The Padres wrapped up the 2020 draft earlier in the month, selecting six players in the shortened five-round draft. While the draft was the shortest in MLB history, San Diego was still able to add plenty of talent in the abbreviated draft.
Baseball America writer Carlos Collazo covers the draft for the publication and wrote this year’s top-500 draft prospects. In addition to his duties with Baseball America, Collazo also provided analysis on MLB Network’s draft coverage.
Collazo gave us a few minutes of his time to answer some questions about the draft and gave further insight into what the Padres were able to accomplish.
MadFriars: Was covering this draft harder as a whole? And did you have to rely on notes from previous years a little more to put everything together?
Carlos Collazo: I think to that last point, the notes that we take through the process [are something] we rely on every year. It was definitely nice to have them this year for some of the kids who are further down the [top] 500; maybe scouts didn’t get to see this spring or maybe we didn’t have as much updated information as we typically have.
In terms of reporting and ranking the BA 500, it was almost easier to do that this year, just because there were so many scouts who weren’t at the field travelling around and they had more time to chat. We were able to iterate our rankings a little more to reflect the industry consensus with everything kind of static. It made a little easier to feel good about the rankings — typically we are trying to update the rankings while so many things are going on, like players trending up-and-down.
I think the difficult part was just flushing out the depth of the class because obviously a lot of scouts didn’t get to work down their full prep list, many players in the northern part of the country didn’t get to play at all, so it’s a lot of guesswork there. And the mock [drafts] were much more of a challenge just because in previous years, we’ve been able to link some players with teams in the second half of the first time based on what evaluators and decision-makers are going to games; none of that information was available this year.
Our mock results weren’t great but I feel pretty good about the information we had and we were able to tie teams to players they were interested in the first round. Throughout the top-15, I felt pretty good about all that information, it’s just a case of we had the wrong names in while we knew they were interested in the names that actually went to them. The mock was challenging but it was still fun to do.
When I went through Baseball America and all the other mock drafts out there, many of them mentioned that the Baltimore Orioles might go with a player who would take an under-slot deal but I was pretty surprised in the direction they went in. Was that a huge surprise to you?
Carlos Collazo: As you said, we heard rumblings that they were pursuing under-slot deals with certain players. I was a bit surprised by the player specifically. I kind of expected [Zac] Veen or [Nick] Gonzales as the more likely players to go with an under-slot deal there but [Heston] Kjerstad was getting plenty of buzz — like a top-ten kind of guy. I think it makes sense.
We all had Austin Martin and all the mocks I saw had Austin Martin. I thought that was probably going to happen. I don’t know if being shocked — that’s probably an overstatement. Even up until draft day, we still heard pretty consistent rumblings that this was something that the Orioles were pursuing. I think everyone knew it was a possibility.
For me, another pick surprise was Spencer Torkelson. Not that the Tigers drafted him first overall but that he was announced as a third baseman because everything that I had read was that he was strictly a first baseman. In your report, you said he could play left field but he’s more likely to stick at first. How much of a surprise was that announcement and were there any rumblings of that pre-draft?
Carlos Collazo: That was a little bit of a surprise. I don’t think it’s too big of a deal. We see teams draft players at positions that they haven’t played but that they just want to try them at. The surprise might have been expedited because Spencer had always played first base and he was the number-one prospect. We were kind of ranking him as a first baseman specifically.
I think it’s interesting that the Tigers are going to presumably try him out at third base because he’s athletic and he moves around pretty well. We think he’s going to be an above-average defensive first baseman and if you do put him at third base and he shows an ability for the position then I think you just increased the value of the top prospect in the draft. I don’t think there’s any real harm with that. If you find that he’s just not taken to it very well, you can just put him back at first base and just let him mash. I think it’s really a no-risk situation and just looking at it from that perspective, it makes plenty of sense.
Padres fans looked at all the information out there, including all the mock drafts and I don’t believe any of them that were completed right before the draft had Zac Veen falling to the eighth pick which he ultimately did. The Padres still went with Robert Hassell. Was that surprising or did you think they were just locked in on Hassell all the way?
Carlos Collazo: We definitely heard a lot of Hassell leading up to the draft. That was one of the few picks we got right in our mock so I feel good about that one. I think when Veen started falling — once he got outside of the top-seven — I figured pick nine would be his realistic landing spot because I heard the Rockies were really in on him. I think at that point, I would imagine if the Padres were picking between Robert Hassell and Zac Veen, who maybe he has a higher price tag, I think it makes a lot of sense. You don’t see the Padres giving over-slot deals to preps at the top very often, at least recently.
And I do just think that they think Robert Hassell is the best hitter in the high school class and I think that is perfectly valid. Hassell is absolutely the better performer of the two, when you just look back at their high school careers, in terms of pure hitting ability, approach at the plate, he is the more advanced hitter. I think the difference is that Veen is a bigger guy, [he] has more power now and you can project more in the future. I think you can make a legitimate argument of which of the two you’d prefer as a scouting staff. I wasn’t too surprised when the Padres passed [Veen] up. I don’t think the gap between the two players is as massive as maybe the rankings would make it seem like. They are pretty close. It’s just a matter of what you’d prefer as a scout and a general manager.
What are scouts projecting in terms of power for Hassell? Is he someone that could end up hitting 25-30 homers, or is he more of a high-teens home run hitter who hits for a high average?
Carlos Collazo: I would think more towards the latter right now but we’ve seen plenty of these guys in high school who are very pure hitters who just kind of come into their strength and power later on. I think Christian Yelich is probably the best example of that kind of player. No one really expected him to hit for a ton of power. When you are looking at the best pure hitters in the class, they really get to every ounce of the power that they have in the tank. I don’t think that Hassell is fully maxed out; he’s still got some development and strength and he can add to a pretty lean frame.
Most of the scouts that I have talked with think he can grow into average or above-average power. There weren’t too many people who would put plus on it. But considering the major league environment that we’ve seen recently, it wouldn’t be shocking to see him get to plus and get to the 25-home run seasons.
In reading the reports on Justin Lange, he obviously has a big fastball and is very athletic but doesn’t have a feel for the breaking stuff yet. But in the post-draft Zoom sessions with scouting director Mark Conner, the organization really thinks he has a chance to develop his off-speed offerings into at least average or better offerings. Based on what you have heard, have you heard others put that tag on him, or is he a guy that will need a lot of time to develop?
Carlos Collazo: I think both. I think he definitely needs a lot of work. Everyone would say that [developing plus off-speed pitches] is in the tank. He’s one of the more athletic players in the class. Just the strides that he showed from last summer to even last fall, in terms of strength gains and physicality on his frame and fastball velocity, he was really special. He is a high-risk, high-reward type of player because of that.
There were scouts who were putting bottom-of-the-scale control and command on Lange this spring. He seems like a guy who doesn’t really have a very developed idea of how to prepare and how to go about things just yet. But I think that’s exciting for a team like the Padres, who feel like because of that athleticism and that natural arm talent, once he does get into a system and they develop that type of structure for him and teach him some of the nuances of pitching and establishing workout routines and how to prep for outings; all those finer details you learn at the next level, there’s no reason to think that he can’t tap into all of that talent that he has and start to realize it a little more consistently.
Tomorrow, Carlos reviews San Diego’s selections from Day 2.