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2007 Bullpen Preview: Juan Padilla

Mike SteffanosTuesday, January 23, 2007
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
Year -TeamAge Games Innings Hits/9 K/9 BB/9 HR/9 ERA WHIP
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
200629Underwent 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
Year   Innings ERA Hits/9 K/9 BB/9 HR/9 AVG OBP SLG
2004 vs. RHB 13.1 9.45 14.9 7.4 5.4 3.4 .373 .449 .712
 vs. LHB 12.1 5.84 12.4 4.4 2.9 1.5 .333 .382 .569

2005 vs. RHB 19.0 1.89 7.1 3.8 2.4 0.0 .203 .272 .257
 vs. LHB 17.1 1.04 4.7 4.7 4.2 0.0 .153 .250 .186

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:
Jon Adkins
Adam Bostick
Ambiorix Burgos
Marcos Carvajal
Pedro Feliciano
Aaron Heilman
Guillermo Mota
Clint Nageotte
Juan Padilla (This Article)
Chan Ho Park
Duaner Sanchez
Steve Schmoll
Scott Schoeneweis
Aaron Sele
Joe Smith
Jorge Sosa
Billy Wagner
Other Candidates
Four Other Names for You

2007 Pitching Previews: Summing It All Up

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Comments (10)

Agree with your assessment of Padilla. Guys like him are living the dream so far as I can see; they never become stars, but what of it? They get to play a game they love and even make a living at it.

It was a year ago, but someone ran a statistical projection of Padilla after the 2005 season. Quoting from memory, the piece was pessimistic of Juan's ability to continue at remotely the same level he achieved that year, since his opponents' batting average on balls put into play was unnaturally low; those things tend to even out over time.

So, I pull for him, hope for the best, but won't be surprised if he falls short.

Off topic: There are a number of readers of this site -- writers too for that matter -- who are enamored with the idea of picking up struggling young pitchers with potential and giving them a shot in spring training. I include myself in that group.

So, what would you say to bringing in a non-pitcher in a similar circumstance? I'm referring to B.J.Upton, former #1 pick of the Devil Rays, who currently has no position and has not hit very well. His situation reminds me of former Gold Spikes winner Phil Nevin, who crapped out as a third baseman, tried catching, and generally foundered around, before suddenly locking in with the bat and going on to have 4-5 really productive years, two teams later.

One wants to look at the merchandise, of course, but at the moment I would be more than willing to land him in right field and tell him to have a good season. From what I've been reading he can be had. Tampa always needs pitching, and the Mets have numbers if not proven quality. At least they did before shipping out Bannister, Owens and Lindstrom et al.

Anyway, it's a thought; pick up a fellow whose upside seemed endless not so long ago, and maybe catch lightening. Thoughts?

Just another thought. Lets make a deal with the Rockies for a pitcher and we will take Helton (.302 15/81) 1st basemen off thier hands. They are looking for a way to get rid of his salary. It's only money and a thought for a pitcher without giving up our youth? Hey it,s a slow offseason just a thought. He can be a expensive backup.

dd - Me, too. I like the kid and hope he proves me wrong. As for the other one, I can't picture them trading a guy like Upton for less than a top pitching prospect like Humber or Pelfrey, and I just can't see doing that right now. Plus OF is a strength of the Mets system.
Rev - They're not going to just dump Helton, and I have a lot of steroid-related questions about his sudden decline. He's likely to be one of the more overpaid players in the game over the next few years.

Padilla is a guy you like rooting for, but I think part of the reason Met fans fell in love the guy is because we watched him in contrast to Braden Looper in 2005. He strikes you as a guy that pitches better than he should be able to given his mediocre stuff. His fastball is decent, but fairly straight. The rest of his arsenal doesn't exactly scare anyone. I think ideally, he's a guy who you can plug into the 7th inning here and there to see if he continues to overachieve. Realistically, coming off of Tommy John surgery, he's a middle innings guy at best.

I too expect him to get some innings at New Orleans before any judgement can be made on his post-TJ progress. And I don't know where he'll break the rotation with the setup triumvirate of Mota / Heilman / Sanchez looming for most of the season. But then again, overachievers have a tendency to overachieve no matter what anyone thinks.

Salman - That's true, but this bullpen is so loaded I expect him to move on to another team.

Your Jan. 23rd assessment of Juan Padilla is generally on the mark but do not be surprised if he pitches better than expected. I have followed Padilla since he played in the minor leagues at Class "AA" and he pitched better than anyone expected throughout his stint in the minors. Juan is smart and poised and that gives him his edge. His 2005 performance was no fluke. If he is fully recovered from surgery, he has a good chance of staying in the majors.

I hope he does. He's definitely one of the guys you root for.

I am another one pulling for Juan and hope his recent elbow soreness is only a temporary setback. I have known Juan since his college days at Jacksonville University and have seen first-hand that he is a true competitor. I believe that Willie and the Mets know what they have in Juan and I feel that he will definitely be around to help the Mets win the NL pennant this year.

I hope he gets the chance. Getting hurt last year was a terrible break for him.

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