A glimpse at the San Diego Padres 2021 draft
While the fanfare around the MLB draft doesn’t compare to the excitement that the NFL or NBA drafts bring, it’s still an exciting time for any baseball fan to get a look at the future stars of their team. The Padres had 11 picks across the first ten rounds, taking five hitters and six pitchers. Two high schoolers and nine college players.
Round 1, Pick 27: Jackson Merrill, SS
With the Padres’ first pick, they took Jackson Merrill, an 18-year-old shortstop from Maryland. Picking Merrill was slightly unexpected, with him being ranked 79th in MLB’s prospect rankings. Merrill skyrocketed up draft boards as the draft neared when his power and speed numbers took a sharp increase. Padres general manager A.J. Preller certainly continued his strategy of drafting the best available player, with shortstop certainly not being a position that will open up anytime soon for the Padres. If Merrill progresses as the Padres hope, he’ll either have to shift positions or he’ll likely be shipped off for big-league talent. It’s a very similar situation to second-ranked Padres prospect CJ Abrams. If you’re interested in reading more about Merrill, Evan Anderson did a breakdown of just Merrill.
Here are some more highlights of Padres 1st round pick Jackson Merrill just for good measure: pic.twitter.com/WB8E0X7SAX
— 97.3 The Fan (@973TheFanSD) July 12, 2021
Round 2, Pick 62: James Wood, OF
The Padres drafted James Wood in the second round, an 18-year-old outfielder from IMG Academy in Florida. Wood fell a little bit from where he was expected to go, being ranked 44th in the draft class. He’s got great power, and an even better arm, something that could serve him well in the outfield. He’s a mammoth 6’7”, but he’s relatively lean, weighing in at only 240 pounds. There are some worries about Wood’s ability to hit for average, but he’s at or above average in terms of speed, power, arm, and fielding ability. The Padres certainly were happy to see Wood fall from his projected draft spot, and they snatched him up.
2021 James Wood #MissSt
6-7 225. Big, Strong frame. Absolutely unloads on this ball in to the wind and over the trees. Showed lightning fast hands on a ball up and in and did not miss it.@IMGABaseball @PBRFlorida pic.twitter.com/LIXQyiAIaq
— Jesse Litsch (@JesseLitsch) January 30, 2021
Competitive Balance Round B, Pick 71: Robert Gasser, LHP
The Padres got the final competitive balance pick in the draft, and they used it to take the southpaw, Robert Gasser, out of Houston. Gasser became both the first pitcher and first collegiate player that the Padres took in the draft. Gasser has seen a major increase in velocity, something that held him back from being drafted in either of the previous three seasons, which he spent at three different schools. He’s a fastball, change-up, and slider pitcher, and his pitchers are good enough for him to be a starter, though a move to the bullpen is always an option for pitchers.
In perhaps his final start for the #GoCoogs LHP Robert Gasser had really good stuff, commanding it in and out and down most of the outing until late. Very intriguing arm in the 2nd or 3rd round range #MLBDraft https://t.co/xsqB0UBCcQ
— Keanan Lamb (@keananlamb) May 26, 2021
Round 3, Pick 99: Kevin Kopps, RHP
The Padres went slightly off the book in the third round, taking 24-year-old Kevin Kopps out of Arkansas. It’s very rare to see a player drafted who’s that old, but Kopps has a resume that defends his top 100 pick. He won the prestigious Dick Howser Trophy, which is given to the best collegiate baseball player. Kopps was stellar, having a 0.90 ERA, striking out more than 13 batters per nine innings, and he allowed an opposing batting average of .162. While Kopps is a bit on the older side, he’s a player who might even have the possibility of making a difference to the big-league team in the 2021 season.
🔺 3 IP
🔺 0 H
🔺 5 K
The SEC Pitcher of the Year 🚓 @RazorbackBSB @KevinKopps pic.twitter.com/2hpYAwWGjm
— SEC Network (@SECNetwork) May 28, 2021
Round 4, Pick 129: Jackson Wolf, LHP
The Padres took their third straight collegiate pitcher, this time taking Jackson Wolf out of West Virginia. He pitched in 89 innings in the 2021 season, putting together a solid 3.03 ERA. He had a solid start to the season but struggled in the middle of the campaign before putting together a complete game, one run, five-hit performance against Texas, throwing 138 pitches in his final collegiate outing. Wolf struggled in 2018 and 2019, having an ERA over four in each of those two seasons. He put together a very strong season in 2020, having a 1.05 ERA in limited innings.
𝐒𝐎𝐔𝐓𝐇𝐏𝐀𝐖 PATROL 🚨💪@WVUBaseball lefty Jackson Wolf [@jackson123w] brought the heat for the Mountaineers, pitching a complete game to power West Virginia to the upset over No. 1 Texas, 5-1. https://t.co/qYHoVYlomv pic.twitter.com/Ut8l92mJt5
— WDTV Sports (@WDTVSports) May 27, 2021
Round 5, Pick 160: Max Ferguson, 2B
Ferguson became the fourth straight collegiate player that the Padres took, coming out of Tennessee. He hit .253 in the SEC, which is the premier conference for baseball. Ferguson struck out in 29% of his at-bats, something that he’ll need to address in the minor leagues. He did show some power, homering 12 times in 67 games, but he needs to improve his discipline to be successful.
MAX FERGUSON CALLED GAME 🚀@Vol_Baseball takes Game 2 over No. 1 Arkansas! pic.twitter.com/7go7Ao7OSW
— SEC Network (@SECNetwork) May 15, 2021
Round 6, Pick 190: Ryan Bergert, RHP
Ryan Bergert became the second West Virginia pitcher drafted by the Padres. Bergert was Jackson Wolf’s teammate for each of the past three seasons in Morgantown. Bergert was a relief pitcher in 2019 before shifting to a starting role in 2020. He led West Virginia in strikeouts in 2020, and he was named to the Academic Big-12 team.
WVU Commit Ryan Bergert (Team Ohio Pro Select) sitting 85-87 with a sharp 12-6 BB #DynamicWC pic.twitter.com/qGOJ6UreBS
— Dynamic Baseball (@DynamicBaseball) July 30, 2017
Round 7, Pick 220: Ryan Och, LHP
Ryan Och, who played his collegiate career at Southern Miss, pitched purely out of the bullpen in 2021. Och had a sub 1.50 ERA in 2021 and showed that his stamina was there for longer outings, setting a career-high by pitching 4.2 innings against Florida State. His stuff stayed potent throughout the outing, surrendering just one hit and striking out ten. Och took a massive step forward from his 2019 and 2020 seasons, and he’ll look to continue that development in the minor leagues.
Let’s watch all 11 of Ryan Och’s strikeouts against FSU. pic.twitter.com/I7VWT4Wif4
— wpmcgee (@wpmcgee) June 10, 2021
Round 8, Pick 250: Lucas Dunn, 2B
[wpedon id=”49075″ align=”right”]
Lucas Dunn became the second player the Padres took in the draft that plays second base. Dunn hit .266 in the 2021 season for Louisville, playing in the prestigious ACC. He hit six home runs, but the most impressive thing for Dunn is that he’s got a strikeout rate below 20% and a walk rate above 12%, something that he can develop as he gets more comfortable with the MiLB strike zone.
Lucas Dunn doubles down the line to get things going for @LouisvilleBSB. 2 really good ABs on the day, long walk and this good piece. Extends well through contact, strong performer. #PGDraft pic.twitter.com/aJyPoduE6s
— PG College Baseball (@PGCollegeBall) April 2, 2021
Round 9, Pick 280: Garrett Hawkins, RHP
Garrett Hawkins, who pitched in the MLB draft league after the University of British Columbia was forced to cancel their season, put together a 2.62 ERA in six outings for the Trenton Thunder. Hawkins, who is 21 years old, had primarily pitched in Canada before moving to Trenton for this past season. Hawkins showed great control, walking just two batters in 32 innings for the Thunder.
‘Birds take the 2nd game 3-0 over the College of Idaho! @garretthawkins_ with an amazing game on the mound for us. Pitching 8 strong innings allowing only 2 hits and striking out 12 🔥#ubcbaseball #gobirdsgo pic.twitter.com/pKmaTbN7WU
— UBC Baseball (@ubc_baseball) March 24, 2019
Round 10, Pick 310: Colton Bender, C
Colton Bender, who finished his fourth year at Quinnipiac University, put together a solid season for the Bobcats. Bender hit .266, but that’s somewhat disappointing for him, as he hit nearly .300 for his collegiate career. He doesn’t strike out a lot, but he doesn’t hit for much power either. However, he did slug a career-best .436 in his final season.
WALK-OFF WIN! COLTON BENDER RIPS A 3-2 DOUBLE DOWN THE LEFT FIELD LINE TO BEAT CANISIUS IN THE 10TH! #BobcatNation pic.twitter.com/rrTTjPnhoU
— Quinnipiac Baseball (@TheQBaseball) April 7, 2019
Sam is a Senior in High School. He has been writing for three years, and started at EVT in June of 2021. He’s headed to Syracuse’s Newhouse School of Communications in the fall of 2023.