The situation: The Padres have been among the most disappointing team in baseball, and their hopes of making the playoffs have all but been eviscerated. The starting pitching has been particularly disappointing, and they’ll call on Rea to see if he can be a part of the rotation in 2016.
Background: The Padres took Rea in the 12th round of the 2011 draft out of Indiana State to little fanfare, and the right-hander struggled to throw strikes on a consistent basis in his first three years in the system, posting walks-per-nine-inning rates above 3.5 from 2011 to 2013. His control took a major step forward in 2014 – 2.4 at High-A Lake Elsinore, and a bigger step this summer in Double-A. Rea was even more impressive this summer, posting a 1.08 ERA in Double-A with a 60-11 strikeout-to-walk ratio, and earning a trip to this year’s Futures Game in the process.
Scouting report: Rea’s added velocity since entering the Padres system, and now consistently sits 90-92 mph deep into games, with the occasional bump into the 95-96 range when he reaches back for more. As you can probably guess from the stats above, he has improved his command of the pitch significantly, and though there are times that he’ll leave the pitch up in the zone he generally is below the knees and able to dot the corners. He also gets downhill plane from the pitch, thanks to his 6-foot-5 frame.
Rea’s secondaries are still a work in progress – a somewhat weird thing to say considering he is already 25 years old – but they’ve made considerable strides these last two years. His best off-speed pitch is a cutter that generally is in the 86-88 range and bores in on the hands of left-handed hitters with some bite to it as well. The curveball is an inconsistent pitch, but when he’s at his best it’s a solid-average offering with good spin and some depth. He’ll also throw a split-finger fastball that has change-like action with good arm speed, but doesn’t have the drop to be much more than a fringe-average selection at this point.
The arsenal is far from elite, but Rea gets outs because he throws all four pitches for strikes, and though the delivery isn’t picturesque, he does offer some deception with no discernable red flags in the arm path that says he’s going to have considerable arm trouble.
Immediate Big League Future: If you are expecting Rea to put up the dominating numbers he put up in the Texas League, you’re going to come away disappointed – he just doesn’t have the arsenal to be a No. 1 or No. 2 starter at the major league level. When you have a delivery that offers deception and throw strikes with four pitches, you have a chance to be successful, and when you keep in mind he’ll be pitching in the relatively friendly confines of the NL West, there’s reason to believe he can be a competent backend starter from the jump. —Christopher Crawford
Fantasy Impact: Colin Rea will jump into the rotation of a team that allegedly still has designs on contention, despite being 10 ½ games out of the second NL Wild Card at the start of play on Tuesday, so it remains to be seen how long of a leash he’ll be given. Two options that were previously ahead of Rea no longer look viable, as the combination of Odrisamer Despaigne’s struggles (which earned him a ticket to the bullpen) and Brandon Morrow’s continued inability to stay healthy (a stunning development to be sure) have landed Rea a big league trial. It’s unlikely that the Padres would dip into the minors for another starter like James Needy or Robbie Erlin (both of whom are currently in the rotation at Triple-A El Paso), with the freshly signed Bud Norris the probable alternative should Rea struggle in his first taste of the big leagues.
Rea certainly impressed in his twelve starts at Double-A San Antonio this season, where his tiny 1.08 ERA was backed up by a 2.36 FIP mark, and earned him a spot on the US Futures Game roster. He averaged just over six innings per start, and held opponents to a fantastic 0.81 WHIP number while striking out 7.20 batters per nine innings. Those peripherals make Rea an enticing deep mixed-league option over the last two months as his ability to keep the ball in the ballpark (three HR allowed in 101 2/3 IP across two levels) should serve him well in his transition to the majors. However, it should be noted that Rea struggled with walks in his six Triple-A starts, issuing twelve walks in 26 2/3 innings.
As with any Padres starter that comes with any modicum of upside, Rea is an extremely viable NL-only option, where a bid of $5-$10 is advisable — just don’t expect huge strikeout numbers. With Jon Gray’s recent callup and promotions for Tyler Glasnow, Robert Stephenson, and Jose De Leon looking like unlikely scenarios at this point, Rea could be one of the best starting pitching options to be called upon from the upper levels of the minors in NL-only formats. If Rea impresses in his debut, streamers should take note that his next two starts will also come at Petco; his second start is slated to come against the pathetic Braves lineup, but that’s where the fun ends as he’s scheduled to face a potent St. Louis offense in his third time out.
Rea’s performance over the rest of the season should be monitored closely in dynasty leagues, as he’s likely unowned in leagues that roster less than 100-150 prospects and could establish value down the stretch if he is able to secure a spot in a 2016 Padres rotation that could potentially have multiple openings over the winter. —J.J. Jansons
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