The Padres are expecting big things from Chris Paddack this season, but just how much improvement is expected in 2020?
Chris Paddack will be “unleashed” after his workload was meticulously monitored last season due to recently undergoing Tommy John surgery. However, in 2020, the kid gloves will come off, and Paddack will work to his full capacity, which should be a scary thought for the National League.
Just how high can Paddack soar?
It’s fair to expect him to take another step forward, given that he has only just over 140 innings of major league experience. Despite some bumps in the road in an otherwise solid rookie campaign, Paddack finished strong with a 0.55 ERA in his last three starts.
The 24-year-old Texan finished the season with 140 2/3 innings, a 3.33 ERA and 127 ERA+.
Let’s find a possible comparison to Paddack’s rookie year and see how much that player grew in their sophomore season.
Jack Flaherty of the St. Louis Cardinals had a very comparable first season to Paddack’s. In his official rookie season of 2018, Flaherty logged 151 innings with a 3.34 ERA and 116 ERA+., an almost identical ERA to Paddack’s rookie campaign along with a slightly worse ERA+. An even better comparison is that both Paddack and Flaherty posted a 2.6 WAR in their rookie seasons.
|2019 Chris Paddack||140.2||3.33||127||2.6||3.95||9.8|
|2018 Jack Flaherty||151||3.34||116||2.6||3.86||10.9|
Flaherty finished fifth in N.L. Rookie of the Year voting and many expected even better for him in year two with the Red Birds.
Flaherty delivered on that expectation. The 24-year-old L.A. native bumped his workload up to 196 1/3 innings. A number many would love Paddack to reach in 2020. The St. Louis ace boosted his numbers across the board with a 2.75 ERA, 155 ERA+, and 5.9 WAR, more than doubling his WAR total from his rookie season, which was good enough for 8th-best in the league among pitchers, slightly better than Max Scherzer.
He did not get selected to the All-Star team because he really hit his stride in the second half of the season, where it counts most. His other-worldly 0.91 ERA in 15 starts in the second half set the team ablaze for a playoff push. The second-year hurler led the Cardinals’ pitching staff to an N.L. Central Division title and berth in the National League Championship Series.
A similar jump can happen to Chris Paddack.
This is not to say Paddack will become an ace of a playoff staff, but statically, he could attain those kinds of numbers. 2.6 WAR through 140 innings divides into about one WAR per 53 innings. It’s not unrealistic to think that had Paddack been able to pitch an extra 50 innings last season, his WAR would have approached four.
Now the young right-hander is a year wiser, healthier, and stronger. Gone are the rookie jitters, and he does not have to worry about an innings limit. All signs point to an improvement in his 2019 numbers.
Flaherty should be in contention for the Cy Young this season, and Paddack could be on the same trajectory, especially with him honing in a third pitch, the curveball.
It’s impossible to predict precisely what will happen to Paddack in 2020. FanGraphs’ ZiPS projections see a similar season for Paddack to his rookie year, with a 3.68 ERA in 159 innings with a 2.6 fWAR. If the Padres have their way, he will pitch more innings than that, thus boosting his numbers.
Paddack is one of the more exciting reasons to tune in to Padres baseball in the 2020 season. There is no limit to heights he can reach as long as he stays healthy. He can stamp himself as a true ace.