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Athleticism the key for Padres on Day 1

Athleticism the key for Padres on Day 1

SAN DIEGO -- The Padres drafted for need on Tuesday, and they got what they were after: athletes, athletes and more athletes.

With an eye toward fortifying the offense with juice while also maximizing PETCO Park's deep dimensions with speed, San Diego went for position players with tools in the first three rounds of the First-Year Player Draft before focusing on pitching.

After Wake Forest University's third baseman, Matt Antonelli, was taken in the first round, No. 17 overall, the Padres followed with two talented high school outfielders around a hitter athletic enough to play quarterback at Texas Christian University.

With the 35th overall pick in the compensation round, for Baltimore's signing of free-agent catcher Ramon Hernandez, the Padres landed Kyler Burke, 18, from Ooltewah High School in Tennessee, judged by scouts as the best high school talent to emerge from that state since Rockies star Todd Helton.

Burke is 6-foot-3 and 205 pounds, left-handed all the way, with power and speed. He's projected as a corner outfielder.

With their second compensation pick for the Hernandez signing, No. 53 overall, the Padres went for another athlete, Chad Huffman of TCU. At 6-1 and 205 pounds, he's solidly constructed and gets high marks for his bat.

A backup QB for TCU, Huffman has a brother, Royce, in Triple-A ball. Chad has the look of a left fielder but could also play third as well as second, his college position.

With their second-round pick, No. 61 overall, the Padres landed Wade LeBlanc, a lefty from the University of Alabama -- Tuscaloosa with impressive credentials. He was the national freshman of the year and rebounded from an injury-plagued sophomore year with a tremendous junior season, going 10-0.

In the third round, with the 93rd overall choice, a five-tool center fielder from Atlanta, Cedric Hunter, was taken.

Another quality southpaw, Nathanial Culp, from the University of Missouri -- Columbia, came in the fourth round with the 123rd overall selection.

His long day over, Grady Fuson, vice president in charge of scouting and development, was satisfied the Padres had added talent that would fortify the organization.

"We drafted not only athletes, but offensive athletes," Fuson said. "That was our target. We wanted to be aggressive with them and get them in the right spots. Antonelli, Burke, Huffman, [Craig] Cooper, [David] Freese, those are guys who are going to give us some juice in our system.

"There's some pitching there we like too -- two of the top college left-handers in the draft in LeBlanc and Culp. That was a need for us as well."

Cooper, a right-handed-hitting first baseman who throws left-handed, came in the seventh round, No. 213. At 6-foot-2 and 220 pounds, he has the size Fuson covets and has shown the ability to take the ball deep.

The same profile fits Freese, a 23-year-old third baseman from the University of South Alabama taken with the ninth-round pick, No. 273 overall. In the eighth round at No. 243, the Padres tabbed a 5-foot-10, 190-pound shortstop from Troy State (Ala.) University, a "guy with good actions in the field who has some strength for a 5-foot-10 player."

Scouting director Bill "Chief" Gayton, the club's point man in the scouting department, has an affinity for college players from solid programs and backgrounds. Antonelli, LeBlanc, Culp and right-handers Andrew Underwood (fifth round, 153 overall) and Timothy Bascom (sixth round, 183) fit that profile. Underwood was highly successful at Fresno State, and Bascom consistently got hitters out with four pitches at the University of Central Florida.

The focus early in the 2005 draft was on pitching, with Miami's Cesar Carrillo and Long Beach State's Cesar Ramos the first two picks. Both are performing capably in the system. Carrillo is recovering from forearm soreness at Triple-A Portland, but is expected to make the leap to San Diego soon, perhaps before the end of the 2006 season.

In the back end of the first day of the proceedings, Fuson went for a couple of high-profile prep players who are believed to be tough players to sign: right-handed pitcher Matthew Latos, from Florida, and shortstop Grant Green, from Canyon, Calif.

"Latos throws real hard, up to 98 at times," Fuson said of the University of Oklahoma signee. "He's a little raw, but he might have as good an arm as we've seen in this draft. We'll see where it goes with him, and also with Green, a pure shortstop with a high offensive ceiling."

Green has committed to the University of Southern California.

The complete draft list:

1. (17) 3B Matt Antonelli, Wake Forest University: "Very athletic third baseman, well above-average runner, good instincts in the field, a good hitter with a great idea." -- Fuson

Comp. round (35) OF Kyler Burke, Ooltewah (Tenn.) High School: "Big upside. Potential power hitter with strength, a nice swing, a clue of the strike zone." -- Fuson

2. (53) 2B/OF Chad Huffman, Texas Christian University: "Big, strong guy with pop. I look at him as a left fielder and second baseman." -- Fuson

2. (61) LHP Wade LeBlanc, University of Alabama -- Tuscaloosa: "Not overpowering. An athlete with a good feel. Undefeated this season in good competition." -- Fuson

3. (93) OF Cedric Hunter, Martin Luther King High School, Atlanta, Ga.: "A Milton Bradley type player. Very good athlete with a chance to be an offensive player in the middle of the field. High energy, good instincts." -- Fuson

4. (123) LHP Nathanial Culp, University of Missouri Columbia: "Similar to LeBlanc. Good athlete who was very successful at the college level. Doesn't have LeBlanc's curveball, but throws a cutter and changeup and holds the running game down as well as anyone I've seen this year." -- Fuson

5. (153) RHP Andrew Underwood, Fresno State University: "Good breaking ball and changeup, a 6-foot-5 guy who knows how to win games." -- Fuson

6. (183) RHP Timothy Bascom, University of Central Florida: "Similar to Underwood. A little violent in his delivery. Needs to smooth it out. Good stuff." -- Fuson

7. (213) 1B Craig Cooper, University of Notre Dame: "Big guy with some power and discipline. The only negative is he hits right-handed and throws lefty. Can play first or left." -- Fuson

8. (243) SS Thomas King, Troy University: "Athletic kid who can run. Good actions in the field, and has some strength for a 5-foot-10 player." -- Fuson

9. (273) 3B David Freese, University of South Alabama: "Fifth-year senior. Big, strong guy with upside. A little rough at third but I think he has the hands to get it done." -- Fuson

10. (303) C Kody Valverde, University of Alabama Tuscaloosa: "Tough kid who receives well with fringey arm. He can hit." -- Fuson

11. (333) RHP Matthew Latos, Coconut Creek High School (Fla.): "Intriguing kid with a live arm. Wanted a lot of money. We'll see what happens." -- Fuson

12. (363) RHP Stephen Faris, Clemson University: "Nothing but a winner. No. 1 guy at Clemson, won big in the ACC." -- Fuson

13. (393) CF Michael Epping, University of New Orleans: "A Jacque Jones looking guy. Steals bases, has patience at the plate, can play all three outfield spots. We're going to work on him in center field." -- Fuson

14. (423) SS Grant Green, Canyon (Calif.) High School: "High-profile guy like Latos. His demands were high for most clubs; that's why he slipped. We just wanted to get our arms around him and see where it goes. He's a pure shortstop with a high offensive ceiling." -- Fuson

15. (453) RHP Matthew Buschmann, Vanderbilt University: "Workhorse. Nothing overpowering, but three pitches he can locate." -- Fuson

16. (483) 2B Raymond Stokes, Cal State East Bay (formerly Hayward): "Little scatback. Can really run. Contact hitter who turns a double play, with a chance to be an exciting player." -- Fuson

17. (513) RHP Tyler Mead, Skyview (Wash.) High School: "Raw high school kid from Seattle with life in his arm." -- Fuson

18. (542) RF Garner Wetzel, Milsaps (Miss.) College: "Corner outfielder from a small school. Incredible numbers there with power, walks, and 91 RBIs -- in a college season." -- Fuson

Lyle Spencer 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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