The first day of the 2004 First-Year Player Draft is complete. We didn’t talk about Matt Bush at all in the days leading up to the draft, because we didn’t realize he was on the radar. All eyes were focused on the triumverate of Stephen Drew, Jeff Niemann, and Jered Weaver.

After last year’s draft, in which the Padres didn’t tap their first high school player until the 26th round, the thought of their taking one with the first pick overall never crossed our minds. But that’s just what Bill Gayton and company did. In fact, the Pads’ first three picks were all high school players.

So what do we know about Bush? A few things:

  • He came relatively cheap at a reported $3.15M. In a culture that often equates price with quality, some may feel that John Moores was not willing to pay for the best available talent. This may or may not be the case. What we do know is that he was not willing to pay for the most expensive talent. There was no Mark Prior or Joe Mauer in this draft class, no Rickie Weeks or Delmon Young. Why overpay for a comparatively inferior talent? So the thinking goes. And there is something to be said for exercising financial restraint. Spend too much and you’re supporting a dysfunctional system, spend too little and you’re not doing enough to help your team. What to do…
  • He has a terrific arm, sporting a mid-90s heater as a pitcher. Check out Josh Boyd’s report on Bush from last year’s Area Code games.
  • At 5’10″, he’s a little on the short side. He also isn’t real fast. These are two characteristics he shares in common with current Padre shortstop Khalil Greene.

Although Bush wasn’t viewed as the premier talent in the draft, he wasn’t that far from the top. Baseball America had him as the eighth best prospect, third among position players.

My general feeling is that, given the paucity of true studs available, the Padres did okay in taking Bush. I’m more puzzled by the pick than anything, because it goes against their philosophy from a year ago. But I’m not disappointed.

One interesting consideration is this (I haven’t heard anything specific, just speculating): With an established shortstop, having paid less than slot money for Bush, and having saved money they would have had to spend on a second-round pick, could the Padres be gearing up for a run at Carlos Beltran or Freddy Garcia? The extra cash could be used to help ink a potential newcomer to a long-term deal. And the addition of Bush could increase the Pads’ willingness to include Josh Barfield in a trade.

Who knows what will happen. I’m just trying to think along with the decision-makers here.

Here is the entire first day for the Pads (links on names go to school bios; thanks to the guys at Fanstop for pointing me to those!):

  1. Matt Bush, ss, Mission Bay HS, San Diego. BA rates him #8 overall in the draft class. Best arm strength and best defensive player among high school prospects according to BA. "…A legitimate talent and easily the best player in San Diego… His presence, instincts and makeup are also unquestioned… He’s more of a contact hitter than a power hitter, but scouts say he should be better with wood than aluminum." (BA)
  2. (choice to Yankees as compensation for David Wells)
  3. Billy Killian, c, Chippewa Hills HS, Stanwood, MI. BA’s #95 prospect. Second best strike-zone judgment among high schoolers. Top rated player in Michigan. Son of Pads area scout Bill Killian. "…Baseball rat with solid tools and the athleticism to play any position on the field… If not for his slight 6-foot-1, 180-pound frame, he might even have been a first-round candidate." (BA)
  4. Daryl Jones, 1b, Westchester HS, Los Angeles. BA has him at #23 among SoCal prospects.
  5. Sean Kazmar, ss, CC of Southern Nevada. BA’s #13 prospect in Nevada.
  6. Jonathan Ellis, rhp, The Citadel. BA’s #20 prospect in South Carolina.
  7. Ricky Steik, rhp, Golden West (Calif.) JC. BA’s #31 SoCal prospect.
  8. Vern Sterry, rhp, North Carolina State U. BA’s #11 North Carolina prospect.
  9. David O’Hagan, rhp, Stanford U. BA’s #13 prospect in Northern California.
  10. Chris Kolkhorst, of, Rice U. BA’s #53 Texas prospect.
  11. Matt Varner, rhp, U. of Houston. Opponents hit .298 against him this year.
  12. Mike Ekstrom, rhp, Pt. Loma Nazarene (Calif.) U. BA’s #28 SoCal prospect.
  13. Jake Vose, rhp, U. of Nevada-Las Vegas. BA’s #10 prospect in Nevada.
  14. Matt Montgomery, rhp, Okaloosa-Walton (Fla.) JC. BA’s #44 prospect in Florida.
  15. Brandon Thomson, lhp, Gilbert (Ariz.) HS
  16. Ben Krosschell, rhp, Highlands Ranch (Colo.) HS. BA’s #2 Colorado prospect, #189 overall. BA identifies him as a potential draft-and-follow candidate.
  17. Clayton Hamilton, rhp, Penn State U. BA’s #15 prospect in Pennsylvania.
  18. Michael Moon, 3b, U. of Southern California. BA’s #87 SoCal prospect.

Yeah, I don’t know what any of this means either. But all things considered, I’m okay with the pick of Bush at #1. It definitely has me thinking of trade possibilities involving young infielders. As for the rest of the draft, who knows at this point. Killian sounds intriguing. So does Krosschell, but he’s committed to the University of New Mexico.

MLB’s Draft Tracker includes scouting reports. Check out the Pads’ first day. They’ll be back at it again today.

That’s all for now, more as it happens…

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