Exploring the Padres’ Options With Their First-Round Pick in 2018 Draft

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Over the past few weeks, the baseball world has been pelted with projections, mocks, player comparisons, and wild speculation.

It must be MLB Draft season. On Monday, the San Diego Padres will add even more talent to their highly regarded farm system as they possess four of the top 84 picks in the 2018 MLB Amateur Draft.

San Diego will go into the draft with the 7th overall pick, the 38th overall pick (Competitive Balance A), the 74th overall pick (Competitive Balance B; acquired in the Phil Hughes trade), and the 84th overall pick. Of course, these aren’t the only picks they are in possession of, but it is important to note as it is very crucial for a rebuilding team such as the Padres to stockpile picks in the early portion of the draft.

The most highly anticipated decision to come on June 4th, of course, will surround that 7th overall pick. The Padres have the opportunity to add a real difference maker to the organization with the selection. What do a few of the experts think the Padres will do with their opening pick of the 2018 MLB Draft? Let’s explore.

What do the Mocks Say?

Many mock drafts have the Padres drafting a prep pitcher with their first pick. Jonathan Mayo’s most recent mock on MLB.com has the Padres taking high school left-hander Matthew Liberatore, who has been described as “the top left-hander in the MLB Draft class” and ranks 4th on MLB.com’s top draft prospect list. Liberatore’s fastball sits at around 89-94 mph and relies on an advanced feel for pitching rather than true velocity, which is a good sign for a young pitcher. For more info on the young Arizonian, check out this article by our very own Jason Freund.

Eric Longenhagen and Kiley McDaniel of FanGraphs.com have a different idea of who the Padres could take, assuming the team tries to save money early in the draft in order to nab a player with high upside with a later pick. In their latest mock draft, they are projecting the Padres to pick another prep lefty in Ryan Weathers. He isn’t expected to be picked within the top 15 if the Padres pass on him, but that means they could look to save a bit of money by promising him an earlier selection. Weathers’ fastball sits at around 90-93 mph, but looks a lot quicker out of the hand due to its high spin rate. His arsenal also includes a curveball that sits in the high-70’s and a changeup, which will allow him to employ three above-average pitches in the future.

(Photo by Brace Hemmelgarn/Getty Images)

Who Else Might the Padres be Considering?

Within Mayo’s mock, he briefly mentioned how Preller and Co. seem to be primarily targeting prep arms, which should be no surprise to Padres fans. The team has taken a pitcher as its opening pick of each of Preller’s three drafts (Austin Smith in 2015, Cal Quantrill in 2016, and Mackenzie Gore in 2017) and loves to target players with high upside early in the draft. Liberatore is probably the favorite here, but Weathers as well as prep right-handers Carter Stewart, Cole Winn, and Ethan Hankins (5, 9, and 21 on MLB.com’s draft prospect rankings) are also worth keeping an eye on, according to Mayo. If the Padres wish to save a little bit of money then it is safe to assume that they will grab a prep pitcher with the 7th overall pick.

High school outfielder Jarred Kelenic and prep third baseman Nolan Gorman (ranked 10 and 12 respectively) have very intriguing upsides and could find themselves as Padres minor leaguers post-draft if the front office decides to change up their strategy from past years. Kelenic profiles as an above-average corner outfielder as he boasts an impressive power-speed combination that he pairs with a mature approach at the plate. Gorman is a bit more one-dimensional, but his raw power may very well be tops in the draft which is an impressive feat for a high schooler.

There are a few college bats that the Padres could consider as centerfielder Travis Swaggerty (South Alabama) and third baseman Alec Bohm (Wichita State) both boast above-average strike zone control, but impact the game in different ways. Swaggerty is lightning-quick and stumbled into some power once he reached college. Some scouts say he has the potential to hit 20+ bombs in the big leagues.

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Bohm, on the other hand, hits the ball consistently hard all over the diamond and stays controlled at the plate, refusing to sell out for home runs since he doesn’t need to. Bohm is a bit rough on the defensive side, but shows the drive to improve. Swaggerty is more likely to fall than Bohm, but both should be considered by the Padres if available.

Final Thoughts

In summation, the Padres could go any number of ways with their first pick in the draft. It seems as though all options are on the table as A.J. Preller and the rest of his front office debate on who is to be the next Padres top 10 draft pick. The safe bet would be on the team taking their chances on a prep pitcher, but if there is one thing we know about Preller’s front office, it is that it can be very unpredictable, for better or worse.

No matter who the team picks this coming Monday, it seems as though they will be adding an outstanding young man who will work his hardest in order to achieve his dream of playing Major League Baseball. Best of luck to all of them.

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