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Padres go a different route
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2004 First-Year Player Draft
06/08/2004 10:46 PM ET
Padres go a different route
San Diego dips into high school ranks 13 times
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GM Kevin Towers and the Padres drafted youth in this year's draft. (Lenny Ignelzi/AP)

At first glance the 2004 draft may appear to be a departure for the Padres but in actuality it was part of a larger plan.

The Padres had gone with college players high in previous drafts, taking infielder Jake Gautreau (Tulane, 2001), shortstop Khalil Greene (Clemson, 2002) and Tim Stauffer (Richmond, 2003) with their last three first-round picks. But when they shifted gears in the First-Year Player Draft this season, it began a chain reaction that spawned a "youth" movement.

Drafting first, the Padres named prep shortstop Matt Bush as the top overall selection, even though they had still been leaning toward a college player in the final days leading up to the draft.

"We felt all along that if you're picking one, you take the player you think is going to pay the biggest dividends," general manager Kevin Towers said. "They may take a little longer but it became clear to (us) that this was the direction to go for several reasons."

After the selection of Bush, a two-way threat out of local Mission Bay High School, the Padres stayed with high school players in the third and fourth rounds; they did not have a second-round pick.

They chose catcher William Killian out of Chippewa Hills High School in Stanwood, Miss., in the third round and in the fourth round, the Padres picked up a power-hitting first baseman, Daryl Jones of Westchester High School in Los Angeles.

"We saw a focus toward the high school player in this draft and it was exciting," director of scouting Bill Gayton said. "We feel we have some depth at the upper levels of our minor league system. We have some balance so we took a totally different direction. We felt like there were players available to us in this draft because they didn't think we were players in the high school market."

Over the remaining 46 rounds, the Padres added 10 more high school picks (taking 13 overall) which represented the next step in a plan that began in 2001.

"It's starting to unfold now," Gayton said. "It was a five-year plan and last year we went 26 rounds without selecting a high school player. This year it gave us a great opportunity to go in the direction that we chose."


Complete Draft coverage >

From 2001-03, the Padres stayed more with the college players as the thrust was to find players who could advance through the system quickly and fill holes vacated by players jumping to the big club because of need.

"In 2001, we took a little different approach from a player development standpoint and a scouting standpoint; we went old," Gayton said. "There were a lot of college players selected. In 2002 we went the same route."

Now the Padres find themselves mostly set at the Major League level and were looking to create a "ladder" by filling positions at various levels. Gayton has been looking to restock the farm system to provide building blocks toward the ultimate prize, whether the players will move through the Padres organization or provide value in trades.

"Everything we do is for the Major League club, either to advance players here or to provide (Towers) with flexibility through trades," Gayton said. "We really focus on key positions that allow us options when we deal."

Pitchers led the way as the Padres selected 27 in all, 21 right-handers and six lefties. They drafted eight outfielders, four center fielders, two right fielders and two left fielders. They chose five first basemen in this draft, four shortstops, four third basemen and one catcher. They did not select a second baseman.

With this new crop, in addition to shortstop, the Padres feel they've created significant depth at first base. Jones opened some eyes with an impressive power display during a pre-draft workout at PETCO Park. Both Gayton and Towers said the 6-foot-4, 205-pound slugger was hitting balls over the left-center wall with ease and hitting with a wood bat.

"At first base, we have a lot of depth at that position now. Tagg (Bozied) is coming around and when he's healthy he's good. Michael Johnson is starting to come around and settle in. He'll be a good hitter, we're not worried about that. We bring (Jones) in so we have some depth at a few positions where we can make some moves."

Gayton feels this may have been the Padres' best draft ever and is confident he can have the key draftees signed within the next few days. Bush, who could reach the bigs as soon as three years, said he's already agreed in principle to a $3.15 million signing bonus.

"We were able to get upside, value and set us up for next year's draft," Gayton said. "What we did today affects tomorrow."

Mike Scarr is a reporter for MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.

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