Positional Battle: Padres 5th Starter: Does Lucchesi Or Quantrill Carry A Higher Upside?

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When the 2020 campaign does get underway the assumption was that Joey Lucchessi would assume a spot in the Padres’ starting rotation (though it’s not like the rest of the rotation is necessarily set in stone).  However considering these spring numbers would it have been a guarantee:

  • Joey Lucchesi – 11.57 ERA (6 ER over 4.2 IP)
  • Cal Quantrill – 1.29 ERA (1 ER over 7.0 IP)

Obviously these are extremely small sample sizes, but it’s something that will ultimately be a factor when a decision is made.  Which pitcher has the higher upside?  Is either one worth stashing?  Let’s take a look:

Joey Lucchesi

Lucchesi’s spring has been terrible, especially from a control standpoint as he had 3 K vs. 6 BB over his three appearances.  He presented himself much better over 163.2 IP in the Majors last season:

  • Strikeouts – 8.69 K/9
  • Control – 3.08 BB/9
  • Groundballs – 47.0%

While those numbers led him to a 4.18 ERA, you can argue that there is more upside.  The bulk of his struggles have come on the road, with an MLB career 6.22 ERA (compared to 2.56 at home).  While it’s no surprise it’s far too extreme, and you have to wonder if his spring struggles were due to working on/expanding his repertoire.  Here’s a note we have in our 2020 Draft Guide, which still rings true:

“He began throwing his fourseam fastball more (2.38% in ’18 to 14.43%), making him a three-pitch pitcher.  Adding a breaking ball to the mix would only further allow him to keep opponents off balance (he’s thrown his curveball a total of 37 times over the past two years), and that’s something we’ll have to watch.  If we hear stories about that becoming a bigger part of his repertoire we’d be all in, though even as is we’d expect better.  The potential is there to take a significant step forward if the groundball rate also continues to rise, and given the sinker usage that’s possible.”

Let’s not forget that we have 293.2 innings of data at the MLB level for Lucchesi, and 4.2 poor innings shouldn’t overwrite that.

Cal Quantrill

There’s no arguing that it had been an impressive spring for Quantrill, who also has 9 K vs. 1 BB.  Selected eighth overall in the 2016 draft, the only skill he showed over 103.0 innings in the Majors was control last season:

  • Strikeouts – 7.78 K/9
  • Control – 2.45 BB/9
  • Groundballs – 43.5%

His 9.9% SwStr% doesn’t indicate significantly more upside in the strikeout department, and over 66.2 innings at Triple-A the past two seasons his 7.42 K/9 doesn’t help.  His 12.2% SwStr% would, and he carried a more impressive 50.0% groundball rate.  Is that enough?

He was hit hard during his time in the Majors (41.5% Hard%) and his statcast numbers indicate more of a league average pitcher:

  • Barrel% – 7.1% (league average was 6.3%)
  • Exit Velocity – 86.9 mph (league average was 87.5)
  • Launch Angle – 11.2 (league average was 11.2)

It’s hard to get excited about the makeup, and while there is obviously upside it’s easy to say that the ceiling currently may be lower than Lucchesi’s.

Conclusion

It’s easy to get excited off a small spring sample, but let’s not forget that Lucchesi has proven that he can get the job done at the highest level and we don’t know exactly what he was focusing on this spring.  While it’s not impossible that Quantrill beats him for a starting spot, it shouldn’t be expected.  Lucchesi remains a strong candidate to buy/stash, and now may be the perfect time to go out and try to acquire him.  With the rumblings that he could lose his rotation spot, the price tag may never be lower.

Sources – Fangraphs, MLB.com, Baseball Savant, Brooks Baseball

Make sure to check out all of our 2020 preseason rankings:

PositionLast Updated
Catchers02/10/20
First Basemen02/13/20
Second Basemen02/18/20
Third Basemen02/21/20
Shortstops02/24/20
Outfielders03/06/20
Starting Pitchers03/09/20
Relief Pitchers03/03/20

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