The San Diego Padres and Minnesota Twins each made last-minute tweaks to their respective rosters with a trade on Opening Day, as San Diego agreed to send starting pitcher Chris Paddack and relief pitcher Emilio Pagan to the Twins in exchange for closer Taylor Rogers and outfielder Brent Rooker. Paddack, who burst onto the scene as a rookie but has struggled in each of the last two seasons, seemed to be a problem that the Padres couldn’t fix. However, the Twins, who currently have pitching guru Wes Johnson on their staff, have gotten ace-level production out of multiple starters in the last few years. Pitching in a potentially weaker division with a secret weapon he discovered last season, why couldn’t Paddack revive his career under the tutelage of Johnson? The Twins are certainly banking on it, which is why they were so willing to deal their only proven bullpen option in Rogers. However, it’s ultimately up to Paddack to put the work in and rediscover his strong form from 2019. That said, here are three reasons why he will do just that after his trade from the Padres to the Twins.
3 Reasons Why Chris Paddack Trade Will Revive Career
3. Paddack will be pitching in a weaker division
Admittedly, the American League Central should be better than last season. The Detroit Tigers and Kansas City Royals have promising futures with young talent in their lineups, though no pitcher is particularly scared of those batting orders. The Cleveland Guardians have little to fear in their lineup besides sluggers Jose Ramirez and Franmil Reyes, leaving the Chicago White Sox, who have a truly frightening lineup, as the only imposing batting order in the division. Even an improved AL Central is a far cry from the National League West, where Paddack has spent the first three years of his career. The former Padres hurler has had to contend with 100-win Los Angeles Dodgers teams, sneaky-good San Francisco Giants lineups, and the hitter-friendly conditions of Coors Field, where the Colorado Rockies play. Paddack has been lit up by the Dodgers in his career but has produced fine numbers against many other National League clubs, suggesting that he could benefit from a change of scenery with the Twins.
2. Paddack’s curveball usage from 2021 was promising
One of the biggest knocks on Paddack’s game since he was in the minors has been the fact that he relies heavily on two pitches. There aren’t many big-league starters who can make a living off of just two offerings, as hitters aren’t as easily kept off balance. Paddack primarily throws a four-seam fastball and changeup, relying on those two offerings nearly 90 percent of the time, a strategy that has resulted in Paddack posting ERA’s above 4.50 while serving up homers at an alarming rate the last two years. However, the 26-year-old began throwing a curveball more this past season, utilizing it 12.3 percent of the time. Opposing hitters batted just .163 against the pitch while Paddack posted a 36 percent whiff rate with the offering, per Statcast. His curveball features some of the best vertical movement of any pitcher’s breaker in the game. Paddack, who has struggled to find a reliable third pitch in his major league career, might finally have one in his curveball.
1. Twins pitching coach Wes Johnson could revive Paddack’s career
Twins pitching coach Wes Johnson, who has spent the last two seasons with the organization, has helped Minnesota field one of the better pitching staffs in baseball during that span. The Twins have ranked in the top-ten in team ERA in two of the last three seasons, thanks in part to a strategy change implemented by Johnson. The veteran pitching coach, who uses an analytics-based approach, has gotten the staff to throw less fastballs and more off-speed pitches, particularly curveballs. Paddack, whose fastball has gotten crushed in recent years, could benefit from that approach. If searching for an example of Johnson’s strategy in action, look no further than former Los Angeles Dodgers starting pitcher Kenta Maeda. Maeda, who spent the first several seasons of his career in the NL West just like Paddack, came to Minnesota via trade in 2020. Upon arriving with the Twins, Maeda began throwing fastballs at the lowest rate of his career, ditching the offering for his slider and changeup instead. The approach worked, with Maeda enjoying a career-year at the age of 32 during the pandemic-shortened season. Could Johnson work similar magic with Paddack? There’s reason to believe that Johnson, who has a track record of getting the best out of pitchers, can make Paddack look like the top prospect he once was. The trade to the Twins could revive Chris Paddack’s career.