There was a time when the San Diego Padres made some pretty wise selections with their first round selections. The team drafted Andy Benes, Kevin McReynolds, Andy Hawkins and Dave Winfield with their first picks and each were productive major leaguers. In recent memories the team has gotten better but there was a time when their selections were down right horrible.
The Padres have had only two top 5 picks in the last 12 years and those picks resulted in Matt Bush (1st overall 2004) and Donavan Tate (3rd overall 2009). Both pick were huge busts and the team wasted both selections. The Padres draft issues have been a problem for the past 20 years. Let us explore the issue in depth.
From 1991-1995 the Padres made four very wise selections in a row with their first pick in the Major League Baseball Draft. Joey Hamilton (8th overall-1991), Derrek Lee (14th overall-1993), Dustin Hermanson (3rd overall-1994) and Ben Davis (2nd overall-1995) all had decent major league careers. (The Padres did not have a first round pick in the 1992 draft). After that point the draft selections got bizarre and the team received little to no return on their first round picks.
From 1996 until 2010 the Padres drafted only three players who have had any success in the major leagues. That is 15 first round selections and only Sean Burroughs (9th overall-1998), Khalil Greene (13th overall-2002) and Tim Stauffer (4th overall-2003) even reached the major leagues. 12 first round selections burned on players like Matt Halloran, Kevin Nicholson, Vince Faison, Mark Phillips, Jake Gautreau, Matt Bush, Cesar Carrilo, Matt Antonelli, Nick Schmidt, Alan Dykstra, Donavan Tate, and Karsten Whitson.
Even worse is during that era between 1996-2010 the Padres were failing to develop talent in Latin American countries. While others were embracing young talent in countries like the Dominican Republic, Venezuela and Mexico. The Padres continued to do little to nothing to sign minor league free agents from these countries. The teams farm system was not producing blue chip prospects like it should be, and had no support from these untapped resources in Central and South America.
The last five years of selections have been way more positive for the San Diego Padres. Cory Spangenberg (10th overall-2011), Max Fried (7th overall-2012), Hunter Renfroe (13th overall-2013), Trea Turner (13th overall-2014) and Austin Smith (51st overall-2015) are all seemingly solid selections. Spangenberg is proving to be at least a useful utility man at the major league level. Perhaps even more.
Renfroe is on the cusp of being major league ready and Turner made his major league debut for the Nationals this summer. Fried has an injured arm but the young left hander should eventually have no problem making it to the major league level. The jury is still out on Austin Smith, but the young right hander is still very raw. So five decent selections in a row. What happened in those 15 years of horrible selections?
The Padres continued to play the small market card and draft high school players with upside but ridiculously low ceilings. They continually were burnt by young inexpensive players that produced nothing as professional baseball players. The selections of Bush and Tate were the worst of all. The team selected each player rather that paying a more developed collegiate athlete. Bush was taken with the first pick in 2004 instead of Justin Verlander (Old Dominion), Philip Humber (Rice) or Stephen Drew (Florida State). The only factor was he would sign for less and was a local kid. We all know how that went.
The improvement has been made with the scouting and developing tam. The Padres are also now very active in the Dominican Republic and even have their own academy which cultivates young talent while eyeing potential prospects for the major league franchise. More exciting is the fact the Padres now have a general manager with scouting experience and the fruits of his knowledge should benefit the team shortly.
The Padres will have three picks in the next 50 or so pick in the 2016 draft. Justin Upton and Ian Kennedy both rejected their qualifying offer and will give the Padres two extra picks. The overhaul of the minor league system has begun and the Padres should start pumping out prospect after prospect. This overhaul of the Padres philosophy is a slow-moving process. If you remain patient, you will get to see some very exciting times for the San Diego Padres.