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Padres take defense-first catcher with 3rd pick

MLB.com @AJCassavell

SAN DIEGO -- The Padres went back to back at backstop on Monday night, selecting high-school catcher Blake Hunt with the 69th overall pick in the 2017 MLB Draft.

Hunt's selection in the Compensation B round came after the Friars drafted fellow catcher Luis Campusano-Bracero in the second round and left-hander MacKenzie Gore at No. 3 overall.

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SAN DIEGO -- The Padres went back to back at backstop on Monday night, selecting high-school catcher Blake Hunt with the 69th overall pick in the 2017 MLB Draft.

Hunt's selection in the Compensation B round came after the Friars drafted fellow catcher Luis Campusano-Bracero in the second round and left-hander MacKenzie Gore at No. 3 overall.

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Arguably the best defensive catcher in the Draft class, Hunt could provide some pop as well. At 6-foot-3, 180 pounds, Hunt offers strength and athleticism. But his swing could use some work in professional ball.

• Padres' 3rd overall pick: MacKenzie Gore
• Padres' 39th overall pick: Luis Campusano-Bracero

"He throws real well," said Padres general manager A.J. Preller. "He has the chance to neutralize the running game, another guy with good makeup. From our standpoint, it wasn't about need or anything like that. In the system, it's always important to have catching. We just felt like those were the two best guys on the board at that time."

:: 2017 MLB Draft coverage ::

The Draft will continue Tuesday with Rounds 3-10. The MLB.com preview show begins at 12:30 p.m. ET, with exclusive coverage beginning at 1 p.m. ET.

Over the past week, Preller has stressed that the Padres will take the best players available, regardless of position. Monday was Exhibit A.

"I don't know that Austin Hedges has anything to worry about yet," Preller quipped, referring to the Padres' current starting catcher, and their presumed backstop of the future.

Hunt shot up Draft boards with an impressive season this year in which he added significant bulk. He also began training with former big league catcher Brent Mayne, after years of playing alongside Mayne's son.

"That really dramatically changed my game and brought me to another level," Hunt said.

This spring, Hunt batted .394 with nine doubles and six homers against some of the stiffest high school competition in the country.

But Hunt's strength is undoubtedly his prowess behind the plate.

"I think I have a pretty athletic build, and I'm able to move well laterally, even though I'm pretty tall," said Hunt. "I think I have a plus arm, that I can use whenever to keep runners honest on the bases. I think I handle pitching staffs pretty well and understand pitchers' strengths."

A Costa Mesa, Calif., native, Hunt said he generally makes the trek to a couple games at Petco Park every year. He was in attendance in March when Team USA knocked off the Dominican Republic to advance to the World Baseball Classic in a thriller.

"That was the craziest atmosphere I've ever been a part of," Hunt said. "It brought baseball on a whole 'nother level. It brought so much meaning to the game. The fire the players played with and the crowd was absolutely astonishing. It may not be the same for every big league game, but the atmosphere of that ballpark definitely retains that.

"Hopefully I make it up in a few years. I'm absolutely stoked and couldn't be more excited."

AJ Cassavell covers the Padres for MLB.com. Follow him on Twitter @ajcassavell.

San Diego Padres