Padres: All eyes on Chris Paddack’s curveball on Opening Day

Chris Paddack takes the mound for the Padres on Opening Night, and getting guys out with his curveball will be important.

The Padres will open the 2020 season on Friday night, acclimating to baseball being played in a pandemic. Watching the Giants and Dodgers last night, it was strange not having fans in the stands. But it’s something we’ll all adapt too, and at least baseball is being played.

On Friday, Chris Paddack takes the ball for the Friars, and he’ll look to build off a promising rookie year, posting a 3.33 ERA in 26 starts. The 24-year-old relied heavily on his fastball last year, throwing it 61.1 percent of the time and yielding a .204 batting average.

Paddack complemented his primary pitch with a changeup that produced a remarkable .194 average and a curveball that remains a work in progress. Batters were able to square Paddack’s curveball for a .267 average and a .444 slugging percentage.

His curveball ranked in the 10th percentile for spin rate – at 2145 RPM – which is well below the elite pitchers in the game that regularly sit in the high 2000s. Paddack threw the pitch just 10.4 percent of the time, yielding only eight strikeouts.

If he wants sustained success in the majors, he’ll need his curveball to be elite this season.

“I think that pitch is ready, and I mean that now,” Paddack said, via The Athletic. “It’s not just a show-me pitch. It’s going to get guys out this year.”

The Padres ace will likely need to develop a fourth pitch within the next couple of years, but having a highly-effective curveball that keeps hitters off-balance is critical for his success as well as the Padres.