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Andrew Cashner Gets Opening Day Nod For Padres

By Rich Arleo

CBS Local Sports, in our “30 Players 30 Days” spring training feature, profiles one young player from each Major League Baseball team leading up to opening day.

Andrew Cashner, Starting Pitcher, San Diego Padres

2013 season (majors): 31 G, 26 GS, 175 IP, 3.09 ERA, 1.131 WHIP, 10 W, 128 SO, 47 BB

The beginning and end of the 2013 season could not have been more different for San Diego Padres right-hander Andrew Cashner.

The 27-year-old began last year in the San Diego bullpen, and struggled a bit. He appeared in five games as a long reliever and allowed four earned runs, seven hits and six walks in 9.1 innings pitched. So the team made the move to turn him into a starter, and it paid major dividends.

Cashner showed potential in his first start (4 IP, 2 ER, 5 SO, 1 BB), was even better next time out, allowing only one run while striking out five more in six innings. His third start was a little rough, but then Cashner got on a roll. In his next 21 innings over three starts, he allowed just four earned runs (1.69 ERA) with a 13:5 K:BB ratio. He seemed to stretch out as the season progressed.

Cashner finished the season with 19 quality starts out of 26, saving his best for the end of the year. There was arguably no better pitcher down the stretch than the 6-foot-6 righty. In his last 11 starts, Cashner had a 2.14 ERA, struck out 61 and held hitters to a miniscule .194 BAA.

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While his K/9 took a dive from 2012 (when he was a reliever) from 10.10 to 6.59, he still had a very solid 8.3 SwStr% (swinging strike percentage). Cashner gets by mostly with his fastball, a pitch that comes in at around 95 mph and was an incredible 18.8 runs above average last season according to PITCHfx data. His secondary pitch -- a slider -- had a 3.1 rating as well. He also mixed in a changeup, which he actually threw second-most behind the four-seamer, though it was his worst-rated pitch at -0.48. He also threw an effective two-seamer 15 percent of the time, to a great rating of 9.0 on the PITCHfx scale.

Now established as a starter, Cashner has the Padres confidence, and they're giving him the nod on Opening Day. He can cement himself as one of the league's true aces if he can build on his breakout 2013.

Cashner also benefits from starting in one of the most pitcher-friendly parks in the league -- Petco Park. At home last season, he was nearly unhittable, with a 1.95 ERA and .219 BAA. Another huge factor in his breakout last year was his improved control as a starter, which dropped his BB/9 down from a poor 3.69 in 2012 to an above-average 2.42. As long as he keeps that down and continues to develop, there’s no telling how effective Cashner can be over a full season.

Next up: Madison Bumgarner, San Francisco Giants

Check out our Fantasy Baseball Preview, breaking down the top players at each position.

Rich Arleo is a Marist College alum who has been a professional writer and editor since graduating in 2010. Find him on Twitter, Facebook and Google+ for more of his sports musings.

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