The Miami Marlins have traded white-hot RHP Chris Paddack to San Diego in exchange for Fernando Rodney. Paddack was an eighth-round draftee in 2015 and was signed for a $400,000 bonus. He dominated prep competition at Cedar Park High School in Texas, striking out 134 hitters in 75 innings during his senior year. He fell to the eighth round, in part, because he was 19-and-a-half on draft day. He was also a fastball/changeup guy without great breaking-ball feel. Arms like that tend to slot after fastball/breaking-ball pitchers because orgs think it’s easier to develop a changeup over time than it is to learn how to break off a curveball.
Paddack was solid during Gulf Coast League play after he signed last summer but looked so good this spring that Miami let him bypass the New York-Penn League and sent him straight to Low-A. He had made some physical strides, strengthening his lower half and repeating a delivery that was often inconsistent and stiff in high school. The results this season have been staggering: 48 strikeouts and just 2 walks — plus only nine hits allowed — in 28.1 innings over six starts. Paddack hasn’t allowed a hit in his last three starts and two of those came in consecutive appearances against a Rome lineup that failed to make adjustments to his stuff or sequencing.
A broad-shouldered 6-foot-4 and 195 pounds, Paddack has a well-paced, easy delivery. He commands a low-90s fastball – with terrific plane and run, which help the pitch play as plus – to both sides of the plate and has been up to 95. The meal-ticket secondary pitch here is the changeup. It’s already plus and Paddack will use it against both lefties and righties. It’s difficult to identify out of his hand, dies as it reaches the plate.
Perhaps one of the key components of Paddack’s step forward this season has been the development of a curveball. Paddack struggled to find consistency with any sort of breaking ball in high school and public-sector reports on what he was throwing were all over the place. Dan Farnsworth’s offseason Marlins prospect list had Paddack presciently ranked as the #2 player in the system but listed the breaking ball as a slider. The curveball Paddack throws is of the 12-6 variety and rests in the 73-77 mph range. It’s a fringe-average offering right now but is flashing average and should mature there, though Paddack’s expedient breaking-ball improvement might be a sign that the pitch has more development in the tank than is typical.
When pitches get away from Paddack they do so up in the zone, and while pitch movement has been his saving grace in those situations — and while he’s still been able to miss bats — it may become more of an issue at the upper levels. He’ll also have to improve upon sequencing and pitch usage, but Paddack is just a year removed from high school and it isn’t reasonable to expect much more than he’s shown to this point.
There are also those who think sudden upticks in velocity like the one Paddack has experienced over the last several months are harbingers of ulnar-collateral doom but there’s nothing beyond anecdotal evidence to support that and Paddack’s build and delivery don’t sound any alarms.
I think, given Paddack’s relatively short track record of success and the fact that he’s just a year removed from high school, there’s still a good bit of risk associated with his prospectdom, but he has mid-rotation stuff right now and that changeup might just continue to improve.