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Padres sign three top Draft picks

Padres sign three top Draft picks

Padres sign three top Draft picks
SAN DIEGO -- The Padres were aggressive during June's First-Year Player Draft, taking a handful of talented players who were perceived as being high-risk, high-reward players who had strong college commitments and might be tough to sign.

On Monday, that risk paid off.

"It's a great statement by ownership," Padres general manager Jed Hoyer said. "[Padres CEO Jeff Moorad] was with us there, in spirit, the whole time. He's preaches the value of the farm system. Tonight, we put our money on that."

The Padres beat the 9:01 p.m. PT deadline signing its first-round pick, right-handed pitcher Joe Ross (25th overall), right-handed pitcher Michael Kelly (48th) and catcher Austin Hedges, a second-round pick who was projected to be a first-rounder.

The Padres signed 22 of their first 23 overall Draft picks this year -- and also 35 of the 53 players they selected -- spending a little over $11 million, according to Padres assistant general manager Jason McLeod.

The lone remaining highly regarded player that the Padres didn't sign was catcher Brett Austin from Providence Senior High in Matthews, N.C. He will attend North Carolina State University, despite being offered a bonus well over slot.

The Padres will receive a 2012 compensatory pick between the first and second round for Austin (54th overall) because he was selected this year as a compensation pick.

Ross, who like Hedges had committed to play next season with UCLA, signed for a $2.75 million. Kelly, who was committed to Florida, signed for $718,000, with Hedges signing for $3 million.

"It's a very important Draft for us, especially with the number of picks we had," Hoyer said. "We were very happy with the results. It's never a fun process to go through, but Jason and [director of scouting, Jaron Madison] did a great job."

Hedges might have been the really big heist of the day. He was regarded as the top defensive catcher in the Draft. All told, the Padres signed four catchers as part of their Draft class.

Hedges, who is being advised by Scott Boras, was projected to go in the first round. But several teams passed on him because he had a very strong college commitment and he was perceived as a tough sign.

"On the amateur level, he's one of the best I've seen [defensively] from a position player. He's a high-energy player, athletic behind the plate," McLeod said. "He's a rare breed you don't see often."

It wasn't easy, as Hoyer estimated the deals for Hedges and Ross got done around 8:59 p.m. PT. As for Kelly, his deal got done in the last 20 minutes before the deadline.

Earlier in the day, the Padres signed their 14th-round pick, right-handed pitcher Burch Smith from the University of Oklahoma, for $250,000.

Smith, 6-foot-5 and 215 pounds, left the Sooners after his junior season, when he won 10 games and posted a 3.90 ERA with 90 strikeouts in 87 2/3 innings. He had been drafted twice previously by the Indians, first in the 49th round in 2009 and then the 20th round a year later.

The Padres signed their top pick, infielder Cory Spangenberg, on June 10. Spangenberg was the 10th overall pick and signed for $1.86 million.

He hit .384 in 25 games for short-season Eugene, before being promoted to Class A Fort Wayne, where he was hitting .212 in his first 27 games.

Spangenberg was a compensation pick for the Padres' failure to sign high school pitcher Karsten Whitson a year ago. Whitson, the No. 9 overall pick, played with the University of Florida this past spring.

Corey Brock is a reporter for MLB.com. Keep track of @FollowThePadres on Twitter. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.

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