Potentially to the benefit of the Padres, the top end of the 2013 draft gained strength today when the Pirates and eighth-overall pick Mark Appel failed to reach terms and Appel announced he'll return to Stanford for his senior year. This afternoon, Josh Byrnes told me the Padres were "serious" in evaluating the 6-foot-5 pitcher for the recent draft. On San Diego's scouting board, Appel was fourth, one spot ahead of pitcher Max Fried, the Southern California high school lefty the Padres took No. 7.
"We didn't short-cut any scouting on him," said Byrnes. "We scouted him quite a bit the last few years, in particular this spring. We scouted him along the way, even though we weren't expecting him to get to our pick."
Appel's fall to No. 8 was the talk of the draft. Several mock drafts had him going No. 1, and although three clubs told me he wasn't first, second or third on their board, the righty was a consensus top-five talent, thanks to a fastball that reaches 98 miles per hour, a good slider and a promising changeup.
The Padres signed Fried for $3 million, MLB's assigned value for the pick. Byrnes said knowing Fried would sign within a certain price range emboldened the Padres to draft a second pitcher they rated a first-round talent, Florida high school righty Walker Weikel, whom they signed for $2 million.
To Appel, the Pirates offered $3.8 million, exceeding by $900,000 the No. 8 pick's slot value. The Scott Boras-advised pitcher is the only first-round pick who did not sign this year. Pittsburgh gets the No. 9 pick next year as compensation.
Under current owner John Moores, the Padres have wasted a lot of money on Boras draftees, notably Donavan Tate and Tagg Bozied. Yet they came to regret not drafting other Boras players highly recommended by their scouts, including either Jered Weaver or Stephen Drew when the club instead took Matt Bush, the Jeff Moorad-advised shortstop from Mission Bay High, first overall in 2004.
Byrnes has been part of front offices that had better results from a group that included Jeff Baker, Max Scherzer and Austin Hedges, all signed for at least $2 million.
"I've done a lot of business with Scott in the draft and other parts of the talent universe," Byrnes said. "Obviously if we get to that point and we think Appel is in our mix, or any client of Scott's, we'll communicate as always."
A.J. Hinch, a former Stanford catcher, was among the Padres evaluators who studied Appel.
Byrnes said he has a good relationship with Stanford's coaching staff, citing his experiences with the Red Sox, who selected Stanford infielder Jed Lowrie in 2005.
With the worst record in the majors, the Padres are in contention for the No. 1 pick of next year's draft. "That's not where you want to be," said Byrnes.