06/07/2004 9:43 PM ET
Padres go for youth in 2004 Draft
San Diego chooses high schoolers in top three picks
By Mike Scarr / MLB.com
|Padres director of scouting, Bill Gayton, (left), and Matt Bush hold up Bush's new Padres jersey on Monday. (Lenny Ignelzi/AP)
SAN DIEGO -- The Padres stepped outside the lines a bit with their first-round pick when they selected high school shortstop Matt Bush but that choice created a domino effect that made the entire organization stronger, team officials believe.
The club had set up their board to take a college player with two pitchers and a shortstop heading the list, but when it became clear that Bush had moved to the front of the line, everything else began to fall into place.
In addition to Bush, the Padres grabbed two more high school players with their second and third picks. In the third round, they chose catcher William Killian out of Chippewa Hills High School in Stanwood, Miss., and in the fourth round, the Padres picked up a power-hitting first baseman, Daryl Jones of Westchester High School in Los Angeles. The Padres did not have a second-round pick.
The Padres loaded up on pitching throughout the rest of the first day of the draft, taking 10 right-handed pitchers and one lefty. The Padres also selected another shortstop, a center fielder and a third baseman.
"We felt the highest ceiling was at the high school level," director of scouting Bill "Chief" Gayton said. "When we took Bush with the first pick, it just set up a number of doors down the line and go with high school players. We were able to get upside, depth and set up for the future. We were in a position to go young in the draft and we did."
Signability became a leading issue for the Padres. Heading into the final week, the Padres appeared set to take one of two right-handed pitchers, Jered Weaver of Long Beach State and Jeff Niemann of Rice University, or shortstop Stephen Drew of Florida State.
But when the signing bonus for any of the three began to reach several million dollars, general manager Kevin Towers and Gayton decided to shift gears and go with a local product. His performance over the weekend helped tilt the scales when Bush went 4-for-5 and scored four runs in the Division III championship at San Diego State Saturday.
"There were some college players that would have gotten to the big leagues sooner," Towers said. "But we liked the idea of going with someone in our own backyard. After the game at State, we came back and huddled and said: 'This is the guy,'"
Selecting Bush with the first selection overall, the Padres got a five-tool player that many scouts had rated as the best defensive player in the draft. The 5-foot-11, 175-pound senior out of local Mission Bay High School put together some impressive numbers as he led the Buccaneers to their second Division III championship in three years.
A two-way threat, Bush hit .447 with 11 doubles, 11 homers and 35 RBIs and posted a 9-1 mark with a 0.42 ERA while hitting the gun in the low 90s with his fastball as a pitcher. Bush also set CIF San Diego Section records with 211 hits, 24 homers and 196 runs scored in his high school career.
"He was the No. 1 rated position player on our board, up there with Drew," Gayton said. Bush graded out to a top rating of 80 with his arm and 70-80 as a fielder and will play shortstop in the organization.
Padres liked Bush not only for his skills as a player but his makeup and a simple phone call sealed the deal. Bush called Tim McWilliam, the scout who signed him, and said he wanted to play for the Padres
"That is highly unusual for a projected high-round pick to do that," Gayton said. "But that's what did it for us. That's what you want to hear, a player that wants to play here and be a part of an organization that is looking to build a championship club."
Towers was also impressed.
"When he placed that call, that was probably enough to put us over the top," Towers said.
Bush described himself as a lifelong Padres fan, whose earliest fan memory was when he was about six and Tony Gwynn tossed him a ball during batting practice, which he dropped. But Gwynn gave him another shot and Bush hung on. Joining the Padres fulfills a dream.
"I always knew I wanted to be a professional baseball player," Bush said, who feels he can reach the Majors in three years.
After waiting until the third round for their next pick the Padres took Killian who provides the organization with depth at catcher while Jones, the fourth-round pick, has power to all fields and fills a need at first base. Both Gayton and Towers said the 6-foot-4, 205-pounder routinely hit balls over the 402 sign in left-center at PETCO Park during a recent tryout.
"It's like a ladder all the way up to the Major Leagues right now," Gayton said of how those two positions are now set throughout the system.
In the fifth round, the Padres took Sean Kazmar, a 5-foot-10, 170 pound shortstop out of Southern Nevada CC.
Then came a string of four consecutive right-handers. Jonathan Ellis was taken out of The Citadel in the sixth round; Richard Steik was selected in the seventh. In the eighth round, the Padres took Vern Sterry and in the ninth, they took David O'Hagan.
Christopher Kolkhurst was the lone outfielder taken by the Padres on day one of the draft, a 10th round pick from Rice. In the 11th round, the Padres took right-hander Matthew Varner of Houston and local right-hander Michael Ekstrom from Point Loma Nazarene in the 12th round.
Left-hander Jake Vose from Nevada was taken in the 13th round, right-handed pitcher Matthew Montgomery from Okalosa Walton CC in Florida was the club's 14th-round selection and lefty Brandon Thompson of Gilbert High School in Ariz., went in the 15th.
Rounding out the day was right-hander Benjamin Krosschell of Highlands Ranch High School in the 16th round, right-hander Clayton Hamilton of Penn State in the 17th and USC third baseman Michael Moon in the 18th round.
Mike Scarr is a reporter for MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.