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Draft Watch: Reaching for “Under the Slot Value” Options

Since the last installment of our draft watch series focused on secondary options for the number three pick, we’ll call this the “under the slot value” group.  I wouldn’t anticipate Preller going this direction given the availability of the premier talent at the top of the draft, but it’s worth exploring if they’re smitten with some guys in the second round that they want to overpay.

After all, the Padres reached for both Hudson Potts and Eric Lauer in the first round last year, signing the former for $1.19 million under the slot value.  That savings, along with others, enabled them to entice both Reggie Lawson and Mason Thompson, a first round level talent slipping because of Tommy John Surgery, to sign for well over the pick values.

To be fair, I would like to note that Preller agreed to an over the slot deal for Cal Quantrill at pick eight, so it’s not like he played around with his top selection. Anyways, here we go.

Jeren Kendall  CF

Jeren Kendall might possibly be the toolsiest player in the draft, boasting one of the top gloves in the draft class that in conjunction with his grade 70 speed makes him a surefire bet to be a center fielder for the long-term.  Yet, the speed isn’t only a boon to his defense as he’s successfully stolen 67 bases in 83 attempts over his three year career at Vanderbilt.

His primary concern is his bat given that he currently has some mechanical issues, a hole in his swing, and slight difficulty with pitch recognition, striking out in over a third of his at-bats; nevertheless, Kendall still managed to slash a robust .312/.379/.569 with 15 homeruns against some stiff competition in the SEC.  If he develops with the bat, he could easily be a Jacoby Ellsbury type of player, and if he doesn’t, the glove and speed are strong enough to start at the bottom of the lineup.

Perhaps that sounds like a risky propistion, but earlier this spring, John Sickels of Minor League Ball wrote, “Although the bat is not a sure thing, Kendall is an excellent prospect overall and few college players can offer his broad combination of tools and skills. He’s thrived for a top program and there’s no question he will go in the first round, very likely in the top five. I think the bat is a bit too raw for him to go first-overall, but it would not be a surprise to see him go second,” and I might add that Sickels was by no means alone in that evaluation of Kendall.

With that being said, it may seem an unlikely choice for the Padres, but considering the volume of high ceiling talent in their system, they can afford to take a chance on a guy who could wind up being an all star center fielder if it helps them out later in the draft.

Adam Haseley  OF

While Kendall’s bat is a glaring concern, Adam Haseley, a junior outfielder from the University of Virginia, has one of the premier bats in the draft.  His advanced approach helped him hit a sensational .390 while walking over twice as many times as he struck out this year.  There’s not been a lot of pop in his bat in previous seasons, but the ranking vaulted to the upper half of the first round is that he 14 homers in 58 games this season.  Even if that is an outlier, he’s looking like a .280-.290 hitter with 15-20 homeruns that can play in center or one of the corners.

At pick three, Haseley would certainly be a reach, but he would allow Preller maximum financial flexibility as the draft progressed.  Also, if you recall our projected 2019/2020 major league lineup, there’s some concern that Cordoba, Nick Torres and Oña carry; by drafting Haseley, the Padres would gain a polished hitter that could move quickly through the system with little risk of flopping.

Austin Beck  OF

The 18 year old outfielder from North Carolina has “star potential” according to Jim Callis and Jonathon Mayo of MLB Pipeline, who suggest that he has the potential to be a 25/25 player in either center or right field. Similarly, Dave Rawnsley at Perfect Game raved about Beck, saying, “His hitting approach is outstanding, with a balanced set up and directional stride at the plate, ideal hand position with a calm and relaxed load and as good of lower half torque and whip as this scout has seen in a long time. The raw bat speed is extreme, absolute highest level. . .Beck hits to all fields due to his balance and ability to wait on the ball and very consistently squares the ball up.”  Also, I won’t dive too deep into the crazy comparison, but respected scouts are throwing around the name Mike Trout.

Even though he has the arm and glove to handle center (both draw plus grades), he may not have the instincts required to play center, so moving his cannon of a right arm to the corner could pay dividends. Or if he wound up in left, could you imagine having Renfroe and Becks’ arms gunning down runners?

Alright, this one may seem far fetched, but he’s shooting up the draft boards, even garnering consideration as a top two pick.

Final thoughts,

Again, these under the slot” players are not the direction I would anticipate Preller and the Padres heading, but Preller becoming enamored with a player and reaching has happened before.  Also, If I had to be pressed to include anymore names, I’d say Alex Faedo (RHP University of Florida) or Shane Baz (RHP Prep).

Tomorrow, we move away from the first round and explore some possibilities for the second round and later, touching on some potential “over the slot value” contenders.

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