2014 Draft: Padres' Primer

The ghosts of Matt Bush and Donavan Tate hover over any Padres' draft like unwanted furniture from your relatives; you may want it out, but it's not going anywhere.

For a small to medium market size team, the major league amateur draft is a key, and many would argue the primary component, of how teams with a limited budgets compete in a world dominated by big money teams.

However, in less than a decade the Padres just didn't miss on a run-of-the-mill first round pick – and they have missed on plenty of those as well – they missed in spectacular fashion choosing local shortstop Matt Bush with the first overall pick in 2004 and in 2009 took Donavan Tate, who was considered one of the better athletes in the draft in years, with one of the first three selections in 2009. In the process they flushed nearly $10 million dollars down the drain.

Neither player made it past A-ball. Bush is currently an inmate in the Florida penal system and Tate, who is recovering from a torn Achilles, career is for all intents and purposes over as well.

Despite these two very prominent miscues, the draft history of the team has turned around somewhat in recent years.

Jedd Gyorko, who was selected in the second round of the 2010 draft was in the mix for NL Rookie of the Year in last season and players such as Corey Spangenberg, Joe Ross, Max Fried and Hunter Renfroe, taken in the first round of subsequent drafts, have performed well and are progressing through the minor leagues, but they have yet to make any contributions on the major league level.

For most Padres' fans the draft it is not something to get excited about.

"They have been able to produce some major league talent, but yes, overall their top picks have been shaky," said Jason Parks, who writes about the minor leagues and the draft for Baseball Prospectus.

"Even in the 2011 draft, where I like what they did very much, they still took someone like Corey Spangenberg with their top pick while leaving Jose Fernandez and Sonny Gray on the board."

Parks is optimistic about the direction that the team has been going since Chad MacDonald and his predecessor Jason McLeod, began running the draft where the organization has not only spent more money in the draft but significantly upgraded and expanded its scouting department. In fact, in 2012, Keith Law of ESPN, one of the more respected writers on development and the draft, rated the Padres as having the top minor league system in the game.

The 2014 draft is much more weighted towards pitching and it likely that the team, where baseball teams pick on talent as opposed to an organizational need because of the long development time for picks, will select a pitcher but there has been some talk of them taking a corner outfielder if available.

"I've really heard them on a bunch of guys," said Jim Callis, who writes for MLB.com.

Two San Diego area players that will not be available are left-handed pitcher Brady Aiken of Cathedral Catholic and Alex Jackson of Rancho Bernardo High School, both of whom project to go within the first five picks.

"I think they would love to see someone like shortstop Nick Gordon at number thirteen where they will be picking or there has also been some talk about Bradley Zimmer of the University of San Francisco, a corner outfielder."

Under the new rules of the Rule IV draft put in place after the 2012 draft, teams have to be aware of what type of money their top picks want in the draft to stay within the proscribed limit. For example this year the Padres' have a total budget of $6,098,600 which means their scouts have to have an idea of roughly what the first hundred picks are looking for in terms of bonus money.

For example when Mark Appel unexpectedly fell in the 2012 draft if the Padres would have selected him over Max Fried, the amount that Appel was demanding would have precluded them taking Zach Eflin, Walker Weickel and Andrew Locket, all of whom signed for over-slot-amounts.

One interesting side not on the draft. In 2010 the Padres chose Karsten Whitson with the ninth overall pick and depending on whom is telling the story he reneged on an earlier pre-draft agreement and didn't sign with San Diego where he turned down $2.1 million dollars to attend the University of Florida.

Whitson, after a strong freshman and sophomore years with the Gators sat out his junior year with a season ending shoulder surgery and had a so-so season this year with a 4.60 ERA and a 20 to 20 base-on-balls-to-strikeout ratio.

He is not listed in either Baseball America's or MLB.com's top 200 prospects and according to Jim Callis will be lucky to go anywhere past the fifth round.

"He could attract some teams with because of his athletic body and because of where he was in the past, but we are talking about a bonus of twenty-five to maybe fifty thousand dollars."

"If he's looking for anywhere in the neighborhood of a half-million dollars then he's going back to Gainesville for his fifth year."

In contrast, Johnny Barbato, who was selected out of a Miami High School in the sixth round in the same draft and signed for $1.4 million according to Baseball America, is now leading the Texas League in saves and is on the brink of the major leagues.

While going to the major leagues out of high school is definitely not for everyone you also need to think twice before turning down millions of dollars.

Because if there is one hard and fast rule of the baseball draft, neither the team or the player really ever knows what is about to come around the corner.

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