AJ Preller’s first draft as general manager of the San Diego Padres could not have gotten off to a worst start. Let’s re-grade the first three rounds.
AJ Preller was tabbed as the next general manager of the San Diego Padres in August 2014. The following June, the Padres were without a first-round pick for the first time since the early 1990s. However, looking back at his first draft also provides perspective on what Preller might do in the 2020 draft.
Round 2, 51st overall
Austin Smith, RHP, Park Vista Community High School
After finishing out his first half-season of professional ball in the Padres Arizona rookie league, Smith was assigned to Single-A Fort Wayne for the 2016 season. There, he made 25 appearances – including 15 starts – while collecting a save and striking out 63 batters in 90.2 innings.
He had a concerning amount of walks and began the 2017 year at Fort Wayne as well. After nearly a 1:1 K-to-BB ratio, Smith was demoted to Short-Season Tri-City, where he strictly was a bullpen guy.
Smith saw time between both Single-A and High-A in 2018 but spent all of last year back at Single-A. He’s unlikely going to crack the Padres’ crowded bullpen, and they may have to include the 23-year-old in a trade package in the near future.
Round 3, 86th overall
Jacob Nix, RHP, IMG Academy
Nix was supposed to be the next big starting pitcher in the Padres rotation. He was assigned to Single-A Fort Wayne for the 2016 season, making 25 starts and striking out 90 batters while walking just 20.
He split the 2017 season between High-A and Double-A, making a combined 17 appearances – including 16 starts – and struck out 73 batters in 94.1 innings.
Nix would eventually be promoted to the big leagues on August 10, 2018, making nine starts but posting a 7.02 ERA. He tore his UCL the following March and was arrested for criminal trespassing in October. After being designated for assignment, Nix was outrighted to Triple-A in November.
AJ Preller’s first draft with the Padres was overall terrible. However, he did land Ty France of the 34th round out of San Diego State, who could have a notable impact this year should he live up to his Fangraphs’ projections.