Chris Paddack Should Start for the Padres on Opening Day

Feb 26, 2019; Phoenix, AZ, USA; San Diego Padres pitcher Chris Paddack against the Milwaukee Brewers during a spring training game at Maryvale Baseball Park. Mandatory Credit: Mark J. Rebilas-USA TODAY Sports

Credit:: MiLB

Chris Paddack has wowed many, including his catcher, Austin Hedges, in his first two outings this Spring Training. He should be in the running for being named the San Diego Padres’ Opening Day starting pitcher.

Padres’ prospect Chris Paddack has created a buzz after just two starts in spring training.

He has drawn praise from social media pitching expert accounts, as well as his coaches and his catcher, Austin Hedges, had perhaps the highest praise anyone could give him. “I’m probably not allowed to say what I want to say, because it would be too persuasive of what I would like to see on March 28” Hedges told The Athletic’s, Dennis Lin. He went on to say “It was the easiest game to catch of all time.”

Austin Hedges is widely considered one of the best defensive catchers in the game and would know a good pitcher when he sees one.

Paddack, in two outings, has thrown 4.2 innings and allowed two earned runs while striking out seven. Among the hitters he has struck out, Shin-Soo Choo (2018 All-Star), Joey Gallo (81 home runs in last two MLB seasons), Orlando Arcia (1,130 MLB plate appearances), Jesus Aguilar (35 HR and All-Star in 2018), and Yasmani Grandal (former All-Star, career 115 OPS+).

The Padres rotation is not expected to be very good, in fact, I wrote an article earlier pointing out it is projected to be 26th out of 30 teams in baseball in 2019.

FanGraphs’ Steamer projections have Paddack pitching 92 innings with a 3.51 ERA and 1.8 WAR. Last season, among Padres pitchers who threw at least 90 innings, that would have been the best WAR on the team. Robbie Erlin posted a 1.7 WAR and the best regular starter, Joey Lucchesi, posted a 1.1 WAR.

In essence, Paddack would have been the best starter on the team last year by over half of a win based on his projections for this coming season.

Chris Paddack’s 2019 projection vs. 2018 starting WAR
Chris Paddack 1.8
Robbie Erlin 1.7
Joey Lucchesi 1.1
Eric Lauer 0.8
Tyson Ross 0.7
Clayton Richard 0.7

If you bump up Paddack’s innings total to 150, which is a reasonable innings limit for the rookie, that WAR becomes 2.9. The Padres have not had a starting pitcher with that high of a WAR since 2015 when Tyson Ross totaled that much.

Now, this is quite the reaction after just two spring training starts, perhaps even an overreaction, but what better options do the Padres have? Joey Lucchesi might be the only strong competition unless something drastic happens in the remaining three weeks of spring.

Starting on Opening Day is more ceremonial than anything else. Usually, the best starting pitcher on the roster starts and that very well could describe Paddack. To the best of my research, the Padres have never started a rookie on Opening Day in franchise history. Paddack would be the first, which means he will likely need to continue to separate himself from the pack and make it obvious.

Despite all this, there is the argument of service time manipulation. It’s easier for teams to do that with pitchers than position players. Pitchers can make the Opening Day roster and still not accrue a year of service time. Whether it’s sending them to the injured list or having them miss a start here and there and make rehab starts down in Triple-A, there are much more opportunities for teams to manipulate it midseason.

The Padres are riding a wave of momentum with the signing of Manny Machado and the trickling in of that top-ranked farm system. The Padres would gain even more momentum by giving the Opening Day nod to Chris Paddack. Opening Day is officially sold out, why not give the fans a little extra excitement on one of the best days of the year?

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Nick Lee
Native of Escondido, CA. Lived in San Diego area for 20 years. Padres fan since childhood (mid-90s). I have been writing since 2014. I currently live near Seattle, WA and am married to a Seattle sports girl. I wore #19 on my high school baseball team for Tony Gwynn. I am a stats and sports history nerd. I attended BYU on the Idaho campus. I also love Star Wars.
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3 years ago

Yikes Nick, yep, over reaction for sure, as you feared. Deferring service time and staying the course with his development trump all other arguments especially the one referencing momentum. Lucchesi earned it based on last year’s body of work, assuming he stays consistent in the Spring.

Greg W
Greg W
3 years ago

I’m wondering…what is a “social media pitching expert”? Talk about making something up in writing an article. Besides this, I agree with a lot of what was said in regard to how darn good Paddack might be! He’s going to surprise other teams. The key with any young pitcher is continuing to develop and evolve after other teams have film on you.

Robert Griswold
Robert Griswold
3 years ago

Nick, I enjoy your articles. I am not sure about your comment that it is easier to avoid a year of service time for a pitcher. My understanding is that if the player is on the 25-man roster or on injured reserved during the regular season, that counts as major league service time. So, only optioning the player to the minors would stop the major league “service time” clock from ticking towards the required 172 days in a given regular season for a full year of service time. Thus, unless I am wrong, I don’t see any difference between pitchers… Read more »

Robert Griswold
Robert Griswold
3 years ago

Correction – the Padres broadcast is on The Fan 97.3 FM. Sorry.

3 years ago

Wrong…Lucchesi should start opening day. Paddack has pitched 5 or 6 innings this spring. Lucchesi deserves it due to last year and this

3 years ago

Nick, I love your stuff, but I think you might be reaching here…let’s not freak out a rookie pitcher by having him be the Opening Day starter in his MLB debut…add to that a sell out and all the media attention MACHADO is going to bring?

I agree starting your best pitcher on Opening Day is traditional, but what does this guy do for an encore?

Pitching is mental…let’s not make this guy “mental” in his first game…

Go Pads!!

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