“There was a group of players that we liked,” said first-year scouting director Mark Conner. “Ultimately, we went with the best player on the board.”
General Manager AJ Preller watched Smith pitch several times last summer, before he had joined the Padres. In addition to seeing him pitch in Petco at Perfect Game, he also had a chance to watch him with the U-18 Team USA squad.
“He’s a guy that has multiple ways to get you out, multiple weapons and a good frame to be durable,” said Preller. “He checked all those boxes for our scouting group.”
While his fastball is his calling card at this point, Conner and his scouts liked the overall package from Smith. “He’s a three pitch mix kind of guy,” said Conner.
“He’s got a curve he showed a lot and a change that’s well advanced for a high school pitcher. It’s got a chance to be an above-average offering.”
While the Padres have only $3,671,200 to work with in their signing pool this year since they yielded both their first round (James Shields free agent signing) and Competitive Balance pick (Craig Kimbrel trade), the organization is confident in their ability to sign Smith without blowing up the rest of their draft class.
“We took him figuring that we’re going to sign him,” said Preller. “When we made the pick, we did it feeling that we’re going to get Austin signed and get him started in his pro career.”