Padres pick speedy high school outfielder

Dillon Head selected at No. 25 in the 2023 MLB Draft

July 10th, 2023

SAN DIEGO -- Before was drafted by the Padres on Sunday night -- and before he batted .484 with six home runs and 31 steals as a senior at Homewood-Flossmoor High in Illinois -- the speedy outfielder visited San Diego to compete in the Area Code Games, a high school showcase, last summer.

He, uh, likes the city.

“Probably my favorite place on earth,” Head said.

He might just call it home one day.

With their only pick on Day 1 of the 2023 MLB Draft, the Padres selected Head at No. 25 overall. A left-handed hitter, Head projects as a center fielder with elite speed and range and excellent bat-to-ball skills. His upside is tantalizing if he can hone his offensive skill set and perhaps grow into some power.

“I think there’s sneaky juice in there offensively,” said Padres scouting director Chris Kemp. “He’s a guy that goes line to line and works good ABs. Real excited about his skill set.”

It certainly feels like a pick befitting an organization that has consistently fallen in love with high-ceiling high schoolers. Head becomes the eighth straight high schooler selected in the first round by the Padres (dating to 2017 when they selected MacKenzie Gore). He also fits the mold of several recent Draft picks as an athletic up-the-middle defender -- a la CJ Abrams or Jackson Merrill.

“That’s one of the things over the last few years that we’ve seen some of the players have in common,” said general manager A.J. Preller. “But each year’s different, each Draft’s different. Some of those guys that are doing well in the Minor Leagues or have gotten to the big leagues -- Dillon has a lot of similar traits.”

In his senior season, Head posted a ridiculous .485/.554/.814 slash line. He worked 15 walks across his 118 plate appearances, while striking out only five times. Head says he models his game after Andrew McCutchen, “as a guy that played center field and was kind of a five-tool guy.”

Presently, Head is committed to Clemson University, though the Padres are no doubt optimistic they’ll be able to sign him and add him to a system that, while lacking a bit at the upper levels, has made serious strides with its lower-level talent.

“We’ll see what happens in these next couple days,” Head said of his Clemson commitment. “I’m definitely grateful and appreciative of the Padres selecting me.”

Head spent Draft night at home in Illinois with a handful of family and friends. His media availability featured a colorful cluster of balloons in the background. The group was watching the Draft on TV when Head’s name was called.

“It was definitely a surreal moment, seeing how my mom and dad reacted, seeing them cry,” Head said. “It just made me feel real emotional. I just love making them proud, seeing all they did for me to get to this point. It was definitely a surreal experience today.”

The Padres, without a second-round pick, made no further selections on Day 1. They forfeited their second- and fifth-round picks in this year’s Draft as their penalty for being over the Competitive Balance Tax and signing a qualified free agent, Xander Bogaerts.

Without those two early round selections, the Padres own the Draft’s third-lowest bonus pool at just $5,416,000 -- the amount of money that can be spent on the bonuses of their picks. (The slot value of the 25th pick is $3,145,600.

The Draft continues on Monday with Rounds 3-10, before it wraps up Tuesday with Rounds 11-20. Every pick will be streamed on The Padres will be tasked with filling out a Draft class that features only two top-100 picks and four top-200 picks. But Kemp recently expressed plenty of confidence in his group’s ability to find late value.

On top of that, the Padres are convinced they made their Day 1 pick count. On Sunday night, about an hour after he heard his name called, Head harkened back to a memory from the Area Code Games last summer, which took place during an early August series between the Padres and the Giants. 

“I got to go out and watch a Padres game, and I loved the atmosphere, the game, the fans, all that type of stuff,” Head said. “You know, they’ve definitely got some of the hottest players in the game right now, so it was a cool experience.”

Give it a few years, and he just might be sharing that field with them, too.