Wrote here about Tony Gwynn lifting the first-round hex that had plagued the Padres. Then what happens? The Padres don't sign their first-round draft pick, Karsten Whitson. Maybe Whitson was spooked by the litany of misfortune suffered by Padres first-rounders. Guess he didn't know that Mr. Padre had broken the spell when he pulled the name of Kolbrin Vitek.
Gwynn hadn't heard of Kolbrin Vitek. I hadn't either until reading Baseball America. The Padres, cocky about Whitson, passed on Vitek, who went undrafted until the Red Sox selected him 20th. Vitek signed quickly and is having an OK first season -- .273, 10 doubles, four home runs, .358 on-base percentage, 55 strikeouts in 187 at-bats. Vitek, 21, is listed as a DH. An infielder at Ball State, he'll probably end up in left field.
Thursday in FanHouse, I'll write more about the Whitson result and other Padres-related subjects, but I suspect the Padres are more disappointed than they're letting on publicly. General manager Jed Hoyer and assistant GM Jason McLeod spent most of the last decade with the Red Sox, and no other club was more successful at signing draftees whose pricetag scared off other clubs. Every club talks about how important it is to sign and develop players. The Red Sox put a lot of money into that endeavor. Awhile ago, I wrote that one test for any baseball front office is its willingness to press ownership to cough up the extra money to sign a player that the scouts insist is worth the extra money. Was that an issue here? I don't know. Seems to me, this brings home the fact that Hoyer/McLeod aren't in Boston anymore. I also find it remarkable when a teenager walks away from $2.1 million. Especially in this economy. Especially when he's a pitcher.
Take this to the bank: The Padres thought very highly of Whitson. They seemed to compare him favorably with Pirates draftee Jameson Tailon, the No. 2 selection rated by BA as the best high school pitcher in the draft. Whitson doesn't throw quite as hard as Tailon, but he drew higher marks for pitch movement and competitiveness. I was curious to see him pitch, now it'll be with the University of Florida (or perhaps a junior college, in which case the Padres would retain his negotiating rights CLARIFICATION: Whitson can still go to a junior college, but the Padres have lost the negotiating rights to him).
More draft stuff: At Chargers Park last week, Philip Rivers was saying that his brother couldn't have been more excited about committing to LSU to play quarterback. As it turns out, the younger Rivers may have helped out the Dodgers, who were able to sign their first-round pick, pitcher Zach Lee, who is on scholarship at LSU to play both quarterback and baseball. The two-sport exemption allowed the Dodgers to spread out their $5.25 million guarantee to Lee. The Padres did the same last summer with their top-round pick, creating a $6.25 million payment plan for Donavan Tate, who had a football scholarship to North Carolina.
Context snapshot: Mat Latos signed with the Padres for $1.25 million, and Jake Peavy got $100,000 to give up a scholarship to Auburn. Bigger dollars don't guarantee bigger results. Am interested to see Lee pitch. A scout told me he's unusually athletic, not fast in the feet, but highly athletic. I know the Padres believe Latos' athleticism is a big part of his rapid improvement this year.