With no sports to watch, I went REALLY deep for Northwestern content. This led me to MLB The Show 20, which could be our only taste of professional baseball in 2020. I took to the game’s career mode, and simulated the careers of NU Baseball’s three players drafted last year, Jack Dunn, Alex Erro and Nick Paciorek. We’ve made it to the catcher turned pitcher, and here is how the first three years of Paciorek’s career played out:
Creating the six-foot-two closer was a little different than that of the two other players as had to choose a pitching arsenal to give him. For his initial three pitches, I chose a four-seam fastball, curveball and changeup, with hope of eventually adding a two-seamer and a slider. Sporting a Maddux-like windup, Paciorek excelled in drills, commanding all three pitches well. The showcase games were uneventful, with the right-hander logging a strikeout while surrendering a hit and a walk in two scoreless innings. The New York Yankees drafted him in the 16th round — nine rounds later than in real life — and assigned him to the Trenton Thunder, their Double-A affiliate.
Paciorek made his first appearance in the team’s opener. He got the nod in the top of the sixth, with his team down one and the bases juiced, needing two outs to get out of the inning. While he couldn’t get out of the jam unscathed, he logged a solid outing, surrendering a hit and zero earned runs while striking out two batters in 1.2 innings. After posting a 4.20 ERA through the first month of the season, Paciorek found himself moved to the starting rotation. He posted a 1-1 record as a starter before moving to the closing role. At the All-Star break, he found himself with 20 saves and 25 strikeouts in 39 innings. He posted an ERA of 3.69 and a WHIP of 1.46, enough to earn himself a spot on the All-Star squad.
After pitching a perfect inning in the ASG, Paciorek was promoted to the New York’s AAA affiliate, the Scranton/Wilkes-Barre RailRiders. He struggled at the new level, logging a 6.23 ERA in 17.1 innings and converting only 11 of 18 save opportunities in the back half of the regular season. The playoffs were much of the same story, as he recorded only one save, struck out three batters and gave up two runs in three appearances.
Although he struggled down the line, Paciorek got extended by the Yankees on a one-year, $80,000 deal. They then dealt him to the Kansas City Royals, where he started anew.
Paciorek couldn’t crack the Spring Training roster for the Royals and saw his season start back in Double-A with the Northwest Arkansas Naturals. He made the most of the new opportunity, recording 22 saves in 34.2 innings and flashing an ERA of 2.08. Paciorek’s performance was enough to earn him an All-Star selection for the second season in a row. He tossed a perfect inning and one-third, including this nasty strikeout.
After the strong performance in the All-Star Game, Paciorek was promoted for to Triple-A for second year in a row, this time to the Omaha Storm Chasers. His second stint in AAA was much more successful. He had 15 saves in 25 innings, and his ERA continued to hover just over two.
After such a strong performance at the highest minor league level, I expected Paciorek to get another AAA or a MLB offer. However, the only deal he received was another one-year, $70,000 contract for a bullpen spot on the Royals’ AA squad, which he accepted. The former Wildcat was traded again, this time to the San Francisco Giants.
Paciorek yet again failed to make a major league spring training roster and started the season with the Richmond Flying Squirrels, the Giants’ Double-A affiliate. His shaky start to the season didn’t right itself quickly as was then sidelined for three weeks with shoulder tightness. At the All-Star break, Paciorek’s stats were less than impressive: one save and 21 strikeouts in 31.2 innings with a 3.41 ERA. He missed the All-Star game for the first time in his young career.
He never bounced back from the injury. His ERA rose to 4.81 and ended the season and he was unable to record another save. In a season during which he could’ve made the jump to the big leagues, things fell flat for the talented right-hander. It’s hard to make it to the majors, and Paciorek wasn’t able to firmly get past AA in The Show. With that said, this is only a video game simulation and following a fascinating career path in which he was the backup catcher for NU, it’s hard to think that Paciorek will ever get held down. Who knows what the future has in store for him.