On night one of the draft, the Padres added one of the top high school left-handed pitchers in the country, an upside middle infielder and a college hitter with a track record of success if no definite role going forward.
They also retained enough flexibility to make an aggressive move early on day two.
Having committed to over $7 million in salary for Phil Hughes next year in order to add the 74th overall pick – and the $812,200 in bonus pool money that goes with it – the Padres had more options in the draft than they had expected as recently as a week ago.
“It’s definitely an exercise in how to mix and match and how to make your money work for you,” said General Manager A.J. Preller after the night was finished. “We viewed it as not just a little addition, but something that was going to give us some flexibility.”
In 2016, the club opted to use money from an under-slot agreement with first-rounder Hudson Potts to pursue high-ceiling pitchers Reggie Lawson and Mason Thompson – while still feeling quite confident in their drafting analysis of the then 17-year-old infielder.
While none of their three picks from day one this year are likely to save quite as much on their pool allocation as Potts did, it’s possible that between the three selections, the club may actually have more total money to work with heading into day two than they did in 2016.
Weathers had emerged as one of the top two high school lefties in the draft this spring, and while most analysts had some daylight between him and Matthew Liberatore, the gap wasn’t big. That led to speculation that the club would take whichever player would give them more bonus flexibility with the $5,226,500 slot attached to the pick.
Because the Padres’ first pick in third round has a pool allocation of $694,000, they’d need to come up with over $3,000,000 to offer a player mid-first round money at that spot. That’s more than 25 percent of the total amount they have to spend in total, so such a move seems unlikely.
That would seemingly preclude them from pursuing the best of the remaining high school arms, Cole Wilcox, but it’s conceivable they could still find a way to land Kumar Rocker, who has been linked to them for weeks, or equally massive high school righty Adam Kloffenstein, who is almost a year younger.
The team has been especially effective at finding legitimate prospects at significant discounts from the bonus pool allocation on day two under scouting director Mark Conner. Joey Lucchesi signed for less than 20 percent of his pool amount. Jerry Keel and Jesse Scholtens have reached the upper minors quickly despite very small bonuses. The club’s ability to find prospects who also provide flexibility has been a hallmark of their approach.
Watch for the club to continue their heavy work in the Midwest – Conner’s former scouting territory – and Northeast, especially among college pitchers. They’ve had at least three selections from those traditionally under-represented regions in the first 10 rounds of each of the last two drafts.
The club will have the seventh selection in each of the remaining rounds. Rounds three through ten will be held Tuesday and rounds 11-40 will happen in rapid-fire succession on Wednesday.