Outfielder Robert Hassell played two games before the coronavirus pandemic wiped away his senior season at Independence High in Thompson Station, Tenn.
A month after the Padres signed him for $4.3 million as the No. 8 pick in the 2020 draft, the 6-foot-2, 195-pound teenager was roaming the outfield at Petco Park in an intrasquad game and working a walk against Cal Quantrill.
Welcome to player development in 2020.
“It’s a crazy thing to think, that in a normal year, you’re playing with your high school buddies, with juniors and sophomores in high school,” Padres manager Jayce Tingler said, “. . . and a couple months later you’re in a big league stadium and playing with some players who have seven, eight, nine years of major league experience.”
The Padres believed they grabbed the best prep bat in the draft class when they made Hassell—who turned 19 in August—the first high schooler off the board in June. His time at the alternate training site at San Diego has also allowed the Padres’ player development staff its first up close look at an athlete who certainly looks like a future fit in the middle of the outfield.
“He moves well, throws well,” Padres farm director Sam Geaney said. “It’s a very natural look in center field.”
Hassell’s lefthanded bat will be his carrying tool, especially as he fills out his frame. He was already starting in a good spot after leading the USA Baseball 18U National Team in home runs and slugging percentage last summer. He has flashed his power potential while driving the ball out of the park this summer.
Since his big league cameo at Petco Park, Hassell has collected north of 50 at-bats against far more advanced arms than he had ever faced before this summer.
“Just his bat speed and the swing for a player coming out of high school certainly stands out,” Tingler said before summer camp broke. “. . . It’s hard for me to fathom coming out of high school and doing what he’s doing.”
— Outfielder Edward Olivares forced his way on the Padres’ Opening Day roster with a summer camp breakout, doubled in his major league debut and added his first home run on Aug. 7. After that, Olivares was 1-for-15 with five strikeouts when he was optioned to the alternate training site.
— The Padres acquired first baseman Yonder Alonso from the Braves not only for big league depth, but as an experienced bat at the alternate site and a difficult out to add to the education of a group of young pitching prospects that includes lefthanders MacKenzie Gore, Ryan Weathers and Joey Cantillo and 2020 draftee Cole Wilcox.