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MLB Rookie Profile: Eric Lauer, LHP, San Diego Padres

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Padres promote lefty to the majors. Here’s what to look for.

MLB: San Diego Padres-Media Day Rick Scuteri-USA TODAY Sports

Left-handed pitcher Eric Lauer will make his MLB debut today for the San Diego Padres, going right into the fire against the Colorado Rockies at Coors Field. Let’s take a quick look.

Lauer was a three-year starting pitcher for Kent State University in Ohio, posting a 3.26 ERA (64/36 K/BB) in 80 innings in 2014 and a 1.98 ERA with an 103/29 K/BB in 83 innings in 2015. His 2016 season was ridiculous: 0.69 ERA in 104 innings with a 125/28 K/BB and only 49 hits allowed.

The Padres selected him in the first round in ‘16, 25th overall, and he’s reached the majors in less than two years. In 172 professional innings he has a 3.04 ERA with a 188/51 K/BB and 152 hits allowed. He made three starts for Triple-A El Paso before his promotion, with a 19/6 K/BB in 18 innings, just 11 hits allowed, and a 3.00 ERA.

Lauer ranked ninth on the San Diego Padres Top 20 Prospects for 2018 list with this commentary:

9) Eric Lauer, LHP, Grade B: Age 22, first round pick in 2016 from Kent State University; posted 3.30 ERA in 123 innings between High-A and Double-A, 132/36 K/BB, 117 hits; fastball 89-94 with movement, mixes in slider, curveball, change-up; while stuff isn’t spectacular hitters have a hard time picking him up and he’s always been effective due to strong command and mature mound presence; like (Logan) Allen and (Joey) Lucchesi, a possible mid-rotation arm. ETA late 2018.

Listed at 6-3, 205, Lauer is a lefty thrower and right-handed hitter born June 3, 1995. Radar-gun-lovers have never been overly impressed with him, since he works in the low-90s and tops at 94. His secondary pitches all draw average grades, yet as you can see there’s been nothing average about his performance. Hitters just don’t seem to see the ball well against him and they never have.

Even without a blistering fastball or eye-bending breaking stuff he’s consistently posted impressive strikeout rates, showing the ratios of a power pitcher even without the gun readings. The separator for such pitchers is usually Double-A but Lauer has kept things going in the high minors. He made one start in Las Vegas and two in El Paso this spring, both environments which are very conducive to offense, but was unfazed by the PCL.

Small sample, of course, but in keeping with his entire track record.

The easy thing to do is project Lauer as a four/five starter. That’s the consensus, but in this case I think the consensus underplays his ability at least a little. Assuming continued good health, I think he will continue to exceed expectations.