Castro has come further than any other pitcher in the last three seasons – from one that struggled with command to a confident hurler with two plus pitches and a third that has made significant strides. His wicked arm has even more room for development. As the maturation process continues, Castro could be a deadly force that profiles as a top of the rotation starter.
Fresh off his signing, Portillo was called stateside and wowed the Padres brass with his demeanor and potential. He lacks command of his pitches and has some mechanical flaws, but the work ethic is reminiscent of Castro, and it could be that Portillo takes the same path to stardom. If things fall in place, he is a number one starter.
Perhaps the most electric arm in the system, Pelzer has two plus pitches and a third that was shelved. The changeup, in place of the splitter, is the key to his success as a starter. He also has to find a comfortable home on the mound, as he tinkers too much and lacks a consistent rhythm. Moved to the third base side of the rubber and more deliberate mechanically, his pitches became crisper late in the year. Now it is about repeating his delivery.
A young hurler with a mound of confidence and moxie, Sampson has some things to work on mechanically to incorporate his lower body more and take the strain off his arm. He has a fastball that will become better with age, a plus curveball and is not afraid to throw inside. Working on the changeup and not throwing across his body could make him a quick mover.
Back injuries are strange beasts. McBryde has to show he is past those issues by working hard to strengthen the muscles that support the posture. The problem is he isn't known as a hard worker. The innate talent is there. He has a heavy fastball and a plus slider but the work off the field will be imperative to his ultimate success.
Put into a comfort zone as a starter, Sullivan flashed his mid-90s fastball and worked on adding a two-seamer. His secondary pitches lag behind the heater, and changes mechanically should help those develop further, as he needs a more consistent line to home plate to aid his command. He picked up a lot of things in his first year, understanding that pitch sequencing is vital even for a hard thrower.
Another tall pitcher, Needy is an intelligent player that is working into a maturing frame. He doesn't use his lower half as well as he needs to, and once he does, his velocity should increase and the sharpness of his off-speed pitches should improve. His slider has shown plus tendencies but became an afterthought after having surgery in high school, as he became tentative in its usage. The changeup has become a quality pitch, and that will aid him greatly.
His time in the Padres system did not reflect his true potential. Armed with a plus curveball, the right-hander has to work on locating his fastball in order to setup the hammer. His changeup is a work in progress, and Carter needs to fill out his frame. He gets good downhill plane on his ball and changes hitters' eye levels well. When his command is on, Carter is extremely tough to hit.
Few pitchers have come into the system with the fastball command that Fetter showed. While that put him ahead of the game, he does need to improve pitch sequencing – throwing his off-speed pitches more to keep hitters from timing the heater. Improving the slider will also be vital. He has great downhill plane and attacks both sides of the plate.
Need to make their move:
The changes have been constant for Inman since arriving in the system. He still has his deception but gaining repeatable mechanics has been an issue. Without a fastball that moves, Inman added a cutter in hopes of missing the meat of the bat. With his plus curveball, the cutter could propel him up the ladder. The time has, however, come where he must show he can make positive strides.
A bit of an enigma since he has some quality stuff. Believing in himself is one area that he seems to struggle with. Kluber can become so mechanical and slow that his pitches suffer. He is better when the tempo increases and there is less time to think about each pitch.
A young left-hander that needs to trust his stuff and develop consistent confidence. He seemed to develop a better feel for his curveball – a pitch that has plus tendencies – where before he would hang it or kiss the ground before the plate. His fastball has some projection and his changeup also shows plus feel but putting all of the pieces together has been a struggle. A mature frame of mind will help immensely.
A newcomer to the fold, Jackson doesn't have that one plus pitch but can throw four pitches for strikes. Throwing quality strikes, however, is just as important. He can hit too much of the plate and get lit up. If he can improve pitch sequencing and work down in the zone, Jackson could stick. The reason he sits in this category is the feeling he will end up in relief because of all the other starts present.
He found himself late in the year at Fort Wayne after bombing in Lake Elsinore. He was up in the zone in the California League, walked too many by trying to be too fine, and lacked any semblance of confidence. He struggled through injury and never really trusted his stuff until his back was against the wall. It may be against the wall again this spring.
Another member of the lack of confidence group. He has struggled to believe he can consistently get people out and shies away from his plus curveball. His fastball, which is in the low-90s, has not shown the command necessary to move forward. Injuries have also hampered his development and is time is running short.
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