between High-A Lake Elsinore and Double-A San Antonio. He’ll be 25 next summer, so there’s really no reason to be overly patient. A lot of scouting reports tab the deception over the stuff, but I have a feeling the stuff will play a little better than advertised.

Rocky Gale‘s home run the other night was a great moment for someone who’s probably questioned whether he’d ever get one a time or two. Making the major leagues is one thing, but actually hitting a home run in the major leagues . . . that’s a lifetime of hard work rewarded in a single flicker.

Now, the reality check. Gale has just 11 home runs in 2,198 minor-league plate appearances, and more than half of those PAs have taken place in the hitter-friendly Pacific Coast League, where he slashed a ho-hum .278/.328/.365 this year. Going on 30, Gale would have to possess Austin Hedges‘ defensive skills to get an extended big-league look, at least as a regular. (He doesn’t, although he does rate as a plus framer.) Maybe there’s a defense-first backup here, but more likely Gale soldiers on as org-filler, waiting for another shot to steal his share of the limelight.

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  • Michael

    Rocky Gale, future padres manager. Book it.

  • ballybunion

    When I saw that Clayton Richard was signed for TWO years, I remembered an online conversation I read last year. One party asked what happened to all the promising arms the Marlins had. A Marlins fan said they were rushed to the majors too soon.

    It may be that the Richard signing is a marker that the top pitching prospects are going to stay in the minors until they’re ready to stick in the majors. While I’d like to see them get here ASAP, I’m not unhappy that PBT (the Preller Brain Trust) is taking the long view.

    • I think that’s part of it. They don’t want to have to rush anyone, because there’s really no reason to. That said, I bet Richard is pushed out of a starting job by some combination of Lucchesi, Lauer, Quantrill, De Los Santos etc., possibly by mid/late next year.