After a spirited battle the fifth spot in the San Diego Padres’ rotation will likely go to Mat Latos, after the 22-year old had a fantastic showing this spring. In five appearances in the Cactus League Latos tossed 17 innings, allowed just 12 hits, five runs (three earned) and struck out 14 while allowing just five walks. He finished 3-0 with a 1.59 ERA, a .190 batting average against and a 1.00 WHIP.
Basically the kid went out and took care of business.
The other candidates for the No. 5 spot in the rotation – Sean Gallagher, Tim Stauffer and Edward Mujica – all performed well in Arizona, but Latos was superior.
Gallagher likely earned a bullpen slot by tossing 15.2 innings, allowing just six runs, 13 hits, striking out seven and walking four. He wrapped up the spring with a 3.45 ERA, a .236 BAA and a 1.09 WHIP. The 24-year old Boston native will be ready to go if an injury hits the starting rotation.
Stauffer has been named to the squad as a bullpen arm to open the season. He had a successful spring during which he tossed 15.1 innings, allowed 18 hits, six runs, walked four and struck out 11. His BAA was a little high (.310) and his ERA jumped at the end of his time in Arizona (to 3.52) but he impressed with his command and velocity enough to earn a spot on the staff. Stauffer is not ideally suited to the bullpen but he’s out of minor league options and though some teams are interested in trading for him, the Padres would prefer to hang on to the No. 4 overall pick of the 2003 MLB Draft.
The story here is Latos’ meteoric rise through the Padres’ system. He began last season in Class A ball and earned a midseason call-up. Now he’s the fifth starter for the big club. The fact that he beat out Stauffer and Gallagher despite both veterans having solid springs shows that he’s poised for excellence.
He has a 97-mph fastball, a great curve and a developing change-up. Without the change last season, he averaged 6.39 strikeouts per nine innings. Now that he’s added the change to his repertoire, expect Latos to last longer in games and not be just a strikeout guy. That said, his K/9 ratio should get even better this season.
We expect big things from the big righty this season. And so do the Padres.