A's keeping Draft options open
Oakland has 13th selection in first round on June 9
OAKLAND -- The A's have a solid history of success in the annual First-Year Player Draft, but scouting director Eric Kubota said they don't much dig picking high in the pecking order because it means they struggled at the big league level the previous summer.
Unfortunately for their fans, the A's are up 13th this season after making the 12th overall selection a year ago -- the result of consecutive third-place finishes in the four-team American League West. The good news is that Kubota said this year's Draft is loaded with quality pitching, and it's been in identifying future Major League arms that the A's traditionally have had the most success.
MLB.com will offer live coverage and analysis of the entire First-Year Player Draft on June 9-11. MLB Network will broadcast the first round at 3 p.m. PT on June 9 from its Studio 42 in Secaucus, N.J., and those 32 selections also will be simulcast live on MLB.com.
Beginning with the 33rd pick, up-to-the-minute on-air coverage from the remaining rounds will shift exclusively to MLB.com, where host Vinny Micucci will be joined by MLB.com Draft expert Jonathan Mayo and Major League Scouting Bureau director Frank Marcos.
Once the first night is done, the Draft will continue with rounds 4-30, via conference call from MLB headquarters in New York, at 9 a.m. on June 10. Rounds 31-50 will be on June 11, starting at 8:30 a.m.
Here's a glance at what the A's have in store as the First-Year Player Draft approaches:
In about 50 words
Kubota said it's too early to project what might happen in New Jersey; his staff still is looking at players throughout the country. But of one thing he's certain: After consensus No. 1 overall pick Stephen Strasburg, a flame-throwing right-hander from San Diego State, "Anything can happen."
As the Draft draws closer, Kubota and his staff get closer to putting together what he calls "The Board" -- the list of players they've identified as potential early picks. The Board is not yet finished, however, and it might not be until Draft Day comes. "We've definitely dotted 'I's' crossed the 'T's' and pretty much done all we can at this point, but you're still getting your third, fourth, fifth looks at guys," he said. "Until you get it all on The Board, it's just a bunch of names."
The strength of the Draft, Kubota said, is clear: "There are a lot of power arms, in college and high school." Most mock drafts have the A's using their top pick on one of them, but some predict they'll go the prep route and others think they'll revert to early-1990s form and tab a college pitcher who might provide a more immediate return on the investment that is a first-round signing bonus. "We don't say, 'We have to get a pitcher,'" Kubota said. "And we're obviously not going to tip our hand, but there is a lot of pitching in the Draft. I'll just leave it at that."
The A's are among the teams that try not to go into the Draft thinking about organizational needs. General manager Billy Beane has traded a number of established big leaguers over the past couple of years to address a general lack of top prospects, and those trades netted a haul of talent that most rival scouts say have moved the A's back into the realm of teams considered well-stocked for the future. "I think our overall strength as an organization is on the mound, but you never have enough depth," Kubota said. "I know it's a cliché, but you're really just looking for the best available guy."
There was a time when the A's were known for going heavy on college players because they needed their draftees to help at the big league level as quickly as possible. But they've picked several high schoolers in recent years, and that trend could very well continue. "One thing we're always trying to do is learn and improve," Kubota said. "The goal is to have the biggest pool to pick from, and we've definitely become more and more comfortable taking high school guys over the past couple years. That said, nobody rules a player out based on whether he's a college or high school guy."
Recent top picks
2008: Second baseman Jemile Weeks, selected 12th overall out of the University of Miami, is the younger brother of Brewers second baseman Rickie Weeks, with whom he roomed this spring while spending time in big league camp. Jemile, a 22-year-old switch hitter with excellent speed, injured his hip after batting .297 with a .422 on-base percentage in 19 games at Class A Kane County last year and missed the remainder of the season. He stayed behind at extended Spring Training this year to continue his rehab and recently joined the Class A Stockton Ports, for whom he hit two home runs in his first three games.
2007: Righty James Simmons, out of UC-Riverside, impressed during his short stay in big league Spring Training in 2008 and went 9-6 with a 3.51 ERA in 25 starts at Double-A Midland, earning postseason All-Star honors. He spent some time on the shelf with right shoulder inflammation and also missed some starts with a severe case of sleep apnea that led to offseason surgery to have his tonsils removed, his soft palate lasered down and polyps in his nose removed. Invited back to big league camp, Simmons, 22, struggled while competing for a spot in Oakland's rotation and was sent to Triple-A Sacramento to open the season, and he went 2-2 with a 5.32 ERA in his first nine appearances (eight starts) through May 31.
2006: The A's didn't have a first-rounder, and in the second round they tabbed Trevor Cahill, a prep star out of Southern California. Cahill shot through the system, his rise highlighted by a trip to last summer's All-Star Futures Game and a trip to the Beijing Olympics as a member of Team USA. Invited to his first big league camp, he more than lived up to the hype and won a spot in the A's starting rotation. Cahill, 21, went 2-5 with a 4.33 ERA in 11 starts through June 1 and figures to be a fixture in Oakland for years to come.
First baseman Sean Doolittle, a sandwich pick in 2007 out of the University of Virginia, split his first full season of pro ball between Stockton and Midland last season and batted a combined .286 with 40 doubles, three triples, 22 home runs and 91 RBIs in 137 games. Invited to big league Spring Training, he batted .379 with four doubles, two homers and 11 RBIs in 19 games to firmly establish himself as a prospect on the fast track. He opened the season at Sacramento. A 22-year-old who bats and throws left-handed, Doolittle batted .267 with four homers and 14 RBIs in 28 games for the River Cats through May 31.
Hard-throwing righty Andrew Bailey was a sixth-round selection out of Wagner (N.J.) College in 2006 and posted a 2.02 ERA in 13 games, including 10 starts, at short-season Vancouver (Class A). He was a starter, period. But after going 1-8 with a 6.18 ERA in 15 starts at Midland before the Texas League All-Star break last season, he was moved into the bullpen and went 4-1 with a 0.92 ERA in 22 second-half appearances. Rewarded with an invitation to the Arizona Fall League, Bailey, 24, continued to dominate and earned an invitation to big league camp, where he was the surprise story of the spring for the A's. He made the team, steadily worked his way up the ladder of responsibility, and entered June as the club's unofficial closer.
In The Show
Cahill and Bailey are the only two players from the past three Draft classes to reach the Majors, but Doolittle is knocking on the door.
Mychael Urban is a national writer for MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.