"The success rate of guys getting to the big leagues or the other side is pretty good," said Smith, the Padres' vice president of player development and international scouting.
The team began its fifth minicamp on Wednesday with 41 players on the field following morning physicals.
"For some of these guys, it will be their first Spring Training, so they'll come here and this gives them a chance to get to know the staff," Smith said. "I just think it's an easy way to transition them in to their first spring and give them a head start to their season."
The roots of the minicamp date back to the late 1980s, when Tom Romenesko was the Padres' Minor League director and Smith was scouting director. The goal was simple: Give players a head start with thorough instruction.
Before Smith started the minicamp five years ago, the team had a hitting camp for a select group of Minor League players. But the current program includes everyone from position players to pitchers.
"When they're here, they're fresh, they're hungry and whatever we teach them, adjustments they've learned, they can carry it into the season," Smith said. "If you do it during instructional league … then they go home after and sit for five or six months."
Austin Hedges, considered by many to be the best defensive catcher in the Minor Leagues, went through the minicamp in 2012. Now, in his second big league camp, Hedges can testify as to how beneficial his minicamp experience was.
"It was my first Spring Training, and you really don't know what to expect. But to get a jump start with a smaller group of guys, I think it gave me an edge, an advantage over guys who didn't get to do it," he said. "Getting that one-on-one time with [former catcher Brad Ausmus] and the other instructors was very helpful."
Smith said the minicamp has evolved over the years, including the addition of more players and also instructors from the Minor League side who will preside over the camp. Also, he said, there's room for flexibility in the program, allowing the team to easily cater to the general makeup of the group.
"We make subtle tweaks every year in what we're trying to do and accomplish," Smith said. "Some of it is based on personnel, like this year we're going to be pushing a pretty talented group to Fort Wayne that's very young, so we want to give them as much of a head start as we can."
One addition this year is the minicamp team will play two games against the French National Team on March 6 and March 8. That team is managed by former big league closer Eric Gagne.
But, really, the focus is on personalized instruction. The rest of the team's Minor League players report on Feb. 28. By that time, the minicamp group will already be well on its way.
"It felt like we were already way ahead of them," said pitcher Matt Wisler, who attended minicamp in 2012 and again last year. "When it's over, you feel really good. I know I felt more ready."
The minicamp coaching staff includes field coordinator Randy Johnson, hitting coordinator Sean Berry, outfield/baserunning coordinator Glen Barker, upper-level pitching coordinator Trevor Hoffman, infield coordinator Eddie Rodriguez, coordinator of Latin American instruction Evaristo Lantigua and six Minor League coaches and managers.
The players attending minicamp are:
Pitchers: Payton Baskette, Jimmy Brasoban, Adrian De Horta, Zach Eflin, Max Fried, Trevor Gott, Tayron Guerrero, Pete Kelich, Andrew Lockett, Mayky Perez, Genison Reyes, Tony Rizzotti, Bryan Rodriguez, Wilson Santos, Jerry Sullivan, Bryan Verbitsky, Walker Weickel.
Catchers: Ryan Miller, Dane Phillips, Adolfo Reina, Jeremy Rodriguez, Jose Ruiz.
Infielders: Jake Bauers, Carlos Belen, Stephen Carmon, Franchy Cordero, Rudy Giron, Duanel Jones, Fernando Perez, Dustin Peterson, Gabriel Quintana, Luis Tejada, Josh VanMeter.
Outfielders: Henry Charles, Edwin Moreno, Jordan Paroubeck, Hunter Renfroe, Franmil Reyes, Mallex Smith, Mason Smith, Jose Urena.