Chris Paddack is one of two San Diego Padres starters that has not thrown an inning above Double A. Paddack earned his spot in the rotation following an excellent spring in which he struck out 20 of 54 batters he faced and exhibiting a devastating fastball changeup combination.
He made his major league debut Sunday against the Giants, striking out seven in five innings while only allowing three baserunners and surrendering just one run. He was perfect through the first 10 batters he faced. The highlight of his day was the second inning in which he struck out the side on 12 pitches. His only blemishes were walking Joe Panik, allowing a single up the middle to Brandon Crawford, and a booming double to Pablo Sandoval.
The double came on vintage Sandoval knock in that it came on a pitch he had no business hitting: a 1-2 curveball six inches below the strike zone.
Now, Paddock’s success comes with the caveat that it came against the Giants, and their bats are quieter than the sound of a Kit Kat snapping.
The sound off the Giants' bats best approximates:— McCovey Chronicles (@McCoveyChron) March 30, 2019
Still, Paddack’s stuff was on display Sunday, and he showed that he belongs in the majors.
Paddack’s fastball lives in the mid-90s and topped out at 96.6 miles per hour on Sunday. He pounded the strike zone with his fastball, and when he missed with it, he missed to his arm side where hitters couldn’t do much damage. All told, he threw 58 of his 80 pitches for strikes.
Five of his seven strikeouts came on his 70-grade changeup. The changeup has funky two-plane movement that helped him freeze Steven Duggar despite it being thrown inside to a lefty.
Chris Paddack, Front Door 82mph Changeup...and (still) pitching with emotion. pic.twitter.com/i5GLS6p8EG— Rob Friedman (@PitchingNinja) March 31, 2019
For a rookie, Paddack has a preternatural ability to pitch to both sides of the plate. His willingness to pitch in on the hands of lefties is going to help him succeed when he primarily throws two pitches with the occasional curveball.
While he usually depends on the interplay between his changeup and his fastball, he doesn’t need both pitches to strike hitters out. His first major league strikeout came against Brandon Belt, who he got swinging on three straight fastballs. His approach against Belt was to go inside, outside. He later struck out Sandoval on five pitches, all fastballs.
Paddack, who had Tommy John in August of 2017, will work under an innings limitation in 2019. He only threw 80 pitches in his debut Sunday. If the Padres find themselves in a playoff race this year, we could see the Padres give him more leash. If the Padres do find themselves in the hunt come September, Paddack will probably be a big reason why.
Whatever happens in 2019, Paddack is one of many young names to pay attention to in San Diego, and another reason why the future is so bright for the Padres, and why this team is so fun to watch.
Kenny Kelly is a writer for Beyond the Box Score and McCovey Chronicles. You can follow him on Twitter @KennyKellyWords.