Let's take our amateur signing bonus series to California's second largest city…
- Donavan Tate, $6.25MM (2009)
- Matt Bush, $3.15MM (2004)
- Mark Phillips, $2.2MM (2000)
- Sean Burroughs, $2.1MM (1998)
- Adys Portillo, $2MM (2008)
The Padres are certainly a small market team, but in recent years they've made an effort to go out and spend the money required to sign premium young talent. They were unable to get 2010 first round pick Karsten Whitson (ninth overall) under contract, but they'll have two top 25 picks next year as a result.
San Diego made a statement in 2009 by taking the supremely talented (and Scott Boras client) Tate with the third overall pick and signing him to what was then the largest bonus ever given to a player as part of a minor league contract. Tate's career has been marred by injuries so far, as he's dealt with a broken jaw (suffered in an ATV accident), a sports hernia, a shoulder sprain, and a concussion (suffered when he was hit in the head by a pitch). In 107 professional plate appearances, he's a .222/.336/.344 hitter.
I think we all know the Matt Bush story. The Padres took him first overall in 2004 because they didn't want to spend the money needed to sign Stephen Drew or Jered Weaver, the top consensus talents in the draft class. Bush signed less than two weeks after the draft, and about a week after signing he was arrested for his role in a fight outside an Arizona nightclub. He never really hit in the minors, putting together a .219/.294/.276 batting line in 812 plate appearances before the team shifted him to the mound in 2007. Bush had Tommy John surgery not long after the conversion, costing him the entire 2008 season, and the Padres eventually designated him for assignment in February 2009 after he was allegedly involved in an assault on a high school campus. Although he's still trying to make it work as a pitcher, Bush is one of just three first overall picks to not reach the big leagues (joining Steve Chilcott and Brien Taylor).
San Diego drafted Phillips with the ninth overall pick in 2000, but his career was over seemingly before it even started. He performed well through 2001, but career started to deteriorate in 2002, when he walked 94 in 148.1 innings. The Padres traded him and Bubba Trammell to the Yankees in March 2003 for Rondell White, and Phillips walked more batters than he struck out (50 K, 51 BB) in his only season in New York's minor league season. Aside from a brief comeback attempt with an independent league team in 2007, he's been out of baseball since 2004.
Burroughs, yet another ninth overall pick, was one of the game's very best prospects around the turn of the century thanks to his absurd hitting ability. He reached Triple-A at just 20 years old, and hit .332/.397/.459 in the minors before starting the 2002 season as the Padres' third baseman. Burroughs was just okay as a rookie (.271/.317/.323) but he improved the next year (.286/.352/.402). Ultimately it never worked out in San Diego, as Burroughs hit .282/.340/.360 in four years with the team before being dealt to Tampa Bay after the 2005 season for Dewon Brazelton, an exchange of high draft picks (Brazelton was selected third overall in 2001) in need of a change of scenery.
Portillo signed for what was then the largest bonus ever given to a Venezuelan born player, and he's currently working his way up the minor league ladder. In 116.2 innings, he's pitched to a 4.94 ERA with 8.3 K/9 and 5.3 BB/9.