Padres take speedy SS Abrams at No. 6

June 4th, 2019

SAN DIEGO -- A.J. Preller finally bucked his first-round pitching trend. For the first time in his tenure as general manager, the Padres selected a hitter with their first pick in the MLB Draft on Monday night. Then they selected two more.

That first-round hitter was CJ Abrams, a speedy high school shortstop out of Georgia, who might project as a center fielder long-term. He's an advanced left-handed bat with other excellent tools as well.

Among them, Abrams' speed clearly stands out. He's potentially the fastest player in the Draft. He also owns an arm which has been clocked at up to 91 mph from shortstop.

“We love the athleticism, love the player, love the speed, love the impact he brings to the game,” said Padres scouting director Mark Conner. “As a group, we couldn't be happier he was sitting there for us.”

Abrams was celebrating the occasion with family and friends at Taco Mac, a local restaurant in Roswell, Ga.

“When I heard my name called, it was an amazing feeling,” Abrams said. “Unexplainable. It was a dream come true. The grind really starts now.”

After Abrams, the Padres took high school outfielder Joshua Mears with the 48th overall selection and George Mason catcher Logan Driscoll at No. 73. They hadn’t opened a Draft with three straight hitters since 2013, when they took Hunter Renfroe first.

At 18, Abrams will need some time before making an impact. But he’s got the credentials to do so. In his senior season at Blessed Trinity High School, Abrams hit .431 with three homers, and he earned the nod as the Gatorade Player of the Year in Georgia. His 6-foot-1, 178-pound frame is not likely to grow into much power, but his bat-to-ball skills are excellent.

“Probably some of the best -- if not the best -- bat-to-ball skills in the entire Draft,” Conner said.

Abrams is committed to Alabama, but the Padres are confident they’ll be able to pry him from that commitment. Abrams was quick to note, “I could definitely see myself signing pretty quick.” Instead, the biggest question surrounding Abrams and the Padres is where he’ll play defensively.

“I see myself as a shortstop and staying there,” Abrams said. “I take a lot of pride in my defense.”

He’s pegged as a solid defender at short, but San Diego is as deep at shortstop as anywhere else on the diamond. Fernando Tatis Jr., of course, is expected to man the position for the foreseeable future.

Preller said Abrams will indeed begin his Minors career at short, but he left open the possibility for a move to second or center in the future. Abrams played center field on Team USA at the 18-and-under Pan American championships last year, while Bobby Witt Jr., who was selected No. 2 overall by Kansas City, played short.

“I think he could stay in the infield,” said Abrams’ high school coach Andy Harlin, who has managed a handful of big leaguers including Tyler Flowers. “He played some second base for us when he was younger, and it was just ridiculous pivots at second base. At shortstop, he's got great range, and he can throw from any angle and any spot on the field.”

Harlin’s quintessential Abrams story comes from a game during his junior season. It accurately sums up Abrams’ speed -- which Harlin said is “on a different tier that I've never seen.” But the moment is arguably a better indication of the drive and determination Abrams plays with.

“It's not a walk-off home run or a spectacular defensive play, like he does all the time,” said Harlin. “It's a ground ball to first base, a normal three-hop hard ground ball, and he outran the first baseman to the bag. The reason I bring that up is because it shows how he plays the game. He got out of the box like it was a double in the gap. Most kids don't do that. That's the kind of player that you're getting.”

Padres honor Welke

Preller and Co. found an appropriate way to honor beloved scouting executive Don Welke, who passed away in September at age 75. The entire baseball operations department donned red sport coats in the team’s war room, as was Welke’s tradition on day one of the Draft each year.

Welke, known fondly as “Coach,” spent 50-plus seasons in professional baseball, and he influenced a number of the game’s top executives today. He joined the Padres in 2014 after eight seasons in Texas alongside Preller.

“He was a tremendous scout and a big part of that room for the last few years,” Preller said. “For all of us, as we're breaking down players, thinking about why you would or would not take certain players, you've got Coach in the back of your head, thinking about some of the things that he taught the group. His presence is in the room.”

Mears, Driscoll go late

By most projections, Mears was a late arrival on the prospect scene during his senior season at Federal Way High School in Washington. He’s one of the Draft’s most notable high-risk, high-reward bats. At 6-foot-3, 235 pounds, Mears is strong with lots of power, but he’s still a bit raw with his swing and his approach.

“We love the power, love the impact he has,” Conner said. “But the quality of handling the zone and putting bat to ball stood out throughout the spring.”

Driscoll, meanwhile, batted above .300 in every season at George Mason, and he added some power during his junior year. He’s a left-handed-hitting catcher, but certainly not the plodding type.

“He is a very strong-bodied athletic kid,” Conner said. “When he doesn't catch, he plays center field, which goes to show his athleticism. He probably has a chance to be an average defender behind the plate with a plus arm. He's got a left-handed swing with strength. And probably, with all those attributes, his makeup is still the best quality.”

The Draft continues on Tuesday with Rounds 3-10. The preview show begins at 9:30 a.m. PT, with exclusive coverage beginning at 10 a.m. PT. Go to for complete coverage, including every pick on Draft Tracker, coverage and analysis from MLB Pipeline’s Jim Callis and Jonathan Mayo, the complete order of selection and more. And follow @MLBDraft and @MLBDraftTracker on Twitter.