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)
Luis Campusano-Bracero, C, Cross Creek HS (GA)
Second round, 39th overall
Campusano-Bracero looks squarely like an offense-first catcher. The defense isn’t bad—Baseball America reports an improvement in conditioning that led to better quickness back there, but he’s only an okay receiver and the arm rates as average (some reports are more optimistic). Either way, the bat is likely what excited teams about Campusano-Bracero—at least the bat and the idea that he might be able to stick as a catcher, or even one day turn into a defensive asset back there.
Scouts like the power and there’s the making of a good overall bat here. Here’s a Campusano-Bracero swing from batting practice,
which shows a healthy disregard for the general well-being of a baseball.
The Padres have a stud catcher, of course, in Austin Hedges. Both Campusano-Bracero and Blake Hunt (more on him below) are not yet 18 years old, and both will take a long time to develop. By the time they’re ready—if they’re ready—who knows what will be going on with Hedges, or the Padres in general, or the state of humanity. The idea is to add as much talent as possible, and Hedges’ presence at the big-league level certainly wasn’t going to prevent the Padres from taking a pair of high school catchers, if those are the guys they liked. As a kicker, the Padres are short on good catching prospects in the minor-league ranks anyway, so a couple of young catchers early makes enough sense on the surface, even if you’re thinking about overall need. (Sac Bunt Dustin)
Blake Hunt, C, Mater Dei HS (CAL)
Second round (competitive balance), 69th overall
Hunt, a fast-rising prospect who was mostly off the radar before his senior year, is the opposite of Campusano-Bracero. The defense is good with a chance to get better, and the bat lags behind yet is intriguing enough to dream on.
Catchers are hard to develop, just because there’s so much to learn. You’ve got to learn all the finer points of the position, like receiving, blocking pitches, fielding bunts, calling a game, throwing out runners, etc. While learning all that stuff you’ve also got to learn your pitchers, what makes them click, when to go out and talk with them, what to say once you get out there. Not to mention, at some point, you must learn the best way to attack opposing hitters. And when you’ve got some free time in between all that, you’ve got to learn how to hit.
Hunt comes in a little advanced on the defensive end, at least for a high school catcher. He’s got something of an edge there, but he’ll still have to learn that whole hitting thing against professional pitching while getting accustomed to the Padres way of doing things behind the dish. This isn’t meant to be any sort of jab at Hunt, specifically, who’s a perfectly fine prospect. It’s just that playing professional baseball is hard, and sometimes it’s good to remember that. (Sac Bunt Dustin)
Mason House, OF, Whitehouse HS (TEX)
Third round, 78th overall
You won’t hear terms like “pitchability” to describe the top of the 2017 Padres draft. That’s especially true when describing Padres third round pick Mason House: first because he’s not a pitcher, but second because he’s the opposite of the limited upside, limited floor, polished college player that word often describes.
House is an athletic centerfielder from rural Texas. Dennis Lin reports that Padres scout Matt Schaffner identified House before other scouts, as he didn’t participate in many scouting showcases which provide the opportunity to play against more advanced competition.
Betting on House is an example of the Padres betting on their scouts, which the current Padres regime continues demonstrating a willingness to do. Even before he has a chance to develop, you could argue that trust has already paid off by finding him early and giving their scouts as many opportunities to get looks.
Betting on House is also an example of the Padres’ willingness to take risks. It will continue to be difficult for the Padres to find star players, so the high risk of a bust (see the top of the 2009 draft for a serious warning) seems worth it, especially when the MLB club doesn’t need immediate help. (Sac Bunt Chris)
Jonny Homza, 3B/C, South HS (AK)
Fifth round, 138th overall
Did they fool you? They fooled me, too. After the fireable offense of drafting back to back catchers with their second and third pick, it looked like Preller & Co. started taking things a little more seriously, drafting third baseman Jonny Homza in the fifth round. Homza’s is a somewhat memorable story, as he turned 18 on the day he was drafted, and… he’s from Alaska! But he was committed to play for the University of Hawaii! I don’t know what he has against the Lower 48, but at least he was ranked as the best player in the state (which, again, is Alaska).
But then it turns out that he’s a catcher in disguise! In an interview with Alaska Dispatch News, he mentions that “They might actually convert me to catcher.” After carrying four catchers on the major league roster to start the season, the obsession with the position has trickled down to the minor leagues. It’s like they don’t even know that Austin Hedges is immortal.
In reality, the kid seems like he’s got some good makeup (check the rest of the Alaska Dispatch News piece on him), and A.J. Preller seems to have high confidence in his scouts. The obvious question mark about his performance is the quality of competition. He hit .560 in his senior year, which lasted all of 14 games, while playing shortstop and pitching, but he also played for a Canadian-based traveling team.
I remember hearing a lot of the same kind of things when the Padres drafted high schooler Mason Smith out of Idaho in 2013 (fourth round) – he hadn’t played a lot because of the weather, he hadn’t faced a lot of top talent, but he was a good athlete and had a lot of raw potential. Smith put together a .201/.313/.288 slash line in four minor league seasons, and is nowhere to be found on any MiLB depth carts this year.
Homza is one of the highest draft picks in the history of Alaska, and appears to have earned that distinction with his bat, as he is reported to make a lot of hard contact and has some power. He has already said that he will forgo his commitment to Hawaii and will sign with the Padres, and will be reporting shortly to the Arizona rookie league. (Marcus Pond)
Ninth round, 259th overall
Cunningham, taken in the ninth round (signing bonus slot of around $147,000), was a starting pitcher for the Coastal Carolina Chanticleers and a prep player from South Carolina. In high school Cunningham pitched and played shortstop. He was ranked by Perfect Game as the 5th best shortstop in South Carolina for high schoolers in 2012. He was also a pitcher and touched 90 miles per hour with his fastball in his senior year in high school.
My new college crush—(AP Photo/Nati Harnik) (The Associated Press)
He played four seasons in five years for the Chanticleers as he needed to redshirt his sophomore year due to an elbow injury suffered as a freshman. He fractured the elbow and then had to have it set with a screw. He had some issue with the screw and the delay in recovery led to the redshirt year. He also had to shut down late in his junior year due to some tendonitis in his right forearm. The injuries didn’t seem to be too concerning as he rested for his senior college season and was easily the staff ace at Coastal Carolina. The Detroit Tigers didn’t seem too concerned either and drafted him in the 28th round after his junior year.
Cunningham is a not a tall pitcher as he stands 6-foot flat and weighs in at 210 lbs. From video you can tell he looks sturdy and gets the most out of his frame as he can now crank the fastball up to 96 mph. He has a four pitch repertoire as he goes fastball, change, curve, and slider. He added the slider after his junior year. He works the FB from 91-95 with the a slow curve in the low 70s and the slider and change in the low 80s.
His stats show a solid career as a Chanticleer, culminating in a second-team All-American by Collegiate Baseball award for his senior season. I grabbed his stats from the Chanticleer website and then did the calculations for the simple advanced stuff shown below.
What stands out is his K rate, so it will be fun to follow him through the Padres minors and see if he can maintain it.
Alex will be my new prospect to follow and pull for as he climbs through the ranks. I honestly think the Padres found a diamond in the rough here. Develop his command, as his control looks solid, and keep him working on the slider. I also like that he is a baseball rat and that he graduated with a business degree and should be finishing his MBA this spring/summer. In an interview with the local paper in Myrtle Beach he said he plans to work in baseball his entire life and would love to join a front office when he finishes playing. Hopefully he keeps sitting batters at a strong clip and joins one of the waves of talent heading to the San Diego shores or something.
Go Pads! (Billy Lybarger)
Chandler Newman, RHP, Chattahoochee Valley JC (ALA)
11th Round, 318th overall
The Padres aren’t afraid to take on a project, and here’s one that will need extra care. There’s one thing that stands out in Newman’s scouting report: he can throw a baseball 100 miles per hour. He sits in the mid-to-high 90s, but he can touch 100. Even today, in the Age of Velocity, that’ll turn any scouts head. He also has no idea where his fastball’s going, according to Baseball America and every batter in the Alabama Community College Conference. This season, in his second year at a junior college, he pitched just 23 1/3 innings, walking 28 and striking out 25. Newman ranked eighth on the team in innings pitched, yet he led them in walks—by four.
Newman, six-foot-two, obviously has the physical tools to do bad things to a baseball, but he hasn’t been able to turn it into any type of tangible results outside of radar gun readings. The mechanics are almost certainly out of whack, and we don’t know much about his other pitches, or if they even exist. This is a poor man’s Ricky Vaughn, but he’s just 20 with arm speed, and the Padres generally covet raw tools they can bend and shape into more polished ones. (Sac Bunt Dustin)