Bullpen Banter: San Diego Padres: Could Drew Pomeranz Be The Best Closing Option?

by Eric Stashin (aka The Rotoprofessor)

When the San Diego Padres jettisoned both Craig Kimbrel and Joaquin Benoit, they created a gaping hole at the back of their bullpen. One of the assumed candidates, Brandon Maurer, is now expected to get a shot at transitioning back into the rotation (according to Corey Brock of MLB.com):

“San Diego general manager A.J. Preller said Maurer will come to Spring Training with the opportunity to win a spot in the starting rotation.”

So where does that leave the back of the bullpen? There’s been talk of Fernando Rodney signing, but does anyone truly trust him?  Let’s take a look at the current candidates, as even if Rodney signs any one of them could easily rise into the role:

Drew Pomeranz
Acquired from Oakland there had been talk of him also getting a chance to start, but it’s hard to imagine San Diego giving both him and Maurer that opportunity. It’s also easy to understand why the team wants to use Pomeranz out of the bullpen, as he seemingly found his footing in 2015:

  • Starter – 44.2 IP, 4.63 ERA, 1.30 WHIP, 7.25 K/9, 3.43 BB/9
  • Reliever – 41.1 IP, 2.61 ERA, 1.06 WHIP, 10.02 K/9, 3.05 BB/9

The numbers were even better in the second half, as he posted an 11.48 K/9 and 1.35 BB/9 over 26.2 IP (there was one start mixed in). With a 13.1% SwStr% and 35.7% O-Swing% over that span, he backed up the numbers. Considering that he uses primarily a fastball and a curveball, it shouldn’t be a surprise that he’s a better fit for the bullpen.

He’s also proven capable of keeping the ball in the ballpark throughout his career (1.02 HR/9, but 0.91 and 0.84 the previous two seasons). Given what he showed in the second half, there’s every reason to believe that he could thrive in the role and deserves an opportunity.

Kevin Quackenbush
He ended up spending time at Triple-A this past season, thanks in part to a 4.01 ERA with the Padres. That said he showed similar strikeouts (8.95 K/9) and control (3.09) to his 2014 success (9.28 and 2.98, respectively), while also lowering his line drive rate (20.9%). A lot of the problems were poor luck (69.7% strand rate), though you could question his stuff a bit.

While he does have an 11.8 K/9 and 3.3 BB/9 in the minors, his underlying Major League metrics are questionable (9.1% SwStr% and 29.1% O-Swing%). He also didn’t wow anyone with his fastball velocity last season (90.7%).

There was a time that he was thought of as a potential option, though at this point we’d have our doubts.

Jon Edwards
He showed tremendous strikeout stuff last season (11.88 K/9), but he also could not find the strike zone with an 8.64 BB/9. That has been the story of his minor league career, with an 11.4 K/9 but a 6.0 BB/9. Obviously we love the electric stuff, which will put him in the conversation, but unless he figures out his control he’s not going to get an opportunity.

Conclusion
Given the departures and Maurer’s opportunity to start, it’s looking more and more like Pomeranz offers the best upside as a potential closer. While the draft day cost will be minimal, there’s reason to make the investment and hopefully reap the benefits.

Sources – Fangraphs, Baseball Reference

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