Unless you were asleep for most of the 2012 season, it was pretty evident that the Padres had their fair share of issues with their starting rotation. For any team to use 10 different starting pitchers during a year is a downright difficult task. Last season though, the Padres used 15 different starting pitchers, and the unit struggled with injuries and inconsistent play from start to finish.
Over the last month or so on this site, many of our members have discussed how starting pitching will likely be a definite need to fill during the offseason. A week ago, I discussed some of the players that the Padres could turn to internally to fill their voids in the starting rotation. Although I had already alluded to four potential candidates which might crack the 2013′s “Starting Five,” I failed to mention one intriguing and wild-card prospect currently on the mend: Robbie Erlin.
When Erlin came over in the “Adams to Texas” trade last summer, he appeared ready to make the leap to Triple-A ball last season and hopefully to the big leagues with the Padres at some point this year. Between Single-A Myrtle Beach, and Double-A Frisco and San Antonio, Erlin put up a 9-4 record in 25 Starts to go along with 154 Strikeouts in 147.1 Innings Pitched. Unfortunately for the Left-Hander, injuries took their toll on him during 2012, and he was only able to start 14 games due to oblique and elbow ailments.
Thankfully, Erlin has rebounded in the Arizona Fall League (4 Starts, 0-1 Record, 4.22 ERA, 10.2 Innings Pitched) since his injury and seems to be getting back into pitching shape. And according to Corey Brock of the Padres’ team website, Erlin has his new sped up delivery to thank for part of his recent success and his return to competition. While the 22 year-old will likely begin the season in either San Antonio or Tucson, I am sure that the Padres’ brass and Coaching Staff will be monitoring his progress back from his elbow injury closely. The Friars could potentially have one to two spots in the starting rotation up for grabs this upcoming year, and if they are unable/unwilling to explore the Free Agent/Trade Market for help, the club will look internally for answers.
I am sure that San Diego will give first crack at the open rotation spots to players which have made their big league debuts already, or have pitched a significant amount of time at the big league level. Yet if injuries strike again and Erlin can prove himself at the Triple-A level with Tucson, it would not shock me at all if he is called upon to make a spot start or two late in the season when the rosters expand or if the Padres are out of contention.
Whether or not Erlin will actually make his big league debut this year or at some point in 2014 is still up for debate. The important thing to keep in mind however is Erlin’s overall health moving forward, and the hope that he can develop into valuable piece of San Diego’s starting rotation by the middle of this decade. I know that I will be intrigued to watch his progress this year. And who knows? If injuries unfortunately strike the starting staff again, we could see Erlin sooner as opposed to later wearing a Padres uniform.
Stats Courtesy of: Baseball Reference