The Padres activity on the second day of the three-day major league draft wasn’t bad but paled in comparison to what they were able to accomplish initially, according to Taylor Blake Ward, who covers the major league draft for scout.com
“Possibly the best first day of any team, but today they also padded their prospect depth with toolsy and athletic [college] picks. [Left-handed pitcher] Alexuan Vega is also an interesting pick.”
Despite using seven of the eight choices on college players, Padres’ General Manager A.J. Preller and Scouting Director Mark Conner continued their tools-first preferences.
Fourth-rounder Dylan Coleman and Rutgers product Jawuan Harris from the seventh round stand out. Coleman, 21, a six-foot-six right-hander taken in the fourth round fits a classic profile for Conner’s drafts as a late-blooming Midwesterner.
“Coleman is one of those really good athletes who might turn into a good baseball player,” said Ward. “It’s almost liked he picked up a ball and was gifted at throwing it, but still doesn’t know what he’s doing throwing it.”
In his junior year at Missouri State, he had 122 strikeouts in 96.2 innings but also allowed 54 walks for a 3.63 ERA and 10-2 record.
“He’s definitely growing into a more intriguing guy who you have to run out as a starter in pro ball. I’m not sure if it will last, but I think you can dream on a high-upside reliever.”
Harris played both football and baseball at Rutgers, but despite being considered a better prospect in baseball didn’t have a good junior year hitting .246/.375/.387. He was projected as a potential early-round prospect, but a so-so season and a two-week suspension which both he and the coaching staff termed as “maturity” issues gave some teams a pause.
It’s a classic case of a team attempting to make an athlete into a professional baseball player and in the seventh round, it’s the type of gamble that Preller has always been willing to make.
Alexuan Vega, 17, is considered a “projection lefty with a live arm” according to Jim Callis of MLB.com “with a chance to start”. The six-foot-two Puerto Rican native only began pitching recently and is committed to Miami-Dade Junior Junior College.
Ward said that a Puerto Rican scout that he spoke with thought Vega had a chance to become a “special talent”. Vega was originally an outfielder, but right now he sits 88-90 with his fastball and has shown a capacity to throw an above-average curve and slider. He’s very athletic, but also very much a long-term product.
Owen Miller, 21, a junior shortstop the Padres took from Illinois State profiles more as a second baseman because of his arm and because of the talent that the Padres have at that position with second-rounder Xavier Edwards and players like Jordy Barley already in the system.
He put up some big numbers in his junior year at .384/.433/537 in the Missouri Valley Conference but was known more for his basketball ability than his baseball prowess in high school. In fact, he only played one year of high school baseball but was active in travel baseball with the Chicago Scouts Association.
Baseball America writes that right fielder Dwanya Williams-Sutton, 20, stands out for his raw power, “but it hasn’t translated into games as much as teams would like.”
The Padres used their last three picks, right-handed pitcher Steven Wilson, second baseman Luke Becker and right-handed pitcher Jose Quezada on college players with no eligibility remaining. Look for the organization to sign these players for well under slot value and use the remaining savings to go after more difficult players to sign.
San Diego has $10,979,850 (the pool amount plus five percent allowable overage) to spend in the first ten rounds. While left-handed pitcher Ryan Weathers is thought to have taken some discount, he was still projected as a top ten pick, so the savings shouldn’t be that high. It may take more than the $1.9 million slot amount to buy shortstop Xavier Edwards out of his commitment to Vanderbilt University.
Look for savings in the last three picks, and possibly among competitive balance pick B outfielder Grant Little, Miller, Coleman, and Williams-Sutton.
Last year San Diego went significantly above slot to sign pitchers Cole Bellinger and Joey Cantillo, whom they took in the 15th and 16th round. Both high school pitchers took home over $300,000 – the sixth and seventh highest bonuses the club paid – equivalent to fifth-round money. In 2016, 15th-rounder Jack Suwinski and 28th round pick Ethan Skender got bigger bonuses than any other players taken after the third round.
It’s a decent bet that someone picked on the last day this year could end up in the top five for bonus money in 2018.