Yesterday, MLB completed the 1st and supplemental rounds of its 2012 amateur draft. While the Astros surprised the baseball world by taking Carlos Correa, the A's pulled off perhaps a greater surprise by taking high school position players with their first 3 picks. This is a massive departure from the A's MO, who hadn't picked a high school player with their first pick since Jeremy Bonderman in 2001. Here is some lowdown on these guys (some re-posts from yesterday's threads):
11. Addison Russell, SS, Pace HS (FL)
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.
Russell earned Juan Uribe comparisons last summer for his thick body, arm strength and power potential, as well as his profile as a player who will stick on the left side of the infield. Those comparisons no longer work physically, though, as he has lost at least 20 pounds and shaped up his physique considerably. Some scouts still think he will have to move to third, but most consider him a shortstop with soft hands, improved footwork and an above-average arm. Russell has bat speed and raw power, hindered by inconsistent swing mechanics. He's a tinkerer with his set-up and stance, and his swing can get long and loopy, leading to seven homers this spring but also a fairly modest .368 average. At other times, though, Russell will get locked in, wait on good breaking balls and make consistent, hard contact. Teams that have seen him on the right day as a shortstop with juice may buy the Boras Corp. client out of his Auburn scholarship.
Russell lost 25 pounds last offseason to give himself a better chance to stay at short while also allowing his quick-twitch athleticism to show through more easily. He has massive upside even at third base; while his hands, arm and actions are good enough to stick at short, his feet aren?t quite quick enough. Russell?s broad shoulders will eventually fill out and he?ll likely get back to the size he was last summer, which will still allow him to play an above-average third base.
His bat speed (some of the best in this draft) and explosive hips create plus present power with plus-plus projection. He has the raw tools to hit for average but had struggled with the bat after just OK showcase performances with wood bats. Russell barred (locked) his lead arm this spring and doesn?t show great feel to hit against the inferior pitching he?s faced. Scouts say if they?re going to bet on a guy improving at the plate, they want an athlete, and Russell is one of the best. He has a strong commitment to Auburn but likely will find a team in the first round willing to bring him into pro ball.
Russell helped his stock considerably this spring by showing up with a much thinner physique, with one scout saying, "he looks like a shortstop now." He's athletic with smooth actions and a plus arm, and he has the size and swing for at least average power potential and maybe a bit more, although it will likely come with a good share of strikeouts.
34. Daniel Robertson, SS, Upland HS (CA)
Robertson played three years at third base at the varsity level in high school before making the switch to shortstop his senior season to help out his team at Upland High School in Southern California. Kubota said the A's will likely keep him at shortstop for the time being but noted that "if he does have to go to third base, he has the chance to be a plus defender there."
The biggest gain, though, is his bat.
"His standout tool is his bat, just a very, very advanced high school bat," Kubota said. "He's got strength and power. We really, really like his bat."
The 6-foot-1, 185-pound Robertson posted a .560 average and .696 on-base percentage to go along with 36 RBIs, 41 runs and eight stolen bases as a senior. He tallied six home runs and 18 extra-base hits and has a scholarship to UCLA to consider.
Robertson was selected with the compensatory pick the A's received for the loss of Josh Willingham, who signed with the Twins. The short stop from Upland High School in California, hit .560 with six home runs and 31 RBI in 27 games this year. He struck out just six times.
"We think he can stay at short stop, he may have to go to third base," Kubota said. "His standout tool is his bat. He is a very, very advanced high school bat with strength and power. We think he has a chance if he has to go to third base to be a plus defender, an average defender at short stop. We just really like his bat."
Robertson is listed at 6-foot-0 and 190 lbs. and although the consensus is that he won't have the mobility to remain at shortstop, he has all the tools to develop into a standout defender at the hot corner thanks to his arm, instincts, and soft hands. He's projected to be a high-average hitter from the right side thanks to his quick bat and innate ability to get the barrel on the ball. Most of his power is into the gaps but Robertson has hinted at future power potential, so there's a chance he'll turn into a complete all-around hitter. He's earned the "gamer" tag for his all-out style of play and has drawn raves for his advanced approach, baseball acumen, and polish.
Robertson is always in attack mode on the field, especially at the plate. The ball jumps off of his bat, as he swings very hard, while keeping his head very quiet, throughout, even with the effort in his swing. He gets to a very good launch position, but does not always get through the ball to a high finish. He is short to the ball and stays inside well. At present he is more of a pull hitter with well above average raw power, while showing the ability to go the other way, getting on top of the ball well. He possesses well below average speed, but shows good baserunning skills.
47. Athletics: Matt Olson, 1B, Parkview HS (GA)
All about the bat for Vanderbilt commit. Nice LH swing built for average and power.
Olson, meanwhile, is a first baseman with a left-handed power bat from Parkview High School in Georgia. The Vanderbilt recruit, whose 6-foot-4 frame weighs in at 236 pounds, can hit for both average and power. He hit .353 with a .421 on-base percentage during his senior season.
"For us, one of the best high school bats in the country -- just a very skilled hitter with strength, and the power's going to come as he gets bigger and stronger," Kubota said. "We really feel good about his bat. We saw him hit home runs off two first-round pitchers this year."
A Vanderbilt commit, Olson is frequently lauded for his big power. Olson is very solidly built and has a smooth home run type swing. He only has average bat speed at best, and the ball does not really jump off of his bat, but he is short to the ball and has a surprisingly compact swing for a guy his size. He does not consistently square the ball up, but when he does, it most certainly goes. A good defensive first baseman, Olson has a strong arm, good feet and hands for a big man.
Personally, I love this strategy (if it is one) and hope it continues. Certainly, college pitchers like Sonny Gray and Mark Mulder before him can start in the high-minors and work their way up to the majors relatively quickly. Gray will likely be in the rotation next year, even. But, let's be honest here: pitching in the Coliseum is a huge advantage to the A's. Average pitchers can look far better than they actually are playing in front of huge foul territory and HR park factors that make power-hitters weep. Of course, it could be said that the A's should continue to draft and develop pitching, seeing as the A's are widely-known for this, and then trade those guys for an impact bat down the road. But, given the new realities of prospect-hoarding, and the projected value of prospects going forward, it stands to reason that a high-level bat would be hard to trade for.
Indeed, what the A's really lack are impact, superstar-potential bats in the minor leagues. And those types of players are the ones found in high school, not in college. The guys that can power their way to the majors at 21/22 and lift the A's offense above league-average. Am I saying that Russell et al are Justin Upton-level young superstars in the making? No, but this is a good start.
If you can't get enough draft, today, Rounds 2-15 will be streamed live on MLB.com, or you can use the draft following tools
Join me later tonight for a game thread. A's will attempt to silence the Rangers' bats again, this time under the command of Aussie #4 Travis Blackley. Did the A's already use up their weekly run allotment? Find out tonight - gametime is 7:05, thread will go up around 6:30.