06/07/2004 10:56 PM ET
A's cash in with top picks
Club gets six of one draft preview's top 90 prospects
By Mychael Urban / MLB.com
|Local product Danny Putnam was the A's third pick (36th overall) on Day 1 of the Draft. (David Gonzales)
OAKLAND -- The A's pride themselves on finding hidden gems, but there was very little hidden about the players they went for in the early rounds on Day 1 of the 2004 First-Year Player Draft.
According to Baseball America, Oakland, which had four of the first 49 choices overall Tuesday, netted six of the top 90 prospects in the nation before the start of the third round.
That's not to say there wasn't a little intrigue involved. Several baseball insiders expected the A's to take Stanford University outfielder Danny Putnam and University of Texas closer Huston Street with their two first-round picks, but Oakland gambled a bit and won.
They took University of South Carolina catcher Landon Powell first, at 24th overall, and got Fresno State University center fielder Richie Robnett at 26th overall. Putnam and Street were still available in the sandwich round, so the A's got them, too.
"We were able to get them in a lower spot than most people thought," A's scouting director Eric Kubota said of Putnam and Street.
Powell and Robnett were actually the lowest-rated prospects in the haul, with Powell ranked No. 86 and Robnett ranked No. 90. Putnam was their highest-rated pick, at No. 26, and Street was right behind him at No. 27.
Said Kubota: "There was a certain amount of risk involved."
The 24th spot in the first round originally belonged to the Boston Red Sox, who had to surrender it to Oakland as compensation for signing free agent pitcher Keith Foulke. The A's also got a "sandwich pick" -- at No. 36, between the first and second rounds -- out of the Foulke deal, and they had another sandwich pick at No. 40, in addition to their own first-rounder (26th overall) and Baltimore's second-round pick (49th), as compensation for losing Miguel Tejada.
The A's did not get the Orioles' first-round slot because baseball's rules allow teams with the first through 15th picks in the round to hang onto them. Baltimore drafted eighth overall.
Putnam, who finished the year batting .378 with 16 home runs and 62 RBIs to go along with 10 doubles and four triples, went with the 36th overall pick. Because he played his college ball in the Bay Area, the A's knew all about him.
"We've been seeing Danny for a long time," Kubota said. "He's a very, very advanced hitter, and it's our feeling that good hitters come into power down the road."
Putnam said being picked by the A's took a little of the sting out of the Cardinal's elimination from the NCAA Division I playoffs over the weekend.
"I'm still a little numb right now," he said. "It's kind of like getting out of a hot tub and going into the snow and then getting back into the hot tub. ... That [College World Series] door is closed to me right now, but a door's opening to a part of my life that I've been looking forward to for a long time."
Oakland got Street, a right-hander, with the 40th overall pick. Street, whom Kubota said would be used as a reliever initially but didn't rule out a possible conversion to starter, said Street made some in the organization think of one of their own starters.
"He's got great command, and everything he throws sinks," said Kubota. "And he's an extreme competitor. He reminds us of [Tim] Hudson in that respect."
Street, a junior who is 5-1 with a 1.49 ERA, 12 saves and 48 strikeouts in 48 1/3 innings with the Longhorns, was thrilled to hear the comparison.
"That's a pretty big compliment," said Street, who also played third base for Texas last year but stuck to pitching this season in part because of an early groin injury. "Hudson's someone I honestly love to watch pitch."
At No. 49 they selected Michael Rogers, a right-handed pitcher from North Carolina State, and at No. 67 they took Kurt Suzuki a catcher from Cal-State Fullerton with the last of their bounty of first- and second-round picks. Rogers and Suzuki were ranked the 48th- and 63rd-best prospects in the country.
Kubota said Rogers might be Oakland's sleeper pick, calling him a very "advanced college pitcher," and dismissed the notion that there might not be enough playing time in the low minors to appease two catchers selected so high in the draft.
"There's plenty of places for them to play," he said.
In the third round, the A's took right-handed pitcher Jason Windsor out of Cal-State Fullerton, and in the fourth they broke from their recent history of shying away from high school pitchers by taking righty Ryan Webb out of Central Clearwater Catholic in Florida.
"We always said we're all about minimizing risks," Kubota said in talking about Webb, on of three preps taken by Oakland in the draft's first day, "but we felt it was worth the risk at that point."
The A's have long been known as a club that prefers going with college talent, and of the 22 players they selected through the day's 18 rounds, 12 were pitchers.
"We're happy," said Kubota. "I know we sound like a broken record a lot of the time, but we're really happy with what we got."
Mychael Urban is a national writer for MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.