Draft prospect Derek Hill. Mandatory Credit: elkgrovesports.com
Two days ago, I brought up five targets for the Padres in the upcoming First-Year Player Draft on June 5. As goes the volatility of the draft, mocks have changed, new insider information has come out, and voila- we have five new draft targets.
To sum up the recent events, the biggest and most notable is the Padres announced they will not be drafting injured pitchers Jeff Hoffman or Erick Fedde. This is an understandable move, but also a confusing one. Hoffman was a potential number one pick, and the ceiling is too tall to pass on at 13.
The industry is convinced the Padres are taking a bat with their first pick at 13. They won’t pick again until the 51 pick because of compensation and competitive balance rules, so to limit themselves to only position player seems a little close-minded. But then again Jim Callis of MLB.com said that prep pitcher Touki Toussaint is their top target. Insider information is a funny thing.
The Padres have hit on very few of their first round picks over the last few years, something the front office is well aware of. They maintain an open mindset about who they want to draft, but it wouldn’t be surprising to see them go with a “safer” college player.
And now onto the targets:
Touki Toussaint RHP Coral Springs Christian Academy
Toussaint is one of the highest ceiling pitchers of the draft, with some projecting him to go around 7-10 overall. His high ceiling comes with risk however, something the Padres seem to want to avoid this year. Touki is raw and athletic, and has the arm strength to tease triple digits. The delivery is mostly clean, but due to his relative inexperience playing baseball (he only started 5 years ago) he needs more reps to really own it.
Toussaint’s risks come with a tantalizing tool box. He throws upper 90s thanks to tremendous torque in his mechanics, and he generates plus movement as well. On top of the four seamer, Toussaint also holds a cutter in his repertoire. Even with some clubs steering away from the cutter, Toussaint uses it fairly frequently, although rarely in spots where he needs to make a good pitch. His curve can be inconsistent, but when he’s throwing well, it’s as good as any. It can feature two-plane movement in the low to mid 70s, but does need repetition before it’s ready against better hitters. He throws a changeup every now and then, but mostly has stayed to his two pitch mix with a sprinkle of cutters on top. Two pitches are only enough for very few pitchers at the major league level, and the development of the changeup not only will make him a more complete pitcher, but could determine if he starts or finishes games.
Toussaint carries a tremendous amount of risk, but if the Padres believe in their development team through the entire organization, he’s a straight steal at pick 13. He has frontline ace written all over him, with no desire to wash it off. With the proper training, he should be a top prospect immediately, but there’s more than a little work to be done with Touki.
Michael Conforto OF Oregon State
Drafting Conforto so late may be too dreamy to be a realistic choice, but there are some insiders who believe he could drop, depending on how the first few picks go. Conforto is a potential top five talent, and is viewed as very safe, even if his ceiling isn’t as high as others. For the Padres to hope to land Conforto, whose profile of a safe choice position player is right up their alley, they need to hope other teams choose ceiling over security.
Despite heavy feet and a weak throwing arm, Conforto has one of the most powerful lefty strokes in the entire draft class. He has a mature approach, which helps him find the right pitches to drive, and should also put him on the fast track to PETCO if he gets picked. His plus hit tool helps the power play, and projects to hit around .280 at the majors. The thing that knocks Conforto, especially for a National League team, is his terrible defense. Some scouts would rather spend more time mocking his lack of ability in the field and cloudy future position than talk about one of the best bats in a draft that doesn’t have many bats.
His great bat will carry him to the Show, but the lack of defensive ability will hurt his value. Conforto may have to move to 1B if he can’t improve his jumps in LF, but even though the Padres already have Yonder Alonso, it’s important to draft the best player available. His bat is so good, and the match so perfect, that he would be impossible to not pick at 13 if he slides that far.
Trea Turner SS NC State
Turner was an early season mock draft darling, but fell down because of a slow start. His strong second half was straight helium, and he’s projected to go top 15 easily, maybe top 10. Turner has been linked to the Padres by Keith Law, whose mock drafts are heavily influenced by what gets said inside the esoteric social circle of baseball front offices. Turner is a true shortstop with big questions on his bat, but having a strong bat is less important when you can play the hardest position in the field well.
The way his feet work at short is almost artistic, and his arm is strong enough to profile at any position. Turner’s athleticism plays up at short, as well as his plus baseball instincts. He should save as many runs as the league leaders at the position, which is saying a lot with uber fielders Andrelton Simmons and Troy Tulowitzki, and Francisco Lindor and Carlos Correa on the way. The problem with Turner is the same with many other elite defensive shortstops, and that is his bat. Average bat speed and a lack of good leverage limits his power ceiling to single digits. His hit tool is average at best for now, with not a lot of projection or optimism.
Turner’s blazing speed, natural instincts and fielding ability will need to play to their fullest for him to truly deserve such a high draft slot, but many people believe in him. With the right coaching, he could develop an average bat, which would help skyrocket his value. The Padres would be taking a pretty big risk on Turner, as he won’t be the cornerstone hitter they’re rumored to want (but really, who doesn’t want that kind of hitter) but his tools could make the choice worth it.
Derek Hill OF Elk Grove HS
Hill has been connected to about every team from picks 8-20. The Reds are reportedly very interested in the athletic outfielder, and that should make everyone else take a second look; their last two outfielders picked early, Phil Ervin and Jesse Winker, are off to incredible starts to their pro careers. Hill may not have the power projections of other expected available bats like Michael Chavis, but his strong instincts and raw hitting ability should more than make up for it.
Derek Hill is similar to Trea Turner because he plays near-80 grade defense at a premium position. Hill is by far the best defensive center fielder in the draft, and has the bat to fit the position. He will hit low teens homers in his prime, but the bat control and contact ability could lead to a .300 average. There’s some concern on his bat speed, but the Padres could help him tweak his mechanics to help his fluid swing work even better.
Hill’s ceiling is a sparkplug from the leadoff spot. His speed and bat will wreak havoc on opposing pitchers, and his defensive instincts will win him more than one Gold Glove award. Picking Hill here is risky, especially depending on who else is available, but the payoff could be excellent.
Sean Newcomb LHP Hartford
Newcomb has been tied to the Mets by a few insiders, but so have about five other players. His breakout performance this season was one of the best stories so far, filling him up with helium and shooting him to the top of many draft boards. His gigantic, 6’5 frame is more than intimidating, and his close release point make his mid 90s fastball look even faster. Because of his huge body, consistency and holding runners will be a problem, so whoever picks him needs to keep that in mind.
Newcomb’s fastball is one of the most exciting, simply because it touches 97 and comes out of one of the longest wingspans in the draft. But what’s even more exciting is his hard slider, which could develop to be a plus-plus pitch as he works on using it against both lefties and righties, an unorthodox strategy for the pitch. He also will sprinkle in a changeup, but its best case scenario is major league average. He will need it to bust platoons, as sliders are rarely effective against the opposite hand, even if he does work hard on making it so.
Newcomb’s size will always lead to consistency issues, and he never will be atop any BB/9 leaderboards. But his stuff is absolutely electric, and any team would be happy to add him to their roster. Newcomb has the ceiling of a number two pitcher, but number three might be more realistic. His floor could be a reliever depending on how much he can improve his control.
Thanks for reading our second draft preview here on Friars on Base. Keep coming back for more updates before the draft on June 5!