Padres eager to get close look at Tate

Padres eager to get close look at Tate

PEORIA, Ariz. -- If you did not recognize him, Donavan Tate looks much like any of the other Minor League players who have been milling around the Padres facility in Peoria for the last few weeks, taking batting practice and working out on the back fields.

"I'm just another baseball player out here trying to make it," Tate said Friday.

That's true, although Tate is the only Minor League player in Peoria who earned a club-record record $6.25 million signing bonus, the result of the Padres selecting the 19-year-old outfielder from Georgia with the third overall pick in the First-Year Player Draft last June.

Tate has been working out at the Padres' facility for almost three weeks now preparing for his first Spring Training. Starting Saturday, he and 27 other selected Minor Leaguers will participate in a minicamp.

The rest of the Minor Leaguers in the Padres farm system will report on March 14.

The additional time in Peoria, first the optional workouts and then the minicamp, figure to serve Tate well, considering that he didn't make his professional debut last season due to signing in August and then a pubic-bone stress reaction that sidelined him.

He took anti-inflammatory medication for 10 days but later needed surgery to repair the injury, which is similar to a sports hernia. Then in November, Tate suffered a broken jaw in an ATV accident near his home in Georgia.

Those injuries, he said, are in the past.

"Everything is healed," Tate said. "I feel like it was a setback last year with the surgery and not getting to play. It's been beneficial to get out here early and the hang of things before it starts getting crazy.

"Getting the minicamp in will help to get that extra work in before we start playing games."

The Padres are equally excited to see Tate get his career under way, especially for the new faces in the front office -- including general manager Jed Hoyer -- who haven't seen Tate before at all.

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"I think it's going to be good for everyone's mindset to get him out on the field. I'm sure he's anxious to get out there and show us and prove that he's healthy," said Randy Smith, the Padres' director of player development. "I've only heard about him. I saw him take BP [batting practice] at PETCO.

"He's a heck of an athlete. I'm looking forward to seeing him."

Tate will likely be spending a lot of time in Peoria, even when teams break camp at the end of March. The Padres haven't decided where Tate will make his pro debut, though it's likely to be with the Padres' entry in the Arizona League this summer after time in Peoria in extended spring training.

"He's a raw athlete right now. By the time he sees another uniform, it will likely have been 10 months since he last played," Smith said. "Guys move at their own timetable. The most important thing is for him to get healthy and to get out there."

The Padres like Tate's upside and athleticism. His speed and raw power were rated the best in the Draft among high school players. He pegs as a center fielder and has a plus arm that adds to what the club feels is an enormous ceiling.

"We've kind of said, worst-case scenario, maybe a Mike Cameron ... somebody that hits .240, .250, a lot of punchouts maybe, but big bombs and plays as good a defense as you get. Durable, athletic, steals a lot of bases," said former Padres vice president of player development and scouting Grady Fuson in June after the Draft.

"Best-case scenario, you got the whole ball of wax. You got an Andruw Jones or something in his best years."

Those expectations, and the $6.25 million signing bonus, have raised expectations for Tate, though he's doing his best to diffuse them.

"I think you can put added pressure on yourself that's not needed ... but you don't really want to think about it," Tate said. "Yes, you did sign a contract, but you're just another baseball player out here trying to make it. That [signing bonus] was a bonus but it's in the past. Now I'm just trying to make it here."

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