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Padres find what they’re looking for outside their own borders

By John Maffei

SAN DIEGO—The Padres’ draft priorities were lefthanded pitching and righthanded power. They picked up exactly what they were looking for in the first two rounds of the draft.

What the Padres were looking for wasn’t available locally, even while the San Diego area produced five first-round picks. The Padres passed on Rancho Bernardo High catcher Scott Heard, who was available when they picked in the first round, and instead selected lefthander Mark Phillips of Hanover (Pa.) High. In the second round, they snagged slugger Xavier Nady, the junior third baseman from California.

Both were consensus first-round talents, but Nady—represented by agent Scott Boras—dropped like a rock in a draft based on signability.

"We couldn’t be more delighted with the top two rounds," Padres scouting director Brad Sloan said. "Phillips is a top-of-the-rotation guy. Nady is the power hitter we lack in the organization."

The Padres were sold on Phillips when general manager Kevin Towers, manager Bruce Bochy and several other key executives all went to see him when the Padres were in Pittsburgh in late April.

The club rated Phillips third on their draft board, behind Palmdale (Calif.) High righthander Matt Harrington and Rhode Island prep outfielder Rocco Baldelli. Baldelli went sixth overall to the Devil Rays, while Harrington went next to the Rockies.

"Phillips is the one guy everybody in the organization got to see," Towers said. "He’s a tremendous athlete. He has as much upside as anyone in the draft. We compare him to Rick Ankiel. He’s an impact guy.

"Anytime you can get your third guy with the No. 9 pick, you have to be happy. And we had Nady sixth."

Everyone was on Nady, but getting a deal done with Boras can be a challenge.

"But Kevin Towers has never been afraid of Scott Boras," one major league scouting director said. "He might cost them first-round money, but he could be worth it."

Towers has struggled with Boras’ big league clients, such as righthander Kevin Brown. He has had success, however, negotiating with his amateur players.

"When a player as talented as Nady slides, you’ve got to take a chance," Towers said. "We know we’ve got our work cut out. We took him with the intention of signing him."

The club finally went local in rounds eight, nine and 10, taking Rancho Bernardo High outfielder David Giorgis; hard-throwing righthander J.K. Scott of Ramona High; and infielder Kevin Nulton of El Capitan High.

"Giorgis has great offensive potential and is a good athlete," Towers said. "We like Scott a great deal, and clocked him as high as 93 (mph) during the season. And Nulton is just a good hitter."

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