Predicting 2014's Starting Rotation

2014 Opening Day Starter? - Christopher Hanewinckel-USA TODA

So many pitchers, but only five spots in the rotation.

Now that the Padres have signed Josh Johnson, they have the deepest roster of starting pitchers San Diego has seen in years. But who's going to make the rotation? Johnson is obviously in, and so is Ian Kennedy. Andrew Cashner is probably the third and last shoe-in, given his stellar performance last season. That leaves two spaces left for tinkering, and there's plenty of competition.

The Usual Suspects

Eric Stults and Tyson Ross have the most claim to those spots. Though Stults ran into trouble toward the end of the season, he proved a reliable workhorse as the only Padre to toss more than 200 innings. Tyson Ross had some issues of his own, suffering from a dislocated left shoulder early in the season. That's an issue that's prone to happening again (see Dustin Moseley), but Ross had surgery at the end of the season that should reduce the chances of it happening again. But Ross put together nearly a dozen solid starts when he returned to the rotation after a brief stint in Tucson.

The Comeback Candidates

Neither Cory Luebke nor Joe Wieland have set foot on a major league mound since 2012. Tommy John surgery sucks that way. We'd all love to see Luebke come back and repeat his stellar performance from 2011, but it looks like he won't be ready in time for spring training. He's more likely to make an appearance midseason. Wieland, on the other hand, threw a few pitches in the Arizona Fall League and is expected to be good to go this spring. That said, he wasn't exactly lighting the world on fire the last time he saw the big leagues, so it seems likely that he'll start the season in El Paso.

The Young Guns

Burch Smith and Robbie Erlin saw time with the big league club in the first half of last season before returning in September. Their stories are similar: After impressing in AA, they got a chance to fill in for the Padres, struggled, and then came back in September with some promising performances. They'll have to look really good in spring training to make the opening day rotation, but barring a trade, we're likely to see them in San Diego at some point during the season.

The Longest Shot

You might have heard about Matt Wisler. If you did, it's probably because he spent the beginning of last year utterly destroying the opposition in Lake Elsinore before being promoted to San Antonio, where he proved just as effective. He's not even on the 40 man roster, and he's had less than a full season in AA, but Burch Smith got called up in May on less. Realistically, there would have to be a real disaster to bring him up for Opening Day. Keep an eye on him, though. If he keeps showing off, it'll be hard to keep him down.

So, with all that said, here's my prediction:

  1. Cashner
  2. Johnson
  3. Ross
  4. Kennedy
  5. Stults

Sound off with your predictions in the comments.

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