On the eve of the shortest draft in major league history, San Diego Padres’ executive Vice-President and General Manager A.J. Preller and Director of Amateur Scouting Mark Conner reiterated that they would follow the same strategy that they have in their previous drafts: take the best player available.
“If two guys are pretty much identical that is when you start looking at some areas of strengths and weaknesses throughout the organization, but both Mark and I have had plenty of conversations in the past that if we take six pitchers in the draft, then it’s six pitchers,” said Preller in a Zoom press conference on Tuesday.
“If its six high school players, then it’s six high school players.
“Each year is a little bit different and you have to play to the strengths of each year’s draft because the next could be different.”
The COVID-19 outbreak, which ended the high school and college seasons significantly changed the way in which players were evaluated, forcing the organization to rely more on reports from the summer and previous years and yes, Zoom chats with potential draft picks.
“We did a lot of Zoom calls like this,” said Mark Conner on this year’s changes. “We had a better opportunity to get know the players as people, their backgrounds throughout the country and we did a lot of them.
“Also, we looked for different ways to research players, talked to different people so I think we actually feel better about the makeup of these players we are getting this year after not having that Spring session which will leave a little bit of a question on the physical side.
“The conversations went in all type of directions talking families, goals and all that good stuff.”
San Diego will have three of the first overall 45 selections, and the eighth overall pick, so despite the shortened format, the 2020 draft will only make an already strong system stronger. As we wrote in an earlier article, the four main publications that follow the baseball draft – ESPN, The Athletic, MLB Pipeline and Fangraphs primarily have the Padres attached to a high school outfielder from Tennessee, Robert Hassell who is yet another Vanderbilt University commit as was Ryan Weathers and Xavier Edwards from the 2018 draft.
There are two other potential options, 6-foot-5 Florida prep outfielder Zac Veen, who is thought to be the player San Diego will take if they get an opportunity and 6-foot right-handed college pitcher Max Meyer from the University of Minnesota is another possibility. Finally, a name that has emerged recent days is 6-foot-3 left-handed-hitting University of Arkansas outfielder Heston Kjerstad, a graduate of Amarillo, Texas’s Canyon Randall High School, home of the Sod Poodles.
As discussed on Keith Law’s podcast on Monday with Jonathan Mayo of MLB Pipeline, because of the lack of Spring games, the media has not been able to see team’s general managers or scouting directors getting multiple looks at players they are thinking of selecting.
Which makes the 2020 MLB amateur draft even more of a guessing game than in previous years.