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Former No. 1 pick pleads guilty to assault on draft day

With the Nationals just hours away from making Stephen Strasburg the latest No. 1 pick, one of the biggest top-of-the-draft busts of all time is pleading guilty today to four misdemeanor counts of battery.

Matt Bush went No. 1 overall in the 2004 draft because the Padres were trying to save money, so they selected the local high-school star while passing on the likes of Justin Verlander, Jered Weaver, and Stephen Drew. Bush was a disaster from Day 1, getting into a bar fight before even making his pro debut and then hitting .192 at rookie-ball.

He moved up to Single-A in 2005 and hit .221/.279/.276, missed most of 2006 with a broken ankle, hit .204/.310/.276 at Single-A in 2007, and was then converted from shortstop to pitcher as the Padres tried to salvage some value from the blown pick. It didn’t work, as a torn elbow ligament put a quick end to his time on the mound.

Bush’s guilty plea today stems from what the San Diego Union-Tribune calls a “drunken assault” on lacrosse players at his old high school, which caused the Padres to drop him from the 40-man roster in February to make room for Cliff Floyd. Toronto picked up Bush only to release him six weeks later for another drunken incident involving the alleged harassment of a woman.

And now he’s a 23-year-old with an impotent bat and blown-out elbow facing “at least three years of probation” and a court-mandated stint in alcohol rehab. But hey, at least the Padres saved about $900,000 in bonus money! San Diego picks No. 3 overall tonight and will try to avoid a Bush-like disaster with Strasburg and the consensus top hitter, Dustin Ackley, likely off the board.