San Diego Padres 40-man roster profile: Chris Paddack
Chris Paddack took a step back for the Padres in 2020. Can he bounce back?
In 2016, the San Diego Padres traded veteran pitcher Fernando Rodney to the Miami Marlins in exchange for right-handed pitching prospect Chris Paddack. By 2019, Paddack had established himself as a top 50 prospect, according to MLB.com and Baseball Prospectus.
Paddack began the 2019 season in the Padres’ starting rotation and had a great rookie campaign. He was a little better in the first half than in the second half, but overall he made 26 starts and posted a solid 3.33 ERA in 140 2/3 innings. He struck out more than a batter an inning and only walked two batters per nine innings. It looked like he had a bright future ahead.
He still very well may, but the pandemic-shortened 2020 season was a bit of a disappointment for the 24-year-old. This past season, he made 12 starts, lasting 59 innings and posting a 4.73 ERA. That includes two starts over a three-game span in August in which he gave up six runs each game. He then had a rough NL Wild Card Game 1 against the St. Louis Cardinals in which he gave up six runs in just 2 1/3 innings.
According to FanGraphs, neither Paddack’s pitch selection nor his velocity were radically different in 2020 from 2019. He did introduce a cutter that he used 3.5% of the time; changeup use was slightly up while curveball use was slightly down. And fastball and curveball velocity were actually slightly up. In addition to all this, Paddack’s walk rate went down from 2019.
So what happened? Strikeouts were down by almost a full batter per nine innings, so batters were putting the ball in play more. And when they did, they were finding more green space: BABIP was a big problem, as that skyrocketed from .237 in 2019 to .289 in 2020. While exit velocity was up overall, the percentage of balls hit at a hard rate actually went down (medium rate went way up), suggesting that hitters might have gotten a little lucky against Paddack in 2020.
Another interesting quirk: Ground ball percentage was way up, while fly ball percentage was way down, yet the home run per fly ball rate soared from 14.6% in 2019 to 25% in 2020.
Can Paddack turn things around in 2021? Hopefully, 2020 was a good learning experience for him and he’ll be able to get more swings and misses and turn more batted balls into outs in 2021.