Lure of college swaying Cubs pick Padgett

Lure of college swaying Cubs pick Padgett

CHICAGO -- Jared Padgett was going to be happy with whatever happened.

The 6-foot-3, 190-pound left-hander from Graceville High School in Graceville, Fla., was MLB.com's No. 195-ranked Draft prospect.

Padgett was either going to be an early-round Draft pick or he'd honor his verbal commitment to Mississippi State and compete in the perennially tough Southeastern Conference, which has four teams in this year's College World Series.

Padgett knew the Cubs and Cardinals thought highly of him, and when Chicago's turn came to select in the third round on Tuesday -- which is slotted for a $731,000 signing bonus -- it wanted the tall lefty, whose fastball topped out at 94 mph this spring. Padgett, with a solid college option, asked for more money.

The fifth round came, and the same conversation took place. But the same answer was given, and Padgett tweeted on Tuesday night he was fully committed to Mississippi State.

"It didn't play out how we wanted it to with the Draft, but I'm excited to be part of a wonderful baseball program for Mississippi State," Padgett said Wednesday, adding he was hoping for $800,000.

The Cubs did end up drafting Padgett on Wednesday with their 26th-round pick (No. 773 overall). Padgett said Cubs scout Tom Clark called him and offered his congratulations for everything the young lefty has accomplished so far.

"Tom calling me and offering me to be the third-round pick for that money was an honor," Padgett said. "I can't thank the Cubs organization enough for possibly being a part of that. But it just wasn't what I was looking for."

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Padgett said repeatedly Wednesday it was an honor to be drafted. But he's also a confident young pitcher who has already improved greatly during the last few years, something he credits to Kellen Ludwig, his pitching coach and a former Minor Leaguer. Padgett said Ludwig helped him tighten his mechanics before his senior season, and it resulted in increased velocity and an improved curveball.

That, coupled with a weightlifting regimen and a chance to "really [dedicate] my life to baseball" at Mississippi State, has Padgett excited for his future.

Of course, potential injury is always a factor. Padgett said that was considered, but so was the opportunity to improve while competing against top college baseball programs.

"I could get hurt walking down the street and tear a ligament in my ankle, but I know my chances are greater by bettering myself at Mississippi State. And if that happens, so be it," Padgett said. "That's how it plays out for some. For some, it plays out being a first-round pick."

Cash Kruth is a reporter for MLB.com. Follow him on Twitter at @cashkruth. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.