NL West pitching staff rankings -- No. 5: Padres

NL West pitching staff rankings -- No. 5: Padres
January 27, 2014, 4:15 pm
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In 10 starts with the Padres last season, Ian Kennedy posted a 4-2 record with a 4.24 ERA. (USA TODAY IMAGES)

Josh Johnson only made 16 starts for Toronto last season, compiling a 2-8 record with a 6.20 ERA. (USATI)

Joaquin Benoit's stat line in 2013: 4-1, 2.01 ERA, 24 saves, 1.03 WHIP. (USA TODAY IMAGES)

Injuries
DatePlayerStatus
8/8B. BeltConcussion (on 15-day DL)
7/26H. SanchezConcussion (on 15-day DL)
7/25E. AdrianzaStrained right hamstring (on 15-day DL)
7/25M. ScutaroStrained lower back (on 15-day DL)
7/20B. Beltoff 7-day DL
Show Injuries
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Programming note: Get up to date on all the latest offseason Giants news with the Hot Stove Show, Tuesday night at 6:30 p.m. on Comcast SportsNet Bay Area

Editor's note: Check back on Tuesday to see who Andrew Baggarly considers the fourth best pitching staff in the NL West.

SAN FRANCISCO – Masahiro Tanaka is being fitted for pinstripes, which should be a fair sight for Giants fans.

He could have been a Dodger. The Diamondbacks wanted him, too.

And although both teams could pivot to a Plan B, with a couple of free-agent options still out there, it’s unlikely that Ubaldo Jimenez, Ervin Santana or Bronson Arroyo will be massive enough to warp the gravitational field of the NL West.

So now that Tanaka is off the board, and headed to the Yankees, we probably have enough info to stack up one NL West pitching staff against the others. Who grades out the best? Who’s the worst?

Let’s count them down, in reverse order:

SAN DIEGO PADRES

Who’s new: RHP Josh Johnson, RHP Joaquin Benoit, LHP Patrick Schuster, LHP Alex Torres, RHP Jesse Hahn
Who’s gone: RHP Jason Marquis, LHP Clayton Richard, RHP Luke Gregerson, RHP Anthony Bass, RHP Brad Brach, RHP Brad Boxberger.

2013 rotation ERA (NL rank): 4.31 (12th)
2013 bullpen ERA (NL rank): 3.39 (6th)
2013 overall ERA (NL rank): 3.98 (11th)

Projected rotation: RHP Ian Kennedy, RHP Josh Johnson, RHP Andrew Cashner, LHP Eric Stults, RHP Tyson Ross.
Projected bullpen: LHP Tim Stauffer, RHP Dale Thayer, RHP Nick Vincent, LHP Patrick Schuster, LHP Alex Torres, RHP Joaquin Benoit, RHP Huston Street (closer).

OUTLOOK:

When Arizona didn’t want to pay Kennedy a raise in arbitration, the Padres suddenly found their ace and likely opening-day starter in a midsummer trade.

The dealing was just getting started. Although the Padres didn’t grab headlines this winter, they made a flurry of trades that led to plenty of turnover on the pitching staff. Despite already having parted with one key bullpen piece (lefty Joe Thatcher) to acquire Kennedy, they dealt another when they sent Gregerson to the A’s for outfielder Seth Smith. They also worked out a seven-player deal with Tampa Bay, with infielder Logan Forsythe the biggest name going to Tropicana Field and solid lefty reliever Alex Torres (1.71 ERA in 39 appearances) the most important piece coming back.

But the Padres’ biggest name additions came via free agency. They got a nice upside play by signing Josh Johnson, who is coming off elbow surgery to remove bone spurs. Johnson gets $8 million plus the chance to make a bit more in incentives.

And they replaced Gregerson by signing right-hander Joaquin Benoit to a two-year contract.

Kennedy is a clear grade below some of the other aces in the NL West, so it’s vital that Johnson reestablish himself as a front-of-the-rotation presence. The Padres do have an intriguing No. 3 starter in Cashner, whose 98 mph fastball is overwhelming even if he doesn’t always know how to use it. At least he avoided any hunting accidents this offseason.

Stults is projected to be in the rotation, only because it’s one of the rules of Bud Selig’s secret cabal that Stults pitch for an NL West team at all times. Ross is a local kid who had a 3.18 ERA and nearly a strikeout an inning last season, but he’s coming off arthroscopic left shoulder surgery in October.

The Padres hope to receive depth from three pitchers coming off Tommy John surgery. RHP Joe Wieland should be the furthest along, although former top prospect Casey Kelly (acquired in the trade that sent Adrian Gonzalez to Boston) could be back to full strength in June. Left-hander Cory Luebke’s rehab has been a bit rockier than the others.

RHP Jesse Hahn, who arrived with Torres in the Rays deal, had a 2.09 ERA in 19 starts at Triple-A last season. The Padres also have someone named Burch Smith.

ANALYSIS: The Padres have a lot of upside on the pitching front but it’s hard to get around the fact that their top two starters, Kennedy and Johnson, had ERAs of 4.91 and 6.20 last season. The bullpen shapes up to be pretty good, though. Is it too late to move the Petco fences back to their original depth?

RANK: 5 of 5

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