Fireballer caps talent-rich Day 1 for Padres

Club believes injury is responsible for Lawson's struggles as a HS senior

Fireballer caps talent-rich Day 1 for Padres

SAN DIEGO -- Entering his senior season at Victor Valley High School in California, Reggie Lawson was a first-round talent in the eyes of Padres general manager A.J. Preller.

"If you asked us going into the year if we had a chance to get Reggie Lawson at [No. 71], I think most people you interview would've said, 'No, he'll be gone by pick 25 or 30,'" Preller said late Thursday night.

But as the Padres wrapped up an extremely busy Day 1 with the 71st pick, there was Lawson -- an athletic 6-foot-4 right-hander with a fastball that touches 94-95 mph -- still on the board.

By selecting Lawson with their fifth pick, the Padres continued their trend toward taking high-upside players. (And their abundance of early selections certainly allowed them to take a few more risks.)

Lawson was the Padres' lone selection in Compensation Round B, after they took Stanford righty Cal Quantrill, high school shortstop Hudson Sanchez and Kent State lefty Eric Lauer in the first round, then University of Florida center fielder Buddy Reed in the second round.

Padres scouting director Mark Conner said Lawson "has the body to log a lot of innings," and that he projects as a middle-of-the-rotation big league starter down the road.

Conner and the Padres got familiar with Lawson when he started the Perfect Game All-American Classic at Petco Park last summer.

"It's another viewing against the best players in the country," Conner said. "It just adds to that database of our viewings and how well we get to know the kid, seeing him out here and getting to talk to him some."

Lawson fell to No. 71 largely as a result of some struggles early in his 2016 campaign before he was shut down with an oblique injury in early April. No one questions the potential in Lawson's fastball, but he's still searching for secondary stuff to back up his heater.

But the Padres believe Lawson's curveball could develop into a big league out pitch, and they were ready to write off his senior-year struggles as largely the result of the oblique injury.

Simply put, the upside Lawson showed on the 2015 showcase circuit was too much to pass up. He dominated at the Area Code Games, striking out six of the 10 hitters he faced, allowing only one hit.

2016 Draft: Reggie Lawson, RHP

Then, Lawson carried Team USA to a gold medal at the World Baseball Softball Confederation 18U World Cup in Japan. He came on with one out in the eighth inning of the title game against Japan and he recorded the final five outs in order.

"[He has] experience on the big stage at the big level, and he answered a lot of those questions on the mound there," Preller said. "He went out there this year -- his high school senior season probably wasn't what he wanted to have. I think a lot of that was due to an injury."

Lawson is committed to Arizona State, and it's unclear what his intentions are going forward. But Preller and the Padres -- who own a bonus pool allotment of $12,869,200 that's third largest in the Draft -- are confident Lawson will sign a professional contract.

The Draft continues on Friday with Rounds 3-10. The MLB.com preview show begins at 9:30 a.m. PT, with exclusive coverage of Rounds 3-10 beginning at 10 a.m. PT.

AJ Cassavell covers the Padres for MLB.com. Follow him on Twitter @ajcassavell. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.