Vásquez's debut likely to be followed by more pitching prospects

April 21st, 2024

SAN DIEGO -- For all the focus that goes into selecting a pitching rotation to open a baseball season, few teams will get through the year with the starting five intact.

When (No. 12 SD prospect) started the Padres’ 5-2 loss to the Blue Jays on Saturday night at Petco Park, it left five Major League teams that have used only five starters this year. And we’re only two-thirds of the way through April.

That number will be down to four on Sunday, with Peter Lambert scheduled to make his first 2024 start for Colorado during its doubleheader against Seattle. The fortunate four teams are the A’s, Mariners, Phillies and Royals.

The Padres’ first dip into their organizational depth didn’t go exceedingly well. Vásquez, part of the return from the Yankees in the Juan Soto trade, allowed four runs (one earned) on five hits and a walk over five innings in his Padres debut. He struck out three but allowed at least one baserunner in each of his five innings.

Three unearned runs came on Daulton Varsho’s first-inning home run. The frame was extended because of third baseman Graham Pauley’s throwing error in his first game since he returned from Triple-A.

“I feel very grateful to the Padres organization to pitch again in the Majors,” Vásquez said, via interpreter Pedro Gutiérrez. “I feel satisfied to be here.”

Padres manager Mike Shildt didn’t get to see much of Vásquez from the dugout. He was ejected by plate umpire Ramon De Jesus at the end of the first inning after left fielder Jurickson Profar got the thumb for tossing his equipment following a called strike three. It was Shildt’s first ejection as Padres manager and the 11th of his career.

“I thought he threw the ball well,” said Shildt of Vásquez, who has already been tabbed to start again Thursday in Colorado. “His stuff’s really good. This guy’s got a great arm, and his secondary pitches are good. It’s a matter of consistently controlling counts. If he does that, he’s going to pitch in this league for a long time.”

It’s unlikely that Vásquez will be the last pitcher the Padres call up to make a start. Organizational depth isn’t just fodder for MLB Pipeline. It’s a strategy to get through 162 big league games.

Here's a look at some pitchers who could follow Vásquez onto a Major League mound for the Padres this year:

Glenn Otto
The 28-year-old right-hander was in the Rangers’ rotation in 2022 but was shelved by a shoulder injury last year. The Padres picked him up on waivers, but he sustained a right shoulder teres major strain early in spring camp. He has Minor League options remaining, so he’s likely to see time in Triple-A after he returns to health.

Luis Patiño
The 24-year-old righty was a waiver claim from the White Sox, even though he is out of Minor League options. That means the Padres can’t send him down without exposing him on waivers. An original Padres signee, he was sent to Tampa Bay in the Blake Snell trade. His return to the organization was delayed by visa issues and then right elbow inflammation. Padres GM A.J. Preller has a history of giving second chances to players he has crossed paths with before.

Jay Groome
The 25-year-old left-hander nearly broke camp with the Padres in 2023, but he fell off the radar during the season while posting an 8.55 ERA in the hitter-friendly Pacific Coast League. But he’s still on the 40-man roster, which means he’s an option if the big league club needs a spot starter sometime when he’s on rotation.

Jackson Wolf
The 6-foot-7 lefty, 24, made a spot start for the Padres last summer and then was moved to the Pirates at the Trade Deadline. Preller reacquired him this month after he was designated for assignment by the Bucs. As noted, Preller loves when his players write a second chapter. Wolf is the Padres’ No. 19 prospect, per MLB Pipeline.

Ryan Bergert
The Padres stacked the San Antonio roster with ranked prospects. Many could be 2025 contributors, and some will arrive early this year. Any pitcher in the season-opening rotation could see big league time in 2024, depending on development and performance. Bergert, a 24-year-old righty who was drafted in 2021 while rehabbing from Tommy John surgery, is up to No. 10 in the organizational prospect rankings thanks to a slider that tunnels well off his fastball.

Adam Mazur
The 23-year-old righty, San Diego’s No. 7 prospect, has a four-pitch mix with full command that makes him a strong candidate for big league innings.

Robby Snelling
The 20-year-old lefty is the high-ceiling guy, ranked No. 3 in the organization. He had a 1.82 ERA across three levels last year, his first pro season.