Tampa Bay Rays Look Past Nicholas Padilla’s Tommy John in 13th Round


Nicholas Padilla went from going undrafted out of Cardinals Spellman high school in 2014 to being the Tampa Bay Rays’ 13th round pick a year later. That was despite the fact that he underwent Tommy John Surgery after just 4 starts at Grayson County College in Texas. What changed? Did his stuff look much better pre-surgery? Were there concerns about his signability? Whatever the case may be, the Rays are picking him because they are excited to see what he becomes once he recovers. The upside is there with him–he won’t even turn 19 until December.

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Padilla, now a filled-out 6’2″, 220 right-hander, was hitting as high as 92 MPH with his fastball in high school, although he may have reached an MPH or two higher just before surgery. It features good life and he does a nice job keeping it down. He paired it with a changeup that was surprisingly polished for a high school player with some good bottoming-out action along with a curveball that gave him another swing-and-miss pitch at its best. That type of arsenal likely would have been enough to get him selected several rounds higher had he not needed the procedure.

Padilla’s delivery features good deception, but as Drew Smyly‘s shoulder problems reminded us this season, deceptive deliveries can lead to injury concerns. It is always a dangerous thing to tinker with a pitcher’s mechanics–you might decrease the explosiveness of his stuff as you increase his ability to stay healthy–but the Rays will have to consider doing so as Padilla continues his Tommy John rehab in their organization. Considering Padilla may not make his pro debut until 2016 at Rookie ball, they will have plenty of time to help him adjust to a new motion if they go that route.

The fact that Padilla is so young for a junior college player makes the delayed start of his professional career less annoying for the Rays. He would still be young for a college sophomore as he makes his debut, and if his stuff returned as advertised, the Rays may be looking at a fifth- or sixth-round value a year from now. We can talk about the time value of draft picks–is a sixth round draft pick next year more valuable a 13th round pick now? The consensus would be that it is.

Another nice thing for the Rays is that they should have no issues signing Padilla. Even if his recovery timetable is the best-case scenario, he will only end up making a handful of appearances before entering the draft again. With that in mind, he is best off taking the guaranteed money that the Rays give him–say $50,000 or $75,000–because he is unlikely to be drafted any higher in next year’s draft. The fact that he would be entering an organization with a track record for developing pitchers should also make his decision easier.

It often takes a long time to evaluate any draft pick, and that will especially be true of Padilla as he won’t pitch this season. However, the Rays deemed him worth the wait given the solid three-pitch repertoire he showed pre-surgery, and they are incurring little risk as they select him way down in the 13th round. They like their chances of this pick working out well.

Click this link to read our other 2015 Tampa Bay Rays MLB Draft profiles.

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