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Sunday, June 06, 2010

A's Draft Targets

The terrifying thing about having a blog is that any predictions you make can look very, very silly down the road (though, no prediction I make could possibly be as bad as this one).  Even though MLB's Entry Draft is just a trap for an amateur analyst/fan like me to make predictions that turn out to be horribly wrong, I'm going to go ahead and run full steam ahead with an analysis of who I hope the A's draft (and who I hope they avoid) in the first round.

Last week, I wrote a brief introduction to some of the big names of the draft, but a couple of things have changed since then.  First, it' s become a little more clear who will not be available by the time the A's pick.  Second, some players have played their way into discussion for the A's pick, while others are sliding down draft boards.

Bryce Harper, Manny Machado, Jameson Tallion, Drew Pomeranz, and Chris Sale will all definitely be gone before the A's pick.  Also, it appears that Yasmani Grandal, a catcher out of the University of Miami (FL) has reached an agreement with the Royals and will be drafted fourth overall.  After these six guys, it's really hard to say what will happen.  The consensus is that the talent level of this year's draft is relatively flat.  As one GM told Peter Gammons, "there's virtually no difference between the fourth and 44th picks." 

With that in mind, I'll do my best and try to shed some light on some of the players the A's seem to be targeting with the 10th overall pick.  Of the remaining players that may have a chance to fall to the A's, I've ranked them in my order of preference.

1.  Karsten Whitson, RHP, Chipley HS, Florida
This is the guy I really hope the A's take.  Whitson throws in the low-90s and can reach 95 MPH.  What I like most about him though is that he already has an advanced slider and has a projectible frame and may add some MPH to his fastball.  He also is a pitcher, as opposed to a thrower, which many high school hurlers are, and does not have the signability issues that some of the other top high school pitchers have.  Even apart from the financial aspect, I think he's the second best high school pitcher in the draft, and perhaps not all that far behind Taillon.

2.  Michael Choice, OF, University of Texas-Arlington
This year's group of college hitters is a bit thin, but Choice is one of the few guys with the chance to be an impact bat.  He as plenty of power and has shown good plate discipline.  He's a bit more raw than other college players as UT-Arlington is not a traditional baseball powerhouse.  He also does not project as a center fielder in the majors, but a lot of people are calling him a "classic power-hitting right fielder."

3.  Justin O'Conner, C-SS, Cowan HS, Indiana
I know that a lot of people, myself included, have penciled Max Stassi in as the successor to Kurt Suzuki, but there is no reason to draft for need, especially in the first round.  That being said, a team that drafts O'Conner will have a lot of choices when it comes to placing him on the diamond.  He currently plays shortstop, and apparently isn't too bad there yet.  What makes most scouts envision him as a catcher in the big leagues is his tremendous throwing arm.  I'd have to imagine that if catching doesn't work out for him, a move to third base could be in the cards.  His arm is so good, that some scouts, at least entering the year, liked him as a pitcher (though virtually everyone now thinks that the mound is a last resort scenario now). O'Conner also has a quality bat with a ton of power potential.  

4.  Christian Colon, SS, Cal State Fullerton
Colon is a bit of a safe pick, with slighly lower upside than a lot of other players on this list.  None of his tools grade out as exceptional, but he is average to above average in all aspects of the game.  Most scouts think he can stay at shortstop and can move across the diamond to second if necessary.  Power was a question for him coming into the year, but his power seemed to emerge this season at Cal State Fullerton.  He also was one of Team USA's best player's last summer, displaying an ability to hit with a wood bat that bodes well for his future as a pro.

5.  Josh Sale, OF, Bishop Blanchet HS, Seattle, Washington 
Josh Sale is constantly compared to Travis Snider, and while most comparisons between prep prospects and other players with similar backgrounds are superficial, this one seems apt.  Like Snider, Sale is from Washington state and is not particularly athletic.  And also like Snider, if Sale is going to make up for that shortcoming its going to be because of his bat, which is probably the best power out of all high schoolers.  I'd prefer the A's draft one of the previous five guys on this list, though, as Sale's lack of tools other than power concerns me.  That being said, the chance that he turns into an impact hitterwould make this a forgivable pick.

6.  Alex Wimmers, RHP, Ohio State University
The A's have had success taking players from the Big Ten (Nick Swisher, Mark Mulder) and I think Wimmers could have a similar amount of success in the majors.  While probably not a future ace, he complements a low 90s fastball with a great change up and a decent curve.  He likely doesn't need a lot of time in the minors, which is also a plus.  His lack of top notch velocity has him lower on some mock drafts than this, but I think he has enough fastball and good enough secondary stuff to warrant a top-10 pick.

7.  Austin Wilson, OF, Harvard Westlake High School, California
If Sale's combination of risk and upside make me nervous, than drafting Wilson would make me very queasy.  Wilson is the ultimate risk/reward type player and has a strong commitment to Stanford.  His size and his skills remind scouts of Andre Dawson, but he is very raw at the plate.  That being said, he has skills on top of skills and a tremendous work ethic.  Wilson will almost certainly be available when the A's draft and getting a guy with this kind of superstar potential has to be intriguing, but I highly doubt that they'll actually pull the trigger.  I don't blame them, as the mere act of placing him on this list is tough for me; I don't know if I'd actually be able potentially waste a top-10 pick on a guy who may not sign and who may very well be a bust.

8.  Deck Mcguire, RHP, Georgia Tech
McGuire is another college pitcher that may hurry through the minor leagues.  Most people have Mcguire ahead of Wimmers, but I think Mcguire is a tick below the Ohio State righty.  Though both pitchers work in the low 90s, McGuire doesn't have a dominant second pitch, instead, featuring a pretty good curve and a pretty good change. 

These are the eight players who I would be fine with the A's drafting, assuming that none of the top six players fell to the A's at 10.  There are also a couple of players who some mock drafts have going in the early to mid first round that I hope the A's avoid.  They are:

Zach Cox, 3B/2B, University of Arkansas
Some people have Cox going as high as number 5 overall, which I would be more than happy with, just so the A's wouldn't be tempted to take him.  I'm no saying that I'm certain he'll be a bust, its just that he has so many question marks for a guy who doesn't seem to have the potential to be a star.  At best, he seems like a Bill Mueller type player, which is valuable, but that's what I think his ceiling is.  In a lot of ways, Cox is like Dustin Ackley, but slower and less athletic.  Given Ackley's rough pro start, and the likelihood that Cox would have to be a third baseman in the majors, the questions about Cox's power potential, make me question whether he should be drafted in the first half of the first round.

Kolbrin Vitek, INF-OF, Ball State University
Vitek's future defensive home isn't set, as he may end up at second, third, or even center field.  While he has the ability to be fine at any of those positions, its his bat that concerns me.  Like Choice, he has not played against top collegiate programs, but unlike Choice, there's the very real chance that he doesn't have, or doesn't develop power.  While Vitek is a good athlete with good speed and good baserunning instincts, he's not a burner, so if he doesn't develop power he's like a slower Rajai Davis.  A slower Rajai Davis is not a valuable player.

Nick Castellanos, 3B, Archbishop McCarthy HS, Florida
A third baseman with a questionable ability to hit for contact and a concern that he may never develop power PLUS a signability concern?  No thank you.

Matt Harvey, RHP, University of North Carolina
While he throws the hardest out of all the college pitchers in this year's draft, he's had command problems throughout his three years at UNC (and in the Cape Cod League last summer).  He also is more or less a two-pitch pitcher right now and would need to develop a third pitch to avoid being relegated to the bullpen.  I've seen mock drafts where he goes as high as number 6 overall to the Diamondbacks, but I really don't think the A's should take on this kind of risk.
Finally, there's Anthony Ranaudo, RHP, LSU, who is the big question mark.  Coming into the year he looked like Ranaudo would be the second overall selection, right behind Bryce Harper.  Ranaudo, though, has battled injuries all season and when he has pitched has not been especially effective.  He's pitched well as of late, so presumably he still has the stuff that made him such a hot prospect six months ago.  That being said, the injury concerns, combined with the fact that Ranuado could very well return to LSU for his senior season to rebuild his stock may outweigh his pitching talent.  This decision needs to be made by a handful of scouts, a medical director, and someone with knowledge of his intentions, not a guy with an internet connection and keyboard.

There's a non-zero chance that the A's take someone who I haven't mentioned, but I've covered all the likely suspects plus a few guys who haven't been linked to the A's at all (Wimmers, Wilson, Castellanos, Harvey, Ranaudo).  To recap, I really hope the A's take Karsten Whitson, and think that Michael Choice, Justin O'Conner, or Christian Colon would be solid selections.  I'd also be fine with them taking Josh Sale, Alex Wimmers, or Deck McGuire -- Austin Wilson would give me a panic attack.  I hope to heck they avoid Zach Cox, Kolbrin Vitek, Nick Castellanos, and Matt Harvey.  I have no idea about Anthony Ranaudo.

We'll see who gets the nod on Monday, and we'll see how spectacularly silly this post looks in three or four years.

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