The Padres stuck to their gameplan in the first ten round, focusing hard on position players, preferably college bats. Their strategy worked well, getting a B+ grade from Bleacher Report and an A from the Jesse Spector of the Sporting News. Even though after round 10 the names get more boring, with ceilings lower than most floors of the first few rounders, there’s always the chance of hitting on a star. Albert Pujols went in the 13th round, James Shields went in the 16th round, Roy Oswalt went in the 23rd round and Mike Piazza who somehow lasted until the 62nd round. Not to say that the Padres definitely drafted the next great hitter of a generation, or a player to redefine a position, but there’s some interesting talent that we took late. Here are some highlights:
Yale Rosen OF Washington State 11th Round
Featuring plus raw power and enough speed to stick in the outfield, even in spacious PETCO Park. A down season for him and his team in 2014 had his stock drop like an anchor, but there’s talent in his bat. There will always be some swing and miss in his game, exploited by going against more advanced pitching this year. Ranked 302 by Baseball America, we grabbed him at the 327th overall pick. Rosen could be one of the better tenth rounders taken this year.
Joey Epperson OF UC Santa Barbara 13th Round
Epperson is 23, and he’s a fifth year senior which killed his draft value heading in. But he lead his team in average, on base percentage and slugging while featuring plus speed that he’s used to play center field in college. His lack of quick reactions and good baseball instincts limit him to left or right field, and an average arm profiles him best in left. His power doesn’t match well with position, but he does have an elite approach that helps him draw tons of walks and extend at bats. Epperson might end up as an above average fourth outfielder, who can draw walks off the bench and steal some bases when he gets on.
Chris Huffman RHP James Madison 14th Round
Huffman was ranked 295 on the pre-draft leaderboards, and that was too much for the Padres to pass up at 417. The former reliever, Huffman sits in the low 90s out of the rotation with a three pitch mix of fastball, slider and changeup. The fastball looks like a sinker, getting him a ton of grounder because of its excellent life. His slider is inconsistent but could be a 60 or 65 pitch if he finds a better release point on it. The changeup is bad right now, and only used to help raise his draft position. Doesn’t get many strikeouts, but the grounders offset that. He could be a back of the rotation starter if the system helps him develop his changeup, but he has a bright future in high leverage situations out of the ‘pen if not.
Logan Jernigan RHP NC State 15th Round
Overshadowed by teammate and second overall pick Carlos Rodon, Jernigan showed he could still hold his own as a starter against good competition. He uses a high 3/4s arm slot, which helps him generate good downhill plane on his pitches. The fastball only sits low 90s, but he mixes in a cutter that shows plus potential. A bad changeup and a curve that sometimes flashes plus, but simmers below average, he doesn’t have an advanced enough repertoire to start in the majors yet. He looks like a good reliever who can come in for a few innings, a strong long reliever and spot starter.
Peter Solomon RHP Mount St. Joseph’s HS 21st Round
Teams were scared of Solomon because of his Notre Dame commitment, which lead to him dropping an absolutely ridiculous 366 slots from his projected position. But the Padres reports have him pegged as signable, and he could be a straight up steal so late in the draft. He gained around five MPH on his sinking fastball over the season, and now tops out around the low 90s with more room for projection. He struggles keeping his huge and projectable 6’4 185 pound frame consistent through his mechanics, which has helped lead to control issues. Even though high school pitchers were not who the Padres wanted to target, it got to the point where Solomon was head and shoulders above the remaining options, and they took the best player available.
Jason Jester RHP Texas A&M 23rd Round
Jester has been a reliever at A&M and Tyler JuCo his whole career, save for two starts in 2014. His projections fell after a poor showing in 2014 that saw his ERA reach 5.12. He still shows swing and miss stuff, getting 9 K/9 this season and striking out 175 compared to 173 innings pitched in school. Jester could be a mid-leverage reliever if things work out well for him.
Travis Radke LHP Portland 25th Round
Radke’s fastball only gets thrown because every pitcher has to have one. But he commands a mid 70s curveball well that he uses to get whiffs, and a changeup that helps his average fastball play up. Over 28 starts he has a shiny 2.75 ERA and set a school record for K/9 at 10.55. He played against poor competition, but Radke shows real good stuff, and the ability to be a mid rotation starter with more development.
Johnny Manziel QB Texas A&M 28th Round
Manziel played at A&M with teammate and fellow Padre pick Jason Jester who… oh. Glad Josh Byrnes decided to be blunt about telling us when he stopped taking the draft seriously.
Logan Sowers OF McCutcheon HS 31st Round
For all the virtual ink that is spilled on who the biggest late round steal was, Logan Sowers may have the initial award on lockdown. His pre-draft ranking of 312 saw him drop 615 spots, which is just too much to fathom, especially when you realize we still picked Johnny Freakin’ Football three rounds in front of him. The industry pegged him as the best prospect out of Indiana, and even if that’s not exactly a high standard, Sowers is still extremely impressive. He’s a physical freak, standing 6’3 and tipping the scales at 205 pounds with enough athleticism to play all three outfield positions well. He carries huge raw power, although his swing can get too leveraged, leading to small contact time. Small contact zones mean whiffs, so his swing will need work, but there’s a bright future for Sowers if the Padres pry him away from his Indiana University commitment.
Brendan McKay LHP Blackhawk HS 34th Round
If you thought drafting Manziel before Sowers was nuts, please don’t read this next sentence. McKay was ranked 166th overall pre-draft and slid 1017, taken after a professional quarterback who will never sign. Now that you’re back, McKay had scouts swooning over him in workouts, as he made headlines by not allowing a run his entire senior year. He’s such an exceptional athlete that he could be a two way player if the Padres don’t sign him. McKay recorded 77% of his outs via the strikeout, fueled by his low 90s fastball and a curveball described by his catcher as “magical.” Signability concerns kept pushing him down, but the Padres could have taken a gem late in the draft right here. McKay might be the best player on this entire list, and if he signs he will bring a huge boost to our farm system.
Cobi Johnson RHP Mitchell HS 35th Round
It gets weirder. Johnson was ranked 92 overall pre-draft. No, I did not forget another digit or zero. He went 1047, almost 1000 picks after his projection. He’s an advanced arm who shows considerable polish, but elbow inflammation and a strong commitment to Florida State University scared teams off. He features a low 90s fastball with terrific deception, and has near-elite control for a prep arm. There’ s a slim chance he ends up signing, but Johnson is a tremendous prospect, and we will hear his name in the future no matter where he plays.
And that’s it! The Padres went with a risky draft by taking a lot of stock down players with huge upsides. The potential payoff for this could be enormous, and we clearly had one of the better drafts in the league, at early glance (how many other teams added a Heisman winner?). There’s a lot of work to be done for the raw prospects, and signing them all will be a challenge, but you have to respect the work the front office put into the draft this year. Now is an exciting time to be a Padres fan, but it’s only getting more and more exciting.