Padres bank on youthful pitching in Draft

Padres bank on youthful pitching in Draft

Padres bank on youthful pitching in Draft
SAN DIEGO -- Padres vice president and assistant general manager of player personnel Chad MacDonald challenged his scouting department to find one main thing in the 2012 First-Year Player Draft: "young, projectable arms."

The organization certainly stuck to that game plan, drafting a total of 22 pitchers -- 12 of them high school seniors -- with the team's 44 total picks.

"Instead of taking a college guy who's vanilla, I want to take the upside high school guy." MacDonald said. "Instead of going to one of those Division I schools, come play for us. We can develop you, we can train you, we can feed you, we'll make you better. ... We're going to look up in a couple years and a couple of these guys are going to be big-time prospects."

The emphasis on young pitching was evident in San Diego's very first pick, Harvard-Westlake High School (Calif.) standout Max Fried, a lanky 6-foot-4 lefty, the seventh pick overall, who was selected even with former consensus No. 1 pick Mark Appel (Stanford) still on the board. Three of the Padres' first four picks also went to high school arms, as Florida righties Zach Eflin (33rd overall) and Walker Weickel (55th overall) joined Fried as Day 1 picks with what MacDonald called "big-time potential."

2012 Draft Central

The trend toward youth on the mound continued on the second day, as the Padres drafted four more high school arms in rounds 2-15. Among them was 6-foot-5, 225-pound Florida high schooler Andrew Lockett, whom MacDonald said may soon rival the potential of his Day 1 trio.

"If [Eflin, Fried, and Weickel] walk out and [Andrew] Lockett walks out with them, he's got the same type of body and projectability," MacDonald said. "His stuff isn't quite there yet, but I've said it before: Before you throw 95, you have to throw 90; before you throw 90, you have to throw 88, and then when everything clicks and strength comes, boom."

That thinking led MacDonald and the Padres to bring in another five high school hurlers on the Draft's final day, execution of what MacDonald said was a new organizational game plan for the Draft. That plan, he said, puts a great deal of faith in scouts and coaches to turn raw arms into polished potential.

"It takes a lot of work to go out and scout them and then to develop them, but that's where you make your Draft," MacDonald said. "When it clicks on one, you have the Kevin Millwood, who was a high school, late-round pick. The history of the draft is littered with them."

But the Padres may have found more than just future pitching stars in their 2012 Draft class. Eleven infielders, nine outfielders and three catchers were also welcomed into the fold, many of them with big-time speed, a huge asset in spacious, small-ball friendly Petco Park. The team's highest position player pick, SUNY-Stony Brook outfielder Travis Jankowski, swiped 36 bases in 2012, and fifth-round pick Mallex Smith, who may be the fastest Padres draftee, stole 31 bases at Santa Fe Community College in Florida.

Eighth-round pick Brian Adams was on scholarship at Kentucky as a wide receiver before committing to baseball full time, and late-round picks infielder Stephen Carmon (USC-Aiken) and outfielders Ronnie Richardson (Central Florida), Jacob Robson (Canadian Junior National Team) and Alexi Colon (Tusculum (Tenn.) College) are also known to have exceptional speed and basestealing ability.

This Padres Draft class also had its share of hometown flavor, with plenty of Padres and San Diego connections in the mix. Anthony Renteria, a Temecula, Calif., native taken in the 39th round, is the son of Padres bench coach Rick Renteria. Other San Diego-area products include former Rancho Bernardo star Wynton Bernard, Mission Hills grad River Stevens, and Chula Vista native Fernando Perez. Oklahoma State left-hander Kyle Ottoson, a cousin of former Padre and current special assistant Mark Loretta, was the Padres' 34th-round selection.

But for all the offensive prowess and local talent, the Padres hope the legacy of this Draft is one of promising young arms turned into powerful young pitchers.

"You can't just do it with one guy; you can't put all your eggs in one basket," MacDonald said. "It's not going to click on every guy, and we know that. ... I don't call it dreaming, I call it visualizing. We're looking at what [a guy] can be."

Chelsea Janes is an associate reporter for MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.