Starting the 2020 season as a 24-year-old, Paddack will have the limitations removed and should be allowed to assume the ace status that all Padres fans hope he is capable of accomplishing.
Finishing 2019 with a 9-7 record and 3.33 ERA, he was the only starter with a WHIP below 1.0 (0.981) in 140.3 innings pitched and the only one with a winning season.
Owning a 1-2 combo of a 95 MPH or above active fastball and a knee-buckling changeup, Paddack must work to improve his curveball to become the ace he wants to be. I believe in this guy and hope to spend next season enjoying a breakout year for him.
He will benefit from having had a season in the majors behind him so that he knows how to prepare for the rigors of a full big-league grind.
If attitude, enthusiasm, or passion count towards success, Paddack has a leg up on most.
Of the returning Padres of 2018, Lucchesi had the best 2019 in the starting staff. Going 10-10 with a 4.18 ERA, he pitched 163.2 innings and was the most consistent of the returning starters.
The famous churve has the potential to keep him in the rotation going forward if he can continue to gain consistency and develop his fastball and slider. He projects toward the back of a championship rotation, a 4 or 5.
He was the first starter of the 2016 draft class to reach the majors and was probably rushed before he was really ready. There is a strong chance that he will come into his own in 2020 and benefit from being surrounded by more consistency in the rotation as well as mentoring from some veteran pitchers ahead of him should the team add an ace and some depth.
Also returning from Tommy John surgery, Lamet rejoined the rotation in July and was limited to a pitch count per start as well as not allowed to pitch too many stressful innings. Once considered an ace in the making as a rookie in 2018, Lamet spent his age 26 season trying to get back to where he was before his injury.
Possessing 12.9 strikeouts per 9 innings record in his 73 innings pitched for the Padres in 2019, Lamet has a live right arm with upper 90’s fastball and two sliders that he continues to work on.
To attain anything other than mid-rotation success he must refine his two sliders and throw his curveball more consistently.
The 31-year-old veteran signed with the Padres last offseason while recovering from Tommy John surgery (see the pattern here?). He signed a two-year contract and was able to rehab his way back onto the field for 8 innings at the end of the 2019 season.
He will be on an innings and workload limit next season that won’t be as strict as that suffered by Chris Paddack.
As a veteran who has pitched several seasons with the Angels, Richards tried to avoid TJ surgery after suffering an elbow injury in the 2015 season.
Going the rehab route, he has not pitched more than 76 innings since sustaining the injury. He finally succumbed to the inevitable, having surgery in 2018 and signing as a free agent with the Padres.
Richards had ace stuff prior to his injury and can be a useful rotation piece for the Padres in 2020, but his reliability and durability can legitimately be questioned.
Even while pitching hurt, Richards has averaged a 3.15 ERA over the past five active seasons.
Of the other starters on the Padres roster, Eric Lauer, Cal Quantrill and possibly Matt Strahm will get a shot to prove themselves in spring training or could be used as trade chips during the offseason.
None of them were able to prove themselves serious candidates for the 2020 rotation during the 2019 season.