The Big Bad Draft Preview

Last week, Nathan did a great job covering the potential candidates for the Padres third overall pick, including commentary on all five of the top consensus prospects, Hunter Greene, Kyle Wright, Brendan McKay, MacKenzie Gore, and Royce Lewis.

All of them sound pretty good to me, but given who’s likely to be there, I think I’m leaning toward Gore or Lewis. Anyway, if you’ve read Nathan’s post or anything from sites like Baseball America, then you have a pretty good handle on all of the obvious candidates. What’s going to happen in the rest of the Padres draft, though? Well, shoot, who knows, but here are some things to look for.

The First Pick Shocker

Actually, before we hit the rest of the draft, let’s consider the improbable: what if the Padres go outside that conventional top five with their first pick at no. 3? There’s nothing to indicate that it will happen, and usually teams at the top of the draft want top-of-the-draft talent. But the Padres have zagged before a time or two, so there’s always a non-zero chance. It’d likely be a maneuver to save some money early to go over slot at pick no. 39 or later on, but there’s also the possibility the Padres just like somebody better than the conventional names, depending on who’s on the board. Some potential candidates here are outfielder Heliot Ramos (more on him later), high school righty Shane Baz, or fast-rising junior college righty Nate Pearson.

Alright, here are some overall trends (and some specific players) to look for beyond the first pick.

The Tall Pitchers

Somewhere deep in the Padres Public vault, I’ve written about the Padres obsession with tall pitchers. In 2016, they drafted six different pitchers six-foot-five or taller, including a couple of guys standing 6′ 8”. Back in 2015, they drafted seven players in this group. Maybe obsessed is a bit much, but it’s clear that the Padres, like a number of teams, dig themselves a tall pitcher.

As far as some specific names, if high school lefty Trevor Rogers falls to the Padres second pick, 39 overall, he could be in play there. According to Baseball America, he’s old for his class but showed good, easy mid-90s velocity last summer. The velo and performance has been down some this year, but he’s intriguing for all the obvious reasons.

Six-foot-five Hans Crouse, “the most electric arm in this year’s draft,” per BA, might make even more sense. A high school righty from California, he frequently works in the high 90s but has some work-in-progress off-speed stuff and a sketchy delivery. He did do a couple of Johnny Cueto shimmies in the video I watched, so he’s also got that going for him. (The breaking ball looked pretty filthy, too.)

High Schooler Michael Mercado is 6-foot-5, with a good, well-rounded repertoire, and he’s from San Diego. Obvious possibility. Beyond the earlier picks, though, don’t be surprised to see some taller pitcher snagged later in the draft. There’s a 6-foot-8, 250 pound junior college guy named Liam Jenkins, ranked near the bottom of Baseball America’s top 500, who’d make plenty of sense at some point (he threw this nasty breaking ball recently). The draft is littered with tall pitchers, in fact, so be on the look-out for them anywhere.

The Athletic Up-The-Middle Player

The Padres really haven’t drafted as many of these guys as you’d think, especially early in the draft, where they’ve instead stacked pitcher after pitcher. Still, based on the organization’s non-stop interest in young international players of this ilk, it wouldn’t be surprising to see the Padres stock up on them this week.

Heliot Ramos, a high school outfielder from Puerto Rico, kind of jumps of the page. Discussed on a recent East Village Times podcast by Baseball America’s Hudson Belinsky, Ramos has a Michael Gettys-like scouting report. He’s got all the tools, but the big question is going to be how the bat plays against professional pitching. If he’s available at 39 (he probably won’t be), you’d have to think the Padres will be players.

High school shortstop Nick Allen is undersized at just 5′ 8,” but he offers promising tools, and he’s from San Diego. Another shortstop, Brady McConnell, a Florida high schooler with a strong commitment to the University of Florida, feels like another good project the Padres might want to take on, but he’ll be expensive. Mark Vientos, another shortstop from a Florida high school, profiles more as a third baseman long term but has the loud tools the Padres covet. Like the Tall Pitcher, athletic dudes who play shortstop and center field are common draft fodder, and expect the Padres to grab at least a few of them.

The Jason Delay

Should you base your interest in a draft-eligible prospect on a single gif? Probably not, but you shouldn’t drink soda either.

There’s good framing, and then there’s Jason Delay. Look at how quiet he is back there, and how he sticks the ball somewhere in the vicinity of the outside corner, subtly bringing it back toward the plate. After I saw that gif, I got wondering whether Delay, a senior from Vanderbilt, had a reputation as a good framer, and whether he was even a draft prospect at all. According to a Vandy baseball blog, he is indeed a noted framer, but he’s had some past struggles handling the pitching staff and blocking balls in the dirt. That post is a year and a half old, though.

Delay was drafted in the 11th round last year by the Giants, but he returned to Vanderbilt for his senior year. Baseball America has him ranked 257th on their big board, noting his excellent pitch framing, but also that he’s good at both handling a pitching staff and blocking balls in the dirt (he also has a plus arm/transfer). The bat’s a big question mark, as he’s only hit .272/.354/.379 over his college career. Delay is kind of Hedges-lite, so he could pique the Padres interest toward the back of the top 10 rounds. Being a senior, he also could come cheap if money needs to be saved somewhere.

The Out-Of-Nowhere Guy

When the Padres took Hudson Potts last year at 24 overall, it was one of those picks that catches everyone, including the MLB Network draft panel, off guard. Potts was ranked just outside the top 100 by Baseball America, so nobody expected him to go in the first round. The Padres took him in part to save money—they signed him for $1 million when the slot value for that pick was over $2 million—but also just because they just liked him more than the consensus.

While places like Baseball America do a great job covering the draft from a big picture perspective, teams often have wildly different opinions on specific players. The Padres, specifically, seem to travel to the beat of their own drum as much as any other team when it comes to scouting amateur talent, so don’t be surprised when they reach for someone far off the radar within their first five or 10 picks.

I’m reaching myself attempting to name any actual players here, but Adam Oviedo, a high school shortstop from Texas, fit this mold. Ranked 133 by BA, he brings bat speed but has a questionable overall hit tool, plus he’ll likely eventually shift off short. The overall profile has some similarities to Potts, though it could take more dough to lure Oviedo away from a commitment to TCU.

Joe Perez (98), a high school right-handed pitcher/first baseman from Florida, has a mid-90s fastball with a premium spin rate (h/t @advancedstats23). Reynaldo Rivera (191), a junior college sophomore, destroyed the Panhandle Conference over the last two years (he hit .439/.541/.835 this season). He projects as a corner guy, but scouts like his power and arm strength. Wilberto Rivera (247), a high school righty from Puerto Rico, has touched 97 in the past. Abdiel Layer, my deepest sleeper, isn’t ranked by BA, but he’s a 6-foot-2 switch-hitting shortstop from Puerto Rico with smooth actions at short and a big arm.

The Previously Injured Pitcher

Cal Quantrill looked like a super risky pick at no. 8 overall last year, as he hadn’t pitched since early in his sophomore season after undergoing Tommy John surgery. Nobody is complaining now, however, as Quantrill is currently progressing through an excellent season at High-A Lake Elsinore. The Padres also followed the same path last year with Mason Thompson, who underwent TJ in his junior year of high school and played only in the field as a senior. The results with Thompson have come slower as a professional, but that’s no surprise given his high school profile.

It’s probably not accurate to say that the Padres are actively targeting pitchers coming off Tommy John surgery, but it’s also clear that they aren’t scared off by it. If they’re comfortable with the medicals and high on the pitcher’s ability, the Padres won’t balk at taking someone with an injury history.

There are always a number of these guys available throughout the draft, but Stanford’s Tristan Beck stands out some for his similarity to Quantrill. Beck was sidelined with a stress fracture in his lower back instead of Tommy John, but like Quantrill, he went to Stanford and has missed a year of pitching. BA also notes that there’s word he might have a pre-draft deal with a team (like Quantrill), and he could be available at pick no. 39.

The Cheap Senior Sign

We mentioned this above with Delay, but the Padres, like many teams, have a history of drafting a college senior or two in the first 10 rounds, a strategy that can be employed to allow valuable draft budget dollars to be funneled elsewhere. Unlike the college junior or high school senior, college seniors don’t have any remaining leverage. It’s either try to hook on with some independent league team or enter the non-baseball workforce. Often, then, they’ll sign for $10,000-and-under for a shot at a professional career, particularly if they aren’t highly touted to begin with.

Last year the Padres drafted Jesse Scholtens, a right-handed pitcher from Wright State, in the ninth round and signed him for a whopping $1,000. That maneuver netted the Padres $168,900 to spend elsewhere in the draft. As a bonus, and a credit to good pebble hunting, Scholtens can pitch. He’s currently striking out over a batter an inning between Single-A and High-A. He’s 23 already, sure, but he’s something.

The Padres did the same thing with another righty pitcher last year, signing Wofford senior Will Stillman for $50,000. Even Joey Lucchesi qualifies, a fourth rounder who got only $100,000. In 2015, the Padres signed seniors LHP Jerry Keel ($10,000) and OF Justin Pacchioli ($5,000) in the ninth and 10th round, respectively, and Keel, like Scholtens and Lucchesi, is working out well.

The Anybody’s Fair Game

I think it’s fair to say that the Padres have certain things they look for, in general, be it big-time velocity or tall pitchers or athletic, toolsy position players. But they’re flexible, too. Last year they drafted Eric Lauer and Lucchesi in the first four rounds, and both were viewed as safe college lefties with deep, well-rounded repertoires. Both, too, were statistical standouts, with Lauer posting a 0.69 ERA and a 4.46 strikeout-to-walk ratio in the MAC and Lucchesi leading the nation in strikeouts with 149 in 111 innings.

In 2015 the Padres took Austin Allen in the fourth round, a big, defensively-challenged backstop with tremendous offensive statistics from Florida Tech, a division II school. That’s another thing to look for: the Padres aren’t afraid to go outside of tradition DI college picks, dipping into the division II, III, and junior college ranks, even early in the draft. Overall, while there are different players are trends to watch out for, the Padres are interested in anyone who can play baseball well.

You heard it hear first, then: don’t be surprised with whichever players the Padres draft.

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