MLB

Oakland Athletics go the High School route with first round picks

The A’s departed from their normal operating procedure in the first round of the draft, ignoring college players for the enticing high ceiling, high reward prep prospects.

With three picks in the first round (11th, 34th, and 47th overall picks), the A’s selected a shortstop, third baseman and first baseman. If everything breaks right it could be a nice infield down the road.

Addison Russell, SS, Pace HS (FL)

With the 11th pick in the MLB Draft the Oakland A’s took SS Addison Russell from Pace High School in Florida. His calling card is his ability to hit the ball, with the potential for both plus average and power.

The one knock on him at this point is where will he end up playing defensively, he is currently listed as a short stop but down the road he may end up switching to a corner spot. The good news is that his bat is good enough that if he must switch he projects to be just fine at the hot corner.

MLB.com:

A shortstop in high school, perhaps a third baseman at the next level, it doesn’t matter. It will be Russell’s bat that gets him drafted.The Florida prep infielder has very good bat speed and doesn’t get cheated at the plate, with above-average power to his pull side. He’s an average runner who is better underway. He does have some good defensive skills, with plus arm strength and good hands.He’s gotten a little thicker recently and there was some question about his range to begin with, so a move to third makes sense. He will also need to stay back more at the plate and not get fooled by offspeed stuff, things that should come with time and experience. He should profile very well as an every-day third baseman when all is said and done.

Baseball America:

Russell has been a top high school prospect for years. He played in the Under Armour All-America game before his junior year of high school and then in all the showcase circuit’s top events last summer.

Russell lost at least 20 pounds from where he played on the showcase circuit to tighten up his body and give him a better chance to remain in the middle of the diamond. Even if he has to move to third base, however, Russell has the bat and power potential to make it work at third base.

John Sickels:

Russell lost 20 pounds over the last year and has convinced most scouts that he can remain at shortstop, at least in the short run. His hitting is erratic, but at his best he shows the ability to hit for both average and power from the right side. Listed at 6-1, 185, Russell is committed to Auburn University, but is very unlikely to go to college at this slot in the draft. He was considered just a borderline first-rounder or a supplemental pick until he rose up draft boards quickly in the last two weeks. There is still some uncertainty about his future defensive position, but his bat should be good enough for third base if he ends up there in the long run. For now, he’s still a shortstop, with a strong throwing arm and at least average range. His hitting can be inconsistent, but his potential is obvious.

Perfect Game:

Addison Russell was one of the very first members of the Class of 2012 to fully show his talents to the Perfect Game scouts. He had played in a couple of BCS events late in his freshman year, then came to the 2009 Southeast Underclass Showcase at the beginning of his sophomore year. Here is his PG report from that event:

Addison Russell is a 2012 SS/OF with a 6’1”, 180 lb. frame from Pace, FL who attends Pace HS. Broad shouldered, high waisted build, very athletic. Outstanding bat speed for age, quick hands, no problem with 90 mph velo, aggressive swing, good balance and rhythm, extends through contact, potential to be a top level hitter. 6.75 runner, plays faster on field, excellent range at shortstop, quick release, arm strength good now with more to come. Plays the game hard. Chance to be a special player. Good student.

Russell has changed physically since then but the tools and potential remain. His broad shoulders have filled out and he was a rock solid 210 pounds last summer. That extra strength and mass has cost him a step of quickness and raised the inevitable questions about his future defensive positions. Most scouts have consigned him to third base in the near future, but it’s interesting to note that on the 2011 USA National 18U team this fall, Russell played shortstop while fellow shortstop prospects Gavin Cecchini and Mikey White played second base and left field respectively. In addition to hitting .364-1-14 over 15 games and co-leading the team with 10 walks, Russell also stood out defensively at shortstop, making only two errors and fielding at a .968 clip. Scouts say that he looked agile and comfortable defensively and also said that it appeared as if he’d lost some of his muscle mass and was leaner. If Russell can remain quick and lean enough to stay at shortstop, his offensive potential is a huge asset.

A right handed hitter, Russell has the strength and bat speed to overpower the ball when he gets his arms extended and is an intelligent and mature hitter who is advanced at looking for the pitch he wants during an at bat and jumping on it. He has lightning quick hands on velocity and there won’t be many pitchers who can throw the ball past him at the next level. Russell has gone through periods over the last three years where he becomes over conscious about staying inside the ball and hitting to the opposite field, which negates his power and ability to drive the ball, but has always made the adjustment once he is seeing better pitching during the summer. Scouts who move Russell to third base in their minds should consider another position, though, especially if Russell is able to stay in the 190-200 pound range. He’s played second base a couple of times at Perfect Game events and looked very natural at that position, with quick hands and the ability to really turn a double play. Imagining his bat playing at second base is a pretty exciting proposition.

Overall it sounds as if the A’s got themselves a very nice pick — one of the better prep hitters in the draft. He’s not likely to be a fast mover in the minors but as a high school draftee that is to be expected.

http://youtu.be/4luqJ-S1epE?hd=1

Daniel Robertson, 3B, Upland HS (CA)

Robertson is a high school shortstop but will likely move to third base at the next level. He doesn’t have light tower power that makes scouts drool but does have a nice approach that allows him to hit line drives to all levels with an advanced eye at the plate that should translate to high on-base numbers. He is committed to UCLA but should be signable.

MLB.com:

While many feel this year’s Draft class is weaker at the top than some others in recent memory, others have pointed to a strength in depth, particularly in the high school hitting crop. Robertson fits nicely into that group. With a good approach and excellent mechanics, Robertson swings the bat well and should hit for average at the next level. He also should grow into more power, showing more gap pop right now. While Robertson might be a slight tick below average as a runner, he’s a smart baserunner who knows when to be aggressive on the basepaths. A shortstop now, he’ll likely slide over to third at the next level and has solid-average tools across the board defensively. Robertson’s intensity and makeup are outstanding, with those intangibles allowing the other tools to play up. The ability to hit and that kind of attitude can take a player a long way, and a team that takes him in the first few rounds will be banking it’s enough for him to be a big league third baseman.

Perfect Game:

The 2012 draft has a well above average collection of top third base prospects, with Joey Gallo, Trey Williams, Corey Seager, Rio Ruiz and Carson Kelly being talked about frequently as first round/sandwich round type picks. Some scouts would also put probable first round shortstops Carlos Correa and Tanner Rahier in that group, although others see those two staying at shortstop professionally. Southern California slugger Daniel Robertson often gets overlooked when top high school third basemen are discussed but his continued hitting excellence has put him squarely with the group above in terms of draft potential.

It isn’t as if Robertson entered the spring as an unknown. He was a Perfect Game All-American selection and has played for the very high profile ABD Bulldogs team during the summer and fall. But opposed to others listed above, Robertson doesn’t have the big attention grabbing power tool or long and loose 6-foot-4 body to impress scouts. Robertson has a 6-foot-1, 190-pound build that is strong and fairly mature. He’s a right handed hitter with a very fundamentally sound swing and one of the most advanced approaches at the plate of any high school or college hitter in the 2012 draft. Robertson sees the ball exceptionally well and has a short, quick fluid line drive swing that produces line drives to all fields. While he doesn’t have the lift and sheer power that hitters like Gallo or Williams have, Robertson’s strength and ability to consistently square up the ball will enable him to hit his share of home runs, along with a well above average number of doubles. He swings hard with good extension through contact and looks to drive the ball.

While high school statistics are usually of little value in evaluating a player, Robertson’s emphasize his maturity and skills as a hitter. He hit .560-6-31 this spring with an eye opening 29 walks and only 6 strikeouts. His 2011 numbers as a junior were virtually identical; .545-6-22 with only 4 strikeouts. He’ll be a hitter at the next level who posts consistently high walk and on base percentage numbers. Robertson actually plays shortstop in high school, as many of the top third basemen do, but moves to third immediately during the summer and fall and will continue to play third base professionally. He’s a 7.28 to 7.41 runner who has good balance, hands and footwork at the position. His best defensive tool is his strong and accurate arm, which has been gunned at 90 mph across the infield in drills. Robertson only threw four innings from the mound this spring as his high school’s occasional closer, but was rumored to have touched 94 mph during one of those outings, which is certainly believable. Robertson has signed with UCLA but the Bruins don’t have the same traditional pull for top position prospects as they have pitching prospects. If Robertson does choose to go to school, he should be an immediate impact player offensively.

Matt Olson, 1B, Parkview HS (GA)

Olson is a two-way player but profiles to be a better hitter than pitcher. His best tool is his power which profiles nicely at first base.  He is committed to Vanderbilt but I didn’t see anything to indicate that the A’s should expect any more trouble than normal to sign him.

MLB.com:

A two-way player in high school, Olson had a big season at the plate and on the mound. He had a very strong showing at the National High School Invitational at the USA Baseball complex in North Carolina in March, going 5-for-10 with a homer off of top prospect Max Fried and also winning a game on the mound. The Vanderbilt recruit could play both ways should he go to college, but most see his professional future as a hitter. While likely limited to first base, Olson’s left-handed bat is bound to draw interest, with the potential to hit for average and power at the next level.

Perfect Game:

Matt Olson is a 2012 1B/RHP, 3B with a 6-4 225 lb. frame from Lilburn, GA who attends Parkview HS. Big tall well proportioned build, very good present strength. Sound hitting mechanics, straight stance with good balance, short to the ball for his size and length, can drive the ball, could extend better out front, has power potential. Good defensive actions at first base, agile for his size. Also pitches, tall simple delivery that mirrors his hitting approach, high 3/4’s release with good downhill plane, fastball topped at 87 mph, mostly straight, soft curveball, good feel for change up, threw strikes. Good overall skills and strength. Very good student.

Hasty Conclusions:

Overall I really like what the A’s did in this draft. They went for high upside prep guys who could turn into above average players. This is a pretty big departure from the college guys that they have gone for in the past who haven’t always had the highest ceilings but were closer to the majors.

I saw on Athletics Nation that this was the first time since 2001 that they had taken a high school player with their first overall pick. So yeah the A’s are breaking the mold a little bit here.

I love the upside that the A’s took. It may take a bit longer for these guys to develop, but if they do pan out the A’s could have some solid pieces to build around offensively.

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