I love sports drafts. It’s a time when excitement builds over adding young, fresh talent to your team. In every sport except baseball, there is also the undying angst of trading picks, something fraught with danger. This is why people like me talk about the NFL draft for 365 days a year, practically. When it comes to the “June Amateur Draft,” as they say in baseball, it is a much more pure process, since trading picks is not allowed. Recently you are allowed to trade competitive balance selections, but as a whole, draft picks are untouchable. If trading draft picks in baseball was an option, I have no doubt that Billy Beane would trade them all away every year. He simply cannot resist making deals — just think of 40 picks he could screw around with. Thankfully, he has to wait until he picks a player, THEN he trades him.
The baseball draft is also unique because 17-year-olds are getting picked. Scouting has to be taken to the highest level in order to properly suss out who is talented enough, or more commonly, who has the highest “ceiling” on potential. It also means, that for almost all of us, we’ve never heard of 99% of the players who get drafted. We also realize that if Oakland drafts a player, he also certainly will never play for the A’s. The odds are almost insurmountable for them to stay in the organization before Beane trades or cuts them first. But even with that ominous knowledge, it still doesn’t prevent me from getting excited about the A’s new picks. With the draft concluding yesterday, let’s take a look at a few of the intriguing selections.
Beane traded away his top 2 prospects last year, Addison Russell and David Robertson, who were both high school shortstops. He responded by spending his first two selections in this year’s draft on college shortstops, Richie Martin of Florida and Mikey White of Alabama. Hopefully one of these guys will soon become “the shortstop of the future.” I would imagine Martin would get the first chance, with White playing second base, together at rookie league.
Martin is a great athlete, and I mentioned to him on a conference call with reporters that the A’s could certainly use some defense. He was also the second-leading hitter in the Cape Cod league last summer. The grandson of a Negro Leagues player, he’s getting ready to play in the College World Series, like another former Florida SS once did (Mark Ellis).
White was the starting shortstop for the Crimson Tide for every game he was there in three years, the veritable Ripken of Tuscaloosa. He’s supposed to have a little more pop in his bat than Martin does. Being in their 20s and very experienced, both prospects should be closer to reaching the bigs than normal, one would imagine.
Beane took high school pitcher Dakota Chalmers with his 3rd pick, a 6′ 3″ kid who has touched 98 mph on the gun. A’s Scouting Director Eric Kubota says he’s confident that Chalmers will renege on his commitment to the University of Georgia.
Beane also went for three college pitchers in rounds five-seven, Kevin Duchene of Illinois, Bubba Derby of San Diego State, and Kyle Friedrichs of CSU Long Beach. Duchene is the epitome of the crafty lefty, going 22-3 in his career as the No. 1 starter for the Illini. Derby is on the smaller side at 5′ 10″, but explodes the gun at 97 mph and could be up in the bigs soon if the A’s use him in the bullpen. Friedrichs is a rare case of a pure reliever drafted this high, but he was the main man out of the bullpen for one of the best programs in the country.
The best name in the whole draft is that of North Carolina outfielder Skye Bolt, whom the A’s selected in the fourth round. Bolt had one of the greatest freshman seasons in college history but has failed to live up to it during his sophomore and junior years. Most scouts believe he has first round talent if he could return to his freshman form, when he hit .392. Defensively, he is rated a major league-caliber center fielder, showing great range and speed in the outfield.
Will any of these young men pan out? Will even ONE of their 40 picks ever play for the A’s? No one knows. But after the farm system was scorched to the ground in 2014, it!s certainly nice to see some players come into the fold. Keep an eye out for 11th-rounder James Terrell from SPSV in Vallejo. I got the chance to see him play twice in high school and was impressed by the young outfielder. A son of coach, the A’s will now need to convince him to forgo his scholarship to Fresno State. All in all, I like the A’s draft this year. I love the first four picks. But what do any of us know?