As Baseball America’s lead draft writer, Carlos Collazo is the very rare person outside a major league organization with an informed opinion on nearly every player selected in the draft. Carlos, who spent a summer with in San Diego before joining Baseball America in 2017, has always been generous with his time with us in letting Padres’ fans know about the new players coming into the system.

The below discussion about the Padres’ 2023 draft is lightly edited.

Dillon Head was San Diego’s top selection in 2023. (Photo: Jerry Espinoza)

MadFriars: As someone who covers the draft, how do you define what is a good draft for a team?

Carlos Collazo: I think evaluating the quality of an individual team’s draft is more retrospective because you can be excited about the players on the day of the draft, but no one knows how it will pan out for a few years.

So you have to give it a bit of hindsight and give it time to breathe, which is one of the reasons why we don’t grade draft classes because it’s a bit of a fool’s errand. After all, we have such a long runway on what a player’s career will look like. So, in the end, it’s on so many different factors, the scouting, player development, and the players. Then, see where that class stacks up among their peers.

People generally expect big league regulars to come out of all the rounds, but that’s not how it works. If you get big league regulars from any round, you feel great because the hit rate in baseball is so low compared to other sports.

Some drafts are better than others. For example, many of the guys picked in the fourth and fifth rounds of the 2020 draft that, because of COVID, didn’t have a spring season, would have been taken much higher now.

One criticism some have made of Padres President of Baseball Operations A.J. Preller is how much time he spends scouting various draft prospects. Do you see or hear about other executives of his level doing the same thing, and, in your opinion, how much should they?

Padres executives Matt Klotsche, Dave Post, Josh Stein, and AJ Preller are on the field at the Peoria Sports Complex. (Photo: David Jay)

Carlos Collazo: [For me,] seeing a general manager who scouts as heavily in person as Preller is fun because it is my world.

He is certainly the most active GM on the amateur scouting circuit that I am aware of. It’s an inside joke in the industry that if a player is good, you will also see Preller in his basketball shorts and bucket hat. He has the strongest reputation among the GMs for getting on the ground and scouting, and he loves that part of the job.

The Padres generally have one of the most in-depth scouting processes, specifically on the amateur side – which I can speak to – based on talking to scouts and other people in the industry when they discuss clubs other than their own.

They put a significant premium on scouting and what their scouts think of a player, rather than just collecting video, filling out a report, and letting the model decide what they do. I think it’s something you see filter through the organization from the top down. Preller is scouting hard, and the others want to do the same amount of work.

So they are a very active and competitive group on that front, and it’s enjoyable to watch it in action.

Dillon Head impressed at the PG All-American Game in 2022. (Photo: Jerry Espinoza)

The theme of your article on the Padres Draft was “premium defensive profiles.” How do you compare Dillion Head and Homer Bush, Jr., and do you think they will be able to hit?

Carlos Collazo: I have more confidence in Dillion Head’s hit tool than I do with Homer Bush because of how advanced he is at his age compared to where Bush was at the same time. With high school compared to college, you may feel a little more comfortable with the statistics that Bush put up this spring, but I think Dillon has fewer questions on impact relative to Bush.

Power is the most significant question mark in their overall profiles. Dillion does an excellent job of controlling the zone, being pesky in the box, and manipulating the barrel. He is going to have a chance for an above-average hit tool.

The question is, how much more physicality will he develop? He is almost an Enrique Bradfield type in high school, and I believe Dillon has fewer power questions than Bradfield did in high school. Bradfield might be grade better defensively and speed-wise, so you are trading off premium defense in center field for a little more power.

He’s a very well-rounded prospect overall. We had him as the number three high school outfield prospect in the class, after Max Clark and Walker Jenkins, who went in the first five picks. Overall, he’s a tremendous athlete and was a pick to click by many scouts coming into the year.

Homer Bush, Jr. in action at Grand Canyon University. (Photo: Grand Canyon University)

Many of us saw him as this really impressive athlete with many tools that was still developing more of a feel for the game, and he had a standout year in terms of performance. The exit velocity and raw power will be the big questions in the future. Although I saw him at the draft combine, he was quite a bit more physical than I expected.

So he has a chance to fill out that frame, which will make a big difference in that overall profile.

J.D. Gonzalez was a surprise in the third round; what did you think of that pick?

Carlos Collazo: It was a classic Padres pick because they are not afraid to go through the entire risk demographic of high school right-handed pitchers and catchers as two categories many teams shy away from.

As you mentioned, Gonzalez was the top prep player in Puerto Rico this year. He was on the circuit last summer and showed off pretty impressive tools there. I’ve heard many good things about his work defensively behind the plate, which is the foundational part of his profile. It’s massive arm strength, and he has a chance to be a plus defender behind the plate with some refinement, sharpening up the footwork and accuracy. Outside of Conner Burns, who was the clear-cut catch-and-throw reliever in the class – he had the most impressive arm at the combine. As with many Puerto Rican prospects, the question with him is what will the offense profile look like.

He didn’t get much time to get seen this year; he had a knee injury he was dealing with. He has some bat speed from the left side and some power, and he will develop more physically, which should help him. If he gets to an average hit tool, then we are looking at a potential impact player; that arm strength will become more important in how the game evolves with the new rules.

I’m well aware that you always choose the best player available, but how do you explain to a 17-year-old kid that was selected with the club’s second pick that he’ll be given a chance when one of the best prospects in baseball, is also a 17-year old catcher in your system named Ethan Salas?

Carlos Collazo: Catcher is a position where you can never have enough of them. As you say, you always go for the best player available because most of them aren’t going to pan out.

Ethan Salas is a prospect with a lot of hype right now, but there is also a chance he will turn out to be something other than the player we all expect him to be. In scenarios where that happens, you don’t want to be banking on just one guy. Also, how are things going now; you want to have two quality catchers. With both leagues having the DH and the amount of time teams want to reduce the catching workload, it’s a position that having multiple guys that can do that job is a real benefit.

In general, there was a significant drop-off in talent from the top guys, and if the Padres thought that they got the player that was the best talent there, then by all means, make that pick.

Blake Dickerson elected to go pro instead of to Virginia Tech. (Photo: Ocean Lakes High School/The Current)

Another big theme of the Padres draft was pitching, especially the young ones in Kannon Kemp, Blake Dickerson, and Dane Lais. Would you rank them in the same order that they were drafted?

 Carlos Collazo:  We had Dickerson as a fringe Top 100 player throughout the spring, and he ended up as a Top 200 player for us. Part of it was that he wasn’t as consistent as some of us wanted to see and didn’t take the jump many thought he would. He was always this projection left-hander; big lean frame, with solid stuff across the board – but he didn’t have overpowering velocity. He was around 88 to 92. If he had taken a step forward this spring, he might have been taken in the first three rounds.

The Padres still committed a significant sum of money to him to get him out of Virginia Tech. He has a chance for all three pitches to tick upwards, along with his velocity. He does have a pretty good track record with his mechanics. He falls into that category of many high school pitchers with long limbs that need to improve at repeating their release points and dialing in the fastball command. He has a chance for two above-average pitches in his fastball and slider.

Kemp was a player that we had in the middle of the 500. He wasn’t as much of a consensus guy as Dickerson was on the showcase circuit. He has touched the mid-90s on his fastball, and like Dickerson, he is also 6-foot-6 but a little more physical. His stuff is a little further along in terms of velocity and physicality and also has a feel for a changeup and chance with a high-spin breaking ball – his curve. They viewed him as one of their targets in the draft in terms of the money that he got.

Lais is fascinating because I don’t know a ton about him. He is an under-the-radar player. Guys in any draft get picked where we don’t expect them to, so I’m curious to see what he looks like in pro ball. The amount of money they signed him for on Day 3 makes him an exciting target.

Jay Beshears had a big year at Duke. (Photo: Duke University Athletics)

Jay Beshears has the profile that the Padres like, of a rising college player. Did you like the pick and see him staying on the dirt?

Carlos Collazo: Where he will play defensively sounds like his most significant question. He played some second and third in college. The swing decisions that he made are pretty exciting. He hit for average and power in the ACC; he controlled the zone pretty well. His in-zone contact rate was pretty exciting with the data that we have available. The hit tool seems like the focal point of his profile.

He was another guy who wasn’t a prominent prospect for us on the draft side so he may have been under the radar, or we may have needed to see more light on him. If you can get that type of power from a middle infielder, that is an exciting player.

Carson Montgomery could be a sleeper. (Photo: Florida State University Athletics)

Carson Montgomery was also a surprise pick. Do you think the Padres can make progress with him that Florida State did not?

 Carlos Collazo: That’s a great question, and that is his most significant question mark. Carson was a massively talented prospect coming out of high school and was the highest-ranked high school prospect to make it to campus in the 2020 draft class. Dylan Crews was ranked behind Montgomery.

He never really lived up to the reputation. In college, we found out that the fastball didn’t quite play to the velocity and sat in the 91-94 range, occasionally going to the upper 90s. At the same time, hitters mashed that pitch because of lack of shape, movement, and probably lack of deception in the delivery.

So at the next level, we will need to see an increase in the movement to the pitch, whether getting behind the ball or developing a two-seam fastball that runs a bit. He can also add a cutter to the mix; he has thrown an upper 80s cutter or improved his command to spot it more effectively, even without changing shape to set up his other pitches. He has an impressive slider and has shown flashes of an average changeup.

He also has a good body at 6-foot-3, 205 pounds, and the delivery looks good. Everything looks right with Carson; he just never got the results. He is one of the draft players with tremendous arm talent. If the Padres can figure out a way to unlock it and get him more toward the high school version of himself, then I think it’s a fascinating pick for the Padres in the round that they drafted him in and the $200,000 that they were able to sign him to.

He has over $200,000 in arm talent; it’s just a question of whether the Padres can develop him.

Any sleepers? 

Carlos Collazo: In this class, where they took him, the bonus he got is Dane Lais. Given my information, I’m intrigued with him and Kannon Kemp because they got bigger bonuses than expected. But the Evan Carter pick by the Rangers [in 2020] taught me everything I need to know that just because I don’t have the information doesn’t mean that teams haven’t seen something about the player that excites them.

If they hit on some pitching, it may make this a sneaky good class. There are a lot of good defensive profiles in this class; I’m curious to know what kind of offensive impact you are getting. If you can feel confident about Dillion Head, J.D. Gonzalez, and Homer Bush, Jr. and what they can do offensively, that would give you more confidence on the hitting side.

Posted by John Conniff

John grew up in Poway and has written for MadFriars since 2004. He has written articles for Baseball America, FoxSports San Diego, the El Paso Times, San Antonio Express-News, Amarillo Globe-News, Fort Wayne Journal-Gazette and Pacific Daily News in addition to appearing on numerous radio programs and podcasts. He can also break down the best places to eat for all five of the affiliates. There is no best place to eat in Peoria, Arizona.

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