Jim Callis on the Padres’ 2015 Draft

Jim Callis has been working as a baseball reporter/analyst since 1988, when he graduated from the University of Georgia and began his career with Baseball America. In 2013 he left Baseball America and now his work, and Jim, can be seen on their website and on a variety of shows on the MLB television network.

As always Jim was kind enough to give us some time to chat about this year’s Padres’ draft.

A couple of broad questions first. How do you define a good draft if you are looking at this five years from now?

Jim Callis: The bottom line is in a typical draft, and I am talking about the entire draft not just for one team, there just aren’t that many stars or solid regulars as you would think. There might be six or eight stars, and that is really loosely defined, and a dozen regulars.

One of your former colleagues at Baseball America Kevin Goldstein, who is now Director of Pro Scouting with the Houston Astros, once defined it as if you could get one regular position player, a back-end starter and about two or three guys that will bounce back and forth between the big leagues for their career - that is a good draft.

Jim Callis: Yes, that is about right. As you know, there are a lot of talented players in the draft and it is just very hard to not only make the big leagues, but to also stay in the big leagues.

We have been interviewing guys like you long enough to know that you always advocate taking the best player available. However when Houston took SS Alex Bergman of LSU with the second pick despite having your best player in 2B Jose Altuve and uber prospect SS Carlos Correa.

I am assuming that Bergman is reasonably close so why not go after a pitcher or a player that doesn’t have the most value up the middle?

Jim Callis: I think you always take the best player available because you never know what could happen. It’s just pure speculation, but maybe Bergman could have costs a little bit less than Brendan Rodgers, who went with the next pick to the Rockies. Also, you never can have too much talent.

If Bergman races to the big leagues quickly they could always move Correa over to third or trade someone for something really good.

What did you think of the selection of Brady Aiken by Cleveland?

Jim Callis: I think it was a good pick, the risk is worth the reward. If you get him back to full health then you have a lefty with three plus pitches, velocity, good command, size and great makeup - the best player in last years’ draft and maybe in this year’s as well.

There are a lot of rumors and speculation about how his Tommy John surgery may be more risky than others, but I haven’t really seen any evidence of that.

At this point in the draft his ceiling was easily the best.

Now, onto the Padres; we talked earlier about this probably not being a big draft for San Diego because they picked so late but they seem to have done pretty well. What did you think?

Jim Callis: It was an interesting draft for them. They didn’t have a first round pick so there is a limit to what you could do. I think they ended up with two pretty good pitchers in Austin Smith and Jacob Nix, both of whom we thought had a chance to go in the first round. Catcher Austin Allen could be a good bat and have even more value if he can improve defensively and outfielder Josh McGee will be interesting to see once he becomes baseball only.

Were you surprised to see Smith and Nix available that late?

Jim Callis: A little, more so with Smith, but then again high school right-handers always go later than where they are rated. Many teams just won’t draft them in the first round because of many reasons - injury concerns and just how many of them there are.

The Padres fourth round selection C Austin Allen to me seems very similar to the selection Dane Phillips, whom they drafted in the third round in 2012; a left-handed hitting catcher with questionable defensive skills. They are now converting Dane into an outfielder in Extended Spring Training.

How do they differ?

Jim Callis: Phillips is a good comp. Allen might have a little better chance to stay at catcher defensively; his hands are ok, he has some arm strength - but it is going to take some work.

Two players that really stood out to me were RHP Trevor Megil in the seventh round and 1B Brad Zunica in the fifteenth. What can you tell us about them?

Jim Callis: I don’t know much about Zunica, but Megril is an interesting guy just because of his six-foot-eight size. He has stuff, but what is interesting he is a little more feel than power, which is not what you would think for someone that tall; but, yes, he is an interesting pick especially if he is all the way back from Tommy John surgery.

Who is your sleeper?

Jim Callis: I kind of like Colton Howell of Nebraska, who was taken in the twenty-seventh round. He made our Top 200 players and he has good sink on his fastball and a nasty three-quarters breaking pitch.

I’m not sure why he fell as low as he did but he is the type of guy that could develop into a really good bullpen arm; which is a steal at that point in the draft.

Final question, overall impressions of the Padres’ draft?

Jim Callis: As I said earlier I thought it was a pretty good draft especially when you account for the Padres not having a first round pick. Two potential first round picks, a good bat in Allen and an athlete in Josh McGee. Some of the guys in rounds six through ten seem to me like signability guys; but yes they got good value.

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