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30 Players: Despaigne Hopes To Build On Rookie Year 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.

Odrisamer Despaigne, Pitcher, San Diego Padres

2014 season (Minors): 7 G, 7 GS, 31.1 IP, 6.03 ERA, 1.851 WHIP, 1 W, 41 SO, 18 BB

2014 season (Majors): 16 G, 16 GS, 96.1 IP, 3.36 ERA, 1.215 WHIP, 4 W, 65 SO, 32 BB

New general manager A.J. Preller came into San Diego swinging and led one of the bigger offseason overhauls in recent history. He brought in an entirely new starting outfield in Justin Upton, Wil Myers and Matt Kemp (the oldest of the trio at 30) along with a new third baseman in Will Middlebrooks, new catcher in Daniel Norris, new ace in James Shields, and on Opening Night he capped it all off with Craig Kimbrel.

The Padres are an overall young team, but the majority of their 25-man roster has at least a few years of big league experience. All the new additions blocked -- for at least one year but possibly more -- top prospects like outfielders Hunter Renfroe and Rymer Liriano, and catcher Austin Hedges. So when you look at the roster right now, there aren’t many young, inexperienced players who have a chance to make a big impact on the Padres in 2015. One name that does come to mind, however, is pitcher Odrisamer Despaigne. 

Signed as an international free agent in 2014, Despaigne made just seven Minor League starts (and struggled) before getting a callup to the Padres. But surprisingly, Despaigne found success in the bigs, with nine quality starts out of 16 while allowing more than three runs in just four outings.

Despaigne didn’t quite reach the strikeout potential he showed in his short time in the Minors when he struck out almost 12 batters per nine innings, managing just half that number in the bigs. He got a bit of a late start stateside, but even though he’s an older sophomore at 28 years old, he could still be a late bloomer.

With a vast repertoire, Despaigne features a four-seamer, cutter, sinker, changeup and curve, while on rare occasions throwing a slow curve, or eephus pitch, and slider. If he and the Padres can narrow that arsenal down to say four or five of his most effective pitches, we could see some improvement. The sinker, which averages about 91 mph according to Pitchf/x data, is probably his best pitch along with his cutter, change and curve -- though it couldn’t hurt throwing an eephus to keep hitters off balance occasionally.

Veteran starter Brandon Morrow reportedly beat out Despaigne for the fifth starter’s role this spring, though Morrow posted a 4.76 ERA and 1.65 WHIP compared to the 2.12 ERA Despaigne had. Morrow has a lengthy injury history and has struggled in general in recent years, so there’s reason to believe Despaigne will get his turn in the rotation soon.

On a stacked Padres squad with plenty of depth both offensively and defensively, look for Despaigne to put some work in and hopefully develop into the reliable back end of the rotation starter, much like he was in 2014.

Rich Arleo is a freelance sports writer and editor who covers Major League Baseball and fantasy sports. You can follow him on Twitter, @Rarleo 

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