Monday, June 6, 2011

Draft, day one

Padres fans have become increasingly smart alecky about their team's first-round draft struggles, judging by their Tweets and comments to West Coast Bias.

The simple comment by one non-Padres scout that the team's first selection today, second baseman Cory Spangenberg, "can hit" inspired several snippy responses, all within five minutes. "So could Sean Burroughs," wrote Loren. Joe H typed: "Just like Burroughs, Dykstra and Tate. Yippee!!" Padres fan Cheri promptly noted that Spangenberg, a second baseman, wasn't ranked among Baseball America's top 30 prospects.

The Padres drafted Spangenberg 10th overall. A second non-Padres scout implied to WBC that Spangenberg would've been there 25th, when the Padres would select high pitcher Joe Ross. "Could have waited," the scout said. "Money may have played a part in their pick." (UPDATE: Yet another scout from a club outside of San Diego told WCB Tuesday that the Padres were wise to jump on Spangenberg because another team, in fact, would've grabbed him well before the 25th pick.)

The way the Padres told it, they doubted Spangenberg (pronounced SPAN-jen-berg) would've lasted past 15th. "We felt like he was probably the second-best hitter in the country," Jed Hoyer said tonight.

Here is what the three non-Padres scouts said about Ross, whose brother Tyson, 24, has a 2.75 ERA for the A's this year.

* "A much better athlete than Tyson. Much better delivery. Had him going late in first round or compensation round."

* "Arizona was going to take him at 43. Tampa Bay was gonna pick him. (The Padres) had to do it there. Injury prone. He's a projection draft."

* "I've seen him real good, especially last year. Good upside. Has command."

The Padres will not recoup a draft pick if they fail to sign Spangenberg, who was drafted with the compensatory pick the club got after failing to sign its first-round pick of 2010, pitcher Karsten Whitson. So it was extra important that the Padres believed they will sign Spangenberg, and in such instances, it's not unusual for the club and player to have a pre-draft deal in place that gets announced within a week.

The Padres said the talent evaluation drove the selection.

"We may have been the highest team on him," said assistant general manager Jason McLeod, who drafted second baseman Dustin Pedroia for the Red Sox. "We really like this kid a lot."

Scouting director Jaron Madison said the Padres scouted Spangenberg, who plays for a junior college in Florida, eight to 10 times.

Hoyer said the left- right-hander's hitting talent, which McLeod described as "gap to gap," should work in Petco Park and the run-scoring decline in the majors this year reinforced the wisdom of going for a hitter with the first pick.

Hoyer said he felt good about how the day went, largely because the Padres made five picks and the second round isn't here yet. "At this point last year, we had one pick," he said.

Have the Padres broken out of their first-round funk?

Only time will tell, but Hoyer told a funny story, one that the Padres can hope symbolizes tossing aside bad luck.

A pitching prospect named Archie Bradley who met with Hoyer at the GM's office recently asked Hoyer if he had a baseball with which he could show Hoyer how he gripped his curveball. Hoyer grabbed a nearby baseball, not realizing it was autographed by a former Padres prospect, and flipped it to Bradley, who would be drafted seventh today by the Diamondbacks. Later, after Bradley returned the ball, Hoyer looked at the signature.

It belonged to Matt Bush, the local shortstop and pitcher drafted by the Padres first overall in 2004. Bush, as Padres fans know all too well, went down as one of the worst No. 1 picks in draft history. Yippee.

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