One of the most impressive improvements in farm system quality over the last year has been that of the San Diego Padres. What was a bottom-five-to-ten system in 2016 has skyrocketed to a consensus top-five to begin this season. Eric Lauer pitching well in the notoriously hitter-friendly Advanced-A California League shows just how much talent they’ve gathered in only the last year.
Eric Lauer Pitching Well in Notorious Hitters’ League
A 2016 first rounder, Lauer was picked 25th overall out of Kent State University in 2016. Ranked among the Padres Top-10 prospects, at number eight, per MLB.com, the 6’5, 205-pound lefty passed on his senior year after posting a nice 0.69 ERA through 104 innings to lead all of NCAA Division I baseball as a junior. Lauer is one of two players from Midview High School in Grafton, Ohio to sign with an MLB franchise. The other player was Ryan Feierabend, a left-handed third-rounder who spent parts of four seasons with the Seattle Mariners and Texas Rangers.
Lauer, 21, is currently biding his time with the Lake Elsinore Storm of the Advanced-A California League. He’s done everything he can so far to help the team win in a league with a hefty reputation of park factors favoring those in the box instead of on the mound. He’s put in 40.1 innings through seven starts, and holds a league leading 1.56 ERA.
For those who need more convincing than ERA alone can provide, how about WHIP? Lauer’s looks excellent at 1.07, third-best league-wide. Strike outs? Fourth best – he’s put three strikes past 50 batters for a spectacular 11.2 strike outs per nine innings. He’s displayed superb control, with just 2.7 walks per nine and one wild pitch. Most impressively, he’s done it all in a park owning a 310-foot right corner wall and a 330-foot left.
Just one batter, infielder Fernery Ozuna of the Arizona Diamondbacks organization, has taken Lauer deep. He’s given up an average of 6.9 hits per game, and allowed four in seven innings in his last. His ERA has been hampered by his first start of 2017 against the Visalia Rawhide. In that start, Lauer lasted a mere 3.2 innings, surrendering four runs on five hits. He walked three and racked up seven K’s.
Padres LHP Eric Lauer survived a rough first inning. Velo down from what we saw in college. 88-91 today.
— JJ Cooper (@jjcoop36) March 21, 2017
Both baseball legends to come from Midview High have crafted great stories for their respective careers. Feierabend fought his way back into affiliated ball after a stint in the independent Atlantic League and is now dominating the Korean Baseball Organization. Eric Lauer has a while to go yet, but his time in the California League will surely prepare him for the upper levels of the minor-league system.
Lauer commands two above-average pitches. His fastball sits in the low-90’s, yet earns the grade with a natural late cut movement. He throws a true slider featuring slice-and-drop movement, coming in at 10-15 ticks slower than his fastball. Scouts believe his changeup and curve need work, but will develop to average offerings.
A mature college arm, Lauer isn’t considered a risk and doesn’t need much work. There are a multitude of ways of which Lauer can beat a batter. He knows how and when to use his well-placed pitches to each one he faces. He’ll be a mid-rotation arm in a good staff. He also boasts a strong bowling game.
Perfect game going into the 6th and I leave an open frame… that’s not going to get me to the PBA. Still a solid score and a solid W #202 pic.twitter.com/DzPqhJjIip
— Eric Lauer (@e_lauer10) May 14, 2017
This lefty starter doesn’t throw hard. He brings the ability to place four average- to above-average pitches. Lauer will sequence these pitches in a way that either earns the strikeout or the out from play. He rarely beats himself by keeping walks to a minimum and not trying to force his offerings.