Padres take five-tool prospect at No. 3

Padres take five-tool prospect

SAN DIEGO -- The Padres took a leap on Tuesday, not so much in the fact that they used their No. 3 overall pick on high-school outfielder Donavan Tate, but in that selecting such an unpolished and unproven player goes against their recent Draft strategy.

But then, according to the Padres, a talent like that simply doesn't come around that often, and that's why, more than anything, the team jumped on Tate at No. 3 instead of going with a college player with more experience and one with considerably less risk.

"We've kind of said, worst-case scenario, maybe a Mike Cameron ... somebody that hits .240, .250, a lot of punchouts maybe, but big bombs and plays as good a defense as you get. Durable, athletic steals a lot of bases," said Grady Fuson, the Padres' vice president of player development and scouting.

"Best-case scenario, you got the whole ball of wax. You got an Andruw Jones or something in his best years."

The Padres, picking behind the Washington Nationals and Seattle Mariners, used the No. 3 overall pick in the First-Year Player Draft on the two-sport standout from Cartersville, Ga., who was widely regarded as the top high-school player in the Draft.

Tate, 6-foot-3 and 200 pounds, was a standout quarterback for Cartersville High who has indicated that he'll play football and baseball at the University of North Carolina. Tate is the son of Lars Tate, a former running back at Georgia who also played three seasons in the NFL.

"We spent a lot of time on this kid. Trust me," Fuson said. "I saw him four different times this year for the main purpose of trying to put together everything we could offensively. He's got balance. He's got timing. Collectively, as a group, I don't think anyone has ever seen this guy out of balance in swings. He's got great trajectory with his power."

Tate was recommended by Padres scout Ash Lawson. He hit .525 with 10 home runs for Cartersville High this season. The right-handed-hitting center fielder slugged 1.000 with a .788 on-base percentage, drawing 29 walks with just eight strikeouts.

Tate hit 32 home runs in his high-school career and was named an Aflac All-American in 2008. He's a player they have watched as far back as three seasons ago with Fuson seeing Tate play personally four times this year alone.

"We spent a lot of time in Georgia," he quipped.

Tate is represented by agent Scott Boras and it might take some work on the Padres' end, financially, to sign him. But the notion of passing up a potential five-tool outfielder was simply too tough for the Padres to pass on.

The question is, can the Padres sign him? Tate has the offer to play football and baseball at North Carolina. He's also represented by Boras and could command what figures to be a hefty signing bonus, perhaps more than $5 million, according to some reports.

"We've done a lot of work. Everyone to a man believes this kid wants to be a baseball player," Fuson said. "We feel good."

The Padres are hoping that Tate, who has until Aug. 17 to sign, can become a cornerstone of the team, both offensively and defensively. San Diego general manager Kevin Towers, a former scout himself who has never drifted too far from the player development end of things, thinks Tate has the tools necessary to succeed at the Major League level.

"No one really knows how quickly Donavan will advance," Towers said. "This guy is a tremendous athlete. There is certainly no need to rush him, by any means. But our hope is that this guy is roaming center field here in the near future and a guy that can impact our ball club not only defensively but offensively."

"That's probably what was most attractive to us. He's a two-dimensional player. This kid is a mature kid right now. He is very strong right now. ... I wouldn't be surprised if this kid moves quickly."

Tate said on a conference call Tuesday that he has no timeline for making a decision on whether to pursue playing football at North Carolina or signing a contract to play for the Padres.

"It [being drafted] makes it a bigger decision for me, as far as North Carolina or the Padres," Tate said. "It's exciting. Right now, me and my family, we are happy to be selected by them. I'm just enjoying the moment right now."

Tate is the Padres' highest-drafted prep player since Matt Bush was taken No. 1 overall in 2004.

Since 2004, the Padres have used a first-round pick on a college player five times (they had two first-round picks in 2004), including three pitchers.

Bush, who was drafted as a shortstop out of Mission Bay High School in San Diego, agreed to a $3,150,000 signing bonus after management balked at the signing bonuses the two players that they preferred might command from Boras.

But Bush didn't advance past the Class A level, hitting .219 over 722 at-bats. In June 2007, the Padres converted him to a pitcher and the early returns were positive, as his velocity consistently ran in the mid-to-high 90s. Bush eventually needed reconstructive elbow surgery, which forced him to miss the entire 2008 season.

During his time in the Padres organization, Bush ran into legal trouble several times. He was eventually designated for assignment in February.

The Padres also selected two other players on the first day of the First-Year Player Draft:

Round 2, Everett Williams, OF, McCallum High, Austin, Texas: The Padres felt fortunate to get Williams with the 52nd overall pick. In many ways, he's a lot like Tate, who the team selected with the No. 3 overall pick. Fuson calls Williams an "offensive-oriented and athletic." He hit .462 with six home runs and 27 steals and is a left-handed hitter who was an Aflac All-American in 2008.

Round 3, Jerry Sullivan, RHP, Oral Roberts University: Fuson called Sullivan "a big kid, very athletic." Sullivan throws up to 94 mph and has an advanced slider and a changeup the team thinks is advanced. Sullivan, the 83rd overall selection, was 8-3 with a 3.12 ERA with 27 walks and 116 strikeouts in 15 starts this season. He was a first-team, All-Summit League this season.

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