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Andrew Cashner: Future Padres Ace?

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Ray profiles Padres starter Andrew Cashner and discusses the possibility he could turn into an ace starting pitcher.

Jayne Kamin-Oncea-USA TODAY Spor

As I was getting ready for work yesterday, I was pondering the topic for today's article. My thoughts moved to Padres starter Andrew Cashner who was perfect for six innings a few nights ago. Think about that. He did not allow a base runner for six innings. Granted it was against a Pirates lineup that has trouble getting on base and scoring runs, but still, no base runners.

I thought about a few other ideas, but when I saw this quote over at Baseball Prospectus, in their weekly What Scouts are Saying, I had to look no further:

Padres RHP Andrew Cashner: "This guy is really coming fast with his ascent to the top of a rotation. His delivery is under control and he is repeating extremely well. He is one of the best athletes on the mound in the league and has really turned the corner with his pitch making. It looks like he has added a two-seam FB to his already dominant velocity and that could be a difference maker. I saw him pitch as well as he ever has this week and he is quickly becoming a legit ace."

Cashner is a guy I have been waiting to break out, and this year he has. I targeted him in one of my NL only keeper leagues in 2012, as a $1 pitcher, only to be outbid by $1 by my brother.

Too bad I didn't predict it, but who saw this coming from a pitcher who could never stay healthy and had never thrown more than 59 innings in any one season as a professional? I didn't. This includes his time in the minors and the majors. In fact, coming into the 2013 season, he had thrown just over 300 innings on the mound in his career, that spans back to 2008.

This season, he started out in the Padres bullpen, making five appearances before being added to the Padres rotation, making his first start on April 20th, giving up 2 runs on 2 hits, a walk and 5 Ks in 4 innings vs the Giants.

Since that start, he has given up two runs or less in 12 of his 24 starts, and given up 3 runs or less In 20 of his 24 starts. He has gone 6 or more innings in 19 of his 25 starts, and 7 or more innings in 12 of his 25 starts. He is a workhorse who pitches in a pitchers park.

He is currently 10-8 with a 3.21 ERA, a 3.45 FIP, a 3.69 xFIP, a1.15 WHIP and a 0.64 HR/9. So, he doesn't give up many base runners, keeps the ball in the park, and is pitching close to what the advanced stats indicate. He doesn't walk many batters as his 2.52 BB/9 indicates, but doesn't strike out many either (6.48 K/9). He may not strike out enough batters for his fantasy owners, and one would think he would with a 94.5 mph fastball, but he does keep the ball on the ground at a 52.4% rate, which is very good.

If he can increase his strikeout rate, and there are signs he is doing just that, he could become a very dominant starter in 2014. He has struck out 38 batters in his last 44.2 innings, striking out 7 batters in five of his last six starts. For the season, he is throwing first pitch strikes to just over 60% of the batters he has faced, but his 8.2% SwStr% indicate there is room for improvement in his strikeout rate.

Looking ahead to 2014 drafts, Cashner will probably be available in the later rounds of most drafts, with a very good chance of outperforming his draft day value, assuming he can stay healthy. As stated earlier, he pitches in a pitchers park, so he has that going for him. Should the strikeout rate continue to rise, he could be the Padres future ace, sitting at the top of their rotation next season.

He is showing us why the Padres traded first base prospect Anthony Rizzo for him in 2012.