The 2011 draft was the second and final Padres draft for the short-tenured Jed Hoyer. After bungling his first round pick the previous year, this draft needed to be a statement draft. That was true both at the time and as we look back at it now and determine the legacy that Hoyer left behind. It was also true because the first round offered some redemption for Hoyer. The Padres had a surprise year in 2010 where they made the playoff run and therefore their allocated 1st round pick was the 25th overall. However, because their 2010 1st round, 9th overall pick went unsigned they received a compensatory pick. That pick would be the 10th overall in the 2011 draft and came with the caveat that no compensatory pick would be awarded if the player selected with that slot did not sign.
The Padres would use that 10th overall selection to draft Cory Spangenbeng, a speedy infielder from a Florida community college. The pick was a bit of a reach. Hoyer was resistant to gamble on a player that might not signed and went with the safer choice by taking a player higher than was expected in order to give the player a payout that was more than expected and thus easily sign him. Still Spangenberg was a nice prospect that could leg out infield singles and get extra bases by wheeling his way around the bases on balls to the gaps. Expected to play 2B, there would not be pressure on him to hit home runs so it seemed like a good fit. So far Spangenberg has made it to AA and there are questions about if his bat is good enough to get him on base enough to take advantage of his speed. Still, he is far from a total bust and yet accentuates the problem with safe picks. His limitations kept him from projecting as an impact major leaguer.
Fortunately, Hoyer and the Padres rolled the dice more with their later picks. The second first round selection was an Oakland, CA HS pitcher named Joe Ross. The Padres gave Ross some extra signing bonus money to forgo a scholarship at UCLA and immediately become one of the top prospects in the system. Some arm trouble and a so-so 2013 had people wondering if he might take a while to develop, but a fast start to 2014 has people seeing big things for his future. While still not a sure thing, this sort of talent is exactly what you want from a first round pick.
The Padres also had 3 supplemental 1st round picks due to the loss of 3 players to free agency: Jon Garland, Yorvit Torrealba and Kevin Correia. The Padres again swung for the fences with those 3 picks. The first was another HS pitcher, Michael Kelly, who was a high ceiling talent that busted out fairly quick. The second was a HS catcher named Brett Austin who chose North Carolina State instead of the Padres' money. The third was an athletic SS and football player at McNeese State named Jace Peterson. Peterson signed and has steadily climbed the minor league ladder. He even got an early major league debut this season and show some signs of what is to come when he develops. He is currently in AAA and one of the team's best position player prospects.
The best pick of the draft did not come until the Padres 6th selection in the draft. Their second round pick was a catcher committed to UCLA that would require a big bonus. There were a lot of questions about whether the Padres (or anyone) could sign him. That is why he went in the 2nd round instead of the 1st round to begin. However, the organization was able to get it done and Hedges has been the franchise's top prospect ever since. Scouts wax poetic about his defensive skills and defend his bat on being better than a typical catcher. He is currently in AA, is the crown jewel of the farm and his major league debut is eagerly anticipated.
Speaking of eagerly anticipated debuts, the Padres 7th round pick is one that many Padres fans are already familiar with despite him never pitching a big league ball game. Matt Wisler was taken 233rd overall in the draft, but now rivals Hedges for top prospect status in the organization. Wisler was an under-the-radar selection from an Ohio HS that had a switch flip on for him once he started pitching for Padres' farm teams. He has blazed through the minors and at just 21 years of age is pitching in AAA.
Between Ross, Hedges, Wisler, Peterson and Spangenberg you can form most of the organization's current top prospects, but other talents were taken in this draft as well:
-RHP Kevin Quackenbush has gotten a couple of cups of coffee with the Padres and looks to become a bullpen asset one day.
-RHP Burch Smith got an emergency call up last year and then returned in September to show off how he can whiff major league batters pretty well. He is currently fighting arm injuries, but the future is still bright.
-RHP Matt Stites was used as a trading chit in last year's trade for Ian Kennedy. Some scouts say he has closer potential.
-RHP Cody Hebner, OF Kyle Gaedele, RHP Justin Hancock, C Robert Kral, INF Casey McElroy, 1B/OF Lee Orr, RHP Colin Rea, C Jeremy Rodriguez and RHP Dennis O'Grady have had better minor league careers and/or are better prospects than most of the players chosen the year before.
While the draft has yet to produce a major league success the likes of 2010's Jedd Gyorko, the sheer volume of top prospects, solid prospects and potential trading chits makes it one that seems incredibly likely to surpass Hoyer's first draft in terms of major league production. It was his lasting parting gift to the Padres, even if it has not fully been opened yet.
Here is the entire list of players the Padres drafted in 2011: