Before Dylan Lesko fell into their lap, the Padres were seriously considering drafting Nevada high school lefthander Robby Snelling with the 15th overall pick in 2022.
Hindsight indicates that would have worked out just fine.
As the 39th pick in the draft, Snelling has been an absolute steal.
The 19-year-old pitched his way to Double-A San Antonio in his pro debut. He reached the Texas League on Aug. 23 after dominating at Low-A Lake Elsinore and High-A Fort Wayne.
In 22 starts, Snelling went 11-3 with a 1.82 ERA and 118 strikeouts and 34 walks in 103.2 innings. He allowed just four home runs.
“Really elite players are quick to adjust,” Padres assistant farm director Mike Daly said. “It doesn’t take him long to get his bearings, because he has the ability to pitch at a high level.”
Snelling’s time in Double-A is proof of that. In his second San Antonio start he threw five no-hit innings and tied a career high with nine strikeouts.
Snelling’s stuff was elite even when his command was off. He did not allow more than three earned runs in any start, and his ERA led all minor league pitchers with at least 100 innings.
Snelling began laying the foundation for his breakout last fall, when he developed a diving changeup at instructional league to go with a mid-90s four-seam fastball and vicious curveball. He shaved some 10 pounds off his middle linebacker build through tweaks to his nutritional and training plans.
That helped Snelling hit the ground running for an aggressive California League assignment to start his career.
He never looked back.
“Where a player starts is on the organization,” Daly said, “and where they finish is on the player . . .
“We’re fired up. I don’t know how many 19-year-old high school kids have pitched their way to Double-A, and level by level have dominated like Robby has.”
— The amazing season of 17-year-old catcher Ethan Salas ended on Sept. 2 with a right knee sprain. He was hitting .179/.303/.214 nine games into an aggressive promotion to Double-A San Antonio, though he contributed a walk-off double in his debut. Across three levels, Salas hit .248/.331/.421 with nine home runs in 66 games to start his career. He signed in January for the highest bonus of the 2023 international signing period.
— In addition to Robby Snelling, four other 2022 draftees finished the year with Double-A San Antonio: righthander Adam Mazur (second round), first baseman Nathan Martorella (fifth), center fielder Jakob Marsee (sixth) and third baseman Graham Pauley (13th).