Kennesaw State catching prospect Max Pentecost. Mandatory Credit: atlanticsun.org
As the calendar turns to June, all eyes shift towards the MLB amateur draft. The Padres hold the 13th overall pick, high enough to grab impact talent that can help shape a franchise. The draft is thought to be pitching heavy this year, thanks to elite arms like Carlos Rodon, Tyler Kolek and Brady Aiken. But it also has its fair share of bats, such as C Alex Jackson, 3B Jacob Gatewood and SS Nick Gordon. Thanks to the abundance of information available from the internet, it’s easy to pull projected picks for the Padres from many accredited scouts and evaluators. We’re going to go over who the experts are thinking the Padres could pick, and who we think might make sense too, and give a brief scouting report as well to help get a full understanding. The Padres have a history of drafting college players more than prep, so don’t be surprised if they go that route again on draft day.
Kyle Freeland LHP Evansville:
Freeland may be a reach at 13, since the Phillies have been in love with him since 2011. But if they decide to go another route, Freeland could very well be available later due to teams undervaluing his tool shed. He has a big body, but uses it well, and his control is elite. He had a crazy 15:1 strikeout to walk ratio, a number that would make even Cliff Lee jealous.
Freeland uses a five-pitch mix, with both two and four seam fastballs with excellent movement, a slider that flashes plus-plus grades, an average curve and a change-up that he throws just for the sake of throwing it. Even though the fastballs get great life on them, they have only average velocity, sitting in the low 90s. The slider is his true out pitch, helping him generate a ton of grounders and whiffs, and helps him keep hitters from sitting on any of his other pitches.
Freeland’s control will carry him to the majors, it’s what he does with his jumping fastballs and wipeout slider that determine his level of success. He has a number two starter future if he can put it all together.
Grant Holmes RHP Conway High School:
Holmes is one of the harder throwing prep arms, who can hit high 90s and could project for more growth. He would be a risky pick at 13, since his ceiling is lower than most. He has a higher floor and comes as polished as any prep pitcher in the draft, but the injury risk and long road to the majors could lead the Padres to stay away from him.
His fastball can sit anywhere from the low-to-mid 90s, although there’s below average life on it currently. His best pitch is his power curve, which sits mid-80s, making some mistake it for a slider. But it doesn’t move laterally, only a huge, sharp bite at the end that leaves hitters questioning their eyesight. His change-up could be above average, as he continues to work on it, thanks to great arm action and velocity drop.
Holmes may be an overdraft at 13, but he offers enough tools to be a number three starter pretty easily, with a high floor.
Bradley Zimmer OF San Francisco:
Zimmer comes from rich bloodlines, as his brother, Kyle, is one of baseball’s top pitching prospects for the Kansas City Royals. Bradley has plus athleticism and strength, but his swing isn’t built well yet. He struggles to generate enough lift on his hits, leaving a lot of people wondering about his long term power profile.
He has a great approach at the dish, drawing as many walks as strikeouts, and good instincts on the basepaths let his athleticism play up for speed. His baseball instincts extend to the outfield as well, and could hold his own in center if the bat doesn’t profile well for a corner.
Zimmer would look better in the compensation round than in the first, but the lack of position player depth may force the Padres’ hand. His ceiling could be as a sparkplug at the top of the order, but it’s also possible for the bat to never pan out, leaving him in the bottom third of the lineup.
Max Pentecost C Kennesaw State University:
Pentecost could be the best catcher in the draft if whoever selects Alex Jackson decides to move him off the position, so his elite bat can reach the majors quicker, like Bryce Harper and Wil Myers. Pentecost doesn’t have over the fence power, and even the most optimistic of projections see his ceiling as gap power, but he’s more than a solid contact hitter, who’s capable of hitting .300+ in the majors.
Pentecost’s real value comes from his catching and receiving, something that the Padres love. He steals his pitchers extra strikes all over the zone, but especially low pitches, which are much tougher to frame than any other location. His arm may not be elite, but it’s strong enough to keep baserunners honest.
Pentecost doesn’t have a huge ceiling, but he could be a strong contact hitter with elite framing skills, and that’s about as valuable as a catcher can get.
Jeff Hoffman RHP East Carolina University:
This is where it gets interesting. Hoffman was making a case to be a number one selection until his UCL attacked him. After already undergoing Tommy John, Hoffman is on the road to recovery. Even though his draft stock has taken a hit, thanks to the success of Tommy John victims, he still is projected to go in the first round, maybe even top half. Some see him still going top 10, which might not be too much of a reach. Hoffman throws a mid-90s fastball, a plus change-up, and one of the nastiest curveballs in the entire draft class.
Hoffman’s fastball gets decent run on it, but most of it’s value comes from the exceptional velocity. His change-up makes the fastball even more impressive, because he uses it from the same arm slot, fooling hitters often with it. As he continues to practice throwing the pitch, it will get even better as he adds fade and late life to it. The curveball has two-plane break that sits right at 80, but still confuses hitters to no end.
Hoffman is a big risk late in the draft, but the upside is tremendous. The last player to follow this same career path was Lucas Giolito, who’s now making a case as the best pitching prospect in the entire league. The Padres have such a stacked farm already, they can afford to take a risk early in this draft, and if Hoffman is still available it’s going to be hard to say no to him.
Thanks for reading this installment of the Friars on Base draft coverage. Continue to check back as we update our targets and mocks leading up the the actual draft on June 5!