Can Chris Paddack help the Twins replace Sonny Gray this season?

Rather than make a trade to replace Sonny Gray, the Twins are betting on Chris Paddack to bounce back big.

University of Minnesota v Minnesota Twins
University of Minnesota v Minnesota Twins / Brace Hemmelgarn/GettyImages

A lot was made this offseason about how the Minnesota Twins would replace Sonny Gray, specifically his innings workload.

Last year Gray pitched 184 innings on his way to finishing as the AL Cy Young runner-up to Gerrit Cole. Rather than trade for a front-line starter or sign a top pitcher in free agency, Minnesota opted to find an internal replacement for Gray.

Minnesota traded its best asset for a fifth starter, and that's already blown up in their face. Anthony DeSclafani is expected to miss the season, ending his year before he even takes the mound in the regular season. That's not the only situation at the back of the rotation as another recently injured pitcher is being bet on to carry a major piece of the workload left behind by Gray.

The pressure is being put on a collection of pitchers, but Chris Paddack is headlining the group.

Can Chris Paddack live up to the hype of helping replace Sonny Gray this season?

Paddack is attempting to come back from Tommy John surgery and build on what was a decent return to action toward the end of last season. He hadn't pitched since May 2022 when he made his first trip back to the mound in late September, and now he's expected to try and help fill the void left by Gray.

It's a bet the Twins seem to make quite often, gambling that an injured pitcher can bounce back and tap back into what made him special before getting hurt. Paddack showed all the right promise with the San Diego Padres early in his career, logging 140 innings across 26 starts his rookie season back in 2019, but it's been peaks and valleys since then.

He followed his rookie campaign by pitching fewer than 60 innings before throwing over 100 the next season. He was traded to the Twins before the 2022 season but only lasted five starts before needing to undergo Tommy John surgery, but that didn't stop Minnesota from giving him a contract extension eight months later.

It was an investment in his future, something that the team is hoping arrives now. When he was on his game, Paddack was exactly the pitcher Minnesota needed. He had 153 strikeouts to just 31 walks his rookie season, as well as posting a 3.33 ERA and 0.981 WHIP.

Really, the Twins need him to tap back into two specific seasons he had with the Padres.















Paddack got progressively worse each season after 2019, but only slightly and injuries played a factor. Nobody loves taking a flier on an oft-injured potential star pitcher than the Twins, so investing so much in Paddack being able to step up and fill the void is so on-brand it almost hurts.

If he can tap back into what he did in 2019 and 2021, and showed glimpses of late last season, then the Twins might have a solid No. 4 starter. The next question is can Paddack step up in the postseason, something we haven't seen him capable of doing, albeit in a small sample size.

Postseason pitching production is one of the overlooked elements in replacing Gray since so much needs to happen in order to get Minnesota to that position. Paddack's postseason stats leave a bit to be desired, as he got absolutely rocked into another dimension by the St. Louis Cardinals in the 2020 NL Wild Card.

In his lone postseason start, Paddack has a 23.14 ERA, allowing six runs on eight hits and a home run. He only lasted 2.1 innings, although the Padres were able to somehow comeback and win that game. He wasn't featured in the NLDS that season and didn't make another postseason appearance until the ALDS this year.

His performance with the Twins was the polar opposite of what he did with San Diego, as Paddack faced 12 batters across 3.2 innings of work and allowed just a single hit. This came on the heels of a five inning return to action back in September in which he allowed three runs on six hits but struck out eight and logged a win.

That's what it all boils down to with Paddack; he has upside to be exactly what the Twins need and would put the rotation in a perfect position if he taps back into his magic. But the team has been burned on gambles like this before. Sonny Gray and Kenta Maeda were the payoff to years of Minnesota chasing high upside success stories, and Paddack is what the team is hoping will make it a trifecta.

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