Padres bet on upside with Draft selections

San Diego picks four high schoolers, plus two college righties

June 12th, 2020

SAN DIEGO -- The Padres had six selections in the 2020 Draft, but they’re confident they made the most of them.

"Any time you get a little mixture of guys that are 'now' guys and guys that have upside down the road, I think it's a very good blend," said Padres scouting director Mark Conner. "So I'm extremely happy with this class.”

After landing outfielder Robert Hassell and right-hander Justin Lange on Day 1, San Diego added four more prospects on Thursday -- including a big splash in the third round. Here’s a recap of all four Day 2 selections:

Round 2, 45th overall: Owen Caissie, OF, Notre Dame Catholic, Ontario, Canada
The Padres opened Day 2 the same way they opened Day 1: by selecting a high-upside high school outfielder with a smooth left-handed swing.

One of the youngest players in the class, Caissie won't turn 18 until July 8. That leaves him plenty of time to grow into his very projectable frame. Caissie stands 6-foot-4, 190 pounds with some serious power potential.

"Our staff was drawn to the swing and the power," Conner said. "Then you get around him and you see how he's wired. … The combination of good swing, power from the left side, elite makeup -- that's super exciting for us."

Unlike Hassell in center, Caissie projects more as a corner outfielder. But he has an excellent arm, labeled 60 grade by MLB Pipeline. As things stand, Caissie is committed to the University of Michigan.

Round 3, 80th overall: Cole Wilcox, RHP, University of Georgia
Here's where things really got interesting for the Padres on Day 2.

Wilcox is clearly more than a third-round talent. (MLB Pipeline ranked him as their No. 23 overall Draft prospect.) But there are questions about whether he will sign or return to Georgia for another season. The Padres gambled on the former.

"We were in this situation last year with Hudson Head where we took a player [like this in the third round]," Conner said. "Part of the Draft now is understanding the dollars and managing some things. At the end of the day, I'm pretty confident we'll get something done."

If Wilcox puts pen to paper, it's an unquestioned victory for Conner and the Padres. Wilcox is already a polished athlete at 6-foot-5, 232 pounds. Before his sophomore season was cut short, he posted a 1.57 ERA with 32 strikeouts and just two walks. Wilcox boasts a mid-90s fastball and a wipeout slider and a changeup. The key to his recent success at Georgia was his ability to harness that overpowering stuff.

"If you’re a Rocky fan, he looks like Ivan Drago," said Georgia pitching coach Sean Kenny. "It was all raw power. And ... I think about halfway, three-quarters through last year, it became pitchability. Where he’s throwing breaking balls for strikes whenever he wants it, and out of the bullpen it’s up to 100 [mph].

"This year it was kind of 95, 96, 97 because he’s starting, but he would hold that velocity. So I guess the biggest change and the thing that he really gave everybody a glimpse of is: This guy went from a high-end reliever to a starter because of the strike-throwing. To be able to harness the power was really fun to see."

Round 4, 109th overall: Levi Thomas, RHP, Troy (Ala.) University
Somehow, the Padres managed to find a college pitcher with better 2020 numbers than Wilcox in Round 4.

Thomas was practically untouchable before his junior season came to an early end. He pitched 23 innings and struck out 42 hitters while allowing just nine hits, six walks and a singular run. In late February, he tossed six scoreless frames against top-ranked Florida.

"As hard a worker as I've ever been around," said Troy pitching coach Matt Hancock. "I can't tell you how many times I'd run into the kid late night at the field, doing stuff on his own."

Thomas owns two solid offspeed offerings, a changeup and a slider. But his primary weapon has always been a lively fastball in the low-to-mid 90s that he commands with precision.

"The velocity might not jump off the sheet and scare you, but it's got late life," said Hancock, who noted the pitch's high spin rate. "I've never coached a kid with as much swing-and-miss to his fastball as he has. It's one of those things where he hides the ball well. It's pretty effortless coming out of his hand, and then it may surprise hitters with the life that's on it."

Round 5, 139th overall: Jagger Haynes, LHP, West Columbus (N.C.) High School
Haynes hails from Cerro Gordo, N.C., just outside of Whiteville. Population: 207. And two of those 207 pitch in the San Diego Padres organization.

Haynes and right-hander Seth Frankoff, who signed a Minor League deal with a big league invite last offseason, have spent the past few months working out together in Cerro Gordo.

Whiteville, meanwhile, is home to Padres star prospect MacKenzie Gore, who has also worked out with Haynes in the past. Somehow, a small rural pocket of southern North Carolina has become a hotbed for Padres pitching.

Haynes was a relatively unknown commodity on most Draft boards. He boasts a three-pitch mix with a fastball that can hit 94, an advanced changeup and a developing slider. At 17, Haynes is one of the youngest players in the Draft, and he should fill into his wiry 6-foot-3 frame nicely.