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Peach state shines in draft with two picks in top 6
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Donavan Tate, who led Cartersville High School to back-to-back state championships, parlayed that success into being chosen by the San Diego Padres No. 3 overall in baseball's amateur draft Tuesday night.

He wasn't the only Peach State player to stand out.

Pitcher Zach Wheeler of East Paulding High School northwest of Atlanta was picked at No. 6 by the San Francisco Giants — just before the hometown Braves made their selection.

"It's overwhelming right now," said Tate, the son of former Georgia football star Lars Tate. "I'm very excited about that possibility of playing pro baseball."

The Georgia Bulldogs had two players selected in the first three rounds. First baseman Richard Poythress was picked by Seattle at No. 51 and right-handed pitcher Trevor Holder went to Washington at No. 81 — the first choice of the third round.

In addition, left fielder Telvin Nash of Griffin High School was chosen by Houston with the 100th pick.

In Tate's senior season, the center fielder batted .474 with nine home runs and 42 RBI. He scored 51 runs, had 12 doubles and was 17-for-17 in stolen bases.

"We are excited to have the player who we feel has the biggest upside in the draft," said Padres' vice president of scouting and player development Grady Fuson. "Donavan is an incredible athlete with all the tools to play this game at the highest level."

Tate credits his mother, Traci Sims, for much of his success. "My mom is the most important person in my life," he said. "She's been there for me and supported me."

When Tate's name was announced, he was sitting in his living room with friends and family, watching the draft. "I just heard my name and everyone went crazy," Tate said.

His mother said she cried when his name was called. "It's that moment when you realize your child is no longer a kid, he's a young man. It's when you realize it's time to take that next step and time to let go."

The Giants are already comparing Wheeler to other top pitchers they've drafted in recent years, including Matt Cain, Madison Bumgarner, Tim Alderson and, of course, reigning NL Cy Young Award winner Tim Lincecum.

"It's a great organization to go to and they develop a lot of pitchers," Wheeler said after watching the draft with about 140 family members and friends. "It's a really historic team — Willie Mays, Barry Bonds. It'd be pretty cool to pitch in San Francisco."

The 6-foot-4, 185-pound Wheeler went 9-0 with a 0.54 ERA in his senior high school season, including a no-hitter. He struck out 151 — fanning 13 or more batters in seven of his 13 outings — to only 20 walks in 77 2-3 innings and was Gatorade's Georgia Player of the Year.

"He's an imposing kid at this level of competition," general manager Brian Sabean said. "He has size, strength, athletic ability, and he should be on the fast track."

Wheeler committed to Kennesaw State in suburban Atlanta, but plans to turn professional now. He hopes to sign quickly and perhaps even pitch this summer after first giving his arm a bit of a break.

"I'm ready to play, I'm ready to be a major leaguer, not just a minor leaguer," Wheeler said. "I want to get there and be successful in the Giants' organization."


 

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