Cal Quantrill and Hudson Sanchez (He changed his last name to Potts after the draft) weren’t the first two names we expected to hear Commissioner Manfred announce as Padres draft picks, but as usual, A.J. Preller didn’t follow the script others had written for him. When Kyle Lewis and Jason Groome both slid out of the top five and were available when the Padres picked eighth, I admit I was disappointed when the Padres settled for Quantrill. And I was completely confused when the Padres picked Sanchez. Upon further review, I don’t think I should have been.
After reading about the high ceilings both Lewis and Groome have, and seeing draft prospects rankings with Groome at the top and Lewis not far below, it was a surprise when the Padres passed on both to pick a guy that wasn’t in the top 10 of any pre-draft rankings. Here’s the thing about prospect rankings though; they’re bullshit. Because prospects are bullshit. When I say that, I don’t mean prospects are bad, or heavily investing in them is a bad strategy. Building from the draft is essential. It’s the only way to simply add value to your team. As we saw when Preller made several trades before 2015 and the Padres just became differently bad, (or differently good if you’re an optimist), trying to get better via trades just rearranges the value of the team.
When I say prospects are bullshit, I really mean the hype and expectations placed on them because of an evaluation made of them when they are still developing their skill set can often be completely unrealistic and unfair. Let’s take Nolan Arenado as an example. His defending at third base was questioned , and now he’s an elite defender. Let’s take Mike Trout as an example. He was drafted 25th overall, and now he’s still yet to reach his prime years and has been the best player in the sport for multiple seasons.
Let’s take Brett Wallace as an example. The 13th overall draft pick by the perennially draft savvy Cardinals who is barely hanging on to MLB playing time thanks to playing for was is quite frankly a bad Padres team. If what is said about players when they are drafted is 100% accurate, Brett Wallace would be a better player than Mike Trout and Nolan Arenado would probably being playing first base because his glove isn’t good enough for third. To say Quantrill is doomed to an injury riddled career because he’s coming off of an injury now, or that Lewis and Groome were the obviously better picks, could end up looking as silly as the scouting reports that doubted Arenado and rated Trout and Wallace similarly.
While we knew the Padres had interest in Cal Quantrill, Hudson Sanchez came out of nowhere, but in picking Sanchez the Padres made their strategy for the draft obvious. They decided to spread their allotted money over as many players as possible and allow Preller to pick high risk/high reward players throughout the draft. Not a big market team with big pockets, the Padres are going to be big spenders this summer on players in the draft and in the international market. And since Quantrill actually signed for a little over slot, picking Sanchez and signing him with a well under slot signing bonus is key for the Padres money strategy.
From a business standpoint, managing the risk of paying these boom or bust prospects will be a top priority for the Padres. Quantrill and Sanchez aren’t what we expected, but they do have high ceilings in their own right. Before his injury, Quantrill looked like a potential first overall pick. Hudson Sanchez is one of the youngest players in the draft, and has the power potential that makes scouts not worry about his future position (he may not be able to stick at shortstop). The fact that the Padres saved over a million in slot money by getting him, makes him a less surprising pick.
While the Padres organization may have a track record of “embarrassing” itself, Preller does not. Say what you want about his flurry of trades prior to his first full season as Padres GM, the reason he was hired in the first place is because of the reputation he built with the Rangers as an excellent amateur talent evaluator. If Preller likes Quantrill and Sanchez, there’s probably something to those players that we should all be paying attention to. When Preller signed 16-year-old Nomar Mazara to a record deal, eyebrows were raised. Now Mazara is raising eyebrows with his performances in Arlington, Texas. I’m not saying Quantrill or Sanchez, or anyone else the Padres add this summer, will have the impact Mazara is having, what I’m saying is Preller has been ahead of the curve on players in the past.
So maybe I’ll calm down about Quantrill and Sanchez and see how this plays out.