Donavan Tate looks like another draft bust for Padres

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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.

Noah Syndergaard: ‘I feel like I’m going to bet (on) myself in free agency’

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Yankees starter Luis Severino and Phillies starter Aaron Nola both signed contract extensions within the last week. Severino agreed to a four-year, $40 million contract with a 2023 club option. Nola inked a four-year, $45 million deal with a 2023 club option.

While the deals both represented significant raises and longer-term financial security for the right-handed duo, some feel like the players are selling themselves short. It has become a more common practice for players to agree to these types of deals in part due to how stagnant free agency has become. Get the money while you can.

Mets starter Noah Syndergaard is in a similar situation as Severino and Nola were. He and the Mets avoided arbitration last month, agreeing on a $6 million salary for the 2019 season. He has two more years of arbitration eligibility left. A contract extension with the Mets would presumably cover both of those years plus two or three years of what would be free agent years. As Tim Britton of The Athletic reports, however, Syndergaard plans to test free agency when the time comes.

Syndergaard said, “I trust my ability and the talent that I have. So I feel like I’m going to bet (on) myself in free agency and not do what they did. But if it’s fair for both sides and they approach me on it, then maybe we can talk.” He clarified that he would be open to a conversation about an extension, but the Mets thus far haven’t approached him about it. In his words, “There’s been no traction.”

Syndergaard, 26, has been one of baseball’s better starters since debuting in 2015. He owns a career 2.93 ERA with 573 strikeouts and 116 walks in 518 1/3 innings. Among pitchers to have logged at least 400 innings since 2015 and post a lower ERA are Clayton Kershaw (2.22), Jacob deGrom (2.66) and Max Scherzer (2.71). Syndergaard made only seven starts in 2017 yet still ranks seventh among pitchers in total strikeouts since 2015.

If Sydergaard doesn’t end up signing an extension, he will be entering free agency after the 2021 season. The collective bargaining agreement expires in December 2021 and a new one will likely be agreed upon around that time. Syndergaard will hopefully have better prospects entering free agency then than players do now.