San Bernardino, California —— Entering play on Saturday night, San Diego Padres right-handed pitching prospect Chris Huffman is 5-6 with a 3.38 ERA over 18 games (16 starts) split between the High-A Lake Elsinore Storm, the Double-A San Antonio Missions, and the Triple-A El Paso Chihuahuas. I observed the 24-year-old righty in multiple starts for Lake Elsinore in April and May 2017; below is Baseball Census‘ full Chris Huffman scouting report, including video.
Chris Huffman Scouting Report — Video
Our video of San Diego Padres right-handed pitching prospect Chris Huffman shows his entire April 18 start against the Inland Empire 66ers, where he threw six scoreless innings:
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Chris Huffman Scouting Report — Notes
For several years now, the knock on Chris Huffman has been that he doesn’t have good enough stuff to succeed at the next minor league level, and for several years, he’s sufficiently proven that to be incorrect as he out-pitches his projection again, and again, and again. The Virginia native sits right around 90 mph with his fastball (89-91 mph in my looks), but he does absolutely everything to play up his marginal stuff, starting with impeccable command and a knack for challenging hitters low in the zone. He has a few different wrinkles to the pitch, too, with a cut fastball that is tight and late in movement—though sometimes too horizontal to miss bats. Huffman gets good plane on the pitch, though, and his well-placed fastball at the knees can shoot ground balls and limit baserunners beyond the degree at which you’d expect it.
There’s not a whole lot of flashy stuff in his repertoire beyond the fastball/cutter combo, either; the San Diego Padres prospect shows a slider that is distinct from the cutter with slower, more sweeping break (and some depth to it), and he also has a straight changeup that isn’t above-average but plays up simply by virtue of its existence low in the zone, too. Huffman reminds me of a poor man’s Thomas Eshelman; throw strikes, limit free passes, completely avoid any self-created mistakes, and you look up six innings later with Huffman’s team firmly in the game. There’s nothing flashy about that, but every good ball club could use an arm or two like Huffman on the roster to eat innings and be efficient with his stuff every fifth day.
Chris Huffman Scouting Report — Projection
The easy long-term move would be to look at Chris Huffman and assume now that he’s reached the high minors, he’ll eventually settle into an organizational depth role with a fringy shot at reaching the big leagues as an up-and-down long reliever. And yeah, that’s probably what will happen—especially considering the San Diego Padres are currently enjoying an embarrassment of riches in young, projectable impact arms—but Huffman has been exceeding expectations and assumptions for several years now, and I’m not sure he’ll stop just because he’s in the high minors. He’s valuable in a contextual sense, as he’s certainly not an ace and at best should project into a fifth starter type of arm in the big leagues. But, if he can prove that his strike-throwing stuff will continue to play in Double-A and beyond, there’s no reason he shouldn’t come across an opportunity or two in San Diego one day.
There’s something to like about overachieving pitchers who get by on guile and cunning in the absence of plus stuff, and Chris Huffman has that going for him in spades. Over the next several seasons, the San Diego Padres are soon going to bring up several very highly touted pitching prospects; while Huffman will fall outside that group from the standpoint of greater media attention and praise, he could be extremely valuable in his own right as a swingman long reliever/emergency starter who can help save the rest of a pitching staff by working multiple, efficient innings when called upon out of the ‘pen. It’s not a sexy future, but one that might just get Chris Huffman to The Show.