Padres' Moorad attends, talks about Draft
CEO on team's pitching focus, event's evolution
SECAUCUS, N.J. -- Padres CEO Jeff Moorad was in the New York area Monday, the night before his team opens a three-game series with the Mets at Citi Field, and took the opportunity to watch his club pick ninth overall in the First-Year Player Draft.
"I don't think you can ever have enough arms," Moorad said as the Padres used the selection on Karsten Whitson, a right-handed pitcher from Chipley (Fla.) High School.
Whitson was the first high school pitcher drafted in the first round by the Padres since they chose Hanover (Pa.) High left-hander Mark Phillips in the same No. 9 overall slot in 2000. That was the same first round when Florida drafted -- and later sent to San Diego -- Adrian Gonzalez.
Moorad said the only issue had been whether to opt for a college or prep pitcher with their first selection, but in general he said that was all in the hands of "a very capable draft room back in San Diego led by guys like Jed Hoyer and Jason McLeod and Jaron Madison -- they have a terrific feel for the individual players. Occasionally they'll ask me about a signability issue, but aside from that I'm happy to know very little on the talent side."
What Moorad wants most is to have a much later pick in this Draft next year. Draft order is based on how teams finished in the overall standings the previous year. Entering Monday night's game at Philadelphia, the Padres had the best record in the National League at 33-23.
"It's early but we'll take it," Moorad said, reflecting on the season so far. "We're obviously here with a young, confident team that is gaining confidence as the season goes on. But at the end of the day, I think the NL West is up for grabs, and I hope we're there at the closing bell."
For a long time, Moorad viewed this Draft from the perspective of an agent -- representing players such as Will Clark and Matt Williams as they were selected, signed and sealed. On this night he had one eye on this greatly developed event and one on his club that was in the process of breaking up Cole Hamels' no-hitter down the New Jersey Turnpike and across the Delaware at Citizens Bank Park.
"It's great to see the production that the Draft has become," Moorad said. "Seeing an event like this and being proud of it is really terrific for the industry as a whole.
"Mark Grant was telling me a story a couple days ago in Philadelphia. He said when he was drafted in 1981, the only way he found out about where he was picked, which was fifth in the country, was by talking to a local radio station that had a ticker tape that happened to have access to the first round as players were pulled off the board. Needless to say, whether it's social media, the technological world we live in today, or simply baseball viewing this as a more appropriate exercise, to have an event like this is a great testimony to the industry as a whole."
It seemed almost fitting that after the Padres made their pick, someone was working on another no-hitter in the Majors. It just happened to be Hamels, doing so for the Phillies against the Padres. Gonzalez, the top overall pick of the 2000 Draft, took care of that with a home run in the seventh inning. Moorad said it's been all about pitching this season.
"Pitching to me is what's really stood out thus far," he said. "We have Jon Garland, [one of the only pitchers with] a six-game winning streak. Watching [Ubaldo] Jimenez in Colorado has been frankly a joy, even though we've been on the wrong side of one of his decisions. To me, when you have pitchers throwing perfect games, even near-perfect games, and players in the first week of June with 11 wins, that tells you that the arms are really where the focus is -- and ought to be as we go forward this year."
Pitching was the focus of the first round for the Padres, anyway. Whitson represented their 44th first-round selection in franchise history.