Draft Preview: A's can add to deep system
No. 10 slot is highest Oakland has drafted since 1999
OAKLAND -- The A's farm system has consistently been deemed by many around the league as one of the best, a nod to the solid history of success the organization has had with the First-Year Player Draft.
This year, the A's will select 10th in the first round of the Draft, marking the highest place in which they've been assigned since 1999, when they chose left-hander Barry Zito with the ninth pick. Although that 10th slot means the club ranked in the bottom third of Major League standings last year, the good news is that it lends Oakland scouting director Eric Kubota and his staff the chance to make an early go at a premier prospect.
MLB.com will offer live coverage and analysis of the entire First-Year Player Draft from June 7-9 on MLB.com/Live. The first round and Compensation Round A will be broadcast live on MLB.com and MLB Network on Monday, June 7, beginning with the Draft preview show at 3 p.m. PT.
MLB.com Draft expert Jonathan Mayo will join Greg Amsinger, Harold Reynolds, John Hart, Peter Gammons and Baseball America executive editor Jim Callis on Monday's broadcast.
Coverage for rounds 2-50 will shift exclusively to MLB.com/Live. Rounds 2-30 will be streamed on Tuesday, beginning at 9 a.m., and rounds 31-50 will be streamed on Wednesday, starting at 9 a.m. Host Pete McCarthy will be joined by Mayo and former general manager Jim Duquette.
Here's a glance at what the A's have in store as the Draft approaches:
In about 50 words
Aside from presumed No. 1 pick, 17-year-old junior college phenom Bryce Harper, "There's probably not as much consensus at the very top of the Draft," Kubota said. Beyond that, he said, "There's a lot of depth in all types of players. I would say the hallmark of this Draft is depth."
As the Draft nears, Kubota and Co. are busy putting the finishing touches on what he calls "The Board," a list of players the club has deemed as potential early picks. Sometimes The Board isn't complete until Draft Day, as a handful of players call for last looks. Once the Draft is under way, Kubota said, the A's take a rather simple approach. "Our goal is always to take the best available player," he said. "That's our goal all the time -- just to try to get the best players placed in our farm system."
The strength of this year's Draft may actually be somewhat less clear than its weakness. Although power arms, from both the college and high school level, were all the hype last year, the alarming lack of hitting depth dominates this year's talk. Yet most mock drafts have the A's using their top pick on a select one of them. Still, a special arm is never out of the picture for this organization. "It's not necessarily an emphasis," Kubota said, "yet it's not necessarily something we're not going to need, obviously."
The A's are among several teams, Kubota says, that don't necessarily go into the Draft thinking about organizational needs. General manager Billy Beane has traded a number of established big leaguers -- think Matt Holliday, Rich Harden and Dan Haren, among others -- over the past couple of years to address a general lack of top prospects. The harvest of those trades has resulted in a haul of talent that has the A's near the forefront of teams considered well-stocked for the future. "You never really know what your needs are going to be," Kubota said. "Our goal is always to take the player who is written down the highest at the time of our pick."
It was not too long ago the A's were known for going heavy on college players, an approach that aided their need of getting draftees to help at the big league level as quickly as possible. However, "I'd say our recent history is less that way," Kubota said. That may be so, but not until the later rounds. In 2009, Oakland selected college players with 11 of its first 14 picks. And since 1997, the A's have drafted just one high school player in the first round -- Jeremy Bonderman (now with Detroit) in 2001. When Draft day comes, though, "it's all a matter of reacting to what's going on," Kubota said.
Recent Draft History
Infielder Jemile Weeks, the A's first-round selection and the 12th pick overall in the 2008 Draft, split the 2009 season between Class A Stockton and Double-A Midland after a hip injury that kept him on the disabled list the first two months of the season. The 23-year-old Weeks bounced back quickly in 80 games and combined to hit .278 with nine home runs and 44 RBIs to put himself back on the fast track. The younger brother of big leaguer Rickie Weeks was a non-roster invitee to Spring Training this year and opened the season at Midland. He was batting .304 with 13 RBIs and a .490 slugging percentage through 26 games with the Rockhounds before once again being sidelined with a hip injury last month. However, Weeks and his hot bat are expected back soon.
Few people are surprised at Tyson Ross' status as a Major League pitcher, but the young right-hander represents quite the tale considering the speed at which he made his way to Oakland. Selected in the second round of the 2008 Draft out of the University of California, Berkeley, Ross began his first full professional season at Stockton last year before earning a late-season promotion to Midland and combined for a 10-10 record and 4.09 ERA, along with 113 strikeouts, in 27 starts. Taking full advantage of an invitation to big league camp, Ross was the surprise story of the spring this year. He made the team and has since been consistently used by the club in a long relief role. He also made two spot starts. The organization still sees him fulfilling the starting role in the future.
In The Show
Ross is the only player from the past three Draft classes to reach the Majors, but Weeks -- barring any further injury -- may be knocking on the door by next season.
Jane Lee is a reporter for MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.