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A's pick 25 collegians in first 28
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06/05/2002 1:04 pm ET 
A's pick 25 collegians in first 28
Ohio State 1B/OF Swisher first pick at No. 16
By John Schlegel /

Kentucky's Joseph Blanton was the A's second pick in the first round Tuesday. (courtesy University of Kentucky)
Oakland A's round-by-round picks

OAKLAND, Calif. -- With four picks in the first round of the First-Year Player Draft and seven of the top 39 picks overall, the A's went back to college in a big way Tuesday.

Starting with the selection of first baseman/outfielder Nick Swisher of Ohio State University with the No. 16 overall pick, the A's went 4-for-4 in drafting college players in the first round as the 2002 draft got under way Tuesday morning. And they didn't stop there.

In fact, the A's selected college players exclusively through their first 23 picks, through 17 rounds. Of the 28 players they picked on the first day, 25 of them came from the college ranks.

"That wasn't necessarily by design," said A's scouting director Eric Kubota. "We didn't say, 'We're going to wait until the 18th round to pick a high school player.' The way they fell, the high school guys we liked and valued weren't there at the spots where we would have taken them."

That was evident right from the beginning, as the A's selected Swisher and then kept on selecting college players. Swisher, a 5-foot-11, 195-pounder projected to play center field, is the son of former Major League catcher Steve Swisher, and he was right at the top of Oakland's list of players they hoped they could pick at No. 16.

Nick Swisher

Ohio State U.
Position: 1B   B/T: S/L
H: 6-0   W: 200
Born: 11/25/1980   Class: 4YR

Scouting report:
Muscular, athletic build on large frame. Body similar to Rusty Greer. Quiet hitting approach. Quick bat through zone. Takes hands to ball well. Aggressive hitter. Shows power from both sides. Instincts for the outfield. Playable arm. Son of former Major Leaguer Steve Swisher.

Scouting video:
56k | 300k

Also in the first round, the A's picked power right-handed pitcher Joseph Blanton of the University of Kentucky with the 24th overall pick, power-hitting shortstop John McCurdy of the University of Maryland with the 26th pick and right-handed starter Ben Fritz of Fresno State University -- who doubled as the Bulldogs' catcher this year -- with the 30th pick.

For pitchers like Blanton and Fritz, being selected by the A's was good news. Oakland has a very strong recent history of drafting and developing college pitchers -- including current starters Mark Mulder (second overall in 1998), Barry Zito (ninth overall in '99) and Tim Hudson (sixth round in 1997).

"When I saw I was picked by the A's, it was very encouraging knowing the way they bring college pitchers along rather quickly," Blanton said. "They've done a great job, as you can see by the starters they have now."

The A's were stocked with four first-rounders -- and seven of the first 39 picks overall -- after losing Jason Giambi, Johnny Damon and Jason Isringhausen to free agency this past winter. The A's not only had their own pick (No. 26), but also the first-round picks of the Red Sox (No. 16, for Damon), the Yankees (No. 24, for Giambi) and the Cardinals (No. 30, for Isringhausen). They also had three supplemental first round picks as compensation for losing those free agents.

The college trend continued as the A's went through their supplemental picks, as the A's picked catcher Jeremy Brown of the University of Alabama as the 35th pick, right-handed pitcher Stephen Obenchain of Evansville University with the 37th pick and third baseman Mark Teahen of St. Mary's College with the 39th.

It wasn't until the 18th round that the A's took a prep player -- and he was from Puerto Rico. Right-handed pitcher Jose Corchado from Dr. Heriberto Domenech High School in Isabela, Puerto Rico started a run of three high school picks by the A's, the only three they made all day.

2002 First-Year Player Draft
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Bullington goes first
Complete Draft coverage

Many thought the A's would go the college route more often than not. One reason is with a draft budget in the neighborhood of $8 million and so many high picks, the probability of signing college players is generally higher than top high school picks. Also, the A's have sent some of their prospects elsewhere in recent trades, so they needed some players who can stock the system.

On the first day, the A's selected 11 college pitchers (nine right-handers and two left-handers), along with two high school pitchers. They also picked three college catchers, eight infielders (seven college, one high school), and four college outfielders.

"I think it's great," Swisher said. "It's extremely hard for high school players to come right in and play the caliber of ball minor league players do. It's hard to be physically and mentally prepared for that, and I think college is definitely a great way to help your game out."

From the moment the draft started at 10 a.m. PT, the first day of the draft went as well as the A's could have anticipated.

"If you told us at 9:45 this morning that it would have lined up like this, we probably would have said you're joking," Kubota said. "We're ecstatic."

John Schlegel is a regional writer for based in the Bay Area. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.

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