The San Diego Padres have had a horrible past when it comes to their draft selections. The team has continually failed to draft and develop quality Major League talent, especially hitters. This continued failed attempt to draft talent has stunted the growth of the franchise and resulted in mediocre Major League teams.
Drafting players is not an exact science. There are many intangibles to a player that can not be seen with numbers and stats. You never really know if a player will develop. There are plenty of stories of first round pick busts and late round pick steals. The majority of the time it all even out, but the Padres have historically made bad decision after bad decision when it comes to draft picks.
After the World Series run of the 1998 San Diego Padres, the team was forced to let a trio of players walk away via free agency. Steve Finley, Ken Caminiti and Kevin Brown were the heart and soul of the Padres team. Losing those three was hard and the team was granted five extra picks in the first round in order to even out the competitive balance of the league. The Padres were to have the 20th, 28th, 29th, 41st, 49th and 51st pick in the first round of the 1999 draft. With six picks within the first 51 players, the Padres had a great opportunity to stock the farm system.
Losing Brown was the biggest loss of all. Not only the fact he went to the rival Los Angeles Dodgers in the richest pitchers contract in history, but the cost of Brown the previous season was especially steep. Derrek Lee was easily one of the best position players drafted by the Padres in the last 25 years. Lee was traded to the Marlins for one year service of Kevin Brown and these compensation picks were to even out the fact the Padres let Brown leave via free agency.
With their first pick the Padres decided to draft a speedy high school outfielder out of Georgia. Vince Faison was a left-handed hitter who was considered a high ceiling pick. To use the 20th pick on a project player was risky, but the team had five other picks in the next 30 selections. Faison never ended up playing higher than Triple-A (Only 30 at bats in 2004 Tacoma) and retired after nine minor league seasons in 2008. Faison retired with a .251/.323/.407 Minor League batting line, and hit 76 home runs while driving in 395 runs in over 3,100 at bats. He also stole 125 bases in the Minors. He is most surely a bust pick for the Padres.
With the second pick in the round and the 28th overall, the team selected a high school pitcher out of the state of Washington. Gerik Baxter was a right handed pitcher, who had great potential. He was killed in 2001 in an automobile accident. Baxter was rehabbing an elbow injury, but the young pitcher had a lot of upside. He was listed as the Padres #5 prospect at the time of the accident. Baxter ended up having a career record of 10-6 with a 3.19 ERA. He had a fantastic year in 2000 for the Ft. Wayne TinCaps. He was 5-6 with a 3.40 ERA, while striking out 103 batters in 100.2 innings pitched. Baxter could have been special, his loss was difficult for the team.
The Padres had the 29th pick in the first round as well and the team decided to go with another right-handed pitcher. Omar Ortiz was drafted out of the University of Texas Pan American. A small school in Texas, but Ortiz had impressive numbers in college. Ortiz was the third Padres selection in the first 29 picks, and none of the three would ever reach the Major Leagues. Omar Ortiz was traded with Matt Clement and Eric Owens for Mark Kotsay and Cesar Crespo at the end of the 2000 season. He never made it past high A-Ball and retired in 2003 with a 5.15 ERA in the Minor Leagues. A horrible selection again made by the team.
The next selection would be the 41st pick. With that pick the team again went with a right-handed pitcher. They took Casey Burns out of the University of Richmond. Burns too failed to make it to the Major Leagues and in fact he never made it passed A-Ball. He retired after three Minor League seasons with a 5.08 ERA. Another horrible selection by the team and a common theme is beginning to show.
Eight selections later and the Padres finally struck gold with their 49th pick (sarcasm). Left handed pitcher Mike Bynum was selected out of the University of North Carolina, and he has the distinction of being the only player of the six first round picks to make it to the Major Leagues. Bynum played parts of three seasons for the Padres from 2002-2004. The left-handed relief specialist retired with a 7.73 ERA and a 1.734 WHIP in the Major Leagues. He did not have much success, but at least he made it all the way to the highest level.
The Padres last first round pick and the 51st pick in the round was used on catcher Nick Trzesniak. The right handed hitting catcher was drafted out of high school in Illinois. Trzesniak was very close to making it to the Major Leagues, and it is really a shame he was neer given the opportunity. He spent 10 years in the Minor Leagues and retired with a respectable batting line of .252/.328/.373. He hit 51 homers and drove in 291 runs. Trzesniak spent parts of four seasons in Triple-A for four different franchises (SD, TEX, FL, DET), but was never given the call.
The 2015 Padres had one first round pick and that was used on Austin Smith. Ironically enough, it was the 51st pick in the draft. Smith looks to be a solid Major League prospect and could prove to be a great pick. Only time will tell in that regard.
So why was this article written? Justin Upton, Will Venable, Ian Kennedy and Shawn Kelley are all free agents. Justin Upton will earn the Padres a second selection on the first round and the Padres must do all their homework to make sure that this pick is not wasted. The team cannot afford to have mistakes made, like seasons past. A.J. Preller is supposed to be an excellent evaluator of talent, but it will take time to reap the benefits of that. The next few drafts are crucial for turning this franchise around.