There are a lot of ways to evaluate a team’s draft history.
For the San Diego Padres, it is certainly a checkered one and it seems like any big names they do draft end up becoming big somewhere else.
That isn’t exactly the scouting department’s fault if the front office decides to deal draft picks they recommend.
Let’s take a look back at some of the worst and best draft picks the Padres have made during the “Petco Park Era,” starting in 2004. A good draft pick only qualifies if he has been a major league contributor for the Padres. So you will not see the likes of Cal Quantrill, Austin Allen or Michael Gettys, as they are still top prospects, but have not contributed to the big league team’s success.
Drafts are hard. It might be one of the hardest things for a team to do. Every team can point to a few albatrosses in their draft history. A “bad” draft pick here would mean the Padres drafted a useless player while passing on players that eventually become big league contributors. The Friars certainly have their fair share.
5. Johnny Manziel, 28th round in 2014
This one doesn’t fit into the category just described, but really? The Padres had to be the team to draft the embattled and controversial Heisman winning quarterback from Texas A&M? It just looks silly. I understand that is the part of the draft where say the Mariners drafted Trey Griffey, son of Ken Griffey Jr. in the 24th round to honor him and nothing else, as Trey hadn’t played baseball since before high school. But still, why did it have to be Johnny Manziel? He is not exactly a model citizen that franchises are lining up to be represented by him. It was a publicity stunt of poor taste, but it likely didn’t prevent the Padres from taking a winning prospect.
4. Nick Schmidt, 1st round, 23rd overall in 2007
The fact that I had to look Schmidt up to figure out who the heck he was is not a good sign. The Padres drafted Schmidt and passed on Todd Frazier, Sean Doolittle and Josh Donaldson among others. Schmidt never pitched above High-A Lake Elsinore for San Diego before being dealt to the Rockies. He never made it to the big leagues and flamed out after the 2014 season. He had a 4.63 career ERA in seven minor league seasons.
3. Karsten Whitson, 1st round, 9th overall in 2010
Whitson never played for the Padres, not even in their minor league system. Heeding advice from some financial adviser, he passed up their $2.1 million signing bonus to go play for the Florida Gators in college, leaving the Friars at the alter. Wasting that ninth overall pick, the Padres passed on Chris Sale, Christian Yelich and Noah Syndergaard. On top of that, when Whitson was eligible for the draft again, he was constantly injured and played just four games of minor league ball for the Red Sox short season Single-A affiliate.
2. Donovan Tate, 1st round, 3rd overall in 2009
The Padres used their third overall pick on Tate and shelled out a $6.7 million signing bonus in the process. Using that pick, they passed up on the likes of Mike Trout and Nolan Arenado. Tate ended up failing multiple drug tests and never playing above Lake Elsinore. Tate is considered one of the biggest busts in franchise history. He gave up baseball recently and enrolled at the University of Arizona, where he was on the football roster as a quarterback last season.
1. Matt Bush, 1st overall in 2004
This is the biggest bust of the Padres’ draft history since Petco Park opened. Bush was an exceptional local high school shortstop from Mission Bay High School. He never played higher than Lake Elsinore for the Padres. Legal problems caught up to Bush quickly and he ended up being traded to Toronto in 2009. He was imprisoned for drunk driving and served a 39-month sentence. This pick had big promise with Bush being a local kid, which made it all the more a travesty.
Give Bush a mountain-load of credit though. He battled back, cleaned up and is now part of the Texas Rangers bullpen. In 2016, he had a 2.48 ERA and 184 ERA+ for the Rangers. However, he was nothing but a headache for the Friars.
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