The headline says it all. Sure, the topic of the worst pick in Padres history is completely open to debate. The Padres have whiffed on numerous #1 overall picks, most notably Matt Bush. Matt Bush had no business to be that #1 pick -- as Bush's selection was influenced by the thriftiness of John Moores. In retrospect, Donavan Tate is the biggest bust in Padres history.
When Tate was drafted 3rd overall in the 2009 MLB Draft, he was described a "toolsy" outfielder who was raw at the plate, but had the ability to become the best hitter in the draft. He drew comparisons to Chris Young and Mike Cameron, and he was pegged to be the a gifted athlete, as he was offered a scholarship to play quarterback at North Carolina. Grady Fuson, who was the Padres director of player development, said Tate could develop into "Andruw Jones in his prime."
The Padres signed Tate for $6.25 million, which is still the largest bonus in club history. The Padres envisioned a center fielder reminiscent of Dave Winfield. Instead the team received an immature high school kid with the inability to make smart decisions.
The drama with Tate started in late 2009, when he suffered facial lacerations and a broken jaw from an ATV accident near his Georgia home. He missed the beginning of the 2010 season after hurting his shoulder in Spring Training.
Tate finally made his debut with the Padres rookie team in Peoria. He struck out 41 times in 107 plate appearances, hitting just .222. The reports that came in raved about his tools, but commented on how raw he looked.
Tate started the 2011 season with the short-season Eugene Emeralds, and posted decent numbers before testing positive for recreational drugs. It was the second time Tate tested positive for a drug of abuse, and was suspended for 25 games, after receiving a 25 game credit for attending drug counseling. At this point in his career, Tate had two career drug suspensions -- and two minor league home runs to his credit.
Tate started the 2012 season in Low-A Fort Wayne, while the two players chosen ahead of him -- Stephen Strasburg and Dustin Ackley already made their major league debut. Tate again looked lost at the plate, as he produced a triple-slash line of .207/.294/.254. San Diego attempted to motivate him by sending him to High-A Lake Elsinore, where he produced a solid OBP of .391, albeit with no traces of power whatsoever.
In 2013, Tate's drama continued, as he was absent at the start of Spring Training. He did not report until June, spending five months in drug rehab, according to an article by Padres beat writer Corey Brock. He played in just 23 games in 2013 in Eugene.
The Union Tribune reported that Tate has surgery earlier in 2014 to repair a torn ACL. Tate will miss all of the 2014 season. Tate will have to wait until 2015 to even attempt to fulfill any promise he once had.
The Padres have had the first overall five times, most recently with Matt Bush in 2004. Of those five players, Bush is the only one who hasn't played in the big leagues. The Padres have drafted 2nd and 3rd overall three times each, with catcher Ben Davis and pitcher Dustin Hermanson included in that group.
Bush had a myriad of problems of his own: alcoholism, immaturity, and eventually, a DUI hit-and-run that left a man critically injured. Bush is a terrible human being -- it would be unfair to say the same about Tate. He just a young man who made poor decisions.
Of course, Trout was not considered to be a top-3 pick, but it leaves a lot of room for debate. Mike Minor and Leake were considered by the Padres for the third pick, and both players are solid big leaguers.
At the end of the day, Tate is a sad tale in Padres history. The promising outfielder who couldn't stay off of drugs to stay on the field. A player who was constantly injured and made wrong choices at every turn. I hope Tate can resume his career and find some success. However, it will not be in a Padres uniform. For this blogger, Donavan Tate is the worst pick in franchise history.