By Mike Steffanos
Juan Padilla was drafted by the Minnesota Twins out of Jacksonville University in 1998. He was a twenty-fourth round pick. After starting off with their Gulf Coast League rookie team that season, he spent the next four campaigns bouncing around the A, High-A and AA levels. Padilla finally made it to Triple-A as a 26-year-old in 2003. By that point, he was looking very much like a marginal prospect/career minor leaguer. In September of 2003, Padilla was sent to the Yankees to complete a trade for the 46-year-old Jesse Orosco.
Padilla was very good for the Yankees AAA-Columbus team in 2004, earning him a call up to the Bronx. He was solid in 6 games for the Yankees, but when he was demoted back to the minors in September the Cincinnati Reds grabbed him off the waiver wire. He was awful in 12 games with the Reds, and they non-tendered him following the season.
Padilla accepted a minor league invite to the Mets camp in 2005. He started the year in AAA-Norfolk where he pitched very well, and received a call up to the Mets after the All Star Break. He pitched capably, only allowing 1 earned run in his first eight appearances. He got many chances to pitch in September when Braden Looper fizzled out, and did fine, finishing with an outstanding 1.49 ERA and 1.02 WHIP in 36-1/3 innings with the Mets.
Here are Juan Padilla's numbers at all levels since 2000:
|Juan Padilla Minor & Major League Stats Since 2000|
|2000 - Quad City (A)||23||32||33.0||6.6||10.9||2.5||0.0||1.91||1.00|
|2000 - New Britain (AA)||23||33.2||9.4||6.4||2.9||0.3||3.74||1.37|
|2001 - Fort Myers (A+)||24||56||69.1||9.4||10.0||3.3||0.3||2.99||1.40|
|2002 - New Britain (AA)||25||54||65.1||9.5||7.2||2.5||0.3||3.31||1.33|
|2003 - Rochester (AAA)||26||57||91.0||9.3||6.7||1.7||0.7||3.36||1.22|
|2004 - Trenton (AA)||27||3||4.0||9.0||9.0||6.8||2.3||9.00||1.75|
|2004 - Columbus (AAA)||45||58.0||7.6||8.1||0.9||0.2||2.02||0.95|
|2004 - New York Yankees||6||11.1||12.7||4.0||3.1||0.8||3.97||1.76|
|2004 - Cincinnati||12||14.1||14.4||7.5||5.0||3.8||10.67||2.16|
|2005 - Norfolk (AAA)||28||37||63.1||6.4||8.4||1.3||0.6||1.42||0.85|
|2005 - New York Mets||24||36.1||5.9||4.2||3.2||0.0||1.49||1.02|
|2006||29||Underwent Tommy John Surgery -- Did Not Pitch|
|Career Minor League Totals||369||511.0||8.7||8.1||2.3||0.4||2.89||1.22|
|Career Major League Totals||42||62.0||9.2||4.9||3.6||1.0||4.06||1.42|
One thing he did very well in 2005 was retire left-handers, primarily utilizing an effective changeup. The numbers from 2004 were nowhere near as impressive, however. Here are Padilla's L/R splits from his two major league seasons:
|Juan Padilla L/R Splits|
I have a personal liking for Juan Padilla. He seems like a good kid, he's fearless on the mound, and he does those cool magic tricks for his teammates and the media. He's the kind of guy who maximizes a limited amount of talent, and you can't help rooting for him.
By the same token, a look at his numbers in 2005 make you suspect that the good results benefited from more than his share of good fortune. A 4/3 strikout/walk ratio doesn't often yield an ERA under 2. The walk totals were actually somewhat high for a pitcher who doesn't strike anyone out. Perhaps I could put more stock into those numbers if he had accomplished them over the course of a full season, rather than less than half.
Now 30, coming off a major injury that cost him a full season, and with a short major league track record, Juan Padilla has a lot of work ahead of him. Realistically, Padilla's career path is that of the quintessential Quadruple-A pitcher. He puts up solid strikeout numbers in his minor league stops, but the strikeouts go down and the walks go up when he is facing major league hitters. Although he has had some success in the majors, based on what he's shown so far he is unlikely to ever be more than a fringe major leaguer. I concede that it's possible that Padilla's 2005 numbers represent a breakthrough, but it's more likely, given his overall body of work, that it was simply a career year with achievement that he's unlikely to duplicate.
This isn't to knock Padilla. He knows how to pitch and will probably spend some more time in the majors before he calls it a career. Unfortunately, he's likely to see more time in the minors, too. Right-handed relievers with mediocre stuff are not in short supply. Getting hurt and losing a year from the game after establishing himself in 2005 was a terrible break. He'll be starting again almost from scratch to establish credibility as a major league reliever. Look for him to probably land in New Orleans to start the year, and possibly get called up if injuries crop up or the Mets elect to carry a seventh reliever at some point.
2007 Bullpen Previews:
Juan Padilla (This Article)
Chan Ho Park
Four Other Names for You
2007 Pitching Previews: Summing It All Up