Those who closely followed the Padres organization from Petco Park down to the Class-A Short Season Tri-City Dust Devils knew who Chris Paddack was before, but now everyone does.
On June 30, 2016, San Diego Padres General Manager A.J. Preller made a trade that, at the time, went mostly unheralded. Some of the long-time Padres fans groaned at the notion of yet again trading an All-Star-level closer for an unknown prospect. Closer Fernando Rodney had only pitched for the Padres for 28 games, with 17 saves and he was already being shipped out. Most bemoaned the motion because he had a 0.00 ERA and an ungodly 1279 ERA+ (yes, read that twice if you need to). Preller shipped off his nearly-perfect closer to the Miami Marlins for a Single-A pitcher who had just 74 professional innings under his belt.
That pitcher was Chris Paddack. Paddack, unfortunately, had to have Tommy John surgery almost immediately after coming to the Padres organization, just three starts in at Single-A Fort Wayne. He would not pitch again until 2018, when he dominated two levels, with a 2.24 ERA in 10 starts in High-A Lake Elsinore and a microscopic 1.91 ERA in seven starts in Double-A.
Paddack did not need Triple-A, as he earned a spot in the Opening Day rotation this season after a very strong spring. In every start he has made in 2019, he has validated Preller’s trade for him as well as the decision to give him a roster spot, regardless of service time concerns. His changeup was scored as perhaps the best in the minor leagues and with a scary fastball and now a work-in-progress curveball, Paddack has evolved into potentially a dominant starting pitcher.
Then, on Monday night against the Mets, it was brought to a whole new level. Building up to this start, words had been exchanged between Paddack and New York Mets’ star rookie Pete Alonso. Paddack seemed a bit peeved that Alonso won Rookie of the Month over Paddack, both were very deserving. This exchange caught the attention of the national media, since, well, it involved a team from New York. Everyone from MLB Network to the New York media outlets to other MLB platforms talked about this budding rivalry between these two talented rookies.
“He’s a great player, no doubt,” Paddack said of Alonso. “Does he deserve (the Rookie of the Month honor)? Absolutely. But I’m coming for him. We’ll see Monday who the top dog is. That’s something I’m looking forward to, for sure.” –From Dennis Lin’s article on The Athletic
It’s one thing to talk the talk, anyone and everyone can do that. When the talking turns into executing is when it gets special. Paddack said he was coming for Alonso and, with the whole baseball world watching, he did just that. Twice.
"I'm coming for him."#Padres rookie sensation Chris Paddack was talking a big game before his matchup with #Mets rookie slugger Pete Alonso tonight, and he backed it up, striking him out on 4 ? pitches, with strike 3 being the fastest pitch he's thrown in #MLB so far. pic.twitter.com/KBIovqqUdV
— MLB Pipeline (@MLBPipeline) May 7, 2019
Paddack put some extra sauce behind some of those pitches to Alonso, causing him to flail helplessly at high heat. Paddack usually sits around 93-95 MPH with his fastball, but on Monday night, it touched 97-98. Alonso ended the night 0-for-2 with two strikeouts against Paddack and 0-for-4 with three punch-outs overall.
Pete Alonso told the NY Times that he was frustrated after not making Paddack pay for his comments.
“It was going to be a good matchup, and I didn’t answer the bell…I had a couple guys on base when I was up, and I didn’t do the job tonight. It’s not good. It’s not a good feeling. It’s a really tough pill to swallow.”
Paddack has arrived. He talked the talked and emphatically backed it up. He was the talk of the entire baseball world late Monday night into Tuesday morning with most of the national baseball pundits chiming in.
If you don't recognize the name yet, it's time to learn it.
— FOX Sports: MLB (@MLBONFOX) May 7, 2019
Chris Paddack's 11Ks from Last Night (in under 20 seconds). ? pic.twitter.com/1Kb4cZCuHn
— Rob Friedman (@PitchingNinja) May 7, 2019
This Chris Paddack looks as good as advertised. Very nasty.
— Mike Francesa (@MikeFrancesa) May 7, 2019
#Padres rookie Chris Paddack has 46 strikeouts to just 29 baserunners allowed through seven games this season.
No pitcher in baseball history has had as many strikeouts and as few baserunners allowed through their first seven career games.
— Ryan M. Spaeder (@theaceofspaeder) May 7, 2019
Chris Paddack vs. Pete Alonso being a thing in early May is exactly the sort of thing that’s great for baseball. Two stars in the making going head-to-head with at-bats that feel big. Paddack wins Round 1. He’s got phenomenal stuff and moxie to match. Love watching him pitch.
— Jeff Passan (@JeffPassan) May 7, 2019
Welcome to "Chris Paddack Day" here on baseball twitter dot com
Here's his dominant performance from last night to get your day started.pic.twitter.com/MJnWpBPvbU
— Cespedes Family BBQ (@CespedesBBQ) May 7, 2019
— Josh Macri (@Josh_Macri) May 7, 2019
Chris Paddack is probably the frontrunner for NL ROY as of today, but his innings count will inevitably become a conversation, as it was with Stephen Strasburg. Paddack's pro ball innings since being drafted.
2015 45 1/3
2016 42 1/3
2017 Missed the season
2019 40 2/3
— Buster Olney (@Buster_ESPN) May 7, 2019
Chris Paddack is currently leading all of Major League Baseball in WHIP (0.69) and is second in the National League in FIP (2.33) and WAR (1.4).
In 2017, he was ranked as the Padres’ 27th-best prospect before missing the season with surgery. In 2018, he rose up to the fifth-best prospect in the organization and the 35th overall prospect in baseball. He started this season ranked 31st in MLB Pipeline’s Top 100 overall prospects.
The national media has taken notice. Paddack has the mental makeup and talent to become a true ace in this league. Those who closely followed Paddack’s brief, meteoric rise through his minor league career with the Padres knew that this day was inevitable. From his flowing mane to his Texan, Old West attitude in addition to his downright Not Safe For Work stuff, it was inevitable that the nation would come to know and love…or hate, Chris Paddack.