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Padres not put off by missing early Draft picks

Scouting director Conner accepts challenge of selecting first at No. 51 after losing Nos. 13 and 41

SAN DIEGO -- When he was promoted to scouting director in November, Mark Conner looked at the order of the First-Year Player Draft and saw that the Padres' first two selections would fall at Nos. 13 and 41 overall.

That's before Conner's boss, first-year general manager A.J. Preller, lost the 13th overall pick to the Royals in February for signing free-agent pitcher James Shields.

"A.J. does a good job of keeping us involved," Conner said. "Before we signed Shields, he called me to ask if we should give up No. 13 for Shields. I told him we shouldn't do it. But I called the next day, saying I would be selfish not to.

"He laughed. But he gets it ... it's a pick, it's what we live for every day. That's hard to give up."

Then on April 5, the day before Opening Day, Preller struck again.

Preller traded for Braves closer Craig Kimbrel, a package which included the 41st overall pick, a competitive balance selection.

Video: Brock on Padres acquiring Kimbrel, Upton Jr.

At some point on that Easter Sunday, before the deal was officially announced, Conner got a phone call. It was Preller.

"He said, 'Man ... you're going to hate me again,'" Conner said on Monday from his home in Nashville, Tenn.

If Conner, who was a regional scouting supervisor before he was promoted, was hurt or even upset about losing the two Draft picks, it didn't last long. A phone call from another scouting director cleared things up for him.

"He told me, 'Your first-round pick was Shields and your comp pick was Kimbrel' ... and he said, 'You're doing pretty well,'" Conner said. "But the truth is, this is all about whatever you can do to help the big league club.

"The way I look at it is, it is fun to have the challenge not having those first two picks."

Additionally, with the way this Draft lines up -- the First-Year Player Draft begins on June 8 -- it might not be the worst thing to not have early picks. As it stands today -- and unless Preller starts dealing again -- the Padres' first pick of the Draft comes at No. 51, which is in the second round.

"Seven years from now, we might say we shouldn't have given up those picks, but I think that this Draft is really lacking elite guys at the top," Conner said. "But I think the guys that pick at Nos. 10 and 30 could get the same exact guy.

"At No. 51, I think we're at as good a spot as if we were picking at 13."

Conner joined San Diego in 2010 as an area scout and was named the organization's scout of the year after his first season, during which his area included Tennessee, Kentucky, Ohio, Michigan and Indiana. He later moved up to regional supervisor and took over as scouting director last fall after Billy Gasparino joined former Padres general manager Josh Byrnes with the Dodgers.

Conner has made a good impression on Preller.

"Mark is a good judge of talent. In his role, he's leading the department. He's a good example for guys to follow. He's a good communicator who is prepared for his first Draft," Preller said Sunday at Petco Park.

Conner, the team's area scouts, regional supervisors and national crosscheckers will fly to San Diego on May 30 and begin meeting at the ballpark the following day.

Corey Brock is a reporter for Keep track of @FollowThePadres on Twitter and listen to his podcast.
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