The San Diego Padres opened up the 2022 MLB Draft by adding pitching to the system, taking three pitchers on Sunday night: Georgia high school righty Dylan Lesko 15th overall, Nevada prep southpaw Robby Snelling at 39, and University of Iowa righty Adam Mazur in the second round at 53rd overall.
Pitching is an obvious need for the Padres system, but the organization didn’t necessarily focus on adding more arms through the draft.
“Every year in the draft, you always try and take the guys that you feel like are going to be best for you for now and in the future,” said Padres president of baseball operations and general manager A.J. Preller after the draft. “Ultimately, from our standpoint, you don’t want to be short-sighted and we [want to find] the best players for us over the course of the next five seasons. There was nothing really different this year in that process.”
Lesko, 18, had Tommy John surgery in April. Prior to his injury, he was widely considered the best prep pitcher in the draft and a potential top-five pick. Instead, he will join a Padres organization that surely could use some pitching depth.
“Right now I am 12 weeks off of surgery,” said Lesko in a Zoom meeting with the media. “For me, it’s just rehabbing multiple times a week and just hitting the weight room hard for lower body and core and doing as much as I can to be even better than before I got hurt.”
Lesko stands 6-foot-2 and 195 pounds. He was the first junior ever to claim Gatorade national high school player of the year honors. He went 11-0 that season with a 0.35 ERA and 112 strikeouts in 2021.
Pre-injury, Lesko featured a fastball that sat in the 92-95 mph range. However, it is his changeup that is the separator with multiple publications calling it the best changeup in the draft.
“I was a freshman in high school when I first started throwing it. One of my travel coaches told me just to try it with a circle-changeup grip and I started playing with it. It felt really comfortable off the bat and ever since then it’s just kind of grown and become my best weapon and my go-to, really.”
“For us, for myself, and guys in the room, it was a 70-grade changeup,” said Chris Kemp, the Padres vice president of amateur and international scouting in a Zoom meeting with media. “It looks like a fastball out of the hand and it’s got that pull-back, that fade. It gives the illusion to hitters that it’s a fastball and they commit early and they have a hard time stopping. For our group, it’s an elite changeup.”
Despite the surgery, the Padres’ opinion on Lesko didn’t waver. He was one of the top players on their draft board.
“Even after the injury, it didn’t really change much,” said Chris Kemp. “He was squarely close to our top-five.”
With their second pick of the evening, the Padres drafted left-handed pitcher Robby Snelling, out of McQueen High School in Reno Nevada. The 18-year-old was a two-way athlete and, as a four-star football recruit as a linebacker, was headed to LSU to potentially play both baseball and football. Listed at 6-foot-3 and 200 pounds, he has the size organizations look for from their starters.
“Robby for us was the highest graded makeup kid on our board.,” said Kemp. “His dad is a high school football coach, his uncle is a football coach. Robby grew up playing everything. [We liked] his competitive nature, just everything about Robby and the way he’s wired and the way he is built really intrigued us.”
In the second round, the Padres selected Iowa righty Adam Mazur. The 21-year-old began his collegiate career with South Dakota State where he struggled a bit in his two seasons. He transferred to Iowa for the 2022 season and earned the Big Ten pitcher of the year award. He went 7-3, with a 3.07 ERA in 15 starts. In 93.2 innings, he struck out 98 batters.
“We’re getting a great makeup kid. Our scouts have done a lot of work on Adam,” said Kemp. He’s a plus athlete and were real excited to have him.”
The Padres will continue to draft on Monday with rounds 3-10, followed by rounds 11-20 on Tuesday.