SAN DIEGO — The San Diego Padres completed the first day of the 2018 draft by selecting three players, adding to the impressive talent and depth in their minor league system.
With their first pick, the seventh overall, the Padres drafted LHP Ryan Weathers, a prep pitcher out of Tennessee. The estimated slot value for the pick is $5.2 million.
“He’s a guy going into the year that our area scout, Tyler Stubblefield, had a history [with],” said Padres General Manager A.J. Preller, shortly after completing the draft’s first day selections.
“[Weathers] was on the summer scene, and obviously he is [former big leaguer] David Weathers’ son. We have pedigree and bloodlines. In summer scene right out of the gate, he performed well in all of the summer showcases.”
Weathers, 18, went 10-0, with a ridiculous 0.09 ERA (that’s a single earned run) in 76 innings, with 148 strikeouts in his senior year. Like last year’s first-rounder MacKenzie Gore, he won Gatorade’s National Player of the year.
“Our area scout Tyler Stubblefield identified him early and got to see his talent, but he also got to spend time with his family,“ said Padres scouting director Mark Conner. “He comes from a very good family, [has] a baseball background. As the process unfolded, there’s a lot of players in the country and, like A.J. said, we thought he was one of the best high school players in the country.”
The Padres were projected by many in the prospect-evaluation industry to select Arizona prep LHP Matthew Liberatore, and the decision did spark some debate in the organization.
“I think that anytime that you have young, talented players like those two, there’s very small differences in these players. Our guys do a lot of work and I think there was a lot of debate going both ways,” said Conner.
“Each one of our scouts also looks at things a little bit differently and maybe values different parts of how they do things — from an operations standpoint, stuff standpoint and makeup, so there was a lot of good debate.”
General manager A.J. Preller was able to see Weathers’s last high school start and came away impressed.
“Mark and I were there and it was one of the better high school games you could see,” said Preller.
“He showed us everything we had seen from scouting. He was composed, he was competitive. [He] threw a ton of strikes, the velocity was 90-96 mph and he held his velocity deep into the game.
“He has a three-pitch mix — he didn’t throw the change-up much in high school but he has a very good change-up and his breaking ball continued to develop as the year went on.”
With their second pick at #38 overall, the Padres selected shortstop Xavier Edwards, a high school shortstop out of Coconut Grove, Florida. He projects as a top-of-the-order type player. While some in the industry perceived his commitment to Vanderbilt to be a potential barrier to signing, the club would have to feel confident in his pricetag being close to the pick’s $1.9 million slot value to take him at this point. Last week’s trade with the Twins, in which the Padres acquired the #74 overall pick and the $812,000 in slot money that comes with it, may have made the Edwards pick easier to navigate.
“Having the extra pick definitely gave us some additional options,” said Preller. Just having the pick to make another selection but also the money associated with it.”
“As you get into the draft now, with the way it works in the top ten rounds and the slot money associated with each pick, it’s definitely an exercise in trying to mix and match and how to make your money work for you. From our standpoint, we viewed it as something that would give us some flexibility to get some players that we may not have had access to.”
Edwards hit .406 this year, with a .532 on-base percentage and 24 stolen bases in a competitive Florida high school baseball environment. He is a player who should stick at shortstop.
“From our standpoint, it’s hard to find lead-off hitters,” said Preller. It’s hard to find guys that can make things happen at the top of the order, swing the bat, [and] control the strike zone.
“From where we had him evaluated, he’s one of the more advanced high school bats, in terms of plate discipline, seeing pitches and doing the things you want to see from good lead-off hitters.
“For us, he’s an infielder who can go out and play shortstop but like a lot of our other infielders, he will move around a little bit in rookie ball — left side, right side. We see him as a middle-infield, top-of-the-order guy.”
With the 74th pick, the Padres selected Texas Tech outfielder Grant Little. Little hit .380/.481/.676, with 12 homers and 70 RBI’s this season as a draft-eligible sophomore for the Red Raiders. While he was drafted as an outfielder, Little has played some infield throughout his career.
“Our scouts like the fact that he has played shortstop — he played high school basketball and he’s an athlete,” said Preller. We’ve talked about can he play center field, can he play left field? That’s what we are going to see here in pro baseball.
“I think he is a guy that is very versatile, he’s athletic. He’s got some twitch and some athleticsm to him. He’s made some diving catches that have been on SportsCenter. My guess is that he will start playing in the outfield and we will take a look at the infield as well.”
Day two of the draft is tomorrow, with rounds 3-10. Day three concludes on Wednesday, with rounds 11-40. The club should have flexibility as they head into the later rounds.