Round 1, Pick #3– MacKenzie Gore, LHP, Whiteville (N.C.) HS
In the weeks leading up to the 2017 MLB Draft, the Padres were scouting a number of top-end talents, including all of the big five players of Hunter Greene, Royce Lewis, Brendan McKay, Kyle Wright, and MacKenzie Gore. A lot was going to depend on how the first two selections played out, but the Padres appeared to be most heavy onto Greene, Lewis, and Gore.
On draft day, the Padres third selection was going to depend on the decisions the Minnesota Twins and Cincinnati Reds made. If Greene was somehow still available at three, there was almost no scenario where the Padres wouldn’t pick the right-hander from Southern California. After the Twins shocked the baseball world with the selection of shortstop Royce Lewis, it seemed clear the Reds would make the consensus pick, selecting right-hander Hunter Greene. This left the Padres with a few interesting options in Gore, McKay, and Wright. Although Mckay has been discussed as an option as a potential bat, the Padres were really selecting between three pitchers. Rather than go with the two more developed college pitchers, the Padres’ brass chose the upside of the high school lefty, MacKenzie Gore.
Born in February of 1999, and standing at 6-2, 180 pounds, Gore was perhaps the best high school pitcher in the draft, even with Greene gaining most of the attention and being selected directly ahead of him. Despite Gore having committed to East Carolina University, the Padres and their $6.7 million slot value should be able to make a deal with the left-hander.
In his junior season in 2016, Gore put up insane numbers, posting a 0.08 ERA with 174 strikeouts in 83 and 1/3 innings. While he could not outdo himself in his 2017 senior season, Gore still ended up striking out 158 batters and walking only five, accumulating a 0.19 ERA overall. Although you come to expect crazy numbers like these with high school players playing against clearly lesser competition, Gore’s utter dominance is still wildly impressive.
After sitting in the upper-80s to low-90s with his fastball during his junior season, Gore’s velocity took a leap forward in 2017, as the left-hander was sitting 90-94 and reportedly hitting highs a few ticks above that. Gore has shown impressive command of that fastball and he is able to locate the pitch on both sides of the plate. Even more important for Gore, he also sports three potential plus off-speed pitches, as his curveball already has the bite and depth of a plus pitch, while his hard slider and solid changeup also have the potential to be plus offerings in the future. With potentially four plus pitches, and strong command and athleticism to boot, Gore has all the makings of a solid major league starter. Add to that his interesting high leg kick and deceptive delivery that allows him to throw hitters off, and Gore has some added value.
While he may not be a front of the rotation type starter, Gore has the potential ceiling of a number two starter, with a number three type starter being a more likely landing spot. As a number three selection out of high school, that is a good result to hope for if you are a San Diego Padre fan.
Round 2, Pick #39– Luis Campusano, C, Cross Creek HS (Augusta, Ga)
With their second pick of the 2017 draft, the San Diego Padres made a bit of an interesting selection, selecting catcher Luis Campusano out of Georgia, the second straight high schooler to begin the draft. At 6-0, 200 pounds, Campusano has a solid frame and good build for catching long-term. One of the best catching prospects in the entire draft, Campusano has not only solid offensive skills, but also some potential plus skills on the other side of the ball.
Not only does Campusano have the distinction of being the first catcher off the board in the 2017 draft, but he also has one of the best last names of any player in the draft. It really just rolls off your tongue. Anyway, Campusano most stands out for a pair of plus tools, those being his arm strength and his raw power. He sometimes struggles with a swing that can be a little shaky in terms of mechanics. However, with legitimate plus raw power, and the potential to turn that raw power into 15-20 home run game power, Campusano may be able to make up for any shortcomings with his hit tool.
Behind the plate, Campusano has shown some strong defensive skills, including a potential plus throwing arm, but he has had some issues with receiving and maintaining proper technique throughout games. With that being said, Campusano has made great strides this year in both his physique as well as his game behind the dish. There is going to be a learning curve here, and some important development will have to take place, but the potential is certainly there.
Although high school catchers may be the most risky draft demographic, Campusano’s power potential and potential plus glove give him some strong upside, making him a solid second round selection for the Padres.
CB Round B, Pick #69– Blake Hunt, C, Mater Dei HS (Santa Ana, Ca)
Despite selecting a catcher in Campusano with their second round selection, the Padres made a bit of a puzzling move with their competitive balance round B selection, selecting another catcher in Blake Hunt out of Mater Dei HS in California. Despite being in high school and just 18 years old, Hunt is already an advanced defensive catcher, as he calls his own games behind the plate. In fact, Hunt is one of the best, if not the best, defensive catchers available in the entire 2017 draft.
Not only does Hunt have advanced receiving skills and strong game calling ability, but he also has one of the best throwing arms, as shown by his consistent 1.8 second pop times to second base. Despite putting up some solid offensive numbers to go with his strong defensive skills, scouts haven’t really raved about Hunt’s offensive ability, as it clearly lags behind his glove. Hunt actually rose quite a bit on a lot of draft boards over the last several months with strong showings at the end of his season and at a few draft showcases. At 6-3, 200-plus pounds, Hunt is a big kid with quite a bit of power, which he has recently been showing more both in-game and in terms of raw power.
With the late season helium, Hunt vaulted up draft boards, as he looked more like a third or fourth round talent, which potentially would lead him to forgo an offer from Pepperdine. Given his advanced defensive skills, and potential for positive offensive development, the Padres could not pass up the big catcher out of Southern California. All the same caveats that apply to Campusano apply to Hunt, but both guys have not only a strong chance of sticking at catcher, but also have some serious potential behind the plate long-term. He will join Luis Campusano as a strong two-headed catching unit in the lower level of the Padres’ minor league system.
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