The 2012 MLB draft got underway yesterday. There won't be a lot of draft coverage at the Trail. Lots of people get paid a lot of money to prognosticate, predict, and pull apart the players major league teams draft every year. I am not one of them.
For a small-market team like San Diego, however, the draft is the main way the club can improve. Some would say the only way. So even I can't completely ignore it.
Last year the Padres had 2 first round and 3 compensatory picks, and they used those selections to take 2 college infielders (Cory Spangenberg/Jace Peterson), 2 high school pitchers (Joe Ross and Michael Kelly) and a high school catcher (Brett Austin, who ultimately didn't sign). This year, the Padres had one first round pick and 3 compensatory picks. They again focused the majority of their picks at the HS level, taking 3 pitchers. The other pick was for a college OF.
Max Fried is the Padres #1 pick (seventh overall) for 2012. A lot of folks thought they would get the kid Correa, a shortstop from Puerto Rico, but Houston took him first overall and kind of blew that plan up. Fried was rated the #1 left-handed pitcher in the entire draft by Baseball America. I would think he's got to be estatic on a number of levels, not the least of which is the future opportunity to make half his starts in the best pitcher's park the NL has to offer. He's from Encino, CA, and played at Harvard-Westlake HS, which I only mention because my father taught there for the better part of 30 years (he semi-retired and moved out of the state in 2002) so I have a small affinity for the school.He's committed to play for UCLA in the fall. With the new slotting rules in effect this year it will be interesting to see if San Diego can throw enough money at him to lure him into the organization. Would that we all had such problems at 18.
Zach Eflin is not a Disney Channel teen show character name, he's the Padres #2 pick (#33 overall), a 6-5, 200 pound RHP out of Haglin HS in Florida. A quick google search reveals he has 3 solid pitches (fastball/curveball/change), hits 92 on the gun with the fastball, and has improved dramatically over the past 12 months. Eflin appears to be a bit of a project - my opinion entirely, and only based on the radical change in his mechanics over the past year - but he also appears to be a guy with a ton of upside, much like Fried. These are exactly the types of kids San Diego should be taking now given the current state of their minor league system (read: stacked), guys they probably would not have willing to touch even 2 years ago.
Travis Jankowski is the lone position player taken by the Padres in the first round (#3 pick, #44 overall), a 6-3 CF from Stony Brook U in New York. He was named a Louisville Slugger second-team All-American this year and is the current American East player of the year. He's just finished his junior year of college and I would imagine will turn pro now that he's a first round draft pick. Based on his college numbers he looks like a kid with gap-to-gap power, and he has speed on the basepaths. I'll assume he's a good defensive OF, which he'll have to be in order to play at Petco. San Diego has a lot of OF on the major league roster, but those who know think the organization suffers from a lack of OF depth. Good pick, then, this one is.
The team's last first round pick (#55 overall) is Walker Weickel, another tall (6-6) RHP out of Florida (Olympia HS). He reportedly also features fastball/curveball/change up, and his fastball can reach 94. He's only 195 pounds - a big skinny guy - which means he still has room to grow, put on muscle, and possibly throw harder than that before he's done. Yet another guy with a ton of potential as a pitcher.
Given the lack of an impact bat on the major league roster, many thought the Padres would focus on getting hitters in this draft; after all, they have stockpiled good pitching prospects over the past few drafts and traded for others. However it appears they took the best talent available when it was their turn, and I for one am totally OK with that. Of course, if they don't sign all these guys it's for naught, so let's see how that plays out over the upcoming weeks.
Some information in this post is courtesy the San Diego Padres Media Relations department.
Caveat: As I do every year, I'll tell you up front - I am not a draft expert. If you've come here looking for in-depth analysis on these 4 men you'll want to look elsewhere.