Padres are excited by their Draft

And international signing period starts July 1

Bill Center, longtime sportswriter for U-T San Diego, is an employee of the Padres.

Although the focus of the scouting season is the annual amateur draft, the Padres are really in the phase three of a four-tier process.

First comes the scouting. Then the draft. Right now the Padres are reaching contract agreements with the players they drafted last week. And come July 1, the international signing period opens.

To me, this is a fascinating part of any baseball season -- part skill, part crapshoot. And no one will really know how they did in the procurement of amateur talent for about five years.

This isn't the NFL or NBA, where players move directly from the draft onto the roster and often straight into the starting lineup. Baseball players need time to develop and learn the nuances of a game that is every bit as much mental as physical.

Players need time to pick up all the nuances of baseball. And some never do. The majority of players drafted last week and signed from the international pool will never make it to the Major Leagues.

No team expects all the amateurs it signs to develop into productive Major League players. But hope is eternal.

And men who made their first marks in baseball spotting talent delight in spotting talent no matter how high they rise in the game.

Scouts are scouts forever. You might eventually call them club presidents or general managers, but inside the suit beats the heart of a scout who likely still owns a stopwatch, a radar gun and a floppy-brimmed hat.

Which is why, I think, A.J. Preller had an extra bounce to his step last Thursday night as he entered the post-draft press conference at Petco Park.

"I think it was a really good day one," Preller said of the five players the Padres selected during the first 71 picks of the draft. "It was a nice day."

Some "experts" don't agree with Preller. They believe the Padres reached with their first two picks - pitcher Cal Quantrill (who is coming off Tommy John surgery) and shortstop Hudson Potts (who is the youngest player drafted during the first day).

But I'm going with Preller and his track record on this draft. Much of the emerging talent in the Rangers' talented farm system has direct links to Preller. And no team has ever struck gold with every pick in the draft.

"The draft is not a crapshoot," said Preller. "If you do the work and the process is good, there should be production. It was very busy in that room, working the board and working the system making sure we got the best value at each spot."

"I think we're all excited with the picks we made," said Mark Conner, the Padres director of scouting. "We walked out of there thinking we got five great players added to the organization."

Only time will tell.

But I'm excited.

Why?

Because men who have a track record of spotting talent, liked the talent they spotted.

NOTES FROM THE SCOREBOOK:

-- Left-handed pitcher Christian Friedrich, who faces Washington's Joe Ross tonight at Petco Park, has worked six or more innings in four of his six starts with the Padres. In those starts, he has allowed four runs (three earned) on 15 hits and 12 walks with 25 strikeouts in 25 2/3 innings for an earned run average of 1.05. On Sunday at Coors Field in Denver, the pitcher the Rockies released allowed one unearned run on two hits and three walks with nine strikeouts in six innings.

-- First baseman Wil Myers hit his 15th homer of the season Thursday night. It was also his eighth homer in his last 15 games. Myers is hitting .362 (21-for-58) in June with six doubles, eight home runs, 18 RBIs and 16 runs scored. He has a Major League-leading 14 extra-base hits in June. Myers was 2-for-3 Thursday with a double and a homer with two walks. Since May 20, Myers is hitting .333 (32-for-96) with six doubles, one triple, eight home runs and 23 RBIs.

-- Left-handed reliever Ryan Buchter has dropped his earned run average back under 2.00 -- to 1.86 -- with five straight scoreless appearances since giving up four runs in two-thirds of an inning during the June 2 bullpen collapse against Seattle at Petco Park. Buchter has been scored upon in only three of his 31 outings.

-- Left-fielder Melvin Upton Jr. was 2-for-4 Thursday night with two steals, a run scored and a RBI. Upton is hitting .324 (11-for-34) over the last nine games with two doubles, three homers, three steals and seven RBIs.