The minor leagues are no walk in the park, there is a reason most players spend time at multiple levels of a farm system. The early years spent in the minors can be particularly difficult. There are generally a number of learning curves due to expectation, competition, or even lifestyle. All things considered, it speaks volumes when a player dominates the early stages of his professional career. 20-year-old Marlins prospect Chris Paddack is an example of such domination.
The Marlins have a lot of nice prospects who have great potential but haven’t quite grown into just yet. Paddock is a prospect who showed great potential as a draftee out of high school, and took no time to make his mark in the minor leagues. Fresh out of the 2015 draft, Paddock pitched to a 2.16 ERA in 45 1/3 in the Gulf Coast League. He gave up and BAA (Batting Average Against) of .219 and had a WHIP of 0.97. Not a bad first impression. But it gets better... in 23 1/3 innings pitched in 2016 at Class-A Greensoboro, Paddock owns a 1.16 ERA, a BAA of .115, and a WHIP of 0.47. Oh, and he’s allowed only two walks. He’s essentially the Clayton Kershaw of Single-A.
The statistics speak for themselves. If there is an early knock on Paddock, it’s his lack of endurance. Paddack was a starting pitcher in high school, and the Marlins drafted him as a potential middle of the rotation major league starter. They may still have him streamlined as a starter, but the short starts in the minors contradict that plan. Paddack has yet to exceed five innings in a start this season, and has only earned the right to a decision in three of his five starts. His effectiveness is obvious and his starts are not getting cut short due to lack of command or poor performance. Paddack’s last two starts may be the best inidication of his true big league ceiling. In his last two starts, Paddack pitched five innings each, giving up no runs and no hits. He struck out 11 in one start and 8 in the other. He can’t pitch deep into games, but he also can’t be hit. Sounds a lot like a potential big league closer.
Paddack has two dominant pitches in which he matches the power with the control. A mid-90s fastball and a low-80s changeup give opposing hitters fits. He is still working to further develop a breaking ball, but two high caliber pitches, and one just to give a hitter something else to think about, can be all a pitcher needs. This is especially true with a late inning reliever.
Paddack is still raw and is still working to fill out his 6’4’’ 195 lb. frame. Miami will likely continue him as a starting pitcher at least in the early stages of the minor leagues. Paddack has a few more levels to climb, and consistency is always the key for a minor leaguer. He will no doubt be a prospect to keep an eye on, he has earned the attention to this point.