Padres' picks feature speed, small schools and plenty of pitching

July 12th, 2023

SAN DIEGO -- A.J. Preller and the Padres have been here before.

They've seen their farm system plummet in the rankings following major trades. And each time, they've embraced the challenge of restocking that farm.

"We've heard that multiple times in the last four or five years," said Preller, the Padres' GM. "... Definitely last year, going into the year, there was a lot of talk about where our system was. Obviously, when we got to the [Trade] Deadline, we had the ability to trade for any player in baseball -- and make a deal like Juan Soto.”

That farm is about to get a fresh injection of talent. The Padres made 18 selections in the three-day MLB Draft that finished Tuesday. That class figures to be crucial in the team's ability to replenish its system in the wake of last summer’s trade frenzy.

Here are a few takeaways:

1. Speed at the top
With two of their first three picks, the Padres selected two of the Draft's fastest players -- and

Those picks come as the sport trends toward speed following recent rule changes. Did that factor in the Padres' decision making?

"Not necessarily," said scouting director Chris Kemp. "You look at Dillon and Homer, they're 80-grade run tools. Special talent. No matter what era we were in, those guys were going to jump out."

Still, it can’t hurt that the stolen base is back in vogue. Each swiped more than 30 bags in the amateur ranks last season.

2. Two-way Musgrove
Joe Musgrove remains the last Padres pitcher with a hit in a big league game. With the presence of a universal designated hitter, that mark might stand for a while.

Unless it’s threatened by another Musgrove.

The Padres selected Tucker Musgrove (no relation) out of the University of Mobile in the seventh round. An outfielder and right-handed pitcher, Musgrove will at least begin his pro career as a two-way player. He batted .397 with eight homers as a senior while compiling a 3.00 ERA across 18 appearances.

"He's one of these small-school talents that didn't get recruited out of high school, kind of a late bloomer," Kemp said. "It's a great story, and whether he was wearing a UCLA jersey or University of Mobile, this guy's got real talent. We're pumped to have him."

3. Pitching, pitching, pitching
The Padres almost completed Day 3 by drafting exclusively pitchers. (Instead, they ended the Draft by taking B.Y. Choi, a shortstop prospect from Korea -- and a massive Ha-Seong Kim fan -- who attended junior college in New Mexico.)

Still, before Choi, the Padres opened the third day by taking nine pitchers. The two most intriguing names were at the top -- , a right-hander from Florida State University, in the 11th round and , a left-hander from Ocean Lakes High School in Virginia Beach, Va., in the 12th. Both Montgomery and Dickerson checked in among MLB Pipeline's Top 250 Draft prospects.

Montgomery was the highest-ranked prospect to go unselected in the 2020 Draft (which was shortened to five rounds because of the pandemic). He attended Florida State, where his results were underwhelming, though his stuff remained tantalizing.

"He didn't have the year he wanted in Tallahassee," Kemp said. "But I feel confident with [pitching coordinator] Rob Marcello and our group in Arizona, we should get him on track pretty quick. Pretty excited about him."

Dickerson, who stands 6-foot-6, was a standout for Team USA at the U-18 World Cup. He has a four-pitch mix and a low-90s fastball that should tick up.

"Didn't think going into the year we'd be able to get a guy like Blake Dickerson in the 12th," Kemp said. “… It was just a really good fit. Really hoping we get it done.”

4. Signability questions?
The Padres were docked two picks this year as a penalty for exceeding the Competitive Balance Tax threshold while signing a qualified free agent (Xander Bogaerts). That meant they also lost that money from their bonus pool. They have $5,416,000 -- the third-lowest sum in baseball -- to sign picks from the first 10 rounds (and any other player over $150,000).

“We've done our homework, both on the players and on the Draft strategy,” Preller said.

Given the Padres’ aggressive Day 3, it stands to reason that they might see one of those high-upside pitchers go unsigned. Dickerson in particular, with a Virginia Tech commitment, could be a tricky deal to get done.

That’s not how Kemp sees it.

“I like to sign everybody we draft,” he said, resolutely. “I'm expecting to get ’em all.”