Looking at recent trends in the MLB Draft, has Padres General Manager AJ Preller tipped his hand how he plans to draft in the first round?
Three weeks away from the next set of prospects being added to an already prosperous farm system, the Padres are in a position to grab an immediate impact player. Finishing with one of the worst records reaps the benefit of that, but here’s to hoping they hold the 30th pick next year.
Anyway, while I would ideally like the Padres to target the best college pitcher on the board with the ninth overall pick, recent trends since AJ Preller has been the general manager may be indicative of his blueprint.
Including competitive balance picks, the Padres have taken high school players in 5 out of 8 first-round picks since 2015. The exceptions to this include Cal Quantrill and Eric Lauer in 2016 and Grant Little in 2018.
Taking that into consideration, recent mock drafts by Baseball America and other credible media sites may be correctly predicting the Padres’ plans drafting either Zac Veen or Austin Hendrick.
Both are toolsy outfielders with terrific approaches at the plate, despite how young they are. Veen has a verbal commitment to play collegiate baseball at the University of Florida, but obviously, a first-round selection could sway his mind.
At 6-foot-4, 195 pounds, Veen has plenty of room to fill out his frame. Scouts rave about his ability to put the bat on the ball. and he tremendous bat speed and raw power. He profiles best as a corner outfielder.
Hendrick has been credited with similar attributes as Veen. He has a verbal commitment to Mississippi State in the fall. At 6-foot-1, 205 pounds, Hendrick is big for a kid his age. He currently projects as a future centerfielder, displaying good arm strength and reads off the ball. His bat has a ton of pop as well.
Two other names that are intriguing are Mick Abel and Jared Kelley. Both could follow MacKenzie Gore’s path to the Padres rotation with Abel having A+ command. Kelley is more of a power pitcher, and the improved command could still come as he continues to develop.