MadFriars' Chat: Jim Callis

For 30 years, Baseball America has been the go-to source for comprehensive coverage of prospects at any level. So we went to Executive Editor Jim Callis to talk about the Padres' draft.

MadFriars: Obviously, an evaluation of the Padres' draft this year hinges on what you think of the high school pitchers at the top of the draft. What was your read?

Jim Callis: I talked to some guys who thought Max Fried was the best pitcher in the draft, even counting all the college guys. You're looking at a lefthander who's athletic and projectable, and shows you three plus pitches and sometimes he'll show you some plus-plus stuff. It's a pretty ridiculous package. To get him at seven is a nice get. In this year's draft, I thought there were eight guys who were kind of a cut above and the Padres were in a good position.

Then you get guys like Zach Eflin and Walker Weickel. I think that was kind of reflective of the fact that there wasn't a lot of consensus on the high school pitchers this year. Giolito got hurt and guys did like Lance McCullers, although you still have some guys who think he's going to be more of a reliever than a starter in the long run. Once you got past Fried, there was no consensus on how to line up the pitchers. You had Ty Hensley, Nick Travieso, and Eflin and Weickel and all the guys from Florida. You had Ty Buttrey and the guys from Georgia like Lucas Sims. I don't think any of those guys necessarily separated themselves from anybody else. Where they got Eflin and Weickel, were really good values.

What do you make of the club going for Travis Jankowski out of upstart SUNY-Stony Brook? Were you surprised that, going for a college outfielder, they went toward Jankowski instead of Barrett Barnes?

Jim Callis: Travis Jankowski, as an athletic college player with good speed and a legit center fielder who fits at Petco, I thought that was a really nice pickup also. Travis has legitimate plus (60-65) speed, where Barrett Barnes is more 50-55. We ranked Barnes ahead of Jankowski, but I just think they're different guys. I think Jankowski's strengths play better at Petco than Barnes's. There's no question Barnes has a lot more raw power, but I think that's negated somewhat by Petco Park. It's funny, guys who like Travis Jankowski will compare him to JaCoby Elsbury coming out of Oregon State – not the guy who had the power last year. Those guys are very close to each other in how you line them up on a draft board, but I do think Travis is a better fit than Barrett Barnes would be.

How much of a believer are you for drafting for environment?

Jim Callis: I think the most important thing is you've got to draft the tools and performance and all that first. That said, you have to be aware of your environment. It wouldn't make a lot of sense for them to load up… extreme example: If they had drafted a guy like Joey Gallo. Joey Gallo probably has enough power to hit it out of anywhere. But his strengths aren't going to play up as much in Petco as they will elsewhere. So I guess the way of looking at it is, you don't want to just push guys up your board because of your park, but I think you've got to know what type of environment you're playing in when you draft guys.

The other guy BA had in your top 100 headed into the draft was Dane Phillips. Is there any chance he stays behind the plate in professional ball?

Jim Callis: I have the whole Midwest [for Baseball America] so I kind of bear down on those guys. The other guy who's kind of similar in terms of an offensive catcher and you want to see if he can stay behind the plate is a guy like Josh Elander from TCU. And I don't think people really think Josh really has much of a chance to catch. I think Dane has a chance to catch. The thing that's nice is, I think he hits enough to maybe make it as an outfielder. I can seem him as a left fielder if he's not a catcher. He can definitely hit. He's hit everywhere. The problem is he just never caught a lot. He didn't catch much at Oklahoma State. And even Oklahoma City had a good catcher who got drafted I think in the 20s. In Dane's, I guess defense, he's never really had a chance to be a full-time catcher. He's got enough arm. He really has to polish up his receiving. It would be easier to write him off as a catcher I guess, if he had been catching regularly for three years. But he really hasn't. He didn't catch much at Oklahoma State at all and he caught part-time this year. So I'd give him a chance. I do think the bat's good enough. He hit in the Cape. He hit at Oklahoma State… shoot, he hit in high school too. He went about in the draft where he should have gone and I liked the pick. You might have a catcher there. To be honest, if he hits like he can hit, you're willing to give him more slack with his defense. And if the defense winds up being shoddy, he's at least got a chance to hit enough in left field. A lot of the catchers you're going to draft, if they can't make it at catcher, you don't have a guy.

When you look at those picks from the fifth through 10th rounds, obviously one guy who jumps out at you from a tools standpoint is the outfielder from Kentucky, Brian Adams. Was that a reach there?

Jim Callis: Who knows what he's going to wind up being. He's about as fast a guy as there was in my territory. I guess the best way to put it is, on pure upside, there aren't too many guys with more upside than Brian Adams. He can run a 6.4 60, he's got plus raw power, he's got plus arm strength, he can really go get the ball in the outfield. He's got swing-and-miss issues. I mean, he only had 44 at-bats this spring and he didn't play a lot. He was a wide receiver on an SEC football program, there's a ton of tools to get excited about there – a TON. And to get a guy like that for $75,000… I'll take a guy like that for $75,000, and especially in this draft where not only did you get him for $75,000, they saved $63,500 they can apply elsewhere. I'll gamble on that kind of upside. That, to me, is a like a no-brainer. I thought that was a tremendous pick considering what it cost them and where they got him. If Brian Adams doesn't make it, you're not out anything. You might have a guy… the guy's got major league tools.

How do you think the club did navigating the new draft rules? The club seems to have really zeroed in on a bunch of high schoolers who could be convinced to start their pro careers without breaking the bank.

Jim Callis: In this draft, finding high school kids who would sign for [$100,000] was key. That's just an offshoot of the new system. And in addition to those guys, I thought getting Ronnie Richardson was a good get. I mean, he's 5'6" or 5'7", but the guy's got a ton of tools also.

Mallex Smith, some guys will give him an 80 grade on the running. He's raw defensively, but you can smooth that out with some repetitions. He's more of a slap-and-dash type of guy but, if you get a guy with that kind of speed in the fifth round, that's a nice pick-up. You look at a lot of these guys, Jalen Goree can really run. Jankowski can really run, obviously Brian Adams can really run – he's probably faster than Travis Jankowski, and Travis is pretty fast. Even the Stephen Carmon kid, who I don't a lot about, he steals a lot of bases. Ronnie Richardson can run. They got a lot of guys who can really run.

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