Little light on twitter questions this week, so we grabbed an email sent in from my alter ego.
Was the Darren Smith interview with Angels GM Billy Eppler from a couple of weeks back the most overrated GM interview of all time?
—Safety Squeeze Dustin, San Diego, California
Yes. There are at least two or three glowing reviews of this interview out there, but I just don’t see it. I’ve listened to it three times, searching for whatever it is that everyone else is fawning over. I got nothin’. Here are the points against it.
- I’m not/wasn’t a Chargers fan, really, but Eppler’s comments on that football team were annoying at best, and probably much closer to fingernails on a chalkboard if you’re from San Diego.
- Half the interview was about football.
- Eppler hardly said a meaningful thing about evaluating baseball players or running a big-league team outside of your typical cliches.
- He said “procurement” three or four times.
Eppler is a fine talker, but this is an average interview. More so, there’s nothing in it to indicate that Eppler was the right choice over A.J. Preller for the Padres GM job—that is, unless you rate radio interview skills high on the list of what you want in a general manager. The Angels are having a nice little season, but they’re two games over .500 with the best baseball player of all time, Mike Trout, having his best season yet (yes, I know he missed time with an injury). They’re still just a one-in-five shot to make the playoffs, their farm system stinks, and most of their key players, save for Andrelton Simmons (nice move, Billy), were already on the team when Eppler was hired.
I’m not critiquing the job he’s done in Los Angeles or even his interviewing chops, but c’mon, let’s chill out a little bit about Billy Eppler, the one that got away. This interview gets a four on the 1-to-10 scale of baseball executive radio interviews, and I’ll take Preller over Eppler as a general manager.
No matter what’s happening at the big-league level, the Padres have collected an overwhelming amount of talent over the last few years. Even though Manuel Margot, Austin Hedges, and Hunter Renfroe all graduated from last year’s top 20, the system right now is arguably just as good, with the emergence of prospects like Fernando Tatis Jr., Eric Lauer, and Michel Baez. Michael Gettys, ranked seventh on our list at the end of last season, didn’t even crack our top 20 this go around, and he’s having a fine season as a 21-year-old in Lake Elsinore (okay, the strikeouts are a concern). And there are a bunch of other intriguing names that also fell short.
Over the last couple of weeks, the What’s Brewing On The Farm crew has been huddled at Padres Public headquarters, trying to sort out this heap of exciting prospects. Our creation is a midsummer’s top 20 for your enjoyment.
20. Luis Campusano, 18, Catcher
AZL Padres: 40 PA, .290/.450/.581, 22.5 BB%, 25.0 K%
Campusano, a bat-first backstop, is the opposite of the other catcher the Padres took early in this year’s draft, Blake Hunt. You could probably take either one, depending on your preference for polished defense vs. bigger offensive potential at catcher. Campusano’s tool set includes plenty of bat speed and over-the-fence power, the kind of raw offensive skills that work at any position. He’s 18, so there’s still plenty of work to do on the offensive side of the ball, but the main question with Campusano might be how the work behind the dish progresses.
Eric Longenhagen had a mostly negative report on his defense from a late-June viewing, but it’s early. On the plus side, it’s possible his bat makes him an interesting prospect even at first base or in an outfield corner, but obviously that kind of switch would put a dent into his prospect status. For now, cross your fingers and hope the Padres can develop Campusano into a good catcher. Remember, Yasmani Grandal was once viewed as a bat-first catcher too. (Sac Bunt Dustin)
MacKenzie Gore, LHP, Whiteville HS (NC)
First round, third overall
Gore is like the high school version of two recent Padres draft picks, Eric Lauer and Joey Lucchesi. He’s got a different kind of scouting report than your usual coveted prep pitcher. There’s no blow-you-away velocity here—not yet, anyway. But Gore also has attributes rarely associated with a young pitcher. He possesses a deep repertoire of plus (or potential plus) offerings, he’s polished (at least for the HS breed), and he’s a super athlete, important for things like repeating mechanics and, ahem, staying healthy.
There are, of course, plusses and minuses in taking a high school pitcher this high. On the down side, there’s always plenty of risk attached to any pitcher, particularly a high school one. Gore, while dominant at the high school level, hasn’t proven that he can handle a professional workload or a professional hitter. And there’s always the issue of health, and being a good three or four years away, health is always an ominous shadow.
On the plus side, the Padres got a pitcher who hasn’t gone to college, where he’d potentially be abused to win a conference title or a game in Omaha. He’ll get professional instruction right away, where the Padres will be able to carefully handle his development and promotion schedule. Many major-league stars were drafted as high schoolers for a variety of reasons, and that’s part of the appeal here.
In a perfect world, Gore’s the right combination of upside and safety. That’s something of a rare mix, though the profile—any profile—still carries plenty of its own risk. Expect the Padres to take it easy with Gore early, but his advanced style could allow him to move through the lower levels somewhat quickly once he gets rolling. (Sac Bunt Dustin)
Tanking ain’t easy.
Last season, the Padres finished 68-94, tied for the 2nd worst record in baseball with the Cincinnati Reds and Tampa Bay Rays, a half-game worse than the 68-93 Atlanta Braves. The Twins, having won only 59 games, tanked much harder than everyone else and will pick first in the 2017 MLB draft in 5 days. The Reds, having been very bad for multiple years in a row, won the tiebreaker over the Padres and Rays, and will pick 2nd. The Padres, having been bad but not quite terrible in 2015, won the tiebreaker over the Rays but not the Reds, and will pick 3rd. The Braves, who would be picking 3rd if they had played a full 162 game season and lost the game that was washed out, pick 5th.
With that, you could say that the Padres are a bit lucky to be picking 3rd, and that’s true, but they earned their spot by tanking really hard in the last month of the season, including losing their last 4 games. If they had won any of their last 3 games against 6th pick Arizona, they’d be picking 7th, behind both the Diamondbacks and the Oakland A’s. However, they’re either also a bit unlucky or just didn’t quite tank hard enough. If they’d lost just one more game throughout the year, they’d be picking 2nd, and with the Twins leaning against selecting high school flamethrower and consensus top talent Hunter Greene with the 1st overall pick, picking 2nd would have a huge advantage in this draft.
The public draft boards are all out, and there is a consensus top 5 that goes something like this:
- Hunter Greene RHP (HS)
- Kyle Wright RHP (C)
- Brendan McKay LHP/1B (C)
- MacKenzie Gore LHP (HS)
- Royce Lewis SS/CF (HS)