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Padres go prospecting: Joey Lucchesi draws start on Friday

San Diego Padres pitcher Joey Lucchesi had a terrific spring, earning an early look in the big leagues. (AP Photo/Ross D. Franklin)

San Diego’s starting rotation is not exactly loaded with exciting names. Clayton Richard is perhaps not an ideal opening day option. But the Padres have a deep, interesting pool of prospects at various levels, and the team has selected one for an early season start in the majors. Joey Lucchesi, 24, will oppose Milwaukee’s Jhoulys Chacin on Friday night at Petco Park.

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Lucchesi is a 6-foot-5 left-hander who was terrific in four spring appearances, allowing just two runs and five hits over 11.2 innings while striking out nine. His fastball is generally in the low-to-mid 90s, and his curve and change are both regarded as MLB-quality. His delivery is also irregular enough to disrupt hitters. Take a look; he’s fun. Lucchesi might be only the fifth or sixth best pitching prospect in San Diego’s system, but there’s no shame in that. Again, this is a talent-rich organization.

We aren’t normally in the habit of hyping every prospect’s debut, but Lucchesi is notable because his minor league numbers have been unreasonably great. He’s pitched 181.0 innings over two seasons, striking out 204 batters and walking just 36. His career ERA is 1.99 and his WHIP is 0.93. He hasn’t yet made a start at Triple-A, but he was plenty good in 10 appearances at Double-A last season: 1.79 ERA, 0.99 WHIP, 53 K, 14 BB in 60.1 IP.

Lucchesi is getting this early shot because Dinelson Lamet will be sidelined in the opening weeks, dealing with an elbow issue. It’s clear enough that if the kid is effective, he’ll stick in San Diego:

[Andy] Green said the Padres will not go to a six-man rotation, but neither do the Padres necessarily plan to send Lucchesi down any time soon. If he pitches well, a team source said, “somebody else’s job will be jeopardy.”

Just to be clear, we are not declaring Lucchesi to be an immediate add in any format. No one is telling you to drop your proven vets. It’s not like that. He isn’t some can’t-miss prospect. Failure is definitely a possibility. But Lucchesi’s numbers have been ridiculous, and the opportunity ahead is significant. He’s worth watching. If you’re an N.L.-only owner, he’s probably worth a speculative pickup.

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