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Donavan Tate top high school pick in draft

6/10/2009

Three right-handed pitchers were among four high school prospects selected among the top 10 in the first round of Major League Baseball's 2009 first-year player draft Tuesday. Outfielder Donavan Tate, of Cartersville (Ga.) High was the first, chosen as the third overall pick by the San Diego Padres. Right-handed pitcher Matt Hobgood (Norco, Calif. HS) was taken fifth by the Baltimore Orioles, and Zack Wheeler (East Paulding HS, Dallas, Ga.) was picked sixth by the San Francisco Giants. Jacob Turner, Westminster Christian Academy, St. Louis, was drawn ninth by the Detroit Tigers.

The draft's buzzword was "signability."

Judging from the published reports, several agents and player representatives have indicated signing bonuses could reach an all-time high.

The Padres might find it difficult to sign Tate, a two-sport star who's headed to the University of North Carolina as a quarterback.

Money could change career paths for 16 high school graduates taken in the first round.

Tuesday's first-day draft covered Rounds 1, 2 and 3, along with compensation rounds A and B, covering the initial 111 picks. Teams had four minutes between first-round selections and one minute between all other picks. The entire draft consists of three days, 50 rounds.

It resumes Wednesday and Thursday via teleconference at MLB offices in New York.

No surprise that Stephen Strasburg, a fireballing right-handed pitcher from San Diego State, was the overall No. 1 selection by the Washington Nationals. Like his fellow first-rounders, money demands are expected to play a huge role in teams' budgets.

"It's pitching-rich this year," said MLB Network analyst John Hart, who is a senior advisor for the Texas Rangers and former general manager with the Rangers and Cleveland Indians.

Pitchers are scrutinized by teams paying attention to four pitches -- fastball, slider, changeup and curve -- and control.

Here's a closer look at the rest of the high school players tabbed in the early going Tuesday night.


First-round selections

No. 3, San Diego Padres, OF, Donavan Tate, Cartersville (Ga.) High

Tate comes from great bloodlines. His father, Lars, was a standout running back at the University of Georgia and played in the NFL. He might be tough to sign with football looming. He recently helped Cartersville win its second consecutive Georgia Class 3A championship.

No. 5, Baltimore Orioles, RHP, Matt Hobgood, Norco (Calif.) High

It was a whirlwind 24 hours for Hobgood (6-foot-4, 250 pounds) who was named Gatorade's National High School Player of the Year on Monday.

The right-hander, who committed to Cal State-Fullerton, went 11-1 with a 0.92 ERA and 101 strikeouts in 68 2/3 innings. Even more amazing, he smacked 21 home runs, drove in 55 runs, batted .475 with a 1.880 slugging percentage in 30 games.

No. 6, San Francisco Giants, RHP, Zack Wheeler, East Paulding High, Dallas, Ga.

Wheeler, who committed to Kennesaw State in Georgia, has been clocked at 98. Wheeler (6-4, 185) needs to add weight but is solid mechanically, possessing a strong curveball. This season he went 9-0 with a 0.54 ERA, striking out a school-record 149 in 76 innings. He also threw a no-hitter in the second round of the Class 5A playoffs as East Paulding advanced to the state semifinals.

No. 9, Detroit Tigers, RHP, Jacob Turner, Westminster Academy, St. Louis

He might be headed to the University of North Carolina, but if the Tigers throw Rick Porcello (from the 2007 draft) money at him, it becomes a no-brainer.

This season Turner went 7-2 with a 0.60 ERA, but mostly he challenges hitters with heat. That's why he whiffed 118 batters in 58 1/3 innings, averaging 14 per start. He also spun six complete games with four shutouts. His high school coach was Todd Worrell, formerly of the Cardinals.

No. 11, Colorado Rockies, LHP, Tyler Matzek, Capistrano Valley High, Mission Viejo, Calif.

Matzek authored a storybook ending to his prep career. On Saturday he slugged a solo homer accounting for the lone run in a victory over Edison (Huntington Beach) in the CIF Southern Section, Division I final. He also won the game, going 1 1/3 innings and striking out the final two batters with the bases loaded in the seventh game to clinch the title.

In the playoffs, he did not yield a run in 18 innings and won all four decisions. He's been clocked at 97 mph and has indicated he likes the pitching coaches at the University of Oregon.

No. 14, Texas Rangers, LHP, Matt Purke, Klein (Texas) High
At 6-3, 175 pounds, Purke is a flamethrower, striking out 238 in nearly 124 innings over the last two seasons. This year he allowed only 18 hits, with 91 strikeouts in 47 innings.

Purke, who signed with Texas Christian, is the first Houston-area high school pitcher to be drafted in the first round since 2006. Rangers president Nolan Ryan has made pitching a priority for this organization.

No. 16, Arizona Diamondbacks, Bobby Borchering, 3B, Bishop Verot High, Fort Myers, Fla.

Borchering has been dubbed the best pure high school hitter in the draft, and evokes comparisons to fellow switch hitter and Floridian Chipper Jones.

Arizona must have been surprised he slid this low, but it will take at least $2 million to lure him from the University of Florida. This season he hit 13 homers and batted .494 as Verot won a district championship.

No. 18, Florida Marlins, LHP, Chad James, Yukon (Okla.) High

The Marlins have long believed in young arms, so James' selection is no surprise. The Oklahoma State-bound left-hander consistently hits between 90-93 mph and can bring it up to 94. This season he finished 8-2 with a 1.28 ERA, striking out 100 in 63 1/3 innings. He was Oklahoma City's player of the year.

No. 19, St. Louis Cardinals, Shelby Miller, RHP, Brownwood (Texas) High

Miller has a power pitcher's arsenal and will likely be a mid- to front of the rotation. His fastball explodes at 96 mph, while the changeup clocks in at 85 mph and a sweeping curve is 80. He has pitched well down the stretch for Brownwood, recording 17 strikeouts in a playoff game.

No. 21, Houston Astros, Jiovanni Mier, SS, Bonita High, La Verne, Calif.

Another player with good genes, Mier has a brother who plays in the Dodgers organization. Mier can thank his glove for his draft selection. At 6-2, 170 pounds, he's wiry but has good range. USC was his college choice, but he might be headed the pro route. As a senior, he batted .394 with five HR and 18 RBI in only 71 at-bats.

No. 24, Los Angeles Angels of Anaheim, Randal Grichuk, OF, Lamar Consolidated High, Rosenberg, Texas
Some feel this is a bit of a stretch, but not the Angels, who are known for player development. His size (6-0, 185) belies his innate power, as he slugged 36 homers in his final two high school seasons, including 19 this spring.

No. 25, Angels, Mike Trout, OF, Millville (N.J.) High

Trout told ESPNRISE.com before the draft he wants to sign a pro contract. Oddly, the Angels took high school outfielders with back-to-back selections. His father played in the Twins organization. Trout (6-1, 190) has speed and a potent bat. He was named New Jersey's Gatorade Player of the Year after batting .531 with 18 homers and 45 RBI. He slugged 1.296.

No. 27, Nick Franklin, SS, Lake Brantley High, Altamonte Springs, Fla.

Not a lot of flash here, but a solid player who will grind. At 6-1, 170 pounds, pro scouts love that he's a switch hitter. His blue-collar approach and defensive skills were the reason Auburn offered him a scholarship.

No. 28, Boston Red Sox, Reymond Fuentes, Fernando Callejo High, Puerto Rico

Fuentes, a cousin of Carlos Beltran, is a prototypical leadoff hitter with ultra-exceptional speed. He covers gap to gap unlike anyone else on the board. He lived in Orlando, Fla., until he was 9 years old.

No. 29, New York Yankees, OF, Slade Heathcott, Texas High, Texarkana, Texas

Heathcott has five tools. He also possesses a smooth, compact left-handed swing and is a natural for the right-field porch at the new Yankee Stadium.

Last weekend he helped Texas High reach the Class 4A state tournament, going 4-for-7 with three HRs -- including a grand slam -- and eight RBIs in two wins over McKinney North in the regional series final.

Check out LeVon Washington's wild catch.

No. 30, Tampa Bay Rays, 2B, LeVon Washington, Buchholz High, Gainesville, Fla.

Here's another player destined for the top of the order with a lefty bat. His calling card is speed. Last summer Washington (6-0, 170) was clocked in 6.2 seconds in the 60-yard dash, tops at a showcase in Minnesota. He's a middle infielder who might be switched to the outfield.

Christopher Lawlor has covered high school sports for more than 20 years, most recently with USA Today, where he was the head preps writer responsible for national high school rankings in football, baseball, and boys' and girls' basketball. He also worked for Scholastic Coach magazine, for which he ran the Gatorade national Player of the Year program for nine years. Lawlor, a New Jersey resident, grew up in Rochester, N.Y., and is a graduate of St. Bonaventure University.