Paddack displays good command of three pitches: a darting 92-97 mph FASTBALL with late riding life, commanding it to all four quadrants of the strike zone. He has a promising 73-76 mph CURVEBALL with he rarely uses because it is only a 40 grade pitch. And his best pitch, an 83-84 mph 70 grade CHANGEUP (on the 20-80 scouting scale).
He can cut, run, or sink his devastating changeup at will for swings-and-misses. He sells it with identical arm speed before it falls off the table with late depth at the bottom of the strike zone, getting both swings and misses and called strikes on both sides of the plate.
The list of successful big league righthanders without a breaking ball is short. Paddack will debut in 2019 and try to show he’s an exception. (Spring, 2019)
2019 Season Pitch Usage: 4-seam Fastball: 61.2% of the time; Change 28.4%; and Curve 10.4% of the time. Average velocity: 4-seam 94.2 mph, Change 84.8, and Curve 76.4 mph.
2020 Season Pitch Usage: 4-seam Fastball: 57.9% of the time; Change 31.4%; Curve 7.3%; and Cutter 3.4% of the time. Average velocity: 4-seam 94.4 mph, Change 84.2, and Curve 77.2, and Cutter 88.3 mph.
Chris gets some Michael Wacha comps, because of his superb changeup and connection to Texas A&M.
"He pitches with his fastball—he throws a ton of strikes—and his changeup is a good pitch,” Padres GM A.J. Preller said in 2016. “His (mid-70s) breaking ball continues to develop.”
After the Padres acquired Paddack from the Marlins (for Fernando Rodney) he made just three starts in the organization before he tore his ulnar collateral ligament at low Class A Fort Wayne.
During his layoff, Paddack committed himself to improving a fringy curveball, putting on 15-25 pounds of muscle and eliminating the “inverted W” from his delivery to relieve stress on his elbow.
The early returns saw his fastball ticking up to 96 mph and his budding 12-to-6 curveball touching 78 mph when he snaps one off just right. Meanwhile, his Vulcan changeup—an 82-83 mph offering with downward tumble and run—is as devastating as ever.
“The past 22 months in Arizona is something I’ll never forget,” Paddack said. “Looking back on it, I’m glad I got hurt when I did. I’ve learned so much about myself, about the game. I’m stronger. I know my body. I’m more mature.
“I think I’m better now than I was before.” (Jeff Sanders - San Diego Union Tribune - 7/13/2018)
2018 Season: Paddack returned from Tommy John surgery and showed 22 months away from pitching didn’t have any negative effect on his stuff. He ranked first in WHIP (0.90), second in strikeouts (83), third in ERA (2.24) and fourth in opponent average (.224) during his time in the Cal League before being promoted to Double-A. His 83-to-4 strikeout-to-walk ratio was especially eye-popping.
October 2018 : Paddack was named the MLB Pipeline Pitching Prospect of the Year for the Padres.
In January 2019, Paddack was named the prospect with the "Best Change-Up" and "Best Control" by MLB Pipeline.
Paddack works in the low 90s with his fastball and has a below-average curveball, yet he thrives because he possesses a dastardly changeup that tumbles at the plate after he sells it with near-perfect arm speed. After missing 2017 following Tommy John surgery, he returned in 2018 and posted a 2.10 ERA with a 0.82 WHIP that would have led the Minors if he had enough innings to qualify.
March 13, 2019: Paddack got Taylor Ward to swing through a 1-2 curveball to end the first. It was arguably the most promising development of the night. Paddack already has an excellent fastball, an elite changeup and pinpoint command. But most evaluators believe he'll need to hone a third pitch to ensure sustained success.
"I told myself going into the offseason that for me to be able to break with this team and for me to compete at the big league level, I need a third pitch," Paddack said.
Paddack mixed his curveball often, as he cruised through the next three innings. After striking out two in the first, he whiffed two more in the second, and he needed only nine pitches—all strikes—to get through the third.
The 23-year-old faced an Angels lineup loaded with big league hitters. He allowed one run over four innings while striking out six, bringing his Cactus League ERA to 2.13 ERA and his strikeout rate to 37 percent. (AJ Cassavell - MLB.com - March 13, 2019)
- March 31, 2019: Chris arrived at Petco Park in a black suit with a black shirt. To go along with the theme, he rocked dark shades and a black cowboy hat, but he punctuated the outfit with a flashy pink tie. It was an ensemble worthy of Paddack’s long-anticipated big league debut. The hype surrounding his first career start was enormous in San Diego.
Somehow, he managed to live up to it—both the hype and the getup. Paddack was excellent over five innings in a 3-1 victory over the Giants, allowing just one run on two hits while striking out seven. He was lifted for a pinch-hitter in the fifth after 79 pitches. “It was a special moment,” Paddack said. “I’ve worked my whole life for this.”
Paddack retired each of the first 10 hitters he faced, including six via strikeout. Asked if he could have envisioned such a strong start, Paddack went a bit further. “I had envisioned retiring the first 27,” he said.
Paddack clarified the comment so as to avoid coming across as arrogant. It’s just the honest mindset he takes into every start. Still, the way he pitched early in the game, it seemed like a distinct possibility. (Cassavell - mlb.com - 3/31/19)
April 24, 2019: Chris arrived at Petco Park feeling slightly under the weather. You'd never have been able to tell. Not by the way Paddack strolled into the Padres' clubhouse three hours before first pitch—rocking a black paisley suit with a cowboy hat, his focus already laser sharp. Not by the way Paddack shut down the Mariners over seven brilliant innings of one-hit ball—dotting corners with fastballs and getting ugly chases with changeups.
“He reached down and the competition took over him,” said Padres manager Andy Green.
Paddack struck out 9 Mariners and retired the last 19 he faced in the Padres’ 1-0 win. He ad tossed and turned all night and woke up sweating and achy. Team doctors examined him in the morning, noting no fever. But Paddack needed extra fluids during the game.
“I just tried not to let that affect me,” Paddack said.
Through five big league starts, Paddack certainly looks like the real deal. He got one run of support via Ian Kinsler’s 250th career homer in the second inning, and that was enough for the Padres’ rookie starter to outduel six-time All-Star Felix Hernandez.
“As a young kid, you know he has the name ‘The King’ for a reason,” Paddack said. “Going into this game, I told myself, this is a new generation. Let me show the world: ‘Why can't I beat him?’ That was pretty cool.”
Paddack allowed only three baserunners, all in the first inning. He began the day with an uncharacteristic four-pitch walk. Knowing Paddack felt ill, Green grew worried. The first three fastballs Paddack threw clocked in at 91 mph. The fourth was 90. They were four of the five slowest fastballs Paddack has thrown all year. Asked for what his thoughts were at that time, Green was succinct.
“Uh-oh,” he said.
But Paddack bounced back quickly. After loading the bases, he ended the frame by getting Dee Gordon to flail at a changeup off the outside corner. Then he retired the next 18 Mariners, before he was removed after 83 pitches and a career-high seven innings.
“We got out of it,” Paddack said. “And then we were cruising.”
Paddack lowered his ERA to 1.67. In five starts, he’s struck out 30 hitters and walked only eight. He would be an early favorite for the Rookie of the Year, except for his shortstop, Fernando Tatis Jr.
Paddack will have his innings monitored closely this season after throwing only 90 last year in the Minors. He’s yet to eclipse the 90-pitch mark in any of his five Major League starts. But when he’s on the mound, Paddack sure seems unflappable. (AJ Cassavell - MLB.com - April 24, 2019)
- July 17, 2019: Paddack then worked 7.2 innings, striking out eight and allowing just a run and a hit. He carried a perfect game into the sixth, when shortstop Fernando Tatis Jr. threw high to first base on a Cesar Puello chopper. Later in the frame, Paddack surrendered his only walk.
Otherwise, he was borderline untouchable. Paddack threw 94 pitches, and Marlins hitters had nearly as many swinging strikes (15) as balls in play (16). His fastball command was pinpoint, and he used the pitch 60 percent of the time to set up his changeup—one of the game’s most dominant put-away pitches.
“He was really good today,” Castro said. “He was painting every fastball he threw.”
Paddack talks about his changeup: “A lot of the credit for my changeup goes to Calvin Schiraldi. When I was in high school, I got the opportunity to pitch for him in summer ball. We sat down and talked grips, trying to decide what fits me best. We kept working it and working it. It took about six months to develop. This was when I was 16 or 17 years old.
“He showed me a grip he’d used. It’s actually pretty unique. It’s kind of like a Vulcan changeup. It has split-finger action, in that it kind of falls off the table. The difference between mine and [Logan Allen’s] is that for me, these two fingers aren’t on the ball.
“I started realizing how good of a pitch it was when coaches and scouts would say, ‘Hey man, your changeup is really good.’ When you’re a 17-year-old kid, you don’t really know what you have in the bag until other people start noticing, and giving you compliments. Yeah, man, I just continued to stick with the plan and throw it with intent.
“I wouldn’t say that I choke the ball. If I choked it, the spin would be sideways and the hitter could pick it up. I’m a little looser with the grip, because I think that helps me locate it easier. I’m also trying to get that backspin rotation to follow my fastball command. Personally, I think the changeup is the hardest pitch to hit in baseball.” (David Laurila - FANGRAPHS - February 25, 2019)
Sept 11, 2019: Paddack looks as sharp as he ever has. The Padres rookie blanked the Cubs for six innings in a win, capping a three-start stretch that saw him post a 0.49 ERA with 23 strikeouts over 18 innings.
Paddack started the year strong. He's finishing it stronger. So what's next for the rookie, who has had his workload strictly monitored in his first big league season? Here's a look at the timetable.
September 14, 2019: Paddack will face the Brewers in Milwaukee, manager Andy Green confirmed. After that, it's anyone's guess.
The Padres didn't give Paddack a set innings limit this season. Instead, they began meeting with him between starts in mid-August to assess how he felt and the progress he'd made while determining a short-term plan.
Paddack's 135.2 innings this season are a 50 percent increase over his total from a season ago in the Minors when he was returning from Tommy John surgery. But the Padres believe there’s a benefit to giving him at least one more start.
"He's still in line with the targets we've had from the beginning of the year," Green said. "We're still confident he's strong and feels good. We're comfortable getting him back on the mound and pitching in a road environment against a playoff-type club."
Strangely enough, Paddack's status might play a crucial role in the NL Wild Card race. By beating the Cubs, Paddack dropped them into a tie with the Brewers for the second spot.
"They're not going to get a Wild Card run if we can't," Paddack said after his start. Presumably, he will carry the same chip on his shoulder into Milwaukee.
Paddack has spent time peppering veterans about their offseason throwing programs. They've reinforced the importance of time off before building back up to full strength.
"I struggle telling myself that sometimes less is more," Paddack said. "But that's what I need."
Paddack acknowledged the temptation to overprepare. But with a long season ahead, he'll need to pace himself.
It's different than Paddack's 2018-19 mindset, when he entered Spring Training fully geared up to win a starting job.
"This year, I wanted to be all-go at the start of Spring Training, because I wanted a spot," Paddack said. "This time, it's, 'Hey, you still have spring. There's still time to build.'"
Paddack will take a month off from throwing before resuming his program sometime in November—similar to the progression he took last season but slightly less strenuous, he says.
In 2020, the leash is off. If Paddack was to again increase his workload by 50 percent, that would put him over 200 frames.
The Padres played this season with the goal of Paddack being full-go in 2020. They appear to have accomplished that objective.
"Next year will be about turning him loose," Green said.
That means no more 90-pitch limits. Pitching coach Darren Balsley believes that will free Paddack up to be himself.
"You always want a sense of urgency in a starting pitcher, but when he starts, he knows he has 90 pitches to get it done," Balsley said. “To have the freedom to make pitches and not worry about his pitch count, it might actually help him."
Green noted that the toughest adjustment for Paddack will be pitching on normal four days' rest after a full season of going without fewer than five days. (The Padres employed that strategy as a means of keeping Paddack on the mound into mid-September.)
But Green doesn't foresee any issues with Paddack adjusting to a new in-game workload. That means no more early hooks for Paddack. There's a chance he could develop into a full-blown workhorse in 2020.
"I haven't seen anything in him that tells me he's tiring or incapable of going deeper," Green said. "Usually, his life is still there around that point. You watch other guys who live around that number and you start to see the velo drop, arm-slot drop, extension drop, spin drop. All those things go the wrong way.
"You don't really see that with him. So you see strength by the way he's trained himself. The expectation is he'll be completely fine." (AJ Cassavell - MLB.com - Sept 13, 2019)
Sept 20, 2019: When the Padres named Chris Paddack to their Opening Day 2019 rotation, they faced a daunting task. Here was a promising 23-year-old rookie who had earned his place in the starting five. But he had thrown only 90 innings in 2018, his first year back from Tommy John surgery. The Padres needed to find a way to navigate a full big league season with Paddack in their rotation. So they spoke extensively with Paddack and his camp, then set about mapping out a plan for 2019. Six months later, it couldn't have played out much better—for both parties.
"We had a set plan, and we followed it," Paddack said. "And we got pretty dang close to everything that happened. A big part of why I was successful was just trusting them, knowing they had my best interests."
Paddack's season ended in Milwaukee, as he was shut down after his 26th start. He posted a 3.33 ERA with a sub-1 WHIP, and he finished with a 0.77 ERA in his final four starts. Numbers aside, the Padres had a few objectives for Paddack's rookie campaign: They wanted him to get the experience of pitching deep into September. They wanted him to learn from both successes and failures in the big leagues. And they wanted him to build an innings base that would set him up for success in 2020. When it became clear Paddack had earned his way into the big league rotation, general manager A.J. Preller and others in the Padres front office set out to determine how they could accomplish those goals.
"There were a lot of conversations,” Preller said, “with [manager] Andy [Green], the Major League coaching staff, our development staff, former pitchers that have gone through coming back from surgery and talking about what their first season was like at the big league level, conversations with his agents. "We looked at everything. Everything. And, ultimately, we were able to come up with a plan that we felt good about. The fact that he was able to execute it, it puts us in a good place for the future."
A quick refresher of that plan:
• Paddack never pitched with fewer than five days’ rest.
• Paddack never went past 100 pitches in a start, and he rarely started an at-bat past 90.
• The Padres optioned Paddack to the Minors in June for a breather when he had begun to struggle.
"It was about being smart and looking long-term and building up his workload the right way," Preller said. "I think he was able to check all those boxes."
In the meantime, Paddack made it through the season healthy and without any hiccups or deviations from the plan. It's clear he appreciates the way he was treated.
"I tip my cap to the Padres' front office and the entire organization," Paddack said. "They've done a really good job putting me together over the past two years. It wasn't an easy process.
"Being such a competitor, it was hard at times. You just want to go out there, pitch every day, go complete game [shutout]. That's everybody's goal. But they talked to me, and they really explained that for me to have a successful career, these next two years are really crucial." "It's gone by so fast, dude, it amazes me,” Paddack said. “Man, I remember pitching here on March 31, seeing all my family here with cowboy hats down the right-field line. Now I'm done with the last day of my first season."
And he's set up nicely for the next one. (AJ Cassavell - MLB.com - Sept 20, 2019)
Feb 16, 2020: Three-fifths of the Padres’ projected rotation faced hitters in a live batting-practice session at Padres camp. Chris Paddack, Dinelson Lamet and Joey Lucchesi all made life difficult for a handful of position players who had reported to camp early.
The highlight the session may have been Paddack's curveball, which he emphasized heavily in his bullpen session beforehand. Paddack then mixed it in regularly against hitters—without anything more than a foul ball against it.
Paddack boasts a dominant fastball-changeup mix, but he spent most of his rookie season trying to hone his third pitch. Early in camp, the curveball is clearly a focus of Paddack's. He threw five or six impressive curves during the live BP, including two after pitching coach Larry Rothschild had reset the count to 0-0. (That speaks volumes to how much progress Paddack hopes to make with the pitch.)
"I got a new grip, been working on a few things," Paddack said of his curve. "The confidence, man, especially toward the end of the year last year, working on it all offseason—it's the third pitch."
Paddack's curveball evolved steadily during the 2019 season. It started as a slow looping pitch, then he made it bite more sharply, and by the end of the season, he had added a few ticks of velocity.
We probably won’t know how much progress Paddack has made with his curveball until he uses it in games. But he’s clearly pleased with the strides he’s made, though he added a caveat.
"I'm never going to be satisfied or settled with where it's at," he said. "There's always room for improvement." (AJ Cassavell - MLB.com - Feb 16, 2020)
Why Paddack's changeup is so nasty: 1.09 inch pre-tunnel max distance between fastball and changeup. The tunneling stat above (courtesy of Baseball Prospectus) sounds super technical, but it really boils down to this: When it’s time for the hitter to decide whether to sit or swing, how tough is it to tell a pitcher’s pitch types from one another?
With Paddack, the answer is very tough. The perceived difference between his fastball and changeup was among the smallest in MLB last year, and that’s part of why he succeeded while largely throwing just two pitches. Paddack’s changeup comes in on the same plane as his four-seamer, and it spins in almost the exact same direction. But then it drops like a brick, coming in 10 mph slower than his riding, top-of-the-zone heater. It’s a combination engineered to make hitters look silly.
Paddack is a throwback, adept at changing speeds as he manipulates your eye level and works batters north and south, like Roger Clemens and Curt Schilling used to do. With only so many milliseconds at a hitter’s disposal, Paddack’s changeup is a master of disguise. (M Kelly - MLB.com - April 1, 2020)
July 20, 2020: Paddack is set to lead the Padres’ rotation in 2020. He was named the team’s Opening Day starter. He got the news in a meeting with manager Jayce Tingler.
"I had chills running down my arms," Paddack said. "I took a deep breath and really reflected on all my hard work paying off ever since surgery. This is something that's been a goal of mine ever since I picked up a baseball."
2020 Season: Chris Paddack‘s 2020 season, albeit a shortened one, was a learning moment for the then 24-year-old. A number of his statistics regressed considerably, including nearly a run and a half higher ERA, increased hit and home run rates, and a decreased strikeout rate.
Paddack pitched in just one postseason game for the Padres, yielding six runs in 2.1 innings in the Wild Card round against the St. Louis Cardinals. In a way, it was the cherry on top in a down year, as Paddack went from the Padres ace to the team’s fifth starter.
In 2020 Paddack's best pitch was his changeup - The Chris Paddack changeup was on display 31% of the time in 2020. The off-speed offering had a 17% swinging-strike rate and a 43% chase rate. Hitters were forced to get their hacks in against the pitch because Paddack refused to walk anyone with it (23% K-BB rate). Confirmed by a 9.4 pVAL, Paddack’s changeup was indeed a nasty pitch. (Shawn Barletta - March 30, 2021)
- June 23, 2021: Paddack is the first to say he's not the finished product. He owns a 4.10 ERA across 13 starts this season. But that includes a 3.35 mark since the start of May.
Paddack’s recent success is a product of some notable changes. His curveball is, at long last, a reliable Major League offering. His fastball more closely resembles the 2019 edition than the eminently hittable '20 version. But more than anything, Paddack says, the difference is mental.
"The curveball has helped, especially now that it's in opposing teams' scouting reports," Paddack said. "They can't just sit on a changeup or whatever. That definitely plays a role. But a lot of it is up here."
Paddack pointed to his head and was quick to note that -- no matter how much bite on his curveball, no matter how much life on his fastball -- his biggest improvements have been mental.
"You struggle over and over, you start believing the stuff you're hearing about yourself," Paddack said. "I got myself in a big hole there in 2020. I wanted to be the ace. I wanted to be the guy." (AJ Cassavell - MLB.com - June 23, 2021)
- As of the start of the 2021, Chris had a career record of: 13-12 with a 3.74 ERA, having allowed 37 home runs and 167 hits in 199 innings.