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Draft Watch: Setting the Stage for the Padres’ Draft

With the Major League Baseball draft just a week away, we are going to spend time the next few days examining some of the chatter around the Padres first couple of picks as well as identifying some organizational needs.  We at Padres Prospectus understand that following the MLB draft can be a more daunting task than say following the NBA draft given the complexities of bonus pools and the sheer volume of selections, but it’s truly an exciting time for a rebuilding organization that has been loading up on high upside talent.

We want to do our part in setting the stage this week, so here are a few of the items slated to appear the next couple of days:

Tuesday:  A brief look at the three premier prospects expected to be taken first in the draft

Wednesday:  An additional preview of 1st round candidates if Wright and Greene are taken 1st & 2nd

Thursday:  Dark-horse candidates for the number three pick

Friday:  Potential second round choices and more

But before we get to all of that, I thought it would be beneficial to provide some context and refreshers on the process and the past couple of drafts.

Bonus Pools

Let’s start with a synopsis of the Bonus Pool process.  Every pick in the first ten rounds of the draft is assigned a monetary value, which is used to determine official allotments for each team to sign players from the draft (bonus pools).  For instance, the Twins number one overall pick is valued at $7,770,700, and they have a total bonus pool of $14,156,800.

Now, Minnesota isn’t required to sign their top overall pick for the full $7.77 million, and in fact, it is pretty common for a team to agree to pay a lesser talent under the slot value in order to entice later picks with more money.  This can be particularly useful in swaying prep players away from their college commitments as the Pirates did with Josh Bell a few years ago.

Since the league doesn’t want teams to go overboard or gain an unfair advantage by tossing more money than they are allotted, they’ve posted a couple of restrictions.  For one, any team that exceeds their bonus pool allotment by 5 percent or less is fined at a 75 percent tax rate for the overage, but teams who surpass the 5 percent overage can be subject to more stringent penalties including forfeiting future selections.  Also, if a team pays a player after the tenth round more than a $125,000, the overage will be deducted from the team’s bonus pool.

The Padres have been allotted $11,839,000 for their bonus pool, which is good for the fourth largest bonus pool, and of total amount, almost $7 million is the assigned value for the third overall pick.

Competitive Window

Obviously, the Padres front office will want to draft for longterm sustainability, but you have to think they’ll strike a balance between potential and timing, especially early in the draft.  A couple of weeks ago, the San Diego Tribune ran an article regarding the San Diego State football team’s use of Petco Park noting that the Aztecs would be granted access to play at the stadium in 2019 but not 2020.  Ron Fowler reportedly told the tribune, “The reason is that, if we’re in the (‘20) playoffs, we don’t want to be in a position where we can’t even play in our own stadium, our own ballpark,”

This seems to suggest that the front office has placed the team’s competitive window to be opening three seasons from now, and while they’re trying to be patient with the process, it is feasible they could speed up the timeline with some fortuitous deals at the deadline.

After all, Hedges, Myers, Margot, and Renfroe are locked in long-term, meaning the Padres have half of their positional player group already established in the majors.  If Cordoba continues to build off his unexpected success and Urias arrives next year, the Padres could be an interesting place offensively headed into the 2019 season.  Also, the high profile pitching prospects in the system are expected to join the big league club in 2018 and 2019, so it’s unlikely, but possible the team could make some splashes in the National League in that 2019 season.

Projected Padre Lineup for 2020

If you have a chance, take a gander at our organizational depth chart, it should give you a sense of the team needs moving forward, especially when seen through the lens of our top 50 that is set to be unveiled later this week. Regardless, here’s a brief, but certainly not exhaustive, glance of the guys who are viewed as the future at their respective position come 2019/2020

C    Hedges (Torrens/Allen)

1B  Myers  (Naylor)

2B  Urias (Asuaje)

SS  Tatis Jr  (Rondon/Guerra)

3B  Potts  (France)

LF  Cordoba (Torres)

RF  Renfroe  (Ona)

CF  Margot  (Cordero, Gettys)

P:   Lamet, Espinoza, Quantrill, Nix, Lauer, Morejon, et al

As a matter of clarification, Yangervis Solarte is expected to get traded this season, and the rest of the guys on the major league roster profile either more as place holders, role players or organizational depth.   Prospects are by nature a risky proposition, particularly players who are far from the majors; yet, the Padres have done a nice job on paper of setting themselves up for their competitive window.

Looking at the above list, I wouldn’t be surprised if the Padres add another corner outfielder early in the draft this year or next since Cordoba and Ona are risky, albeit promising, pieces (or they could have confidence that one of the center fielders will be pushed to the corners).  Other than that, they should have a lot of flexibility to pursue the best talents available or high ceiling prep arms instead of being pressured to draft a particular position.

The Padres Drafts under Preller

Since Preller joined the organization in August 2014, we have both the 2015 and the 2016 draft to glean for some preference he may have early in the draft.  It’s not a perfect science by any means, especially with how multi-faceted draft decisions can be, but certain general managers have the tendency to gamble while others will settle for higher floor college prospects.  Additionally, it can give us a clearer picture of how the front office pictures the competitive window.

In 2015, Preller and the Padres didn’t have a first round pick, so they didn’t make their first selection until number 51, where they took high school Right Hander, Austin Smith.  He’s had a disappointing start to his career, failing to produce better than a plus 6 ERA for his minor league career. Nix, who pitched for a post graduate team following a deal breakdown with the Astros in 2014 draft, was Preller’s third round selection.

The following draft, if you recall, evinced that Preller wasn’t afraid to gamble on top of draft talent that dropped because of injuries, drafting Cal Quantrill at number eight even though Quantrill was unable to pitch for Stanford that spring because of an extended recovery from Tommy John Surgery.  Later that round, the Padres selected a southpaw collegiate pitcher with a good floor but low ceiling in Eric Lauer and also Hudson Potts later in the first round.  Potts was more of a second or third round talent, but they were able to sign him under the slot value, providing the team with more flexibility as the draft progressed.

Undoubtedly, the extra first round picks also gave them an opportunity to take some chances in next few rounds as they snagged Buddy Reed, a speedy defender from Florida with some flashy tools but some holes in the swing, another first round round talent in Mason Thompson whose Tommy John Surgery had other teams balking at taking him, and  prep right-hander  Reggie Lawson.

Closing Thoughts

In usual fashion, Preller seems to prefer taking high upside arms over positional players early in the draft and with the Padres still a few years out, it’s more likely they continue that trend unless they’re smitten with Royce Lewis.  I also would say a decision to take a couple of guys dropping because of injuries or college commitments would be a strong bet since the influx of talent from last year’s draft and international signings can allow them to be more aggressive than the plethora of team’s with weaker systems.  Regardless, the Padres are poised to add even more to their bevy of talented young prospects, and there’s little pressure to do anything other load up on high ceiling players.

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