With the 2017 MLB Draft opening tonight, it's a good time to look back at the 32 members of the Padres' 2016 draft class who signed with the organization.
While the 2015 draft was the first after A.J. Preller was hired as General Manager and Mark Conner took the reins as scouting director, in many ways, the 2016 class was a more important opening salvo for the new regime. After not picking until 51st overall in 2015, the club had four picks before that slot last year, and they had almost four times as much money to spend.
Conner and his team of scouts also had an entire year to prepare rather than joining the process mid-year. When we talked to him last June, Conner emphasized the importance of that prep time in putting together a high-risk/high-reward class that included several high-profile pitchers who didn't throw at all heading into the draft. That aggressive approach has yielded some exciting results through year one and has left the organization dreaming on what could be a once-in-a-decade haul of talent capable of impacting the big league club as soon as next year.
We take a look back at the first year of professional baseball for the 2016 Padres draftees as we look forward to covering the 2017 class.
Cal Quantrill (#8 overall) - The son of long-time big league pitcher Paul, Cal was on the radar as a high schooler in Canada, but opted for Stanford instead. The Padres picked him even though he hadn't thrown competitively since undergoing Tommy John surgery in March of 2015, betting on his mix of quality pitches, baseball IQ and high character. So far, the 22-year-old righty has rewarded their confidence. After a brief tour of the low minors last year, Quantrill has posted a 3.54 ERA with 56 strikeouts in 53.1 innings in the high-offense Cal League this spring. He has shown a four pitch mix this year and has all the qualities of a future big league starter.
Hudson Potts (#24) - Somewhat lost amidst all the high-profile arms from the draft class, Potts has shown plenty to like in his own right. The Texas native has posted a mediocre .217/.254/.316 in Fort Wayne this spring, but it's worth noting that he won't turn 19 until this October and is younger than many of the high school players who will be selected in the draft this week. Potts shows strength and good bat speed, but is not tracking pitches all that well in his full-season debut, posting a ghastly 73:7 strikeout-to-walk ratio through his first 224 plate appearances. Obviously, the club would like to see better production, but he had a solid .280/.338/.366 line across the two short-season stops last year.
Eric Lauer (#25) - From the moment he was selected, Lauer was recognized as a likely fast-mover. The just-turned 22-year-old has done nothing to lose that tag since beginning his professional career. The lefty was unhittable in the Northwest League and a two-inning cameo with Fort Wayne last year. He jumped directly to Lake Elsinore to open this season, and all he's done there is post a league-best ERA through 10 starts. One of several picks with ties to Conner's old regional scouting territory, Lauer has a 2.23 ERA and 107 strikeouts through his first 88.2 professional innings and is likely to jump to Double-A San Antonio following the Cal League All-Star game next Tuesday. His fastball velocity was down a bit early in the year, but it's been back to the 90-92 range that he was showing heading into the draft, and his command to all four quadrants allows him to spot it and his other three pitches at any point in an at-bat.
Buddy Reed (#48) - At one point, Reed was seen as a potential early first round pick, but the former prep school hockey player underwhelmed in his junior year at Florida and slid down draft boards. The Padres gambled on his athleticism and the opportunity to save nearly $250,000 against his bonus slot to take the outfielder in the second round. To date, while the switch-hitter continues to show plenty of great tools, he still struggles to turn them into baseball skills too often. At 22, Reed is hitting just .226/.301/.286 in Fort Wayne and despite stellar speed, has swiped only four bases in 23 games. Reed might have been the most extreme of the upside gambles the Padres made last year and the results have been uninspiring so far. It's possible the team might ask Reed to concentrate on hitting from just one side of the plate to try to find some mechanical consistency at some point, but for now, they'll let him continue to work with the player development staff to see if he can unlock his latent ability.
Reggie Lawson (#71) - Lawson missed most of his senior year of high school with a rib cage issue, but the Padres liked what they knew of the one-time Team USA pitcher. The 19-year-old from the Antelope Valley certainly looks the part of a big league pitcher with a broad, athletic frame, and a fastball that sits in the mid-90s paired with a curve that can be a plus pitch at times. The club was cautious in sending Lawson and other young pitchers out to full-season assignments this spring, a luxury that allowed them to let him develop in extended spring training early this season. The big righty just made his fourth start for the TinCaps, and it offers plenty of reason for optimism. He'll likely move quite slowly through the system, but Lawson appears to be hitting his stride as a professional.
Mason Thompson (#85) - Yet another pitcher who didn't throw heading into the draft, the big Texas high schooler is now two years post-Tommy John surgery, and, like Lawson, is just settling into his full-season debut after spending the first seven weeks of the year in Peoria. The long-limbed righty got a small taste of professional ball in the Arizona League last summer, but is just now beginning to carry a starter's workload. The combination of his rehab experience and his early coaching from former big leaguers means that Thompson has an understanding of his game that belies his young age, and his early limited performances make the million dollars the Padres gave him above his slot value appear to be a potentially wise investment.
Joey Lucchesi (#114) - After leading the NCAA in strikeouts his senior year, the lefty with the funky delivery went from going undrafted in three previous years of eligibility to signing a below-slot $100,000 contract a week after his 23rd birthday. All he's done since that day is mow down professional hitters. He put up video game numbers in the Northwest League last summer, and has only seen a slight drop while jumping to the Cal League this spring. Lucchesi is in the top three for most categories on the circuit, including 86 strikeouts, against only 17 walks, in 66.2 innings. Like Lauer, he appears likely to move up to Double-A following the minor league All-Star break, and with his mid-90s fastball and impressive curve, he could continue to thrive even against more advanced hitters.
Lake Bachar (#144) - A two-sport athlete at tiny Wisconsin-Whitewater, Bachar was an unknown in most scouting circles - but Conner had seen him as a prep in Chicago and Bachar's fastball and athleticism enticed the Padres to take him in the fifth round. After working mostly in the Arizona League last summer, Bachar seemed on track to join the TinCaps rotation to open this year, but a shoulder injury has kept him out of action. He's been shut down for much of the spring and it's unclear when he'll be ready to pitch.
Will Stillman (#174) - The Wofford all-time saves leader was one of the Padres' run of senior signs with interesting pedigrees on day two of the draft. The righty was one of the first pitchers from the Padres' class to reach full-season ball last year after completely shutting down Northwest League hitters through his first 11 professional outings. While he has a big fastball, everything else is a work in progress, and the North Carolinian didn't break on a roster this spring and then got hit hard in his only two games when he joined the TinCaps bullpen in late April. He'll likely get another crack at the Northwest League when it opens on Thursday and could easily be back in the Midwest before long this summer.
Dan Dallas (#204) - Although overshadowed by his higher-profile fellow high school picks, Dallas is intriguing on his own. A lefty from the coldest of cold-weather venues in Buffalo, NY, he popped up in his senior year after adding some significant velocity through off-season workouts. Dallas, at 6'2" and a stout 200 pounds, doesn't offer a lot of physical projection, but as he settles into really pitching against top-notch competition for the first time in his life, he does have some significant upside. After logging just 11.2 innings in the AZL last summer, he will likely open in the rotation at Tri-City later this week.
Ben Sheckler (#234) - A massive lefty from tiny Cornerstone University, Sheckler wound up on scouts' radar because of a road trip that almost got washed out. Much like Jerry Keel from the class before him, the Michigan native isn't a big velocity guy, but can use his size to create serious downward plane on his pitches. While he racked up 34 strikeouts in 24 frames out of the TinCaps bullpen this spring, he also gave up 31 hits and 11 walks in that time, leading to his return to the Peoria complex at the end of May. He's likely headed to Tri-City to try to assert his role going forward.
Jesse Scholtens (#264) - Having signed for a $1,000 bonus, the righty from Wright State (by way of University of Arizona and Diablo Valley Community College) has already more than outperformed anything the organization might have thought they were getting. Scholtens was the TinCaps' opening day starter this spring, and after posting a 2.45 ERA across six starts, he earned a promotion to Elsinore, where he joined an entire staff of more highly-regarded pitchers. He hasn't missed a beat there, continuing to whiff a batter an inning and posting a sub-3.00 ERA. He's gotten his success with a solid fastball and a quality mix of pitches, but none of his pitches grade out as significantly above average.
Boomer White (#294) - Though he's not physically imposing, White was considered one of the best hitters in the SEC at Texas A&M, a school he dearly loved. There was some thought in public sources that he wouldn't sign and return for his senior year, but the team never doubted that they'd get him and ultimately signed him for well-below slot. However, after signing, White did virtually nothing at the plate in Tri-City, and his liabilities in other aspects of the game stood out. The 23-year-old will likely return to the Northwest League to see if he can find his feel for wood bats this summer.
Tre Carter (#324) - A highly-regarded athlete, Carter was slotted for a much bigger bonus than the $100,000 he received on the last day of the signing period, but a heart condition popped up in a personal physical he took, and he ultimately took less. The left-handed hitting outfielder only got in a handful of games in Arizona last summer and was never really in the mix to join the very young players who started in Fort Wayne this year. Carter, who also played football in high school, is a fierce competitor with visible physical tools, but he's also taken some rough swings against breaking balls when we've seen him. He'll get his first real full-time workload as a professional when short-season ball opens.
Jose Galindo (#384) - A hard-throwing reliever, Galindo missed all of last year once he signed because of a broken hand he sustained punching a clubhouse wall at New Mexico State. He can rush his fastball up into the upper 90s and showed a nasty slider when we saw him in the spring. He's gotten limited work in a few assignments out to the Single-A clubs this spring, and has been inconsistent with his command. He'll likely be at the back of the Dust Devils bullpen for much of the summer. He could be a reliever who pops up in a big way much as Trey Wingenter from the 2015 class has.
Jack Suwinski (#444) - Yet another pick with Midwest ties, Suwinski bypassed his commitment to the University of Indiana for fourth-round bonus money. The tooled-up outfielder was hobbled by a leg issue in the AZL last summer and wasn't able to get to his raw natural power, but he impressed enough this spring (and had the cold-weather pedigree) to earn a starting outfield spot with Fort Wayne. Playing as an 18-year-old, the left-handed hitter has managed only a .210/.310/.320 line so far, but he's outperformed expectations defensively. Even if he needs to repeat next year, he'll be among the younger players on the circuit, and the early experience he's had against more advanced competition should help him turn some serious raw ability into on-field production.
Chris Mattison (#474) - Drafted as a catcher out of Southeastern University, Mattison converted full-time to first base this spring. The Pennsylvania native should be in the mix there for Tri-City after struggling with his offense last season.
Chris Baker (#504) - Blocked at shortstop at the University of Washington, Baker still showed enough to get a $100,000 signing bonus to bypass his senior year. The 22-year-old from the Bay Area put up strong numbers in the Northwest League and earned the right to finish his first professional campaign in Fort Wayne. Jumped to Lake Elsinore for his first full season, Baker has had moderate success, hitting .254 and showing some pop and defensive versatility. With the tidal wave of young, talented middle infielders coming behind him, Baker will have to perform at every level, but even with higher-profile teammates on the dirt in Elsinore with him, he has very much looked like he belongs since day one.
Jaquez Williams (#534) - A bear of a young man, Williams' power was his calling card as a prep. However, the Georgia high schooler, who played all of last season as an 18-year-old, was simply overmatched in his professional debut, striking out 40 times in 98 AZL plate appearances while posting a 548 OPS. He will likely stay back in Peoria again this summer.
A.J. Brown (#564) - While Brown signed with the Padres, it's looking unlikely he'll ever put on a baseball uniform. He's emerged as one of the top underclassmen wideouts in the SEC and appears likely to have a big future in football. He did spend a bit of time at the Peoria Sports Complex at some point over the winter, but unless something changes, his status as a Padres minor leaguer will be an interesting footnote included in his NFL biography.
Dominic DiSabatino (#594) - A Delaware native selected out of junior college, DiSabatino has a typical pitcher's build that he can leverage for a whippy fastball. Opponents hit .319 against him in limited relief work last summer in the AZL, but he did also strike out 13 in his 10.1 innings of work. He will likely open with the Dust Devils.
Taylor Kohlwey (#624) - Another product of a small school in Wisconsin, Kohlwey helped fill roster needs at three levels last year, ultimately posting a solid .260/.343/.365 slash line with 12 steals as a corner outfielder. He broke camp with the Storm this spring, and has struggled offensively.
Evan Miller (#654) - An Indiana native, Miller was a local-kid-makes-good story when he joined the bullpen for Fort Wayne this April. But the righty was touched for 11 earned runs over six innings in four appearances before getting sent back to extended spring training. He'll be in the mix for a bullpen spot as rosters reshuffle at the completion of the draft.
Nate Easley (#684) - The son of Padres minor league instructor and former big-leaguer Damian, the younger Easley spent most of his professional debut playing second base in Tri-City. But the 21-year-old has been seeing more time in the outfield - where he played at Yavapai College - this season. The 21-year-old has bounced around between Single-A clubs and extended spring training, and will need to find a way to secure some regular playing time to see if he can get back to his production from last summer.
Luis Anguizola (#744) - The one-time little league teammate of Javier Guerra in Panama, Anguizola came to the U.S. for college rather than trying to sign as a 16-year-old ballplayer. He earned national NAIA honors as a first baseman at Loyola of New Orleans in his senior year, but the Padres drafted him with the intention of converting him to catching. Now 23, he'll see how the conversion works when the short-season league opens this week.
Chasen Ford (#804) - A reliever out of Yale, the Orange County native struggled with command in his pro debut, walking 16 in 20.1 innings. The 21-year-old will be in the mix with Tri-City's bullpen.
Ethan Skender (#834) - The last member of the draft class to sign, Skender was committed to Arizona State out of his Florida junior college, but ultimately got $465,000 to sign when Carter's heart condition meant the Padres had extra money to spend. A leg injury sidelined him after last summer, but we saw him briefly in instructs last year and again this spring, when he was hitting everything hard. It's not at all clear where he will play defensively, and he managed to run into several outs in game action, so he'll need to show he can be effective in games, but the 20-year-old should get plenty of opportunity to prove himself when he makes his professional debut in Tri-City.
Dalton Erb (#894) - Like Sheckler, Erb is a big-bodied hurler without huge velocity from a small college program. The Orange County native worked as a multi-inning reliever for Tri-City last year, posting a solid 2.70 ERA in 19 outings despite just 22 strikeouts against 14 walks in 40 innings of work.
GK Young (#924) - The slugging first baseman starred for the NCAA champion Coastal Carolina team, so he didn't join the Padres organization until mid-July. The left-handed swinging Young has big raw power that he'll need to show can be a consistent in-game weapon. Much like Ty France, picked in the 34th round in 2015, Young - a 31st-round pick - will need to prove himself at every stop along the way.
Mark Zimmerman (#984) - The Ohio native had about as good a start as could have been hoped for last summer. He worked effectively out of the pen in Tri-City and Lake Elsinore last year, combining for a 1.45 ERA and 45 strikeouts against just eight walks in 37.1 innings of work. However, his 12 games in Fort Wayne this spring weren't as successful as he posted a WHIP north of 2.00. He'll likely get another chance to show himself against the Midwest League at some point this year.
Denzel Gowdy (#1014) - A flexible infielder out of community college in Georgia, Gowdy will be trying to earn everyday playing time in the year after his selection. With so much talent coming behind him in the system, he will need to act quickly if he's going to create an opportunity for himself. He had a solid .359 on-base percentage in Arizona last summer, but only eight extra-base hits in 121 at-bats.
David Bednar (#1044) - The Pittsburgh native has been an important part of the TinCaps bullpen this spring, posting 37 strikeouts and a 1.98 ERA over 27.1 innings and converting on seven of eight save opportunities. Professional opponents have hit only .196 against him thus far, and he'll likely finish his first year of full-season ball in the Cal League. Not a bad showing for a 35th-round pick and the last guy in the class to sign with the Padres.