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The Chris Paddack Discussion: Can He Be Fixed?

Last year we were introduced to a new fantasy baseball heartthrob in San Diego’s starting pitcher Chris Paddack. He drew rave reviews as a prospect for plus command and a plus changeup. In 2019 the Padres had him break the opening day roster and he pitched well. He thrived off of a fastball-changeup combination that made hitters look silly. He struggled to throw a third pitch but the league hadn’t caught up to him yet. 2020 is totally different. The league has caught up and he hasn’t adjusted. Begging the discussion before you, is it time to sell on Paddack as a fantasy stud?

Fantasy stud is a relative term, but many were investing in him as a fantasy SP2 and he isn’t that. He may get to that level at some point but there need to be massive improvements. There were clear flaws in him as a prospect that some have seemed to overlook, and I don’t know why. Could be that weird cowboy persona he puts on, that has always seemed phony to me for what it’s worth.

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What’s Wrong With Chris Paddack?

Issues with Strike Outs and Getting Hit Hard

Paddack has always been a two-pitch pitcher, throwing the fastball and changeup 89% of the time and that didn’t cause any problems in 2019. In 2019 he was striking out 9.79 batters per 9 innings, walking 1.98 batters per 9, and allowing 1.47 homers per 9 innings in 140.2 innings. But in this year’s small sample size his strikeouts per 9 have tumbled to 7.67 and his home run rate has ballooned up to 2.27 homers per 9 innings.  The walk rate has gone down to 1.71 free passes per 9 innings, so that is encouraging.

Another problem with Paddack is he is not generating as many swings, as he did last season. Last year he got batters to swing at 52.1% of his pitches and 36.0% of his pitches out of the zone. This year batters swing on 48.6% of his pitches, and a measly 26.2% of his pitches out of the zone. He doesn’t have that “chase” pitch that batters have to worry about, and can use to get swings and misses. He is also falling behind more often, having his first-pitch strike percentage drop from 71.3% in 19 to 60.9% in ’20. Falling behind more is meaning he’s having to throw in the zone more often and leaving pitches to get rocked.

In his days as a prospect, there were concerns about his inability to spin a breaking ball and in his two years in the big leagues, we are still waiting for that breaking pitch to develop. Leading major league hitters o only have to gear up for the heater or change. Not only have the K’s gone down and the homers went up but he is also being hit hard when batters make contact. In the entirety of his 2019 season, he gave up 24 barrels over 140.2 innings. This season in 31.2 innings he has allowed 11! That’s a jump from 6.3% of all batted balls being barrelled in 2019 to 11.7% in 2020. For those that are wondering what a barrel is, click the link.

Chris Paddack’s Value Before 2020

So we know the K’s have gone down and hitters are squaring up Chris Paddack, and that is alarming. We bought into Paddack as the next young stud, and many paid handsomely either trading for him or drafting him. He was a top 60 pick in redraft leagues, having an ADP of 54.2 on Fantrax. You could have had Yu Darvish at that price which is a big yikes, as the kids say. In start-up dynasty leagues you had to pay an even higher price because of his age. And in dynasty trades, you had to pay an astronomical price if any of your DM’s have shown me.

If you held him as a prospect you are playing with house money at this point and could have turned Paddack into quite the haul for yourself. There is an argument to be made that this offseason is the peak of Paddack’s value in the fantasy game. But that’s in the past and we can’t go back in time, and I would implore you to gauge his value right now.

Like I alluded to earlier I don’t believe Paddack is a fantasy SP2 going forward. He lacks the breaker to get guys to swing and miss, and in today’s game, an SP2 needs to rack up K’s. I think he is a fine starting pitcher but I would not pay a high price to acquire him. Now is the time to trade him before his value plummets.

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