MLB Draft Preview: Former Aztec Shows Power of Scouting

Padres found a gem late and are looking for more

The MLB Draft starts on Monday. This year the propsectpalooza is, for me, serving as a reminder of how utterly idiotic the drafting of Johnny Manziel was.

Not by the Cleveland Browns, mind you. We all know what a TMZ-documented train wreck that was. No I’m talking about Manziel being picked by the San Diego Padres.

You may recall in 2014 the previous Padres front office decided it would be a good idea to select the Heisman Trophy winner and former high school infielder in the 28th round even though there was exactly zero chance he would ever play for them.

Now I know most 28th-round picks never play a day in the Major Leagues and there are those who think it doesn’t really matter who a team picks at that point anyway. A former Aztec is proving that is definitely not the case.

San Diego State product Tyler France is plowing through the Padres system. In 2015 he started at short-season Tri Cities; now the infielder who spends most of his time at 3rd base is tearing up Double-A San Antonio with a robust .937 OPS. If he keeps this up he’ll likely earn a promotion to Triple-A El Paso next year, if not by the end of the 2017 season, and could be playing in Petco Park by the end of the 2018 season.

I tell you this because France was selected in the 34th round of the 2015 MLB Draft. Remember Manziel was a 28th-round pick. He is the kind of guy the new Padres regime under General Manager A.J. Preller is looking for, especially in the later rounds when teams are looking for those proverbial diamonds in the rough.

“The area scout is the foundation of what we do,” said Padres Director of Scouting Mark Conner. “They are the core to finding these players. That is the pride of an area scout fighting for a player he believes in.”

34th-round picks have not often been seen by multiple scouts. A lot of times an area scout will stand up in the draft room and state his case to take a kid because he’s gotten to know him and the family and truly believes he’s an undervalued asset.

That was the case with Phil Maton, the reliever with the mid-90’s fastball who was a 20th-round pick in 2015 and earned his first MLB call-up before Sunday’s game against the Royals. The Padres area scout saw something in Maton and stated his case on draft day.

“Truly that’s a testimony to the hard work the area scouts do,” said Conner. “Big leaguers come from all parts of the draft so it’s something we pride ourselves on and try to work hard on. I think our area guys to a really good job at it.”

Ty France is exactly why a big league team cannot waste any selection in any of their 40 rounds on a pick that is simply aimed at generating buzz or novelty uniform sales. It did do both of those things but I think I speak for a majority of Padres fans when I say I’d gladly trade the publicity of a stunt for the publicity of winning more baseball games any day of the week.

Even if he never plays a day in The Show, France is a guy who can help the Padres win because his presence and production in the system creates competition for everyone else. When you have a player putting up crazy numbers it elevates the play of everyone else fighting for a MLB promotion.

Take a run at real baseball players and you never know what might happen.

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