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Padres focus on drafting of impact players

Padres focus on drafting of impact players

Padres focus on drafting of impact players
SAN DIEGO -- The Padres had five picks on the first day of the 2011 First-Year Player Draft -- two in the first round, and three in the compensation round.

That's not just a high volume of picks, but a high volume of picks that, theoretically speaking, matter more since they were each within the top 60 selections.

But with each pick the Padres made, including those in the later rounds, there was one thing driving them -- impact.

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"One thing I've been saying for a few years now, going back to my Boston days, is impact. Get impact players, and that's what we tried to do," said Jason McLeod, the Padres vice president and assistant general manager.

"In a Draft like this, where you have extra picks, you want to provide volume of impact, not volume of depth."

Draft Central

But what exactly does impact mean? Impact is seemingly rare in baseball, especially considering that the percentage of players drafted who actually make it to the Major Leagues, let alone make a career in the Majors, is well below the Mendoza Line.

"One thing that [general manager] Jed [Hoyer] is certainly not going to do -- and we're not going to do -- here is look at a short-term view and take the quick-fix guy that we think could get here quickly, but kind of plateau," McLeod said. "We want to build a team that will hopefully have long-term sustained success here, and we're only going to do that with players that provide significant impact.

"Hopefully, last year started it. It didn't help that we didn't sign [2010 first-round Draft pick] Karsten Whitson, but we feel so good about Cory Spangenberg."

And that's it.

Well, part of it, but a big part.

Spangenberg provides the Padres with a few favorable attributes -- other than his obvious speed and well-publicized tools with a baseball bat. But most of all, Spangenberg, whom the Padres drafted as a second baseman, isn't leaving high school and contemplating a college scholarship on top of signing a contract.

Spangenberg is ready to sign.

"I want to definitely sign right away," he said by phone late Monday. "I'm not going to wait all summer. I'm going to sign soon and get out and start playing as soon as possible."

And obviously the Padres like the tools Spangenberg has, including his speed. Spangenberg has been clocked getting to first base on a drag bunt in 3.47 seconds.

"I know all our scouts are really impressed by the hitter," Padres manager Bud Black said following Monday's game and the first day of the Draft. "They really think that this guy can hit. And he can run. I can't verify, but I heard he's one of the fastest guys in the Draft. And he's a guy that everybody says is a pure hitter."

But impact has another face. The Padres took 17 prep players, a few of whom had strong commitments to colleges -- two in particular are 25th overall pick Joe Ross and the Padres second-round pick Austin Hedges, whom the Padres considered a first-round talent.

Both of them are committed to UCLA.

"You've got to weigh the risks when you're taking players," McLeod said. "Picks are almost more important than the money you're going to spend, because you only get them once. Obviously we had Austin Hedges rated very highly on our board. There has to be a balance and kind of a dance, if you will, of where you want to risk using your pick."

For a number of those players, Hedges especially, the risk was worth the reward. Hedges is widely considered to be one of the best defensive catchers in the Draft. McLeod called him one of the best defensive catchers he's seen.

Even though Hedges has a strong commitment to UCLA, and, from what McLeod hears, is being advised by well-known agent Scott Boras, the Padres couldn't pass.

The same can be said of a number of other players. McLeod said the Padres took the best player available, even when, in those few instances, it meant a potential hassle with the signing process.

"Our area scouts, that's what they do for 12 months," McLeod said. "They get to know these kids, know their passions, their desires. You don't take a kid just, like, naked thinking, 'OK we don't know what's going to happen.' You take the player with all information you have, and our information led us to believe that all these kids want to sign.

"Now it's our job to get them signed. We know that there's work ahead of us, but we feel all these kids are going to impact our organization, and the most important thing is we took the best players on the board at our pick."

As a whole, that resulted in the Padres selecting 24 pitchers -- three left-handed.

Another position the Padres loaded up on? Catcher. The two spots took up 30 of the 53 selections they made.

"Looking at the guys that we took later, starting off with [third-round pick and right-handed pitcher] Matt Andriese, we know it was a pitching heavy Draft, and ... we took a lot of pitching today," McLeod said. "We tried to stay with the, 'Where's the impact coming from?' Whether it's a guy that gets a lot of ground balls, whether it's a guy who throws up the zone, whether it's a guy who misses bats."

Another player of interest that the Padres selected was outfielder Kyle Gaedele. He's the great nephew of Eddie Gaedel, who became famous for playing in the Major Leagues at 3-foot-7.

But the younger Gaedele is a little more gifted physically.

"Physically, he's kind of an animal, you know, 6-foot-3, 200 pounds," McLeod said. "Plus power, plus speed -- raw power, that is -- speed, arm strength and so forth, but the tools are there. We're going to have to mold him and develop him."

With almost every question, though, McLeod went back to that same word -- impact.

The Padres tended to stay away from high school players more than college ones, as they tend to come with heavier baggage in terms of development and commitments to colleges.

What's yet to be seen is the price of impact. Will the Padres be able to sign their picks, particularly the ones with strong commitments elsewhere?

"We know it's going to be tough," McLeod said. "We know it's a process, but hopefully on August 15 we're staring at Joe Ross and [48th overall pick] Mike Kelly and [54th overall pick] Brett Austin, and those guys. And hopefully they're all wearing Padres caps, because they're all kids that could definitely impact our organization in a positive way."

Mark Thompson is an associate reporter for MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.

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