Results favored over top selection
Oakland feels it's an unenviable position to be picking high
OAKLAND -- You'd think the A's would be thrilled to be picking 12th in the first round of the annual First-Year Player Draft. You'd be wrong. Oakland scouting director Eric Kubota actually would prefer to be preparing for a late-round pick.
Why? Because early Draft picks come as the result of a premature drop from contention by the Major League team the previous season. "It's exciting to pick this early, but picking early is never a great thing -- even for a scouting director," Kubota said. "The goal for all of us is success at the big league level."
MLB.com will carry every pick of the 2008 First-Year Player Draft, which takes place June 5-6 at The Milk House at Disney's Wide World of Sports complex in Orlando, Fla. Day 1 coverage begins at 2 p.m. ET with a simulcast of ESPN2's broadcast of the first round and compensation picks. The remaining rounds on Day 1 will be shown exclusively at MLB.com, with live analysis on site from MLB.com Draft guru Jonathan Mayo.
Several of the top amateur prospects are expected in attendance in Orlando for Day 1 of the Draft, and each of the 30 Major League Clubs will be represented by front office executives and baseball luminaries. Fans are welcome to attend Day 1 of the Draft, and admission to The Milk House is free with seating limited to a first-come, first-served basis.
Day 2 will get under way at 11:30 a.m. ET and continue through Round 50, if necessary. Every pick on Day 2 can be heard live at MLB.com.
Here's a glance at what the A's have in store as the First-Year Player Draft approaches:
In about 50 words
Kubota said it's too early to project what might happen in Orlando; his staff still is looking at players throughout the country. But of one thing he's certain: "If anything, there's a lot of depth in this Draft. There may be a difference of opinion on the strengths and weaknesses, but I think everyone agrees there's a lot of depth."
As the Draft draws closer, Kubota and his staff get closer to putting together what he calls "The Board" -- the list of players they've identified as potential early picks. The Board is not yet finished, however, and it might not be until Draft Day comes. "We've definitely dotted 'I's' crossed the 'T's' and pretty much done all we can at this point, but you're still getting your third, fourth, fifth looks at guys," he said. "Until you get it all on The Board, it's just a bunch of names."
Being in somewhat unfamiliar territory, Kubota isn't quite ready to make any predictions on what might happen in the first round, and he's not so sure anyone else in his position does, either. There is no clear-cut No. 1 pick, he said, and that uncertainty has a ripple effect on everyone now picking first. "It's certainly a higher pick than we've had in a long time," Kubota offered. "I don't know if there is a 'buzz' yet. It's hard to say, because nobody jumps out as the obvious No. 1. You could ask 30 scouting directors who's going No. 1 this year, and you'd get at least three, four, five different answers."
The A's are among the teams that try not to go into a Draft thinking about organizational needs. General manager Billy Beane traded four established big leaguers -- Dan Haren, Nick Swisher, Mark Kotsay and Marco Scutaro -- over the winter to address a general lack of top prospects, and those trades netted a haul of talent that most rival scouts say have moved the A's back into the realm of teams considered well-stocked for the future. "I have to preface anything by saying that going into the Draft, it's hard to draft for need, especially after moves Billy made in the offseason," Kubota said. "I think our overall strength as an organization is on the mound, but you never have enough depth. I know it's a cliché, but you're really just looking for the best available guy."
There was a time when the A's were known for going heavy on college players because they needed their draftees to help at the big league level as quickly as possible. But they've picked several high schoolers in recent years, and that trend could very well continue. "One thing we're always trying to do is learn and improve," Kubota said. "The goal is to have the biggest pool to pick from, and we've definitely become more and more comfortable taking high school guys over the past couple years. That said, nobody rules a player out based on whether he's a college or high school guy."
Recent top picks
Shortstop Cliff Pennington went 21st overall in 2005 and was hampered by injuries while trying to get his career off the ground, but the Texas A&M product is now healthy and playing every day at Double-A Midland after splitting the 2007 season between Midland and Class A Stockton. ... The top pick in 2006 -- Oakland didn't have a first-rounder -- was a prep out of Southern California, right-hander Trevor Cahill, who is at Stockton and considered one of the top prospects in the organization; heading into last weekend, the 20-year-old was 5-0 with a sub-2.00 ERA. ... Last year the A's tabbed righty James Simmons out of UC-Riverside. He impressed during his short stay in big league Spring Training, and is currently at Midland, where he had a sub-3.00 ERA in his first eight starts.
First baseman Sean Doolittle, a sandwich pick in 2007 out of the University of Virginia, hit four homers in 68 games after signing last summer and already has worked his way up to Stockton, Oakland's Advanced Class A affiliate. "He's been very good," Kubota said. Through 40 games, Doolittle was batting .361 with 12 homers, 41 RBIs and a .436 on-base percentage for the Ports.
Andrew Carignan, a fifth-round pick in 2007 out of the University of North Carolina, started this season at Stockton but was promoted after posting a 0.90 ERA in nine appearances as the Ports' closer. He's closing now at Midland, and his combined strikeouts-to-walks ratio is hovering at 2-to-1. "We liked him a lot, but he's one of those guys who's exceeded our expectations," Kubota said. "He throws his fastball 97, 98 [mph], and his breaking ball is improving."
In The Show
Only one player from the past three Draft classes has reached the Majors: outfielder Travis Buck. A sandwich pick out of Arizona State in 2005, Buck had a strong, but injury plagued rookie year in 2007 and got off to a slow start this season before being placed on the disabled list with shin splints. After being activated from the DL, Buck was sent to Triple-A Sacramento to hone his swing, but he's expected to be a fixture in the Oakland outfield for years.
Mychael Urban is a national writer for MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.