When a Major League Baseball team selects several high-ceiling athletes, with significant contract demands, to begin their draft class, they have no choice but to save money somewhere.
This fact is made more concrete if the team in question selects two first-round caliber talents, like the San Diego Padres, did with Robert Hassell III and Cole Wilcox.
How well a team facilitates these picks is the true mark for how well they performed in the draft. Especially since a lot of the depth and some superstars arise from mid to lower picks, just take a look at where Cody Bellinger was selected. With his fourth-round pick, Preller took Levi Thomas, a starting pitcher from Troy University, who was having a breakout season in 2020 before it was canceled.
Recognizing Thomas as a potential back-of-the-rotation starter with a #3 or #4 starter ceiling, the Padres’ front office hoped to get outstanding pitching with its fifth-round option. As such, they took a high school lefty from southern North Carolina, like MacKenzie Gore, who was mostly unknown and did not rank among the top 200 draft prospects on MLB.com. However, Padres’ writers, such as A.J. Cassavell, have noted how the West Columbus High School kid is another steal for the Friars.
What makes him such a steal?
First, he throws a 93-94 mph fastball even though he is 17-years-old, making him one of the youngest amateurs available in the draft.
In comparison, some of the amateurs who are taken in the first-round have slower number ones. For example, Reid Detmers, the Angels’ first-round pick (10th overall), is a lefty who operates with a 90-94 mph. In other words, he throws slower than the Padres’ pick, and Haynes is four years younger. This bodes exceptionally well for San Diego’s last pick in the 2020 draft as he could easily gain a few more ticks on his heater with further maturity and development. Professional coaching and instruction will, without a doubt, help as well. Speaking of maturity and development, the Padres’ own Ryan Weathers can be compared to Haynes. Weathers was delivering 90-93 miles per hour when he was taken seventh overall in the 2018 draft. Now, according to Kyle Glaser and others watching San Diego’s intrasquad games, Weathers sits at 96-97 mph. Since he is a product of the Padres’ system, Haynes could see similar improvements once inserted into the Friar’s farm system.
In addition to a reliable heater, Haynes has also worked hard to transform his changeup and slider into pro-worthy offerings. The two could be seen as average or slightly less; however, most of the gains he has made came right before his senior season. There was evidence of such development in the few games that he did play in 2020.
However, scouts did not possess enough time to laud his efforts. Instead, they had only Twitter feeds and videos to assess his talent this year. His stats show skill, however. Last year, when he was a junior, he posted a 2.35 ERA with four saves in 23 games. Due to the limited track record, though, professional organizations did not have a great look at him. Thus, San Diego might have quietly stolen a gem in the draft. If it weren’t for the virus, there is a good chance that Haynes could have had his breakout season and earned a position on MLB’s top 200 draft prospects list, if not more. Thus, San Diego made a great pick.
Another thing working in Haynes’ favor is his setup and command. He has a free and easy delivery with no apparent hiccups to fix. This will allow him to focus primarily on his pitch mix. Although each of them is decent, with the fastball possibly being plus at this stage of his development, they all have the potential for much more polish. His whole repertoire could be above-average in all facets. He just needs time to prove himself. With time, he could prove to be far more valuable than a fifth-round pick.
Fans should not count him out based only on the reality that he was taken in the fifth round. Other lefties selected in that round or later in different years have succeeded. Look at Andy Pettitte and Mark Buehrle as examples. Their triumphs serve as examples for why Haynes should not be dismissed because of when he was selected in the 2020 draft. Given a full senior season, Haynes would have probably proved to be worth a higher pick and a higher slot bonus. Instead, San Diego grabbed an excellent talent for a great price ($300,000), $98,000 less than his slot value.