Bud Black's pitching staff has been overwhelmed with injuries, so the Padres drafted a trio of high school pitchers on Monday. (Photo by John Grieshop/Getty Images)
The Padres franchise is flush with pitching. At least, it was until this year, when injuries cut down starters from the big leagues all the way down to Double-A San Antonio, reminding the front office of a sobering baseball truth.
"You need more pitching than you think you need," said general manager Josh Byrnes on Monday night.
Perhaps that's why the Padres came out of the first day of the 2012 MLB Draft with three new arms, all high schoolers.
In the first round the Padres selected Max Fried, a left-hander from Harvard-Westlake HS in North Hollywood. He has good velocity and already throws a major league-caliber curve ball that Baseball America said is the best in this year's draft class. With Fried being just up the road, the Padres got a lot of chances to analyze him and get comfortable with his potential.
"I would say we had at least 10 or 11 different people look at him," said Padres Scouting Director Jaron Madison. "I saw him myself three times, so we've had plenty of looks."
The Padres also had 3 compensatory picks, which are draft picks given to teams who lose free agents to other teams.
With the 33rd overall selection (received for losing Heath Bell), they grabbed right-hander Zach Eflin form Hagerty HS in Florida. In his senior year, he only allowed 16 hits in 43 innings.
"This guy's gonna log innings," said Padres Vice President of Player Personnel Chad MacDonald. "(He has) Middle of the rotation, if not better, type-stuff."
With the 44th overall pick (received for losing Aaron Harang) the Padres went offense, taking outfielder Travis Jankowski from Stony Brook University in NY. Jankowski was the MVP of the prestigious Cape Cod Summer League in 2011 (an award also won by Rays All-Star Evan Longoria). He might have been the fastest player in this year's draft, and only struck out 17 times his final year in college.
"He can steal bases, he's a plus-plus defender in center, he's a table setter at the top of your lineup, he's a winner," said MacDonald. "To get him at number 44 we were tickled to death."
The Padres finished the day with the 55th overall pick (in exchange for losing Brett Austin) with right-handed pitcher Walker Weickel from Olympia HS in Florida.
"He's the right-handed version of Fried," said MacDonald. "If you would have told me this guy was our fourth pick four months ago, I'd have said no way."
Weickel went 12-1 with a 1.22 ERA in his senior year, earning a spot in the Perfect Game All-American Classic that was played at PETCO Park.
Interestingly, the three pitchers look like they could be starting for the San Diego Padres or the Oklahoma City Thunder. Fried is 6'4", Eflin is 6'5" and Weickel is 6'6". Big bodies with easy deliveries, they all throw hard without trying to throw hard.
"These guys really have all the starter ingredients," said Byrnes. "We realize it's a long road and there's some risk, but we also think there's upside. There's power in numbers."
Byrnes has a good history with drafting young pitchers, especially left-handers. He was involved with the selection of All-Stars C.C. Sabathia and Jon Lester.
Now comes the hard part. All of the pitchers have college scholarship offers. If they can't come to terms on a contract, they can always go to school instead of turning pro. Byrnes is confident all three will be playing in the Padres system this Summer.
"The signing process is already underway," he said. "Hopefully we'll know who we sign, for how much, and get them out in to professional baseball."