Name: Donavan Tate
DOB: September 27, 1990
“We are excited to have the player who we feel has the biggest upside in the draft,” former Padres director of scouting and player development Grady Fuson said on draft day. “Donavan is an incredible athlete with all the tools to play this game at the highest level.”
Tate is a departure from recent Padres draft picks. San Diego usually went safe with their first round pick but Tate was more about potential and upside than safety within the college ranks.
"People have different opinions - it is a little motivation for me to show people what I can do," Tate said. "They don't have to worry about my bat a whole lot."
Tate’s father, Lars, played football at Georgia and in the NFL but the Padres believed his love for baseball would win out.
The center fielder was a two-sport star in college and was offered a football scholarship to North Carolina. He actually went to campus and competed in preseason drills at quarterback prior to signing with the Padres. San Diego came to terms with Tate on the last day to sign eligible draft picks, inking Tate to a deal that is worth $6.25 million.
Tate hit .525 with 10 home runs for Cartersville (GA) High School last season. The right-handed hitting center fielder slugged 1.000 with a .788 on-base percentage, drawing 29 walks with just eight strikeouts. Tate hit 32 home runs over his high school career and was named an Aflac All-American in 2008.
The Chapel Hill commit was slated to begin his career playing in Arizona but never suited up due to a groin injury. The Padres hoped to see him play in their fall Instructional League but that did not happen.
In early October, Tate underwent surgery to repair detached connective tissue to his pubic bone – a six-week recovery ensued. While he was still on the mend, Tate broke his jaw in an ATV accident.
Tate is not the first player taken in the opening round to require surgery within the organization. Six of the last seven first-round picks taken by the Padres have had injuries that have slowed their careers.
While many believe Tate possesses all the talent in the world, his career has gotten off to a sluggish start.
“He's got balance, he's got timing,” Fuson said of his swing. “Collectively, as a group, I don't think anyone has ever seen this guy out of balance in swings. He's got great trajectory with his power."
Regarded as the best position player out of the prep ranks, Tate is a stalwart athlete – as evidenced by his football scholarship. Because he played a pair of sports in high school, Tate is a bit raw in terms of offensive ability. The Padres were enamored with his swing foundation and believe it is just a matter of time before he puts all the pieces together.
Hi fast-twitch muscles give him incredibly quick wrists and allow him to compensate if he is late on a pitch. He has the ability to adjust but needs to refine his pitch selection and recognition.
"No one really knows how quickly Donavan will advance," former general manager Kevin Towers said. "This guy is a tremendous athlete. There is certainly no need to rush him, by any means. But our hope is that this guy is roaming center field here in the near future and a guy that can impact our ball club not only defensively but offensively."
"That's probably what was most attractive to us. He's a two-dimensional player. This kid is a mature kid right now. He is very strong right now. I wouldn't be surprised if this kid moves quickly."
He has big time power potential – and that will coincide with improving his plate awareness and what pitches he should be swinging at versus what pitches he will need to lay off.
Tate has been clocked at 6.34 seconds in the 60-yard dash – a time that puts him just behind that of Luis Durango and Drew Cumberland – the two fastest players in the system. He is a well above average runner and uses his instincts to get a read on the pitcher. He will be a consistent base stealing threat through his career.
Known as a plus defender, Tate has a superb arm that has been clocked at 91 mph from the mound and 95 mph from flat ground in the outfield. He will need to work on his route running but covers a lot of ground.
"A complete player," Cartersville baseball manager Stuart Chester said. "He is going to play the game the right way. He will run every ball out to first. If he has to dive, he will dive. He is a hard-nosed kid. Accompany that with all of his tools - it makes him dangerous at any level."
Conclusion: A healthy Tate will be a top three prospect in the system – he has an abundance of tools and experience will be his greatest asset. Tate will have a learning curve but is known for his ability to take teaching and put it into application. It would not surprise to see him struggle and go through peaks and valleys, but the peaks will be impressive with a zenith that could quickly ascend to All-Star status. He is an impact player that may move rapidly once he hammers out a few issues.
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