Padres Take High School Ace Lesko in 1st Round of MLB Draft

San Diego grabs a high-upside arm 15th overall

The Padres are squarely out of rebuild mode and consider themselves in championship contention mode. That means their focus has shifted from stockpiling talent to winning now.

Two days before the MLB Draft, I asked Padres Amateur Scouting Director Chris Kemp if that has any influence on whether they take a high school player with big upside or a college player that's closer to contributing at the big league level.

"That's stuff that's talked about in the room but I think, whether it's high school or college, we're going to take the best player on the board," says Kemp.

Picking at 15th overall, the best player on their board was Dylan Lesko, a right-handed pitcher from Buford High School in Georgia. It's hard to argue with that assessment because had he not gotten injured he might have been the first player taken overall.

Lesko, who in 2021 was the first high school junior ever to win the Gatorade National Player of the Year Award, had Tommy John surgery just a couple of months ago. Before he got hurt he was showing off a high-90's fastball with a big league-ready changeup and a developing curve ball, all of which he throws consistently for strikes. Part of the Baseball America analysis of Lesko addresses his makeup, and it's awfully encouraging:

"Tremendous prep talent that doesn’t come around often. Has the makings to be a special pro athlete. With continued growth and development, has the potential to be a top-of-the-rotation type arm."

He's 6'3" and nearly 200 pounds so most talent evaluators expect him to make a full recovery from the elbow reconstruction.

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