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September 8, 2010

Fantasy Beat

Question Marks in the Padres Rotation

by Marc Normandin

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San Diego's rotation has been one of the most consistent in baseball this year—not just in performance, but also in terms of health. Except for early on in the season, when Chris Young made one start only to be replaced by Wade LeBlanc after aggravating his shoulder injury, the rotation has been made up of the same five pitchers—Jon Garland, Mat Latos, Clayton Richard, Kevin Correia and the aforementioned LeBlanc. Now that we're in September though, the Padres have started to rearrange things. Fantasy owners take note, as you have just a few weeks left to squeeze starts out of your pitchers.

Garland and Richard are the two who appear to have nothing changing in regards to their Septembers. Latos may be bounced around a bit as they try to limit his starts before the playoffs begin, as they would rather rest him now than in October should they get there. With the way Latos has been pitching though, and the number of weeks left, missing out on a start or two is no reason to bail on him.

Correia and LeBlanc are a different story though. Correia has supposedly been moved to the bullpen, and LeBlanc had his last start skipped. When Latos had to miss Monday's start due to a stomach flu, it was Tim Stauffer—who had just pitched in relief the day before—making the spot start. Now Saturday's start is up in the air, as any of the three could make it.

There's a good chance it won't matter past this weekend anyways though, for a few reasons. LeBlanc is #2 in the National League in quality of opponent OPS—his opponents have collectively hit for a 697 OPS, but he has allowed an 810 one thanks to a 1.5 HR/9. That number may appear a bit fluky, but LeBlanc has trouble locating his pitches sometimes, and occasionally it seems as if he has forgotten he has a fastball that he can set up his offspeed offerings with. His ERA is better than Correia's by nearly a run-and-a-half, but their SIERAs are nearly equal. Correia has faced slightly tougher competition and performed better against them, despite the ERA discrepancy—his problem has been with keeping baserunners from scoring—he's stranded just 67 percent of potential runs.

Correia isn't a bad option for the rotation, but the Padres are going to see what they can get out of Cory Luebke down the stretch. He made his major league debut on Friday (5 IP, 4 R, 3 K, 2 BB) against the Rockies, and there's reason to believe he can contribute. Outside of that, Chris Young's rehab is nearly complete—his last start should come Saturday, and after that he could rejoin the major league club. As long as his shoulder can hold up, he can be a useful piece, and would be eligible for the playoffs were the Padres to make them.

There's a very good chance Stauffer gets the call on Saturday, especially after going four innings on just 62 pitches against the Dodgers on Monday night while giving up one run. After that though, it's anyone's guess as to what the Padres plan to do to their rotation. Working Chris Young in if he's healthy enough is the most logical step, as Young would give them a boost in October (Latos/Young/Garland/Richard beats any combination with LeBlanc and Correia, no offense to the two who may have lost their rotation gigs), and they seem set on giving Luebke some innings due to his missed time earlier in the season and their desire to see him against major league batters with 2011 in mind. Keep an eye on Young for sure, as a pitcher with his talent can be tough to come by this late in the season—a few quality starts could be the difference in some leagues at this stage of the game.

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