I think of the Padres as being built on more of an sort-of ad hoc basis, through trades and free agent signings more than high draft picks, all backed by a decision to loosen the purse strings the last couple of years. But that's just a vague impression. Since having no first-round draft pick in 2015, they have picked 8th/24th/5th (three picks), 3rd, 7th, 6th and 8th, and I don't see any of their first-round picks on the 25-man roster yet. (C.J. Abrams is in the system, and there are probably others.)
I will take a closer look when I get a chance.
That seems like a good reason to try Lopez as a reliever this season. When Means, Zimmermann, Kremer, Akin and Lowther are all healthy the O's could put Lopez in the pen and see how he does.
With what we have seen so far I don't think the O's protect him this off season if he does not improve. Some pitchers improve when the game is on the line. Lopez does not seem to raise to the occasion as often as he needs to.
I think some of Lopez’s recent struggles early on may have to do with the constant talk about his struggles in the 5th. Early on he seemed to come blazing out to start the game but as it got later on his stuff decreased as it look like he was tired. This can easily make a younger pitchers (Lopez more experience then age) to possibly throttle back some to get deeper in games as they would want to go in the 6th or 7th. There is no way I would let Lopez and his arm go without giving he bullpen opportunities first. Andrew Miller was this type of pitcher as a starter, great fastball and stuff, but just was not a good starter. When he went to the pen everything changed the same with Britton. I think every team tries to keep certain guys in the rotation if they have 3 or 4 pitches and they just don’t succeed as a starter but wait to long to try them in the pen. After about 200-300 or so inning in the majors and you not seeing improvements as a starter try him the the pen stop trying to put a circle into a square peg.