Which Padres prospect is drawing the most trade interest from other clubs?
Left-handed pitcher Cory Luebke, a Double-A (CORRECTION Triple-A) starter who is 5-1 with a 2.40 ERA (in Triple-A he is 2-0 with a 3.81 ERA).
The Padres are shopping for a starting pitcher, and both the Cubs (Ted Lilly) and Pirates (Paul Maholm) are among the clubs fielding offers. Today's deadline will be the litmus test on several fronts. Luebke likely would be the asking price for Maholm and perhaps for Lilly (as of early Friday afternoon, the Padres hadn't shown interest in either lefty).
"That would be a fair ask," an evaluator from another club said of Luebke for Maholm.
Luebke has 44 strikeouts and 12 walks in 56.1 innings. The majority of the evaluators I talked to from other clubs say Luebke has moved past Simon Castro, a Double-A teammate, as the Padres' best advanced pitching prospect, although opinions vary, and Castro, 22, is three years younger than the lefty. If the Padres hold onto Luebke, he conceivably could start or work long relief for them in September. He's thrown 44 fewer innings than last year. An oblique injury sidelined him for several weeks, longer than is typical. It appears the Padres used that injury to keep his innings down.
At 25, Luebke is old for the Texas League (even with his promotion this season). He was in the advanced Single-A Cal League for parts of three seasons. After some bad times that led to a demotion, he adjusted his delivery and found a groove with low Single-A Fort Wayne in 2008.
I watched Luebke at the Cal League All-Star Game last year, and he drew favorable reviews from two scouts. They liked how the 6-foot-4, 215-pounder threw "downhill."
The best pitcher on that night, though, was Wynn Pelzer. Then a reliever, Pelzer threw 95-mph fastballs to both corners and hard sliders low and away. On that night, Pelzer was as good as many major league set-up men. But it was only one night. "You wonder if he can repeat his delivery," a scout told me. As it turned out, he couldn't, at least this year, although Pelzer continued to show a good arm.
Thursday, the Padres dealt Pelzer to the Orioles for Miguel Tejada. An evaluator from a third club called it a fair trade, noting that the Orioles also shed $1.1 million in salary. Pelzer's accuracy is a major question mark, and his pitches aren't quite as lively this year. But power arms are in demand. Pelzer also is a Scott Boras client. For what it's worth, recent Padres front offices made a habit of jettisoning players represented by Boras. That wasn't a major factor in the trade, though.