Padres bet on youth with prep picks, arms

June 14th, 2017

SAN DIEGO -- Every team in baseball got a bit younger via the Draft this week. The Padres went younger than most.
San Diego's early selections skewed heavily toward high schoolers, as general manager A.J. Preller set a club record by taking prep players with each of his first six picks.
:: 2017 MLB Draft coverage ::
"You're trying to draft to build a championship organization," Preller said. "You're trying to get as many guys as you can get that you feel like can be championship performers down the road. ... Sometimes that falls on the college ranks, sometimes that falls on the high school ranks."

Eventually, the trend turned to pitching, as the Padres took hurlers with 12 of their first 17 picks, including eight in a row at one point. The Friars finished with 20 pitchers, five catchers and eight infielders and outfielders apiece.
Ace in the deck?
Last year, San Diego had more picks than anyone in baseball. This Draft was less about quantity on Day 1 and more about finding a franchise-changing player with the third pick.
In selecting MacKenzie Gore, the Padres feel as though they've done exactly that.
Padres nab elite left arm with third pick
"The group of scouts we have in there, especially some of the veteran guys, we felt like he was as talented as any left-handed high school pitching prospect that we've seen over the course of the last 10 years," Preller said. "I think he stacks up pretty favorably to really anybody that we've seen."

The 18-year-old lefty is the highest Draft choice by the Padres since they selected Donavan Tate at No. 3 in 2009. Gore's high school numbers -- a 0.19 ERA and more than two strikeouts per inning -- are downright absurd. And his accentuated leg kick has already drawn the attention of Dontrelle Willis.
"The athleticism, ease of operation, arm angle jump off the table at you," Padres scouting director Mark Conner said. "As you start watching, the competitor comes out more and more. He's easy to fall in love with."
Catching on
After Gore, the Padres went with consecutive backstops to end Day 1, taking Luis Campusano-Bracero with the 39th pick and Blake Hunt at 69. To some, the selections seemed curious, given the young catchers -- and -- on the big league roster.

"You make mistakes if you sit there and try to draft for need or try to draft based on the current state of the big league club," Preller said.
Padres take defense-first catcher to end Day 1
There's a nice side effect to securing Campusano-Bracero and Hunt, who are both years away from the Majors. They'll be tasked with bringing along some young pitchers. In that regard, both catchers come with high marks.

"We have a lot of pitching prospects, and there's a comfort that they're going to be throwing to quality young catchers," Preller said. "I really look forward to seeing the development on both sides. With Campusano and Hunt in particular, we're getting two guys that are quality receivers, and can handle some pitching prospects. Those guys will grow together."
Top prep catcher goes to Padres
The Last Frontier
With their fifth-round pick, the Padres selected Jonny Homza from South Anchorage HS, making him the 21st Alaska high schooler ever taken in the Draft. Only one of those selections went on to play in the big leagues -- left-hander Chad Bentz, who made 40 appearances for the Expos and Marlins in 2004-05.
The high school season in Alaska is predictably short, and typically prospects from the state are raw and unproven. Preller indicated that wasn't the case with Homza, who played with the Langley Blaze, a club that toured Arizona this year, and competed against pro competition on Spring Training back fields.
Day 2 Draft roundup: Padres select House, Homza
Homza, who is committed to Hawaii, hit .560 with an OPS north of .700 this season. He took home a second consecutive state player of the year award.
"I'm excited to see the change from being outside maybe five months to being able to play year-round," said Taylor Nerland, Homza's high school coach. "We're in a corner of the United States that doesn't get much recognition. We tell all our guys that if you're good enough, someone is going to find you."
House has a home: Padres take upside outfielder to open Day 2
Day 3 roundup
Video: PDP: Cole Bellinger from Chandler, AZ
Among the Padres' 30 selections on Day 3, the most notable was arguably 15th-rounder Cole Bellinger, brother of Dodgers rookie first baseman and fresh off a state championship title at Hamilton High in Chandler, Arizona. Unlike his brother, Cole throws right-handed and projects as a pitcher.
Padres select brother of Dodgers 1B Bellinger
One round earlier, the Friars selected Vijay Miller, from East Mississippi Junior College. Along with his 3.97 ERA and 10.4 K/9, Miller passed for 599 yards and six touchdowns as a quarterback on the football team, which is featured in the Netflix series "Last Chance U."
Talent-wise, the most intriguing of Wednesday's selections is 28th-round center fielder out of Parkview Baptist High in Louisiana. Cabrera, the Draft's 55th-ranked prospect by MLBPipeline, is expected to follow through on his commitment to LSU -- hence his freefall into the latter rounds. If the Padres can sign Cabrera, it'd be an impressive Day 3 coup.

"Daniel Cabrera is one of our scouts' favorite hitters in the entire Draft class," Conner said. "Truthfully, his commitment to LSU is pretty strong. ... We wanted to take him and see how it all plays out."