Heading into 2021, emotions are running high for San Diego Padres fans. The team is coming off its first postseason appearance since 2006 and has its deepest roster, maybe ever.
Those very emotions seem to have the fanbase divided, though, when it comes to Chris Paddack. Seriously, if you’re on Padres Twitter and scroll your feed, you can see one fan saying he’s overrated followed promptly by one who seems to think he could evolve into a Cy Young candidate.
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So which is it? We know the team boasts a ludicrous amount of pitching depth after bringing in the likes of Blake Snell, Yu Darvish and Joe Musgrove this winter. Add that trio to the likes of 2020 NL Cy Young finalist Dinelson Lamet, a crop of young studs on the brink of the bigs and Paddack and you’re set… right?
We’d all like to think so. But at the back end of the rotation, there seems to be a lot of questions about Paddack and what he’ll be in 2021. He wasn’t the same pitcher last year as he was in 2019. I don’t need to tell you that. In virtually every metric, he trended in the wrong direction, finishing the year with a 5.02 FIP in a dozen outings.
His stuff wasn’t as good – and hitters pounced.
"His fastball didn’t have the ride it did a year earlier. The change-up was nearly as effective as it was a year earlier, but without the same fastball and enough improvement on a work-in progress curve (.583 opponent slugging) or a new cutter (1.167 opponent slugging) hitters were able to tee off on Paddack’s fastball (.658 slugging, up, from .391 a year ago)."
Can Chris Paddack deliver for the Padres this year?
A ton of guys weren’t up to their usual standards last year. At just 25 years old, though, San Diego is hoping Paddack can recapture what brought such high praise to his doorstep two years ago. With a bolstered supporting staff around him, there’s no pressure – at least not the pressure to be an ace in your early 20s – which could help him get back into a groove on the mound.
Most of the preseason projections seem to place him firmly as a back-of-the-rotation presence, with an earned run average hovering around 4.00. Of course, that’s not what Padres fans are longing to – they want to see him develop an arsenal of pitches to compliment his near-unhittable change-up.
Simply put, he has to miss more bats this year. He was getting hit – and hit hard – with far too much regularity last year. He ranked in the bottom 10 percent of the league in average exit velocity, bottom five percent in hard hit rate and bottom 11 percent in barrel percentage. That’s not going to cut it – especially with the fan base and organization casting their eyes on October before the season’s even begun.