Twitter Mailbag: Perdomo’s Future

The typical Luis Perdomo outing tends to start off a bit shaky, flatten out and get good in the middle innings, and then nosedive into a free fall collapse before the right hander gets the hook. The numbers generally follow this observation, although there’s always the risk of getting caught up in small sample randomness when you break any pitcher down inning by inning.

If you do look at Perdomo’s splits this season, the fifth inning, perhaps somewhat surprisingly, has actually been his best all-around inning. In 22 innings, he’s got 1.64 ERA with 17 strikeouts, five walks, and no homers allowed. The wheels come off any time Andy Green tries to push him into the sixth, however, as Perdomo has been tattooed for 17 earned runs (on five homers) in just 18 2/3 innings in the frame. The seventh gets even worse, with seven more runs tacked on in just 2 1/3 frames.

That’s the typical Perdomo start. He’ll be rolling through five innings with just a run allowed on a few hits and decent peripherals. The sixth will rear its ugly head and five batters later two runs will be in and Perdomo will be heading for the showers with runners on the corners and one out. If Perdomo had been removed from every start this season after the fifth inning, his ERA would drop a full run, from 4.62 to 3.62.

It’s hard to say exactly why this is happening. One obvious possibility would be fatigue, but according to Brooks Baseball, Perdomo’s sixth-inning sinker velocity (94.43) is a tick higher than it is in the first couple of innings. It’s possible that Perdomo’s tiredness isn’t showing up in pitch speed but in his command or crispness, and that he’s simply missing his spots more often as the game grows older.

The most likely culprit? Probably the good ol’ “times through the order” penalty, which works to wear down pitchers through a combination of fatigue and opposing hitters getting multiple looks at their stuff. It might take an even greater toll on a pitcher like Perdomo, who works primarily with just two pitches, a sinker and a curve.

On the plus side, Perdomo has induced a 63 percent grounball rate, three percentage points up from his rookie season, and he’s been decent overall depending on which metrics you look at (he’s got a near average 101 cFIP, per BP). On the down side, the gains he made in strikeout rate early in the season have all but disappeared.

Perdomo K/9
First Half 7.5
Second Half 5.5

It’s tough to succeed in today’s game with that low of a strikeout rate. Perdomo’s groundball heavy ways have helped mitigate home run issues, but he’s still giving up nearly one dinger per nine. Further, plenty of grounders are finding the safety of the outfield grass, with help from a shoddy Padres infield, leading to a .335 BABiP and too many base runners.

To zig back to a positive note, Perdomo is still just 24 and he hasn’t pitched an inning in the minors above High-A. Considering the Rule 5 circumstances, he’s held his own. There’s no reason to scrap the starter plan yet, but ultimately his home could be in a bullpen on a good team. If the Padres get creative down the road, maybe he’s a good candidate for an “opener,” the idea that was bandied about this spring but later abandoned.

They just aren’t that good. Hitting coach Alan Zinter was recently let go in part, I’d guess, because of some philosophical differences with Andy Green & Co. that became evident in time. More so, however, he was canned because the Padres offense just hasn’t been good this year, and hitting coaches also double as scapegoats.

In fairness, the offense really has stunk up the joint, ranking second-worst in all of baseball by wRC+. You could argue that there haven’t been a bunch of offensive disasters, among individual players, but at the same time only one guy, Jose Pirela, has been more than a rounding error above league average with the bat. Everyone else has been some shade of okay or bad, and that’s just not going to cut it over 162 games, especially when you’ve got a pitcher hitting two or three times a night.

I wouldn’t be particularly concerned about any recent struggles, though. It’s just the ebbs and flows of a bad hitting team. They’ve been shut out twice this month already, but those games were started by Clayton Kershaw and Carlos Martinez. They also scored 19 runs in a three-game stretch against the Dodgers last weekend, so there’s that. The offensive struggles over the course of the season are something of a concern, of course, but there are enough young players hitting within the vicinity of “decent” to provide some hope going into 2018.

Michael Pineda‘s an interesting one. They’d have to sign him to a multi-year deal because he underwent Tommy John surgery on July 18. Given the typical TJ timetable, he might not even make it back to a big-league mound next year. There’s a lot to like big picture, however, with the size and the stuff, and the respectable numbers he’s put up over the years in the AL East. If the TJ makes him a bargain, why not?

I’ve thrown out Alex Cobb‘s name a few times recently, but I have no clue what the price tag will be there. In fact, he’s having a solid season on top of a solid career, so he’s probably pricing himself out of the pure reclamation project category. I could see the Padres signing Nathan Eovaldi. He’s only 27, he’s coming off Tommy John, and he throws—or threw—about as hard as anyone this side of Aroldis Chapman. Despite the velo, he was never able to put up big strikeout numbers, in part because his heater was too straight. If the Padres could unlock more swing-and-miss stuff with him, he’d turn into a valuable trade chip in a hurry.

On the position player side, he’s not a free agent, but how about . . .

When a long distance flirtation like this goes on long enough, you start to get the feeling that the parties involved (Jurickson Profar and A.J. Preller, in this case) are content as just pen pals. Then again, Profar’s time in Texas seems to be running short, and the Padres need a shortstop, at least in the short term.

Profar isn’t the same dude who was once a consensus no. 1 prospect, but there are still things to like. For one, he doesn’t turn 25 until this winter. And while his big-league numbers don’t look great, half of his plate appearances came as a 19- or 20-year-old and most of the rest came in sporadic playing time in 2016. This year, in Triple-A, he’s hitting a solid .287/.383/.428, with an impressive 43 walks and 33 strikeouts in 383 plate appearances. He’s played almost exclusively at short, and the shoulder issues that once plagued him are hopefully gone or subdued.

In short, he makes plenty of sense as a change of scenery candidate. The Rangers don’t really have a place for him, and it seems like they’ve soured on him anyway (after botching parts of his development, mind you). Maybe he’s nobody’s long-term answer at short, but the Padres have the flexibility—and lack of good in-house options—to put him out there every night in 2018 and see what he has left. As a bonus, it probably won’t take a great prospect to pry him away from Texas, and the Padres have plenty of the lower level, high upside types that would make sense in a deal.

You can sign me up for this one.

Well, among the long list of guys currently on the TinCaps roster—Adrian Morejon, Jorge Ona, Michel Baez, Ronald Bolanos, Osvaldo Hernandez, and Gabriel Arias—Morejon, Hernandez, and Arias (and maybe Bolanos) all make sense to stick at Fort Wayne.

Morejon’s only 18, and his numbers (and some of the reports) since the call-up have been lackluster. That’s not necessarily a big concern (remember, he’s young), but it’d be somewhat surprising to see the Padres push him to High-A to start 2018. There’s no rush, and the sudden spike in walk rate (from 0.8 at Tri-City to 4.2 at Fort Wayne) is reason enough to tap the brakes.

Hernandez, another left-handed Cuban, has a 5.02 ERA between stops in the AZL, Tri-City, and Fort Wayne, but an eye-catching 11.6 K/9 and solid peripherals all-around. He’s just 19 and has only made two starts in Fort Wayne, so he’s a good bet to get more work there. Bolanos, yet another young Cuban pitcher, hasn’t been great, by the numbers, and is 20 years old. Tough call where he ends up to start 2018.

Arias, the first of the more traditional J-2 kids from the 2016-2017 international class to get the call to full-season ball, is just 17. The numbers haven’t been great, either at Tri-City or Fort Wayne, but the Padres must like what they’ve seen. He doesn’t turn 18 until spring training, but the Padres haven’t been shy about letting teenagers play in the Midwest League.

Among the rest of the class, it’s sort of a crapshoot. I don’t want to pretend short-season Low-A numbers mean all that much, but the hitters at Tri-City have really struggled. In all their cases, they’re still really young, and probably ahead of schedule. But struggling badly in the Northwest League means they might scuffle a level up, even with more experience, especially because the jump to full-season ball is generally considered a big one. Luis Almanzar, Luis Asuncion, and Justin Lopez all have K rates well clear of 20 percent, and Almanzar’s actually rounds up to 30.

Tirso Ornelas, a 17-year-old left-handed hitting outfielder from Mexico, could be a sleeper here. He’s stayed down in the AZL all season, but he’s hit .276/.399/.408 in 238 plate appearances. He too has a higher than desired strikeout percentage (25.6) but he also walks a bunch and has an advanced approach. Ornelas could skip Tri-City altogether and jump to Fort Wayne next year. There’s also Jordy Barley, Jeisson Rosario, and probably like 10 other reasonable names to consider (I’m convinced they’re multiplying).

The way the leagues are set up, with Fort Wayne starting in April and the AZL and Northwest League starting in mid/late June, creates a sort of dilemma for how a team handles young players. They either have to start them at full-season Single-A ball in April or hold them back for a few months, practicing and playing at the team’s spring training complex until the lower level leagues start up. The Padres have pressed the issue of late, not wanting to lose in-game developmental time, so they’ve started a bunch of 18 year olds (and one 17-year-old) at Fort Wayne. Don’t be surprised if they repeat that tactic next season.

The Fort Wayne roster should be scary young next season, and loaded with good prospects.

I’ll spare you the obvious, acceptable choices (Manuel Margot and Austin Hedges) and get right to the heart of the matter: it’s Dinelson Lamet.

By BP’s WARP, Lamet’s already been worth 2.4 wins this season in just 98 innings. His 3.39 DRA ranks 21st in baseball among starters with at least 50 innings, and it’s over a full run better than the next closest Padres starter, Jhoulys Chacin. There are still concerns going forward, like the two-pitch mix, the fly ball rate, and, at times, the control. But Lamet has already learned how to grind out good starts as a rookie, and that sparkling 30 percent strikeout rate trumps any deficiencies.

From a jersey-buying perspective, he’s the right balance of good yet not too popular, and he should be around for a while.

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