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Plethora of early picks at Pads' disposal

Padres try to capitalize on plethora of picks

SAN DIEGO -- Armed with four picks among the first 61 in the 2006 First-Year Player Draft, the Padres hope to replicate their solid 2005 class with another deep collection of talent.

In addition to their own choice -- No. 17 overall -- in the first round, the club will have the 35th and 53rd overall picks from Baltimore as compensation for the signing of catcher Ramon Hernandez as a free agent. The Padres' second-round choice will be No. 61 overall.

"Everything our staff does is designed for the Major League club," said Padres scouting director Bill "Chief" Gayton. "Our job is to give [general manager] Kevin Towers options, not only with the Major League club, but in terms of talking about deals."

The Padres -- with president Sandy Alderson and vice president in charge of scouting and personnel Grady Fuson taking commanding roles in the past year -- are in the process of building a strong farm system on the model of the Oakland organization. Both were instrumental in making the Athletics formidable, and they are determined to do the same in San Diego.

"We had a quality draft last year," Fuson said. "A number of those players, we think, are going to be good Major League players. We plan to build on that this year."

Fuson indicated that offense needs to be upgraded at all levels of the system, and that the club will make that one of its focuses along with pitching -- always the foundation of a winning operation.

The Kansas City Royals will have the first selection in the draft, to be held via conference call on June 6-7 in New York City. The selection order is determined by the clubs' reverse order of finish at the close of the previous season. In addition, supplementary selections are given as compensation to those clubs that lost Type A, B or C free agents.

The draft will have 50 rounds and will conclude after all 30 teams have passed on a selection or after the final selection of the 50th round, whichever comes first.

MLB.com, the official Web site of Major League Baseball, will offer exclusive, live multimedia coverage of the entire 2006 First-Year Player Draft.

Having seen how PETCO Park plays across its first season and a third, Padres management has concluded that the franchise will go as far as its pitching will take it. But a blend of offense and defense is required, and the club knows it needs to upgrade its hitting.

Last year, the Padres went for a pair of pitchers in the first round, nabbing Cesar Carrillo and Cesar Ramos. Both have been impressive in the Minor Leagues and figure to reach San Diego before too long.

In Carrillo, 2005 ACC Pitcher of the Year with a 13-2 record and 2.29 ERA at the University of Miami, and Ramos, third-team All-America at Long Beach State, the Padres acquired a talented pair to blend with their potent pitching mix in the near future.

An advocate of taking college players over less experienced high school prospects during his five-year run as leader of the Padres' draft team, Gayton kept to the game plan last yar. Only 13 of San Diego's 52 selections were from high school ranks, and just one of the team's top 20 choices did not attend college. Their first 16 picks through 14 rounds were collegians.

"We aren't opposed to taking high school kids," Towers said. "We're looking for the best talent available, basically."

With a need for southpaws organization-wide, five of the team's top 17 picks last year were left-handed pitchers.

The Padres have one player on the Major League roster who was recently drafted in the first round out of the college ranks in shortstop Khalil Greene (No. 13 overall in 2002).

But before jumping ahead, here is a look back at how San Diego's last three first overall picks are faring.

Cesar Carrillo, P, 2005, 18th overall pick: Recently promoted to Triple-A Portland, Carrillo is clearly the gem of the farm system. He was impressive after signing last summer, going 5-2 with a 4.95 ERA at Class A Lake Elsinore and Double-A Mobile, and he's putting up excellent numbers again. Despite a slender frame, Carrillo throws consistently in the 90s and has an excellent curveball. He is developing confidence in his changeup, and it would not be a surprise to see him join the Padres sometime this season.

Matt Bush, SS, 2004, first overall pick: Bush is getting a late start on his third professional season, having broken a leg at the end of Spring Training after appearing as a backup in several Cactus League games. His assets are a powerful arm, solid defensive instincts and plus speed. He needs to develop a consistent approach offensively and use his speed to his advantage. He has not batted higher than .222 in his three stops in the system with a .216 overall Minor League average with two homers, 12 steals and 45 RBIs in 155 games.

Tim Stauffer, RHP, 2003, fourth overall pick: Stauffer has struggled to find his command and confidence at Triple-A Portland since he was sent down last summer after making 15 appearances for the Padres, going 3-6 with a 5.33 ERA. Stauffer has the stuff to be successful, but he needs to trust it more and not bury himself in hitters' counts. The club hasn't given up on his talent, but others, such as Carrillo, have passed him. Stauffer needs to put together some consistently solid starts at Portland to thrust himself back in the picture.

Lyle Spencer is a reporter for MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.

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