Padres charge battery on Day 1 of draft

The San Diego Padres went with a theme Monday, taking three high school standouts to bolster their pitching game. After calling MacKenzie Gore‘s name third overall, the club went with back-to-back catchers in the second and competitive balance rounds, calling Georgia prepster Luis Campusano and Orange County receiver Blake Hunt.

Over the last few weeks, we’ve heard from more and more places that the Padres were likely to take Gore. Monday night, they did exactly that, making the left-handed North Carolina prep pitcher their highest pick since the ill-fated selection of Donavan Tate. Although he’s represented by Scott Boras, the organization didn’t anticipate any issues getting him under contract.

Gore, a highly-athletic 18-year-old, will join the organization with high expectations, and plenty of reasons to be excited about his ability to meet them.

Notable for his unique high leg kick and fluid mechanics, Gore has nonetheless won plaudits for his ability to repeat his release point consistently, not unlike current Padres prospect Joey Lucchesi.

Like many top high school prospects, Gore already has experience pitching on Petco Park mound having worked an inning in the Perfect Game All-American Classic last summer. While his fastball sat 89-91 MPH and touched 92 at that event, a weight-training program last fall helped him add velocity in his senior year. While he reportedly touched 97 in a few settings this spring, he was more consistently 92-94.

“It starts with the fastball. I really try to spot it up, to work both sides of the plate and up and down,” said Gore on a call with media Monday evening. “The curve ball has kind of been my out pitch this spring.”

Gore joins a deep stable of talented left-handed hurlers in the organization. Adrian Morejon, Logan Allen and Eric Lauer were all in our MadFriars Top 20 coming into the season, and Lucchesi, Cubans Osvaldo Hernandez and Ramon Ernesto Perez, and Dan Dallas could all make a claim for it next winter.

With so many young, high-profile arms in the system, one glaring area of need has been at catcher. The organization hopes that’s less true now than it was at the start of the day.

When they called Campusano’s name with the 39th overall pick, the club was banking on a skillset balanced on both sides of the game. The son of former Pirates farmhand Genaro Campusano, who settled in Augusta, Georgia and raised his family after playing there and in Savannah in the early 1990s, the new Padres farmhand caught Gore and other high-octane pitchers at Perfect Game last summer.

One of the few high school catchers in the country with a better claim to staying behind the plate at the highest levels of the game is Hunt, who became Campusano’s organization mate about an hour later with the Padres’ competitive balance pick, the 69th overall. A late bloomer, Hunt has the hands, lateral movement and arm strength of a prototypical elite defender behind the plate.

While he has some decent raw power and a frame to add more as he fills out, his overall offensive profile lags behind his defense.

All three picks will likely spend this summer in the Arizona Summer League with one of the two teams the Padres will field this season.

The club can spend a total of just under $12.4 million on signing bonuses. After being very creative with budget allocation last year, scouting director Mark Conner acknowledges that they’ll probably wind up “more conventional” with their spending this time around.

Rounds 3 through 10 of the draft will take place on Tuesday, with rounds 11-40 starting at 9:00 a.m. PST on Wednesday.

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