MLB Draft Preview: Who Will the Padres Take?

San Diego will have a shot at one of the consensus top three players in the 2017 class

When the MLB Draft starts on Monday afternoon the Padres will have the third overall pick. Among the thousands of amateur players eligible, how do they narrow down who they want?

That’s actually pretty simple.

“I think honestly we need the best players possible,” said Padres Director of Scouting Mark Conner. “We need prospects that are going to help build the organization whether they’re pitchers, catchers, shortstops, outfielders … I still think it’s about acquiring the best prospects.”

Even though they went nuts on the international market and signed a whole lot of shortstops, if the best guy available is a shortstop you can bet the Padres will be drafting a shortstop.

“One thing we have talked about as a staff pretty religiously over the last few years is we’re not drafting for need; it’s best guy available,” said Padres General Manager A.J. Preller. “It’s not the NBA or the NFL where you’re drafting somebody and the next year they’re playing the league. There’s that development process that going in to place. Teams make the most mistakes when they look at and think OK, we HAVE to take this position or in this area we’re strong. When you think you’re strong in an area there’s a trade, there’s an injury, something happens or the guy doesn’t perform. So the direction I’ve given to Mark and the staff is the guy you think is the best guy available and if we feel like we have infielders from last year’s international class, there’s no problem having more that are talented.”

This is the baseball information age so everyone thinks they have a good handle on the top prospects from around the country. Although there is a lot of good intel floating around, there’s never a full, 100% way of knowing exactly how an organization has the talent ranked.

“Even dating from one of the first draft rooms I was in with the Dodgers,” said Preller, “I came in there with my Baseball America and my list all set up and I realized pretty quickly that what’s potentially out there in the media from an information standpoint, at times the board ends up stacking up somewhat similarly but a lot of times the names and order and everything like that is in a different spot.”

This year the consensus top three guys are Los Angles prep star Hunter Greene, Louisville All-American Brendan McKay and Vanderbilt right-hander Kyle Wright. Drafting third the Padres are going to have a shot at at least one of them, and they know all of them very well by now.

Let’s start with Greene, the guy with the 100-MPH fastball who also hits 450-foot home runs as a shortstop who showed up on the cover of Sports Illustrated recently and has garnered an awful lot of attention.

“He’s a talent,” said Preller, who does not think the exposure will put undue pressure on Greene. “He’s definitely been in the limelight and been in the media a little bit. In some ways that’s a good thing. He’s kind of been exposed to some things that he’s hopefully going to be exposed to a lot as a high pick and a guy who’s hopefully going to have a lot of success down the road. He’s been very successful and a fun guy to scout this year.”

The Padres have a bit of history with McKay. In 2014 they drafted him in the 34th round out of high school in Pennsylvania but McKay decided to take his scholarship offer at Louisville. Now he has a chance to go number one overall after a stellar career both on the mound as a left-handed starter and a 1st baseman with power to spare.

“Very easy to identify that he has a very calm demeanor,” said Conner. “Strong body, good arm action, good delivery, throws strikes, always been able to spin a breaking ball. His pitchability and the success he’s had in college stand out and he keeps performing with the bat. From Day 1 in college he’s hit. Power continues to come and he’s a very good two-way player.”

Then we have Wright, the polished Vanderbilt starter with the mid-90’s fastball and hard curveball.

“When you talk to the coaches he’s got tremendous makeup and work ethic,” said Conner. “He’s grown as a pitcher daily and shown more arm strength and strikes with the breaking ball. All three of (these players) have good makeup.”

Wright is the only guy who is exclusively a pitcher. The other two are top-10 prospects either on the mound or in the field. If the Padres take Greene or McKay they will have to decide with track they think is the best one to take.

“We’ve got a scouting group that feels like they can do both and they’re prospects as both,” said Preller. “My guess is, if it goes that route we’d take some time to figure that out in pro ball to see which is the area that best suits them and best suits us.”

The Padres will make three selections, 3rd, 39th and 69th overall, on Monday. Rounds 3-10 take place on Tuesday and the final 30 rounds go on Wednesday.

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