The Padres return a strong group for the 2023 season, and that sentiment remains true for the rotation. San Diego is set to return three key pieces to the group’s pitching staff, but there are also some question marks for this staff heading into this season. Let’s take a look at what the Padres are working with for 2023.
A Look at the Padres Rotation Options
- RHP Yu Darvish (16-8, 3.10 ERA, 9.1 K/9 in 2022)
- RHP Joe Musgrove (10-7, 2.93 ERA, 9.1 K/9)
- LHP Blake Snell (8-10, 3.38 ERA, 12.0 K/9)
- RHP Seth Lugo (3-2, 3.60 ERA, 9.6 K/9)
- RHP Nick Martinez (4-4, 3.47 ERA, 8.0 K/9)
We’ll start off with Yu Darvish, who should headline this rotation once again in 2023. Darvish finished eighth in the NL Cy Young award voting after 2023, a campaign in which the 36-year-old struck out 197 over 194.2 innings, and recorded a tidy 1.7 BB/9 rate. That walk rate, for what it’s worth, marked his best in a full season not counting 2020. The star righty proved to be incredible effective for the Padres in 2022, a season after Darvish posted an uncharacteristic 4.22 ERA.
Darvish should be followed by RHP Joe Musgrove, who led the Padres last season in ERA (2.93). Musgrove did tweak his approach on the mound last season, opting to use more of his mid-90s heater and less of the slider. It certainly worked for the 30-year-old, who dominated in the regular season before striking out 18 over 18.2 innings in the 2022 MLB Playofs.
The Padres’ third ace is LHP Blake Snell, who recorded a gaudy 12.0 K/9 rate over 128 innings last season. Snell got off to a late start in 2022 after dealing with a left adductor strain, and did not impress during his first few starts. Snell recorded a rough 5.22 ERA in the first half of the regular season, before going 7-5 with a 2.19 ERA and 105 strikeouts over 78 innings in the second half. The postseason was a mixed bag for Snell, who did win two games but walked nine over 13.2 innings in the process.
Barring any injuries, Darvish, Musgrove, and Snell should be in the top three of the Padres rotation. After those three, it gets a little bit interesting. San Diego traded away young hurler MacKenzie Gore to get Juan Soto in August, while Mike Clevinger and Sean Manaea both won’t return for 2023.
Former Met Seth Lugo came over to San Diego this winter in free agency, and should slot in to a rotation spot. Lugo — who we ranked as one of the most underrated acquisitions of the winter — performed very well in a relief role for the Mets. But, Lugo has been a starter in the past, most recently in 2020. The new Padres right-hander has great stuff, highlighted by one of the best curveballs in the game. However, a spotty track record as a starter does cause some concern.
Then, there’s RHP Nick Martinez. The former Ranger joined San Diego in March 2022, after a four-year run with Nippon Ham and Softbank in Japan. The 32-year-old pitched quite well for the Padres last season, as the crafty right rode an above-average changeup to a 3.47 ERA over 106.1 innings. Martinez worked primarily as a reliever in 2022, but did start 10 games. However, batters had a lot more success against Martinez as a starter (.269 BA), as opposed to facing the Fordham product out of the bullpen (.209).
Other potential starter options for the Padres include Reiss Knehr, Adrian Morejon, and Ryan Weathers. Or, San Diego could look towards the trade market. But with a depleted farm system, the Padres may opt against adding an external arm.