© 2006 MLB Advanced Media, L.P. All rights reserved.

06/06/06 8:27 PM ET

Padres tab Antonelli with first-round pick

Wake Forest third baseman has shown plenty of promise

SAN DIEGO -- For Matt Antonelli, the Padres' 2006 first-round pick in the First-Year Player Draft, Tuesday was as bright as the sunshine in the city he hopes to call his new home someday soon.

"Going in, I was hoping to be drafted by San Diego," Antonelli said. "This is something I've been working towards my whole life. I couldn't be happier with the team I was chosen by. The Padres are a great organization on the rise."

Looking to enhance their offense and athleticism, the Padres chose Antonelli, a third baseman from Wake Forest University, with the 17th overall pick in the first round.

Antonelli, who batted .335 with 11 homers and 30 extra-base hits in 200 at-bats this season, has a compact swing, excellent plate discipline and is considered versatile enough to play a variety of positions, including second base and the outfield. Standing 6 feet and weighing 198 pounds, he's a right-handed hitter.

With Vinny Castilla on the downslope of his career, an opening is imminent at third base. Antonelli is expected to compete with Chase Headley, a second-round pick last year out of Tennessee who is progressing nicely at Class A Lake Elsinore.

"Hard-nosed, versatile," Antonelli said when asked to describe himself as a player. "I can play third base, second, the outfield, a lot of different positions. I can do a lot of different things -- hit-and-run, steal some bags. All-around, I can do things pretty well.

"I played third mostly in college, but I've also played a lot of short, and second in summer leagues. I enjoy all three of them."

Growing up in Peabody, Mass., Antonelli was a Red Sox fan with a special interest in Nomar Garciaparra, now starring for the Padres' National League West rivals in Los Angeles.

"He played with a lot of energy and had a great work ethic," Antonelli said. "I tried to model my game after him."

Antonelli, 21, has impressed scouts with his attitude and development at Wake Forest against quality Atlantic Coast Conference competition. He has improved each season after electing not to sign with the Dodgers as a 19th-round pick in 2004.

"We are very excited to get one of the top college position players," said Grady Fuson, the team's vice-president of scouting and development. "Matt is a very athletic kid and he had a great career at Wake Forest."

One of the most heralded high school athletes in New England history, Antonelli was the Massachusetts player of the year in football and hockey at Danver's (Mass.) St. John's Prep, and the runner-up in baseball. Little wonder the Padres loved his athleticism and aptitude.

"Going in, I was hoping to be drafted by San Diego. This is something I've been working towards my whole life. I couldn't be happier with the team I was chosen by. The Padres are a great organization on the rise."
-- Matt Antonelli

"Although he's a third baseman," Fuson said, "he's such a great athlete that by the time he's Major League-ready, he could play center field or second base. He is an offensive catalyst."

Consistent with the qualities sought by Fuson, Antonelli makes consistent contact -- only 24 strikeouts in 200 at-bats this season -- and works counts. Put a fastball in a location he likes and he'll drive balls to all fields. Eight of his 11 homers for the Demon Deacons this year went to the opposite field.

"I had seven career homers coming into this season and hit 11," Antonelli said. "I got a little stronger and put on about 10 pounds. Being a year older helped."

Padres manager Bruce Bochy, in Milwaukee before Tuesday night's game against the Brewers, said Antonelli "looks like a guy who can give you some options.

"He can play different positions, and he's a good athlete," Bochy said. "He's an on-base guy, disciplined at the plate, a good athlete who runs well enough to play different positions."

His soft hands and above-average quickness, speed and range make Antonelli a solid defender at third, capable of moving to any of the three outfield positions if Headley develops at third.

Headley, a switch-hitter, was batting .279 through Tuesday with .458 slugging and .369 on-base marks at Lake Elsinore, leading the team with eight homers and 31 RBIs.

Like Josh Barfield and Khalil Greene, infielders he'd like to join in the near future in San Diego, Antonelli has good speed and is considered a smart, assertive baserunner. He stole 15 bases this season and 46 in three seasons at Wake Forest.

Antonelli was named as a Cape Cod League All-Star each of the past two summers for the Falmouth Commodores.

In 2005, starting all 58 games at third base, Antonelli batted .332 with five home runs and 35 RBIs, leading the team in batting average, runs scored (68), walks (57) and on-base percentage (.475). He led off in 47 games, recording 23 multihit games. He pounded left-handed pitchers to the tune of a .424 average and drew walks in 41 of the team's 58 games.

As a freshman, he started in all 50 of the team's games at third base, batting .305 with two home runs, 37 RBIs and a team-leading 51 runs scored. He was second in stolen bases (18 in 20 attempts), third in batting average and was fourth on the team in RBIs.

Recommended by Padres scout Ash Lawson, Antonelli was a first team All-ACC selection in 2006.

Staring all 163 games the Demon Deacons played in his three seasons at Wake Forest, Antonelli set a school record with 128 walks while batting a career .324 with 18 homers and 110 RBIs. He's the fourth Demon Deacon in school history -- and first position player -- to be chosen in the first round.

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