2012 MLB Draft: Padres Strategy, Draft Board, PredictionsPosted by in MLB Draft
The 2012 MLB Draft is officially upon us and the Padres are in prime position to add to their already deep farm system with six picks in the first 100 selections. Unfortunately, this year’s draft is not nearly as deep as last year’s when the Padres were able to add Cory Spangenberg, Joe Ross and Austin Hedges to the fold, but there are still plenty of talented players available.
Chase has already looked at a few potential Padres picks (here, here and here), so today we’re going to take a closer look at the Padres’ likely draft strategy to try and narrow down the possible scenarios.
San Diego’s drafting style has done a complete turn around in the last few years as Jaron Madison and his team were able to change processes to better focus on finding the best talent available and get as many looks as possible at that talent. This has led to a change in the type of players the Padres have elected to target in recent years, which was as evident as ever in last year’s draft.
It has all been done in a concentrated effort to avoid continuing the drafting style that found one productive Major Leaguer in almost two decades. Even members of the front office are willing to admit that the process in 2009 – when many of them were around – that led to the selection of star-athlete Donavan Tate and his eventual $6 million bonus was poorly executed without even considering what he has done on the field since that day. Needless to say, changes were necessary.
New rules will also affect selections this year. Changes in the CBA have “officially” limited the Padres to a $9.9 million draft pool for their selections in the first 14 picks of the draft. While there are steep taxes and penalties for exceeding this pool, all teams have a 5% window above their slot they can enter without repercussion. CORRECTION: The 5% window carries a 75% tax on the overage. It is the only penalty that does not also cost the team a draft pick.
On the other hand, in order to keep their entire draft pool, the Padres are required to sign all of their picks in the first 10 rounds. So, if San Diego is unable to reach a deal with their first pick, their draft pool will decrease by that selection’s slot – $3 million. For further explanation of draft changes read this article from Baseball America.
Because of all this, we can assume a few things about the Padres’ strategy:
1) It looks like they will be all but out on top prep right-hander Lucas Giolito. Once considered the favorite to go 1-1, Giolito suffered an elbow injury that cost him the entire season. Yet he is still expected to command a bonus north of $4 million, meaning the Padres would have to sacrifice almost half their entire budget on a single player who may require surgery in the near future. Not a likely scenario considering the organization understands they need to hit multiple home runs in player development every year to remain competitive.
2) The recent strategy of risk countered with signability should continue. Over the last two drafts the Padres have elected to almost pair top selections together to fit their ideal draft strategy. In 2010, Karsten Whitson was taken as a high-ceiling, high-bonus play in the first round and was then followed by a relatively easy college sign in Jedd Gyorko. In 2011, Spangenberg was selected after explicitly declaring that he would sign for slot money and was followed by a high-ceiling, high-bonus player in Ross. They were then followed by Hedges and Brett Austin – two picks San Diego elected to play off each other to find the best deal – and a few upside college pitcher signs in rounds 3 and 4 to maintain picks with worthy ceilings but lower overall bonus demands. While teams can never truly predict who will be around at each of their selections, it is clear the Padres focus on diversifying their draft evenly among different types of players.
3) Picking Mike Zunino is extremely unlikely. While it’s true that the Padres are committed to taking the best player on their board, picking Zunino – a catcher from University of Florida – would make little-to-no sense. In the last year plus San Diego has given over $1 million to three different teenage catchers, traded for Yasmani Grandal and signed Nick Hundley to a contract extension. Yes, catcher is the toughest position on the field to fill defensively but Zunino is not the type of talent you take as a luxury with other premium players still on the board.
Based on the above factors, here is our best guess at the Padres’ draft board for pick 1-7, along with their approximate rank in the system upon selection.
Correa is a name well known by now if you follow the draft. The Puerto Rican shortstop is one of the youngest draft eligible players this year, yet has some of the best current offensive and defensive tools in the entire class. Even cautiously optimistic onlookers will put above-average future grades on four of his five tools with speed being the only part of his game that will likely still hover around average. Correa has gained a ton of late helium with Seattle at three and Baltimore at four legitimate threats to select him.
Zimmer has less than three years of full-time pitching experience but has quickly progressed in his development. A fantastic athlete, Zimmer shows a loose arm that allows him to deploy a plus-plus fastball, hammer curveball and solid changeup. Zimmer is expected to be the third college arm off the board and would likely be available at the Padres’ pick if Correa is tabbed with one of the top selections.
Fried is a projectable high-school arm who has a shot at three plus pitches. Velocity fluctuations plagued Fried in his senior season with his fastball ranging from 86-95 throughout the year. His breaking pitches are refined for his age and should make Fried a Top 10 pick in the draft. The Royals and Cubs have shown serious interest in Fried, but he should be available to the Padres at seven.
Almora is considered one of the safest high school selections in the whole draft with his advanced toolset. His defensive ability in center is talked about in the same way as Hedges’ was last year and his bat shows an advanced feel for contact and some power. The Cubs have shown the most interest in the Scott Boras client at this point with some evaluators saying it’s a “lock” he’ll be taken at six if available.
Dahl is a true five-tool talent in center field. One of the best athletes in the draft, Dahl has tremendous batting practice power and has proven his game against advanced competition. He isn’t getting much buzz in the Top 10, but Dahl could be a definite possibility for the Padres if they are less than thrilled with available options.
Hawkins projects as a right fielder in pro ball with the bat to stick. He takes advantage of tremendous leverage and strength in his swing and should never have a problem clearing the fences. There’s enough swing-and-miss in his game to keep Hawkins out of consideration in the top of the first round, but there’s enough to like about him that grabbing him at seven would not be considered a reach.
Prediction at 1-7:
Predicting Correa assumes that a few teams ahead of the Padres with systems that lack “sure things” will elect to go with the safer play early in the draft to maximize their chances of an immediate return. Correa’s bonus demands are not completely clear yet – publicly – but an asking price of $3.5-4 million would not at all be surprising or out of the question. Giolito is still a complete wild card in this draft, but there are whispers a team at the top is heavily considering him, which would greatly improve the Padres’ chances at Correa.
As alluded to before, if the Correa is the pick expect a polished college arm or an advanced bat – similar to Gyorko – at 1-33.
With all that said, it’s now fully reasonable to expect Zunino at seven and Giolito at 33 just so the Padres can once again prove that the draft is impossible to predict. No matter what happens, sit back and enjoy the ride Padres fans.