Padres Bet On The Bat With Robert Hassell
In the end, it came down to belief in the bat.
The Padres made Tennessee prep outfielder Robert Hassell the eighth overall pick of the draft Wednesday night, and the first high school player taken. Florida prep outfielder Zac Veen was considered by many to be the top high school player in the 2020 draft, but the Padres bucked industry consensus and selected Hassell with both players still available.
“I think when you get down to these decisions, the separators on these guys are so small,” Padres scouting director Mark Conner said. “They’re very, very fine decisions. Both players (Veen and Hassell) are very, very good. Both players have a lot of ability offensively and defensively.
“For us, we really believe in Robert Hassell’s ability to hit and I think that as a group our evaluators value that part of his game just a little bit more. We think that we added probably the best prep hitter in the class to our organization.”
Hassell hit .514 for USA Baseball’s 18U National Team last summer and was voted the best pure high school hitter in the draft class by scouting directors entering the season. While scouts were split on his power potential, neither he nor the Padres are worried about it.
For starters, Hassell led Team USA in home runs and slugging percentage last summer, too.
“My power, that’s been a question and I don’t understand why, honestly,” Hassell said. “Every time I see someone on Twitter say something about my power I just go upstairs and look at the buckets of baseball from home runs that I have over my life. Over the summer I hit three or four bombs on the circuit ... Do I have power? Yes. Can I add more? Yes.”
“Anytime you can get a high school lefthanded hitter, with a good long projectable body that’s going to add strength and mass, it’s a good place to start,” Conner added. “Then once you talk about Robert mentally, you talk about a player that’s wired right, ultra-competitive, hates to strike out and is going to leave everything on the field.”
Hassell was a two-way player in high school who sat 88-93 mph on the mound. He’s a center fielder who the Padres believe has a chance to stick at the position due to his superb instincts and excellent reads off the bat. Even if he has to move to a left or right field, the Padres believe he will hit enough to be a standout at any position.
That confidence, above all, is why they made him the pick.