Joey Lucchesi Becomes First Pitcher From 2016 Draft To Reach Majors

SAN DIEGO—If you had Joey Lucchesi as the first pitcher from the 2016 draft to reach the majors, it’s time to collect.

Padres manager Andy Green announced in his Opening Day press conference that Lucchesi will start for San Diego against the Brewers on Friday. The 24-year-old lefthander finished last season in Double-A and is skipping Triple-A entirely to make his major league debut.

“We’re excited about him,” Green said. “We’ve said from the beginning we’re going to take guys that have earned the right to be here. He did that.”

Lucchesi, the Padres’ No. 9 prospect, becomes just the second player from the 2016 draft to reach the majors, following Orioles outfielder Austin Hays.

A fourth-round draft pick from Southeast Missouri State, Lucchesi went 11-7, 2.20 between high Class A Lake Elsinore and Double-A San Antonio last year in his first full season. He posted 148 strikeouts against just 33 walks in 139 innings and ranked as one of the Top 20 prospects in both the California and Texas Leagues.

He followed up with a 1.54 ERA in four spring training appearances and was one of the last cuts from camp.

“From when we drafted him…we liked a lot of things,” general manager A.J. Preller said. “It’s a big-bodied lefthanded pitcher who’s obviously deceptive in what he does, throws strikes with three pitches. He did that all last year in the minor leagues and again in spring training, so he earned the right to be in our rotation to start the year.”

Lucchesi, who was not permitted to speak to media, will officially be added to the roster on Friday.

The Padres originally sent Lucchesi to the minors at the end of spring training, but a late elbow injury to Dinelson Lamet opened up a spot in the starting rotation. Instead of remaining in Triple-A El Paso following an exhibition against the big league club, Lucchesi hopped on a flight to San Diego.

“We were not dying for him to start in this spot,” Green said. “But we have a ton of confidence in him.”

With Lamet’s health status uncertain, the Padres aren’t considering this just a spot start for Lucchesi. If he performs, he has every chance to stay in San Diego.

“We looked at it as putting him in the rotation,” Preller said. “Again, nothing is guaranteed, but we don’t view it as him make one start and then go back down for another pitcher. I think we’re going to give him an opportunity. What that means, whether that’s three or four starts or that ends up being for the full season, I think a lot of that is going to depend on how he handles it.”

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