With the 34th pick in the 2020 MLB draft, the San Diego Padres selected RHP Justin Lange out of Llano High School in Llano, Texas — a town of about 3,000 north of San Antonio.
Lange, 18, ranked #50 on Baseball America’s top-500 list and he checked in at #56 on MLB Pipeline’s list of top draft-eligible prospects.
Over the last year, Lange has put on 25 pounds of muscle which resulted in an increase in his fastball velocity. He topped out in the low-90s last spring, but this year his fastball sat in the 94-95 range and topped out at 100 mph in a few instances. MLB Pipeline had this to say about the young righty: “[Lange] repeatedly reached the upper 90’s this spring and touched 100 mph. He has one of the best bodies in the class.”
Baseball America said that Lange is “tremendously athletic and has high-octane velocity but command ranks near the bottom of the scale and his off-speed pitches currently rank below average.”
Despite questions around his command and secondary pitches, the organization seems to see a lot of upside in the young righty.
“This is a player who last summer at the Area Code Games didn’t have a great performance but you could see the body and projection,” said Padres scouting director Mark Conner.
“[You could see] his arm work with looseness and quickness that in time the velocity was going to come. One of the things in getting to know him during this quarantine and not being able to see him was that he is a worker; he put in a lot of time in the weight room. He talked about working out on Christmas Day and New Year’s Day and you saw the benefits with the velocity gains, the strikes, the life to the fastball. We are super excited to add him to our system.”
Lange has a commitment to play baseball next season at Dallas Baptist University. The 34th pick comes with a recommended slot bonus of $2,148,100.
The Padres’ willingness to look beyond showcase circuit performance issues when players show development and progress in the following year has paid off handsomely on recent years. Catcher Luis Campusano and outfielder Josh Mears both had some challenges in national spotlight events the summer before their senior years, but put in work to improve in subsequent months.
Overall outlook: Lange is an interesting but unrefined pick. It’s easy to dream on a prep righty who has an upper-90s fastball with an easy delivery. As of now, the righty doesn’t flash even an average off-speed pitch but the organization believes he has a feel for a changeup and that he can refine his breaking ball to be at least a useable pitch.
Under normal circumstances, Lange would head to the Arizona League to get some seasoning before fall instructs. For now, like the rest of the Padres prospects, he will wait until the opportunity to make his pro debut.
The Padres will have four picks tomorrow: #45, #80, #109, and #139.