After the “lightning in a bottle” experiment resulted in a 74-88 record, Upton and Ian Kennedy left San Diego for the greener pastures of free agency. This all equated to three first-round picks for Preller and scouting director Mark Conner to work with. 2016 was also the year that future Padres prospect Taylor Trammell was drafted 41st overall by the Reds.
Cal Quantrill (Eighth overall, Right-handed pitcher)
Preller’s first first-round pick saw him roll the dice on a Stanford junior who, had it not been for Tommy John surgery, was rumored to have been taken with the first overall pick.
Quantrill was hailed for his four-pitch mix and a strong feel for throwing each of them. Despite the worries about his post-Tommy John performance, San Diego was impressed by Quantrill after hosting a workout for him and gave him a $3,963,045 signing bonus.
The Canadian right-hander proved that he had moved past his surgery by pitching in 12 games with the Arizona Padres, Short-Season Tri-City, and Low-A Fort Wayne after signing his contract.
While his numbers weren’t fantastic in the minors, the Padres aggressively pushed his development to a 2019 Major League debut.
Quantrill had the same struggles that many rookies had, but he still showed flashes of his first-round pedigree. This included perhaps his best start of the season on August 9, 2019, by throwing seven innings of shutout ball against the Colorado Rockies.
Quantrill has plenty more chances to prove himself at the Major League level and nearly cracked the starting rotation in 2020 had it not been for the COVID-19 pandemic.
Hudson Sanchez (24th overall, Infielder)
The player formerly known as Hudson Sanchez is better known by the Friar faithful as Hudson Potts after he changed his name in honor of his stepfather.
The entire industry agreed that the drafting of Potts out of Carroll Senior High School was the definition of a reach, as MLB.com rated him as the 91st overall prospect in the Draft with his power standing out as a positive. A commitment to Texas A&M, along with questions on his future defensive position, caused his draft stock to fall.
However, the drafting of Potts was a crafty move by Preller to save draft capital to sign other players from his draft class. By offering him a signing bonus of $1 million, San Diego was able to sign high schoolers Mason Thompson and Reggie Lawson to over-slot signing bonuses.
Potts has some swing-and-miss in his plate approach, but it hasn’t stopped him from mashing home runs at both Fort Wayne and Lake Elsinore. However, his bat has gone cold at the Double-A level, and he has yet to push past those struggles.
Potts is blocked at his natural position of third base and has moved around the field because of it, but he is still a couple of years away from reaching San Diego.
Eric Lauer (25th overall, Left-handed pitcher)
Right after the drafting of Potts, Preller dipped into the college pool again by selecting Lauer with their final selection in the compensation rounds.
A left-hander out of Kent State, Lauer lacked a high ceiling but made up for it with a higher floor than most of his Draft counterparts.
After receiving a bonus of $2 million, Lauer made good on his promise of making a quick ascension to the majors, making his major league debut on April 24, 2018, at Coors Field.
While Lauer wasn’t a top-of-the-rotation starter, he became a reliable innings-eater for two seasons while earning the honor of beginning the 2019 season as the Opening Day starter.
San Diego finished the 2016 season at a paltry 68-94 with only the Reds and Twins posting worse records. San Diego only had one draft pick, but Preller and company made it count by drafting one of the top pitching prospects in baseball.
MacKenzie Gore (Third overall, Left-handed pitcher)
While two-way star Hunter Greene received a majority of the spotlight, a pitcher from Whiteville High School had finished laying waste to high school competition and was looking to establish himself as a top tier pitcher in The Show.
Gore had ravaged his opponents, pitching to a 12-1 record with a microscopic 0.08 ERA as a junior en route to being named the Gatorade State High School Player of the Year for the state of North Carolina.
After Royce Lewis was taken first overall by the Twins and Greene was picked up by the Reds, Preller and company were more than happy to sign the 6’3″ left-hander and gift him with a $6.7 million signing bonus.
Gore was ranked as the fourth-best prospect in the Draft by MLB.com, noting his fastball and curveball mixing well with his athleticism and competitiveness. Gore proved the emulators correct, making mincemeat of the California League in 2019 while being named to the 2019 Futures Game alongside his friend Luis Patino.
The only speedbump in Gore’s career has been the blisters that limited him in his first full season, but he has since cleared that hurdle and his own his way to making his Major League debut sooner rather than later.
Another year, another poor campaign for San Diego. This time, the Padres had two first-round picks to work with as they received an extra pick in the competitive balance rounds due to their status as a small market team. A notable selection in this year’s draft was current Arizona Cardinals quarterback Kyler Murray. He was selected ninth overall by the A’s before being the first overall pick in the 2019 NFL Draft.
Ryan Weathers (Seventh overall, Left-handed pitcher)
For the second year in a row, San Diego selected a Gatorade State High School Player of the Year in Weathers, a senior out of Loretto High School in Tennessee and the son of David Weathers, a former Major League pitcher.
Weathers was regarded as MLB.com’s 13th best Draft prospect and, while he was praised for a three-pitch mix consisting of a fastball, changeup, and curveball, none of the three were considered a true “out” pitch.
His commitment to Vanderbilt dragged out the negotiation process, but Weathers did eventually sign a contract with a sizeable $5,226,500 signing bonus on July 1, 2018.
As a member of the Padres farm system, Weathers has not had the same success as his predecessor Gore, but he has already pitched in Fort Wayne as a 19-year-old with respectable results.
With the vast amounts of pitching depth in the Padres system, Weathers does not have to be rushed to the Majors and can instead develop at his own pace, but don’t be surprised to hear his name in trade rumors.
Xavier Edwards (38th overall, Infielder)
Despite the MLB becoming more and more homer-happy, Edwards rose through the ranks as a contact-oriented speedster whose future revolves around his potential to be a top-of-the-order hitter.
However, a strong commitment to Vanderbilt saw Edwards slip all the way to the Padres at 38 overall, and San Diego was more than happy to sign him to a contract with a $2.6 million signing bonus.
Reporting to the Arizona League, Edwards proved his scouting report true. With an OPS of .947, 12 stolen bases, and 13 walks against ten strikeouts, Edwards earned a promotion to Short-Season Tri-City and continued to hit for a high average.
Even against older competition at Fort Wayne and Lake Elsinore in his 2019 season, it didn’t stop him from spraying line drives to each part of the field while becoming a nightmare to teams everywhere with his baserunning. His play at Fort Wayne earned him Midwest All-Star honors.
However, his development now rests in the hands of Tampa Bay, as he was the second player San Diego traded in exchange for Pham and Cronenworth.
San Diego missed out on another pick in the top five by one spot by finishing at 66-96, two games better than the Tigers at 64-98. With just one pick in the first round, Preller had to make it right and, thanks to the five teams ahead of him, he made it count.
CJ Abrams (Sixth overall, Infielder)
The final Padres pick of this list has the potential to be a very special player. Abrams, a shortstop out of Blessed Trinity Catholic High School, had a similar profile to Edwards thanks to his blazing speed and consistent contact.
Unlike Edwards, Abrams is expected to grow into more power as he grows older. As he fell to the number six spot, Preller was more than happy to scoop him up and add his talents to the ever-growing number of shortstop prospects in the San Diego farm system.
Despite a commitment to play at Alabama, the Padres lured him away with a $5.2 million signing bonus and assigned him to the Arizona League.
It quickly became apparent that Abrams did not deserve to be taken sixth overall; he should have been taken higher. After hitting safely in his first 20 games and racking up a .401/.442/.662 batting line in 150 plate appearances, he made a two-game cameo at Fort Wayne before being shut down.
The Rookie Arizona League MVP Award winner, Abrams’ future, is as bright as it can get, and he is already the second-ranked prospect in a loaded Padres system, according to MLBPipeline.