The eighth part of my draft preview series focuses on the Oakland Athletics and their scouting director Eric Kubota. Kubota has overseen eight drafts with the A’s, but I will only focus on the most recent five.
Owner: Group led by Lew Wolff, bought club in 2005
General Manager: Billy Beane, first season was 1998
Scouting Director: Eric Kubota, first draft was 2002
2005 Draft: $4.8 Million Budget
1. Cliff Pennington, SS, Texas A&M, #21 Overall: Pennington was a legitimate first-round talent in the 2005 draft, and he represented a relatively safe collegiate pick with upside as an above-average Major League shortstop. He was considered a hard worker with plus makeup, and this was considered a very solid pick. Following players selected: Aaron Thompson, Jacoby Ellsbury, Brian Bogusevic. Signing bonus: $1,475,000.
2. Travis Buck, OF, Arizona State, #36 Overall: Buck was another solid collegiate hitter that was expected to go anywhere from the late first round to the early second round. The A’s got him in the supplemental first round, and they expected his plus hit tool to turn him into an above-average Major League corner outfielder. Following players selected: Trevor Bell, Eli Iorg, Henry Sanchez. Signing bonus: $950,000.
3. Craig Italiano, RHP, Flower Mound HS (TX), #53 Overall: Italiano was the Madison Younginer of the 2005 draft. He threw hard, but there were concerns that he’d have to stick in the bullpen, and also that he’d get hurt even there. He had a plus-plus fastball, though, and this was about where he was expected to go. Following players selected: Paul Kelly, Zach Simons, Chris Mason. Signing bonus: $725,500.
4. Jared Lansford, RHP, St. Francis HS (CA), #69 Overall: Lansford came with Major League bloodlines, as well as a good arm that looked like second to fourth round talent. He wasn’t as refined as many prep pitchers, having only matured into plus stuff during his senior year, but his bloodlines and athleticism made this a solid pick. Following players selected: Josh Wilson, P.J. Phillips, Ralph Henriquez. Signing bonus: $525,000.
5. Vincent Mazzaro, RHP, Rutherford HS (NJ), #101 Overall: Mazzaro was expected to be a third to sixth round pick as a cold-weather player with a plus fastball due to good movement on the pitch. He was considered very signable, even with a few questions about his delivery and long-term injury questions. Following players selected: Jensen Lewis, Sean O’Sullivan, Josh Lindblom. Signing bonus: $380,000.
Other Notable Selections: None.
2006 Draft: $2.0 Million Budget
1. Trevor Cahill, RHP, Vista HS (CA), #66 Overall: Cahill was a late bloomer in high school, though his command was always sharp. His stuff wasn’t considered first-round caliber, but the command made him a solid second-round prospect, and the A’s made him their first pick. Following players selected: Sergio Perez, Dustin Evans, Wes Hodges. Signing bonus: $560,000.
2. Matt Sulentic, OF, Hillcrest HS (TX), #98 Overall: Sulentic drew plenty of interest due to his plus power potential in his smaller frame. He was considered a second to fourth round talent, and the A’s did well to pick him up in the third. He didn’t necessarily run well or do anything well other than hit, but he was expected to hit enough to be a solid player. Following players selected: Nick Moresi, Chad Rodgers, Adam Davis. Signing bonus: $395,000.
3. Chad Lee, RHP, Barton County CC (KS), #128 Overall: Lee received an injury-prone tag during his sophomore year at Barton when he tweaked his forearm late in the spring after having torn his ACL only 18 months earlier. However, he had plus stuff, and despite falling off from second round expectations before the tweak, he was still expected to go off the boards before the start of the seventh round. Following players selected: Chris Johnson, Lee Hyde, Ryan Morris. Signing bonus: $245,000.
4. Jermaine Mitchell, OF, UNC Greensboro, #158 Overall: Mitchell wasn’t heavily scouted entering his draft year, and he didn’t particularly turn heads during his junior year, either. However, he showed above-average speed and an above-average hit tool, though he wasn’t expected to be picked until the seventh to tenth round range. Following players selected: Casey Hudspeth, Kevin Gunderson, Chris Archer. Signing bonus: $155,000.
5. Andrew Bailey, RHP, Wagner, #188 Overall: Bailey drew concerns about his motion even back in his draft year, when he was still recovering from Tommy John surgery the year before. However, he flashed above-average stuff, though most thought he’d be a swing man or middle reliever picked in the seventh to tenth round range. Following players selected: Bud Norris, Steven Figueroa, Austin Creps. Signing bonus: $135,000.
Other Notable Selections: None.
2007 Draft: $4.2 Million Budget
1. James Simmons, RHP, UC Riverside, #26 Overall: Simmons has widely been considered a safe pick, and has also been criticized as such, since this pick in 2007. All of his stuff graded out as about average across the board, though plus command helped him grade up. He still was considered more of a supplemental to third round talent, but the A’s went with the safer pick here. Following players selected: Rick Porcello, Ben Revere, Wendell Fairley. Signing bonus: $1,192,500.
2. Sean Doolittle, 1B/LHP, Virginia, #41 Overall: Doolittle featured a plus hit tool, along with a plus glove. However, being a first baseman, he was considered far short of expectations for his power potential, and his hit tool wasn’t considered on the Olerud level. He was thought of as a second to fourth round pick, though the A’s called him in the supplemental first round. Following players selected: Eddie Kunz, Jackson Williams, Neil Ramirez. Signing bonus: $742,500.
3. Corey Brown, OF, Oklahoma State, #59 Overall: Brown was considered more talented than either Simmons or Doolittle entering the draft, as he had more tools than a normal college outfielder, and he was expected to be a Major League regular featuring both speed and power. However, he fell a little, and the A’s got a bargain here. Following players selected: Brandon Hamilton, Ed Easley, Ryan Dent. Signing bonus: $544,500.
4. Grant Desme, OF, Cal Poly, #74 Overall: Desme, like Brown, was more athletic than your normal college outfield product, and he also featured plus raw power, even more than Brown. However, Desme was a little less athletic than Brown, and he was injured shortly before the draft, though the A’s still took him in the spot that he was expected to go in before the injury. Following players selected: Denny Almonte, Mike Stanton, Scott Moviel. Signing bonus: $432,000.
5. Josh Horton, SS, North Carolina, #90 Overall: Horton featured a solid set of tools, and his best feature was his above-average hit tool. He wasn’t expected to develop much power, and there were concerns about him not being able to stick at shortstop, though he was still expected to be a second to fourth round pick. Following players selected: Danny Worth, Danny Rams, Brant Rustich. Signing bonus: $380,250.
Other Notable Selections: RHP Sam Demel (3rd), TCU, $238,500 bonus
2008 Draft: $6.5 Million Budget
1. Jemile Weeks, 2B, Miami, #12 Overall: Weeks’ name was always in the scouting ranks, as his brother Rickie meant Jemile was always in the spotlight. He featured a plus hit tool and plus speed, as well as solid fielding at second base, which was considered his long-term home. He seemed like more of a late first-round product, but the A’s liked him enough to pick him here. Following players selected: Brett Wallace, Aaron Hicks, Ethan Martin. Signing bonus: $1,910,000.
2. Tyson Ross, RHP, California, #58 Overall: Ross was a borderline first-round talent on account of his plus arm and pro body. However, his pitching mechanics were an absolute mess, which scared a number of teams away. The A’s got him in the second round, and they believed they got a steal. Following players selected: Shane Peterson, Tyler Ladendorf, Josh Lindblom. Signing bonus: $694,000.
3. Petey Paramore, C, Arizona State, #90 Overall: Paramore looked like an average Major League catcher coming out of college, though there were growing doubts about his arm and bat, as neither featured much upside, and both seemed to be regressing. However, he was still considered a third to fifth round talent. Following players selected: Niko Vasquez, Bobby Lanigan, Kyle Russell. Signing bonus: $430,000.
4. Anthony Capra, LHP, Wichita State, #124 Overall: Capra was a high-floor, low-ceiling college lefty who featured an average to above-average fastball and a plus changeup, and some predicted he might be better in the bullpen, where he had a setup man ceiling. He was expected to go in the third to sixth round. Following players selected: Scott Gorgen, Danny Ortiz, Dee Gordon. Signing bonus: $260,000.
5. Jason Christian, SS, Michigan, #154 Overall: Christian was an athletic college shortstop with a solid bat and the expectations that he’d stick at shortstop as a pro. He was expected to go anywhere from the second to sixth round, and it all depended on what teams viewed his potential for being an average Major League hitter. Following players selected: Jermaine Curtis, Nick Romero, Jon Michael Redding. Signing bonus: $182,000.
Other Notable Selections: RHP Mickey Storey (31st), Florida Atlantic; LHP Ben Hornbeck (32nd), Kansas State
2009 Draft: $6.4 Million Budget
1. Grant Green, SS, USC, #13 Overall: Green was the best college hitter coming out of the Cape the summer before his junior year. However, he failed to carry that momentum into his junior year, as the power that was expected to bloom never materialized. He was also a Boras client, and some questioned his defense, leading him to fall to Oakland here. Following players selected: Matt Purke, Alex White, Bobby Borchering. Signing bonus: $2,750,000.
2. Justin Marks, LHP, Louisville, #92 Overall: Marks was considered an average college lefty with a strong history of performance and a solid pitch mix. He was expected to go at about this slot, and this was a solid pick of a college pitcher with fourth starter upside. Following players selected: Robbie Erlin, Joe Gardner, Keon Broxton. Signing bonus: $375,300.
3. Max Stassi, C, Yuba City HS (CA), #123 Overall: Stassi was considered a first-round talent entering the draft, and he fell due to his perceived asking price attached with a UCLA commitment. He showed plus power and a solid hit tool, and most of the concerns were about his arm, which was hurt for part of the spring. The A’s got a steal here, but had to pay a large amount for it. Following players selected: Andrew Doyle, Kyle Bellows, David Nick. Signing bonus: $1,500,000.
4. Steve Parker, 3B, BYU, #153 Overall: Parker flashed a plus hit tool during his time at BYU, and he was expected to go in the fifth to eighth round as an offense-oriented third baseman with average or worse defense. Some thought he might have to move to second base as a pro. Following players selected: Nick McBride, Austin Adams, Ryan Wheeler. Signing bonus: $165,600.
5. Ryan Ortiz, C, Oregon State, #183 Overall: Ortiz was a solid college catcher with some upside as an offense-oriented backup catcher in the big leagues. He showed some catch-and-throw skills, and he put up solid college numbers, but scouts doubted his ability to adjust at the pro level. He was expected to go in the fifth to eighth round. Following players selected: Ruben Sierra Jr., Ben Carlson, Bradin Hagens. Signing bonus: $125,000.
Other Notable Selections: LHP Ian Krol (7th), Neuqua Valley HS (IL), $925K bonus; RHP Connor Hoehn (12th), St. Petersburg JC (FL)
Eric Kubota was quite young for a scouting director when he was named to the position following the 2001 season. He followed Grady Fuson’s footsteps when Fuson moved on to the same role for the Texas Rangers. Fuson’s been in and out of both Texas’ and San Diego’s front offices since then, yet Kubota remains in the same place, executing drafts for the same general manager in Billy Beane. Kubota held a variety of scouting and administrative positions within Oakland’s front office before his promotion, and Oakland is the only club he has ever worked for. Now he stands as the second-longest-tenured scouting director in baseball with the same team, with his drafts equaling the Marlins’ Stan Meek, the Phillies’ Marti Wolever, and two drafts behind the Rockies’ Bill Schmidt. Bill Gayton, Roy Clark, and Dana Brown all had more years with their respective clubs entering the offseason, but each moved on. It’s easy to say that Kubota now brings a wealth of experience to his position. Since he has a longer history, trends might be a little easier to spot. In general, Kubota does indeed prefer the college arm over the prep arm, though that’s more of a trend in early rounds in recent years than an overall trend. They invested $925,000 in Ian Krol a year ago, so Kubota doesn’t have an overall aversion to prep arms. On the offensive side of the ball, Kubota’s also leaned heavily toward collegiate athletes, with Max Stassi representing the largest investment in a prep bat in Kubota’s entire draft history. Looking at geography, another trend is Kubota’s slight leaning towards players in the western half of the country. There is a good amount of overall balance geographically, but the slight lean towards western players is apparent. That was a little more pronounced in 2009, though I don’t think that was a conscious decision, instead more of a product of them picking the best player on their board.
In terms of draft budgeting, the A’s have been quick lackluster the past five years. They’re 22nd in spending during that time period, though they’ve been right in the middle of pick during the last couple of years. Their 2006 draft came in dead last for spending, though it yielded Trevor Cahill and Andrew Bailey, so don’t mistake my statements about their spending as statements against their draft philosophy. They’ve continuously developed Major League talent from their drafts, despite spending that mirrors their small-market philosophy of running their team. They hold picks 10, 60, 92, 125, and every 30 picks after that, assuming that Rod Barajas signs a Major League contract with another team before the draft. This is the first time that the A’s have picked in the top ten under Kubota’s tenure, though they’ve been close over the last two years. It’s no coincidence that the last two years have shown a slight bump in draft spending, and I’d expect some of the same for 2010. My best guess for their projected 2010 spending is once again in the range of $6.5 million, with slot for the number ten pick projected to be in the neighborhood of an even $2 million. I don’t expect an Ian Krol-like pick again this year, as he was essentially a pick that made up for not having a second-rounder. However, paying someone with first-round talent that falls to the third or fourth round isn’t out of the realm of possibility, just like Max Stassi a year ago. They should be in the middle of the pack for spending again this year, and it should continue to serve them well.
Connecting the A’s to specific players, I seem to get the feeling that the A’s will capitalize on the solid college pitching available in this draft. If Deck McGuire falls to them, I don’t think he’ll go any further. Beyond that, pitchers Chris Sale and Drew Pomeranz could also be a logical fit. There were solid rumors that the A’s would have taken Donavan Tate had he fallen to them this year, so I wouldn’t be surprised if they follow California prep outfielder Austin Wilson closely this spring. His power potential is outstanding, and that could entice any team picking around number ten. Zack Cox is also a good possibility in the tenth slot, and the only thing I’m really discounting right now is a prep pitcher. Kubota’s method of operation seems to be filling in with pitchers in the second round and beyond, and that has worked out well for them, so I don’t see them changing that philosophy unless Jameson Taillon reaches them for some miraculous reason. Looking beyond the first round, I wouldn’t be surprised to hear they have interest in players like Taijuan Walker, Peter Tago, Gary Brown, and Addison Reed. Other later names could include Rob Brantly, Mark Canha, Josh Mueller, and Seth Blair. These are all just names to remember right now, and when I come back and update these posts as part of the 2010 MLB Draft Notebook, I’ll be able to better point you to where the team is headed.
*Bonus information came from BA.
What do you guys think? What will the Athletics do?