SAN DIEGO -- The 2021 MLB Draft presents a different kind of challenge for the Padres and for scouting director Mark Conner.
For the first time in five seasons, Conner's scouting group doesn't have a top-10 pick. In fact, the Padres -- fresh off their first postseason appearance in 14 years -- will be picking 27th overall, the latest they've picked in the first round since 1997.
So, yeah, a new kind of challenge. But a welcome one.
"I mean, this is the place where we want to be picking," Conner said. "We want to be picking later in the rounds. Honestly, we still attack at like we're going to go after the best player on the board. Our job is just to put together a good process. We can't determine who goes ahead of us."
That process is simple enough, Conner says. Like any other year, the Padres will put together a board of their top Draft prospects, and they won’t skimp much at the top, even if it's likely that the sport's biggest names won't fall to them.
"Just because of the residual effects of COVID, and picking later in the Draft, not knowing what other teams might do, there could be players who we don't expect to get there who get there," Conner said. "For us, we just have to be prepared for a bunch of different scenarios.
“Honestly, if we do our process right and put ourselves in the position to take different players that may be there, we'll still end up taking the best player available."
Day 1 of the 2021 Draft will take place live from Denver’s Bellco Theatre on Sunday. It will feature the first 36 picks and will air on MLB Network and ESPN at 4 p.m. PT. Day 2, which will span rounds 2-10, begins at 10 a.m. PT on Monday. The Draft will conclude with rounds 11-20 on Tuesday, starting at 9 a.m. PT. MLB.com will simulcast MLB Network’s broadcast and provide live coverage on all three days.
Some quick specifics on the Padres' 2021 Draft:
• In addition to the 27th overall pick, the Padres own a Competitive Balance Round B selection, so they will also pick 62nd and 71st.
• The bonus pool with which they can sign players is $6,812,300 -- $2,570,100 is the suggested allotment for the team's top overall selection at 27.
This year's Draft offers a return to normalcy for the Padres' scouting group after the five-round edition that took place in June 2020 while the sport was shut down because of COVID-19.
Still, the 2021 edition featured its share of challenges, too. At the outset of the spring season, scouts were limited in their access to players, particularly in college settings. The COVID-19 pandemic also impacted the college and high school baseball seasons differently in different locations.
In that regard, Conner pointed to what he feels is one of his scouting department's biggest strengths.
"Our guys do a tremendous job of getting around these players when they're young, getting to know them and getting to know their families," Conner said. "It brings so much comfort in our process, having multiple years of history with them.
“I do think even though we missed a little bit last year of the in-person stuff, our guys did a really good job getting to know the background of these guys, putting us in good situation."
In some ways, it's a crucial Draft for Conner and the Padres, whose farm system remains strong but has been somewhat depleted over the past year and a half, as general manager A.J. Preller traded a handful of top prospects to acquire big league talent.
"Every year, we feel the Draft is the most important day of the year," Conner said. "Our job is, regardless of the year, regardless of the situation -- players who remain in our system or have been traded away -- our job is to keep adding to what we have.
"Knowing where our system is today compared to prior to the trades, our guys are just excited to add talent."