Monday, June 4, 2012

Riffing on Cahill

The 2006 draft offers a cautionary yet inspirational tale as the Padres again enter draft day with extra picks and high hopes.

Six years ago the Padres studied at great length Trevor Cahill, whose heavy, speedy fastball attracted scouts from all of the major league clubs to Vista High, about 40 miles north of Petco Park.

Concerned about the righty's elbow, the Padres deemed Cahill too risky for the top few rounds and saw him go to the A's in the second round, 66th overall.

The elbow held up.

Cahill has thrown 653.1 innings in the big leagues, with a 43-40 record and 3.86 ERA. He has accumulated 7.9 win shares. Pleased with what Cahill gave them while his salary remained low, the A's traded Cahill to the Diamondbacks last offseason.

The Padres were proud of the extra draft picks that they stockpiled before the 2006 draft. Unfortunately for them, the four players they took before Cahill's selection -- Matt Antonelli, Kyler Burke, Chad Huffman and Wade LeBlanc -- have produced a grand total of  six-tenths of a win share.

It was far from the first time in the Moores Era that the Padres misjudged one of San Diego County's amateur players. Their selection of Matt Bush, the Mission Bay High shortstop and pitcher, with the No. 1 pick overall in 2004, ranks as one of the worst selections in the draft's history. Two years earlier the Padres had doubts about the durability of Rancho Bernardo High pitcher Cole Hamels. Hamels would lead the Phillies to a World Series championship in 2008. His career numbers show more than 1,200 innings  in the regular season, another 81.2 in the postseason, an 82-56 record and a 3.36 ERA to go with MVP awards for the '08 League Championship Series and World Series. The Padres had no concerns about the durability of Morse High's Adam Jones, but their early projection of him as a pitcher may have dulled them to his potential as an everyday player. Jones went to the Mariners 37th in the 2003 draft and now, in his fifth season as a starter with Orioles, ranks among the better center fielders in the majors. In the same draft, the Padres seemed to underestimate the flaws that other clubs saw in San Diego State infielder Peter Stonard. He didn't ascend above Single-A after San Diego took him 101st overall.

It should be noted that San Diego received good returns from Khalil Greene, the player it chose (and quickly signed) instead of Hamels. Even if the Padres liked Jones, their only chance to select him was with the No. 4 pick that they used on Tim Stauffer.

But not long after he became general manager of the Padres in late 2009, Jed Hoyer said the franchise needed to do a much better job of reading greater San Diego County's talent-rich amateur market and, for that matter, the rest of Southern California. Hoyer and his hand-picked draft overseer, Jason McLeod, said the Padres employed several good scouts but that the scouting staff had been spread too thin. Under Hoyer, the Padres doubled the number of area scouts and added cross-checkers.

Cahill's success in the big leagues is a reminder that the Padres have failed too often in their own backyard when drafting or not drafting local players and have often underachieved with the extra draft picks they've stockpiled over the years. Today's draft could mark the last time the Padres will have several extra picks. The new collective bargaining agreement will make it much more difficult for clubs to gain draft picks by not signing their own free agents, although the Padres stand to get compensatory picks through other means.

When Cahill threw a shutout here on Sunday, another Padres area of underachievement came to mind: the dearth of complete games. Petco Park, the absence of the designated hitter and San Diego's weather are as good as it gets for a pitcher, but the Padres have only seven complete games in the ballpark's history. Hamels alone may have tripled that number. Cahill had gone 1-5 with a 4.69 ERA in his last six starts before tossing nine innings here on Sunday. In his debut for Arizona, Cahill made several mistakes here as part of a six-walk performance but gave up only one run in six innings.

Cahill's delivery and stuff in spring training raised concerns in the Pink Pony Scouts Chat. No doubt the advantage of pitching in San Diego was accentuated by the Padres' feeble offense. At home this year Cahill is 0-3 with a 5.16 ERA. Even still, I can't help but wonder how good the Padres would be if they stocked their rotation with bona fide big leaguers, among them an ace and a legitimate No. 2 to go with an innings-eater such as Cahill in his Oakland days.

The Padres have the No. 7 pick in the draft today. A scout not affiliated with the Padres told me today that potential fits for San Diego are Puerto Rican shortstop Carlos Correa and left-handed pitcher Andrew Heaney of Oklahoma State. He also said the Padres have shown a lot of interest in another lefty pitcher, Max Fried of Harvard-Westlake High in Studio City.

1 comment:

  1. Tom,

    Interesting stuff-do you have any idea who was performing those medical evals? I wonder if that person is still in the organization since both Hamels and Cahill have turned out just fine medically while Stauffer was severely injured when drafted.

    Any stories of someone they passed on due to injury risk who then wasn't effective because of an injury?

    Part of me also wonders if it isn't better to just ignore that completely and pick the guys with the best stuff and cross your fingers they hold up.