Hudson Potts was known as Hudson Sanchez when drafted 24th overall by the Padres in 2016 out of a Texas High school. With apologies to Mr. Potts, who isn’t listed on MLB.com’s updated top 30 Padres prospects list, what’s most interesting is less his prospect pedigree as much as the circumstances surrounding his draft position.
Most public prospect evaluators had Potts ranked in the 60s at best among draft eligible players, with MLB.com ranking him at 91. He shows a strong arm and has some power potential, but everyone I could find agreed he doesn’t stand much of a chance of staying at shortstop. Well, everyone except the Padres.
When Padres director of amateur scouting Mark Conner visited Padres Social Hour to discuss the draft, he noted the Padres had a private workout with Sanchez the morning before selecting him in the first round. “If you spend time with him, get to know him as a person, understand how young he is, understand his ability [and his] skillset, it’s not a reach. There’s a lot of strategy that goes into it.”
The Padres have access to a lot that the public does not: private workouts, private conversations, and scouting resources. They’d probably tell you they can identify talent better than the public and, based on their superior information think Potts can stick at short.
The importance of getting to know players that Conner mentions is part of the Padres’ philosophy across the board: Don Welke has brought it up a couple of times. Personally I’ve been skeptical that a conversation can tell you much about a player’s ability to stay at a position, but that opinion is changing. After all, we Padres fans have watched talented players like Matt Bush and Donovan Tate fizzle out, not by their skills but by their off-field decisions. And A’s shortstop Marcus Semien may have demonstrated this year that a good attitude and hard work can lead to improvement at defense, even at the Major League level.
But I’m a skeptic, I can’t help but question their explanation of the Potts pick. Here’s why: Jon Heyman reported the Padres had a pre-draft deal with top prep pitcher Jason Groome, if Groome fell to the Padres’ second pick at 24. The reported deal with Groome was for $5 million, well above the ~$2.2 million slot value. So if that happened, the Padres would need to save some money elsewhere.
Potts signed for just $1 million, well below the slot value for his pick and much closer to the money he would have received if picked in the 2nd-3rd round where most evaluators pegged him. What I believe happened is that the Padres also had a below-slot pre-draft deal with Potts, so if Groome fell to them at 24 they could then immediately draft Potts at 25 to offset their above slot deal with Groome.
It wasn’t to be, as the Red Sox grabbed Groome at the 12th pick. The Padres still felt the need to honor their deal with Potts. This is the part that raises the biggest question about the theory–after the Padres missed on Groome, why not pick someone they liked more and grab Hudson at 48? Slot there would still be $1.3 million, so Potts would still get his money. The answer probably comes down to the way pre-draft deals work, and since they’re not technically allowed (though all teams do them) there isn’t a lot of info available about them.
This theory is all conjecture, I don’t have any evidence I haven’t already referenced. It’s possible, probably likely that the truth is somewhere in the middle–the Padres really did like Potts more than the public evaluators and were trying to get both he and Groome, but weren’t devastated about drafting Potts where they did.
Regardless of how it came about, our view of the situation from afar makes developing strong opinions on the draft choice difficult. The Padres have the most experience scouting, and the most first-hand knowledge about Hudson Potts. The reasonable approach is to assume the Padres know more than we do here. So here’s to Hudson Potts, shortstop.