SAN DIEGO -- At the height of his teardown, A.J. Preller walked away from the 2015 Rule 5 draft with four players -- three relievers and a long-shot bet on a power-hitting outfielder that he hoped to stash on the active roster. The next year, the Padres' general manager took another reliever, a catcher and an infielder back to San Diego.
This year, perhaps Preller's chief concern is what's on other teams' shopping lists heading into Thursday's Rule 5 draft, a particularly curious endeavor as baseball begins to wrap its collective head around just how the incoming 26-man roster will impact team construction.
Keep an extra arm, catcher or platoon bat? Maybe a defensive specialist or base-running threat? Stash a prospect for a rebuild?
It's all on the table as front offices comb through each other's farm systems and the Padres' is as stocked as any.
"Honestly, I think we're going to be interested to see how it plays out, if other teams feel like they have the ability to take more chances with the extra player on the roster," Preller said. "We kind of looked at it from a value standpoint, a talent standpoint, and let the pro scouting group do their thing.
"And we'll huddle up in the next couple of days to see if there's anyone we want to take."
Who they left unprotected figures to raise that bar pretty high.
While the decision to not let their $7 million investment in Jorge Ona dangle for the taking, those exposed to the Rule 5 draft include one-time All-Star Futures game rep Buddy Reed, fellow top-30 prospect Esteury Ruiz, hit-and-miss outfielder Michael Gettys, emerging right-hander Lake Bachar and a pair of 100 mph arms in Dauris Valdez and Jordan Guerrero.
Traditionally, pitchers are more susceptible to selection due to the ease with which a team -- especially a rebuilding one as the Padres were earlier in Preller's tenure -- can hide them in a bullpen.
In fact, 21 of the 27 players selected in the first round of the last two Rule 5 drafts were pitchers.