Friars eye sluggers with ties to UNC
College star Ackley, prep prospect Tate on team's radar
SAN DIEGO -- Two players with ties to the University of North Carolina have landed on the San Diego Padres' radar, the day before the team selects third overall in the First-Year Player Draft.
The Padres -- while in a wait-and-see mode, unsure more of who the Seattle Mariners will take with the No. 2 pick -- are reportedly prepared to take high school outfielder Donavan Tate, who has committed to play football and baseball for the Tar Heels, or current UNC first baseman-outfielder Dustin Ackley.
The Padres could well end up with Tate, as the Mariners reportedly have strong interest in Ackley, who on Sunday helped the Tar Heels win their Super Regional and a berth in the College World Series by belting his 22nd home run of the season.
Selecting Tate would represent a departure from the organization's recent Drafts that, since 2004, have seen the team use a first-round pick on a college player five times (they had two first-round picks in 2004), including three pitchers.
"I like our options," Padres vice president of player development and scouting Grady Fuson said recently. "There are a couple of position players out there with upside that we're looking at. There are two or three pitchers out there as well who have different looks."
The Padres would certainly take the left-handed-hitting Ackley if the Mariners pass on him. Ackley has played mostly first base for the Tar Heels in 2009, though some scouts feel that he could easily end up in center field as a professional. As for his bat -- Ackley's greatest tool -- he's hitting .412 with a .513 on-base percentage and 70 RBIs in 63 games.
If the Mariners take Ackley, the Padres could jump on Tate, who is from Cartersville, Ga. Tate is regarded as the top high school position player in the Draft. His father, Lars Tate, is a former running back at the University of Georgia who also played three seasons in the NFL.
Donavan Tate, who is represented by agent Scott Boras, has stated his intention to play both sports at North Carolina. Tate is said to have five-tool potential, which might make it hard for the Padres to pass on him.
There are other considerations for the Padres at No. 3, including right-handed pitcher Aaron Crow, though the club likes what some of the young pitchers in its system are doing, like Mat Latos and Cory Luebke, and might not be able to pass-up a high-ceiling position player like Tate.
The Padres haven't taken a high school player in the first round since 2006, when they used the No. 35 overall pick on outfielder Kyler Burke, who was traded to the Chicago Cubs in 2007 in a deal that brought catcher Michael Barrett to San Diego.
Then there's Matt Bush, the No. 1 overall pick in 2004 who was drafted as a shortstop out of Mission Bay High School in San Diego, agreeing to a $3,150,000 signing bonus only after management balked at the signing bonuses the two players they preferred -- Florida State shortstop Stephen Drew and Long Beach State pitcher Jered Weaver -- might command from agent Scott Boras.
But Bush didn't advance past the Class A level, hitting .219 over 722 at-bats. In June of 2007, the Padres converted him to a pitcher and the early returns were positive, as his velocity consistently ran in the mid-to-high 90s. Bush eventually needed reconstructive elbow surgery, which forced him to miss the entire 2008 season.
During his time in the Padres organization, Bush ran into legal trouble several times. He was eventually designated for assignment in February.
Corey Brock is a reporter for MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.