We are taking a look at the San Diego Padres’ 2020 draft class.
Major League Baseball shortened the amateur draft from 40 rounds to five, as the 2020 season was suspended due to COVID-19. This move was intended to save teams around $30 million. The league office and the Players Association have yet to agree on whether there will be a season this year.
The San Diego Padres finished the 2019 season 70-92, which placed them in the eight-slot for the first round of the 2020 draft. With that pick, general manager A.J. Preller selected outfielder Robert Hassell III out of Independence Prep High School in Tennessee.
Hassell was the first high schooler taken in this year’s draft and is the fourth-straight high school product selected in the first round by San Diego. It began in 2017 with the selection of MacKenzie Gore, who was then followed by Ryan Weathers in 2018. CJ Abrams was selected in the 2019 draft out of Blessed Trinity High School.
Hassell won the 2018 and 2019 Tennessee Gatorade Player of the Year award as his numbers solidified him as the best player in the state. He hit an average of .423 with 14 home runs and 36 RBI’s. Hassell also has speed, which allowed him to steal 22 bases in his last season. High school or college, Hassell is one of the best hitters in this draft class.
Not only can he hit, but the teenager also had a 5-2 record on the mound as well, ending with a 1.07 ERA and 113 strikeouts in 59 innings.
MLB.com had this to say about Hassell:
“The best pure hitter in the 2020 prep class, Hassell has a pretty left-handed stroke and the hand-eye coordination to barrel balls with ease. He’s at his best when he lashes line drives to all fields but his swing got too uphill when he made a conscious effort to hit homers in the middle of the summer.”
The 6-foot-2 lefty will become one of the top prospects in the Padres loaded farm system very soon if he decides to sign. San Diego intends to play Hassell in centerfield. He still has the option to attend Vanderbilt University.
San Diego also had a compensation pick at No. 34 and selected right-handed pitcher Justin Lange out of Llano Texas. Another high-schooler took in the first round by Preller. The reason the Padres had this extra first-round pick was for “competitive balance” reasons. The second round compensation picks are for when teams lose players to free agency.
Justin Lange is an athletic prospect, he’s listed at 6-foot-3 roughly 230 pounds and clocked-out at 102 mph last season before it was cut short. The first-round pick is just 18 years old and is committed to Dallas Baptist University. Lange was also a 2020 Perfect Game Preseason All-American first-team selection.
In high school, Lange focused primarily on his fastball/slider combo but has a changeup as well.
lastwordonbaseball.com provides some of his strengths from scouts:
“Lange’s strongest asset is his fastball/slider combination. Scouts grade his fastball as a 70/80. It typically sits in the 94-95 MPH range, but he has the ability to touch 100 MPH. The velocity on this pitch dictates the type of life it has. At lesser velocities, the pitch has good run and sink to it, but it has less life at higher velocities.”
“The slider that he complements his fastball with also has power. Scouts grade the pitch at 55/80, but it is a very inconsistent offering for Lange. At its worst, it is a below average sweeping slider, but it sits in the mid-80s with good bite to it when at its best. He rounds out his repertoire with a work-in-progress changeup.”
San Diego drafted a unique prospect with their second-round selection. With the 45th pick, the Padres took outfielder Owen Caissie, a 17-year old out of Notre Dame Catholic High School in Burlington, Ontario, Canada. Cassie is 6-foot-4, a little over 200 lbs, and is committed to the University of Michigan.
The lefty reached an exit velocity of 105+ mph at such a young age that it caught a lot of scouts’ attention. Caissie is currently a member of the U-18 National Team for Canada and was the first of five Canadians taken in the 2020 draft.
Hassell can play all the outfield positions, but it looks like the Padres will focus him in right field.
Fun fact about Caissie, he is known for showing off his power last March when he homered against the Toronto Blue Jays in Dunedin, Florida, in a spring training game. Caissie was the 75th-ranked prospect, according to MLB.com.
The Padres’ third-round selection might be the biggest of them all. San Diego got a steal in drafting right-handed pitcher Cole Wilcox out of the University of Georgia. Wilcox was a first-round talent, but with teams having concerns signing him, they all passed. The Padres are taking a chance on Wilcox even though he has demands on his contact being closer to $3 million.
Because of this pandemic, there have been a lot of complications with this draft and MLB’s minor league system. It’s safe to say GM A.J. Preller was ecstatic about Wilcox being available at the 80th pick. Without this pandemic, Wilcox could have most likely been a first-round selection.
Wilcox is 6-foot-5 roughly 230 lbs and can bump over 100 mph on the mound. He only had four starts last season but had a 1.57 ERA with 32 strikeouts and a 0.87 WHIP.
The 20-year old ranked No. 23 in the draft by MLB.com.
“Wilcox has a fastball that already sits at 91-94 mph, reaching the plate with heavy sink and the promise of more velocity once he fills out his athletic 6-foot-5 frame. His 81-84 mph changeup is equally effective, featuring fading action and often bottoming out at the plate. He’ll also flash a plus slider in the low 80s, though it’s not quite as consistent as his other two offerings. Wilcox repeats his mechanics well and has an advanced feel for pitching.”
San Diego drafted right-handed pitcher Levi Thomas in the fourth round. Thomas attended Troy University, where he was one of the top pitchers in strikeouts in the shortened season. He finished with 42 K’s (tied for 10th) in just 23 innings and had a .39 ERA. Thomas is another potential steal by Preller in this year’s draft class.
The righty doesn’t have an overpowering velocity as his fastball sits at 90-93 mph but utilizes his slider and changeup well enough to develop high strikeout numbers. Thomas joins Wilcox as the only two college prospects drafted by San Diego this year.
Thomas turned some heads when he dominated against No. 1 Florida in 2019. He pitched six full innings and didn’t allow a run on the road against the best team in the country. Thomas is the second-highest draft pick in Troy history (Mike Felix – PIT – 2009).
Thomas is the first draft pick to sign with the Padres officially. His contract is listed at $80k with the original draft slot at $533k. Thomas goes roughly $450k undervalue.
With the draft limited at five rounds, the Padres chose left-handed pitcher Jagger Haynes from West Columbus High School in North Carolina with the 139th pick. Preller capped off his 6th pick with another high school product.
Haynes is a 6-foot-4 170 lb prospect who is currently committed to North Carolina. In his last full season as a junior, he posted a 4-1 record with a 2.35 ERA in 23 games. He has an arsenal of a fastball, curveball, and a changeup. His fastball reaches a velocity of roughly 90 mph.
Before his senior season was cut short, he started one game — throwing six hitless innings and striking out 13 batters.
The left-handed pitcher became the second player from Columbus County drafted by the Padres in the last three years. Whiteville High School product MacKenzie Gore was drafted by San Diego No.3 overall back in 2017.
On June 16, Haynes officially signed his contract with the Padres. He signed for $300k for the 139th pick — $98k under value.
The San Diego Padres have until August 1 to sign the draft picks. In the meantime, the Padres have signed five undrafted free agents.
- Danny Denz, LHP, Memphis
- Carter Loewen, RHP, Hawaii
- Zack Mathis, INF, Louisiana State
- Michael Green, OF, Clemson
- Chase Walter, RHP, Western Carolina
As of now, it doesn’t look like the MLB and MLBPA will agree on playing a 2020 season. Padres fans are excited to see this newly developed team in action as soon as possible. But this canceled season does give Padres’ fans some hope as it gives this top two farm system more time to develop.
Chris is a graduate of the University of San Diego. He is the former Sports Editor for the USDVista newspaper. Chris is also an athlete and is huge fan of San Diego sports. Chris has covered the San Diego Loyal, and contributes regularly about the Padres.