FORT WAYNE, Ind – Luis Patiño remains one of the best kept secrets in a deep San Diego Padres’ system. For now.
After the 18-year-old right-hander tossed five no-hit innings and extended his scoreless innings streak to 14 earlier this month, MacKenzie Gore made his much anticipated return from the disabled list the next day and struck out the side to start the game, stealing any of the limelight that had landed on Patiño.
It is a pattern that has happened far too often for a prospect who is already showing a 97 MPH fastball, elite athleticism, and a burgeoning arsenal in full-season ball. Yet his tantalizing potential has not been lost on those within the organization.
“If you want a comp, he reminds you of the more athletic pitchers that you will see in terms of Mike Leake or Jake Peavy,” Padres Head of Player Development Sam Geaney told Madfriars. “But remember, I’m not saying he is going to have the careers they did, but he is the same type of premium athletic pitcher.”
Flying under the radar is nothing new for Patiño, who was by no means a coveted prospect during the 2016 international signing period. As an undersized pitcher from a lightly-scouted country, he ultimately agreed to a deal with the Padres for a mere $130,000.
“Luis was a guy who, not to say we are shocked by this because he’s a very talented guy who Chris and his scouts loved,” said Geaney. “But he was five-foot-nine, five-ten, 150 pounds when he signed out of Colombia, probably throwing 86-88 MPH.
“He’s probably added 35-40 pounds of good weight [since then], and he’s probably added 10 MPH in a very brief time. You can’t predict these things, but you can put in programs that are good for everyone that are specific to him. A huge part of this is the kid.”
Patiño cruised through his first year of professional baseball. He racked up a stellar 2.25 ERA between the DSL and the rookie ball while holding opposing hitters around the Mendoza line. The organization held him back in Extended Spring Training to open the year to help with innings management, but once it got late enough in the year, the young Colombian made the jump to full season ball with the TinCaps.
“It is a lot different here,” Patiño offered. “Because the hitters are more experienced and the strike zone is a little bit smaller. In rookie ball last year, I could throw fastball, fastball, fastball and still get outs, but here, I need to better complement my fastball using my curveball, my slider and my changeup.”
During his Midwest League debut, Patiño struck out four and allowed only one earned run. The most impressive aspect of that first game was the polish that belies his age. He effectively mixed his repertoire and maintained velocity in the 94-96 mph range deep into the game.
“I think everything I heard coming into today was positive,” Fort Wayne manager Anthony Contreras said at the time. “Obviously, the talent he is, the person he is, and the makeup he has [all] played out on the field. I was excited to see him compete at this level.”
Patiño’s lone blemish on the season came in his second start in West Michigan, when he coughed up seven runs and struggled to find the strike zone.
“That second start against West Michigan was a bad game for me… my command was not good. But it’s a game I can learn from,” Patiño said.
“I watched the video of it, and my delivery was not good at all, so I worked on my delivery and my command for the next start in Lansing…because you can never have a game like that and just say ‘oh… I had a bad game.’ You learn and you work for the next start.”
Athleticism pays off for Luis Patiño
Over his next four games, Patiño’s work paid off as he struck out 21 and allowed just one earned run in 18 innings. He has flourished during this stretch by disrupting the timing of opposing hitters through not only effectively altering fastball velocity within an at-bat, but also through integrating a deceptive double leg pump into his delivery at select times during the game.
“I think last year that I did [the leg pump] maybe three times all season,” Patiño laughed. “But this year I’ve done it maybe ten to fifteen times. It’s good for me to have that hitch in my delivery sometimes because I need it to change the timing of the hitters who always wait for the fastball. So I change my delivery for the fastball or curveball …whatever it is …two or three times a game.”
The deceptive hitch in his delivery helps Patiño’s already diverse repertoire – fastball, curveball, slider and changeup- play up by offering yet another look.
Of those three secondaries, his upper 80’s slider, which flashes devestating whiff potential, projects to be his best offering, yet he expresses a growing confidence in his other two offerings.
“Now, I remember last year that my second best pitch was my slider,” Patiño said. “So I’ve worked a lot this year on my changeup because I need it when I throw hard, and it’s now my second best pitch after my slider… and then last is my curveball.
“But I have confidence in all of my pitches. When I throw a slider, I know that it is my best pitch. When I throw a changeup, I know that it is my best pitch. Always, with all pitches, I try to throw the best in that moment.”
In terms of growth, Patiño needs to work on replicating his delivery as the season progresses. He is clearly athletic and gets good extension, but for a guy with his six-foot-one, 190-pound frame, he generates a tremendous amount of arm speed, so he’ll certainly need to tighten up his mechanics in an effort to promote strong arm and shoulder health.
If it all comes together for Patiño in the second half, he’ll likely vault up prospect lists and no longer be the relatively obscure name in a deep system. In the meantime, Patiño is dedicated to working hard to make his dream a reality.
“I remember when I started baseball with my father when I was three years old,” Patiño shared. “I have played baseball for my whole life and when I got to 14 years old, I said that this is my dream. So I have worked for it because this is my life, my passion, my baseball.”