06/08/2004 9:30 PM ET
A's wish list is fulfilled
Picks long on heart and talent
By Mychael Urban / MLB.com
|A's pick Drew Saberhagen was born the morning before his dad, Bret(right), beat the Cardinals in Game 7 of the 1985 World Series. (Cliff Schiappa/AP)
OAKLAND -- The difference between the first and second day of baseball's annual First-Year Player Draft is simple.
On the first day, particularly in the early rounds, teams go into their designated draft room with a wish list of players they hope to land, and these are players they expect to be future big leaguers.
On the second day, they're more or less picking the chicken clean, hoping to get lucky somewhere along the way.
"There have been some late-round guys who end up surprising people and making it to the Major Leagues, so you never know," A's scouting director Eric Kubota said on Monday. "But a lot of the guys we take on the second day are guys who can help our minor league teams win."
Oakland's draft ended when Kubota said "pass" in the 41st round Tuesday, and here are the answers to a few questions about the overall haul:
Did the A's get everybody they wanted?
"That doesn't happen," Kubota said. "There's always someone who gets away that you liked. With so many players involved and so many rounds, it's inevitable."
That said, the A's were thrilled with their take at the top of the draft.
With six picks before the third round, they had a pretty good idea they'd be getting some of the players on their wish list. And they scored something of a coup in picking up the two players many draft experts expected them to nab with their two first-round picks -- Stanford outfielder Danny Putnam and Texas closer Huston Street -- in the "sandwich" round instead.
They used the first-rounders to get South Carolina catcher Landon Powell and Fresno State outfielder Richie Robnett. With their second-rounders, they got North Carolina State right-hander Michael Rogers and Fullerton catcher Kurt Suzuki. According to Baseball America, that gave Oakland six of the top 90 prospects in the country.
That's 15 percent. No other team matched that this week. So maybe a few keepers got away, but the A's landed more than their share.
With so many top picks, will there be problems finding the money to sign them all?
"We don't like wasting our picks," Kubota said, and it doesn't take a magnifying glass to read between those lines.
The A's budget very carefully for the draft, and they make their selections with that budget very much in mind. "Signability," as it's called, is a big factor in their picks, and in a conference call Monday evening, Powell, Putnam and Street all said they didn't anticipate any prolonged negotiations.
"You mean they're going to pay me?" Powell cracked.
"Money isn't a big issue for me," said Putnam.
"I just want to get out on the field as soon as possible," added Street.
Teams do a ton of homework on the signability of potential picks, and Kubota and crew are no exception.
"I don't see it being a problem," he said. "We make every effort to know we can sign them before the draft."
How long will it take this draft class to reach the big leagues?
That's impossible to predict, but Kubota said Powell is the probably closest to the Majors. He also suggested that Street might be a fast-tracker.
College pitchers tend to develop faster than position players, who have to make the difficult transition from aluminum to wood bats, but the bottom line is that all players tend to develop of dramatically different pace.
If the player is a stud, two to three years is a reasonable expectation. Oakland's top two picks in 2001, for instance, are already big league regulars -- shortstop Bobby Crosby with the A's and pitcher Jeremy Bonderman with the Tigers. Bonderman was traded to Detroit during the 2002 season.
"We like to see a return on our investment as quickly as possible," said A's general manager Billy Beane.
Any "sleepers" in this class?
Kubota mentioned Rogers in response to this question. Rogers went to the same high school as Oakland's field scouting coordinator, Chris Pittaro, so the A's know a lot about him and love his makeup.
Did the A's stick to their general draft philosophy?
Absolutely, with a couple of notable exceptions. They A's have long been known as a team that covets college talent, in part because their budget doesn't have much room for risks. High school players are more risky because they're younger and haven't faced much top-flight competition.
But while the A's used 39 of their 44 picks on the more proven brand of talent, they surprised a few folks by taking righty Ryan Webb out of Central Clearwater Catholic in Florida.
"We felt it was worth the risk at that point," Kubota said.
Oakland also is known for going heavy in the draft on arms, and this year was no exception, particularly late. Half of the first 22 players the A's picked are pitchers, and between rounds 20 and 36, they took 11 more.
All told, the A's selected 22 pitchers, 10 outfielders, eight infielders and four catchers.
Did any themes develop?
One, according to Kubota: "Heart."
He called Powell a "gamer," he called Street "one of the most competitive college pitches I've ever seen," and he called Putnam a "dirtbag," which is a compliment in baseball terms.
"A lot of the guys we took have a lot of guts," Kubota said, "and we think that will carry them a long way up here."
And finally, who has the best backstory among the draftees?
Another impossible question to answer, mainly because if you dig deep enough, everybody has a fascinating tale to tell.
Powell's is the best known. His dad and former adviser tried to pull a fast one by having Powell take the GED as an 18-year-old high school junior so he could enter the draft, then more or less tried to hide his eligibility so he wouldn't be selected and could sign for more money as a free agent. Oops. Nobody bit, so Powell, who says he had nothing to do with the scheme, had to go to college for four years.
Another good one: Street followed in his father's footsteps in attending the University of Texas, where dear old dad, James, was a star quarterback who led the Longhorns to a national championship in 1969. To read more about it, click here http://mlb.mlb.com/mlb/news/mlb_news.jsp?ymd=20040603&content_id=760438&vkey=draft2004&fext=.jsp).
Then there is the story of Drew Saberhagen, a 6-foot-2, 180-pound first baseman from Calabasas High in California taken by the A's in the 38th round, 1,147th overall.
What's his deal? He's the son of former Cy Young winner Bret Saberhagen, and Drew was born the morning before his dad, then with the Royals, tossed a shutout to beat the Cardinals in Game 7 of the 1985 World Series.
Mychael Urban is a national writer for MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.