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Eric Lauer primed to debut in Denver

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One of the Padres top pitching prospects is lined up to start Tuesday’s game against the Rockies

San Diego Padres Photo Day
I believe Debbie from Napoleon Dynamite was the photographer for this shot.
Photo by Patrick Smith/Getty Images

When Luis Perdomo was sent down to AAA El Paso last week, a void was left in the rotation. The team’s options to fill that void were numerous, but none drew as much attention as Eric Lauer. The news isn’t official, but he’s in Denver working out with the team, so the roster move is really a foregone conclusion at this point.

Eric Lance Lauer grew up in Elyria, Ohio, which sounds like the kind of place where Kevin Costner and James Earl Jones picked up a hitchhiking teenage Moonlight Graham. After a dominant high school career, he was drafted by the Toronto Blue Jays in the 17th round, but he said LOL no to a $1 million bonus. Instead, he went to Kent State and continued to generally dominate. During his junior season, he threw a no-hitter and he posted the lowest ERA since the year your author was born, a very nice 0.69. He earned the National Pitcher of the Year award, which you would think would be enough to earn a kid a lottery selection, but this isn’t the NBA, and some teams value things like “upside potential” over proven performance and pitchability.

The Padres selected Lauer with the 25th overall pick in the 2016 draft, which was actually the Padres third selection behind Cal Quantrill and Hudson Potts. He got to toss a LOL at he Blue Jays as he signed a $2 million bonus with the Padres. When he was drafted, he was immediately tabbed as a potential “high riser” due to his maturity both physically and mentally. He came into pro ball with a full repertoire of quality offerings that he commanded well and had an advanced understanding of how to use said repertoire. True to form, he escalated up the Padres low minors that summer, starting with the Rookie League Padres of the Arizona Summer League, then going to the Tri-City Dust Devils and on up to the Fort Wayne TinCaps. Not too shabby. He continued to lift and separate in 2017, starting the season in advanced single-A Lake Elsinore and receiving a mid-season promotion to AA San Antonio Missions. He impressed coaches and scouts at every step, not with dominant stuff but with pinpoint command and late movement that baffled hitters everywhere he went.

Lauer received his first invite to MLB Spring Training this February, and he continued to do what he has done everywhere. Along with fellow lefty Joey Lucchesi, Lauer performed every time he was called upon with unflappable resolve, and the two only got assigned to AAA El Paso by process of elimination as there were too many veterans ahead of them with reserved parking spaces in Petco Park. Just as Dinelson Lamet’s elbow injury opened an opportunity for Joey Lucchesi, Luis Perdomo’s option to El Paso has given Eric Lauer a chance to show what he can do. It may be one day, it may be a couple of weeks, or he might grab hold of a rotation spot and make it too hard for them to make him go away.

Eric Lauer doesn’t wow you with his stuff. Rather than try to paraphrase what I’ve read but not seen with my own eyes, I’ll let Eric Longenhagen of Fangraphs tell you what Lauer does so well:

If certainty and stability appeal to you as an evaluator, then Lauer would be much higher on your list, as he’s been as reliable as German automobile since his sophomore year at Kent State. He has an effortless delivery that produces a low-90s fastball. It lacks movement but Lauer still has some room for mass on his frame and might add a bit more velocity into his mid-20s. While it lacks life, Lauer works the bottom of the strike zone with his fastball consistently and garners plenty of ground balls when he’s not carving hitters up with a robust array of secondary pitches. Included in the Eric Lauer Variety Pack is an average mid-70s curveball with slurvy two-plane movement, a sharper, horizontal slider in the mid-80s and mid-80s changeup. The slider is the best of those and the only one that projects as an above-average offering at peak, while the changeup is fringe-average but is usually kept down in the zone and is difficult to punish despite its mediocrity. Lauer’s low walk rates are a bit misleading as, while he has above-average control, his command is a bit behind that. When he misses it’s usually down beneath where he can get hurt, but he doesn’t yet have dictatorial control over his repertoire. Without a great changeup or great command it’s hard to see a clear path for success against right-handed hitters, but I think Lauer really only needs one of those two traits to progress to be a complete pitcher. He projects as a No. 4 or 5 starter for me.

Eric Lauer and Joey Lucchesi have a lot in common. Both were selected in the 2016 draft, both are lefties, both came as older college kids who were relatively developed when selected. Both rely on command and guile over overpowering stuff. Both soared through the minors and thrived in the Missions’ AA playoff-bound 2017 staff. Tomorrow, they will be teammates once again, at he game’s highest level.

If you want to keep on reading, here are some links:

Just the other day, MadFriars interviewed Eric’s pitching coach in El Paso, Bronswell Patrick.

This last offseason, Lucchesi and Lauer went to Indiana to try to keep up with Clayton Richards’ offseason workout.

Madfriars interviewed Eric in May of 2017.

Here’s a piece that Jeff Sanders of the Union-Tribune did way back in 2016.

John Conniff of MadFriars did this piece as a guest on BaseballAmerica.

...and here’s some more fun stuff because why not:

Oh yeah, and that time that he threw a NO-HITTER in college!