Rookie pitchers are often difficult to trust, and while the Padres’ Joey Lucchesi didn’t buck that trend he at least showed promising signs during his rookie season. The question is if he could take that next step forward and emerge as San Diego’s ace, or is he a player to generally avoid?
In order to answer that question, let’s first take a look at the numbers he posted in 2018 (keep in mind that he was sidelined for roughly one month as he battled a strained hip):
145 Strikeouts (10.04 K/9)
43 Walks (2.98 BB/9)
44.7% Groundball Rate
He showed both strikeouts and control, though it’s fair to think a regression could come. How long can he excel with virtually a two-pitch mix (2018 usage):
- Fourseam Fastball – 64.12%
- Changeup – 32.09%
- Curveball – 3.79%
The changeup was a swing and miss weapon (20.15%), and that’s promising, but can he get two strikes often enough? Being left-handed works in his favor, as does a windup that Prospect 361 once compared to Clayton Kershaw’s and Baseball America described by saying:
Lucchesi has a potent mix of deception and stuff. His unique windup features multiple stops and starts, unconventional hand positioning, a high leg kick and a slight turn to hide the ball. While hitters are simply trying to find the ball or time him up, he delivers the ball over the top and throws three above-average pitches for strikes.
That helps, even if he doesn’t trust his changeup enough. Reports had been that the changeup had been developing and should be at least an “average” pitch, and we’d expect him to start to utilize it more in order to help keep opposing hitters off-balance. With a minor league career 10.2 K/9 and 1.9 BB/9, that simply makes him more dangerous.
Interestingly the biggest issue for Lucchesi was home runs , especially pitching at home (HR/9):
- Home – 1.71
- Road – 1.41
While he’s not a groundball machine, those numbers should improve (especially pitching half his games in San Diego). That alone would point to improved numbers and a strong performance, but with a better team around him and increased usage of his changeup the outlook is that much stronger.
Lucchesi isn’t likely to be an ace, but a solid contributor who is well worth utilizing. View him as a SP4/SP5 type, with upside, making him a pitcher well worth targeting on draft day.
Sources – Fangraphs, Baseball Reference, Brooks Baseball, Prospect 361, Baseball America