In light of his 50-game drug suspension, Donavan Tate is shaping up as the latest in a long line of draft busts for the Padres.
Here are their 17 first-round picks over a 15-year span from 1995-2009, along with their career WARs, courtesy of Baseball-Reference.
1995 – Ben Davis (2nd): 2.9
1996 – Matt Halloran (15th)
1997 – Kevin Nicholson (27th): -0.1
1998 – Sean Burroughs (9th): 1.6
1999 – Vince Faison (20th)
1999 – Gerik Baxter (28th)
1999 – Omar Ortiz (29th)
2000 – Mark Phillips (9th)
2001 – Jake Gautreau (14th)
2002 – Khalil Greene (13th): 8.1
2003 – Tim Stauffer (4th): 4.5
2004 – Matt Bush (1st)
2005 – Cesar Carrillo (18th): -1.2
2006 – Matt Antonelli (17th): -0.4
2007 – Nick Schmidt (23rd)
2008 – Allan Dykstra (23rd)
2009 – Donavan Tate (3rd)
This pretty much all falls on Kevin Towers’ shoulders. He was the Padres’ scouting director from 1993-1995 and he took over as the GM after that, running the team through the 2009 season. He often managed to keep the Padres competitive despite modest budgets, but he was unable to find potential stars and even struggled to land quality regulars in the draft.
Only seven of the 17 picks made the majors and just three had signficant careers. Davis is long gone, and it doesn’t look like Greene is going to make it back from the anxiety issues that derailed his career. Stauffer, the 4th overall pick in the 2003 draft, is the one guy contributing to a major league team right now, and at least he is doing it for the Padres.
Besides Stauffer and Tate, Schmidt is the only other pick still in the organization, but he’s struggled to make it back from Tommy John surgery and it’s doubtful he’ll reach the majors. Dykstra, the 2008 first-rounder, was traded to the Mets for reliever Eddie Kunz this spring in a swap of disappointments.
Now it’s probably not fair to write Tate off just yet; he still has plenty of tools. However, he’s been troubled by injuries since the day he signed, and the drug issues only make him more of a long shot. He’s just 20, so he has plenty of time to turn it around. Little so far has been encouraging, though.
As for the picks since 2009, well, Karsten Whitson has a chance to be a big-time pitcher. Unfortunately, he didn’t sign after the Padres took him ninth overall last year. He’ll be starting for the University of Florida tonight in the College World Series.
The Padres’ compensation pick for not signing Whitson was second baseman Cory Spangenberg, but Spangenberg looked like a big reach with the 10th pick in this year’s draft. The Padres’ other 2011 first-rounder, high school right-hander Joe Ross, seems like a better bet. Still, he’s a few years away in a best-case scenario.