What to expect in 2020
I think expecting him to return to his 2015 form when he was a Cy Young contender is unreasonable.
But I do expect him to be a top of the rotation pitcher if he can stay healthy and eat some innings.
FanGraphs ZiPS projections have Richards posting a 3.99 ERA in just 56.3 innings with 57 strikeouts. Obviously those projections are based on his short stints in the past few seasons.
We’re thinking optimistically here in January and wondering what can happen if he stays healthy for a full season, which I know, hasn’t happened in almost five years.
Here is what I think Richards is capable of in 2020 with the Padres: 175 innings, 3.45 ERA, 160 strikeouts, and 2.5 WAR.
That would make him a fringe top of the rotation starter. But even that would be good enough to make the Padres a legitimate threat in the NL West and for a Wild Card spot.
If you pair that production with Paddack, who will likely have a similar line, that gives you two solid guys atop the rotation.
And then you just hope either Lamet takes a step forward or Gore comes up and is an instant success.
But there is a chance Richards is even better than I’m predicting. It wouldn’t be too shocking to see him finish with an ERA between 3 and 3.30.
However, it would be shocking to see him stay healthy enough to throw 170-plus innings.
This is what San Diego paid him for, though, to lead a young rotation in a year they hope to turn everything around for the future. Richards staying healthy and pitching like he’s capable will go a long way towards making that happen.