Last week, Kevin Goldstein, staff writer and general manager of BaseballAmerica.com provided insight prior to baseball's amateur draft. At the time, he felt like the A's could be leaning more towards high school players than ever before. It turns out he is in possession of quite a crystal ball.
Now, Goldstein returns to provide some insight on some of our newest Oakland Athletics.
Blez: First, I guess judging from our last talk, you were quite right about the pendulum of
opportunity swinging back toward high school players, at least from Oakland's view. How
would you grade the 2005 amateur draft for the Oakland Athletics?
Goldstein: Well, that's such a very very hard thing to do. We do our draft report cards at the end of the season - and even then, it's very forward looking. Realistically, one needs two, three even four years to adequately grade a draft. That said, I'll give in a B or a B- or so. It's above average, but not stunning.
Blez: Do you think the strength of the Oakland farm system gave them the flexibility to draft some players who might be a little further away than the typical college kids they draft?
Goldstein: I think it's a combination of a number of factors really. First is what we talked about earlier - with more teams going the college route, high school players drop down and offer a greater return on investment. In addition, if you look at the Oakland system right now, there's not a whole lot of YOUNG talent around. Kane County for example, is not exactly prospect-laden, nor would I expect their two short-season teams to be. This allows them to fill in the talent there for the next two years, and kind of balance the system out a bit
if you will.
Blez: There's been some concern expressed over signing a lot of the players the A's drafted. Do you think they'll be able to secure the majority of these players?
Goldstein: I do. They only real signability issue I see would be Justin Smoak with the 16th round pick, but I think the chance of getting him is certainly worth the shot. If they somehow
sign him, it's an inspired selection.
Blez: How good do you think Pennington will be and how quickly do you think he'll get to the
Goldstein: I think it's a solid pick, and a very safe pick, very much in line with the types of
players Oakland has coveted in the last few years. He already has solid tools across the
board, and everything about his game is accentuated by fantastic makeup and excellent
baseball instincts. If I were to nitpick the selection, I'd just question his ceiling.
I'm not sure he projects as a star, but the chances of him becoming a very solid major
leaguer are very good. But he makes good contact, is a good runner, a good fielder, draws
walks, and has gap power. There's a lot to like there.
Blez: Which pitcher has the best chance of being a plus starter in the majors? Who has the
best stuff of any pitcher the A's drafted?
Goldstein: Best chance of being a plus starter: Jared Lansford
Best stuff: Craig Italiano
Blez: Can you give me a quick recap of their first four picks and what your feeling is on those players?
Goldstein: Well, I touched on Pennington earlier, so lets do the next four.
Buck: Again, a very 'old-school' A's pick. He did have a slightly off year this season
(especially in terms of power) statistically, but was also getting pitched around quite a
bit. He's a very good hitter who makes consistent hard contact, and could grow into some
power as he adjusts to wood. The biggest concern for Buck is his defense. He's probably
limited to left field, as he's been pretty bad when tried in the infield and has a
Italiano: I really like this pick. Italiano had the best velocity of any high school arm
in the draft, consistently touching 97-98. He also has a very good slider. The reason a
high school arm like that does NOT go in the first round are mechanics. Italiano
short-arms the ball, so people worry about his durability, but I think there's a chance
Oakland could work him into a lights-out reliever.
Lansford: This was also interesting, as the A's announced him as a righthanded pitcher
when they selected him. That's significant, because Jared's father (former A's 3B Carney
Lansford) made it pretty clear that he wanted his son to be considered only as a position
player (he plays 2B, and is a good hitter), or he'd go to college. Most scouts preferred
him as a pitcher, and I'm guessing that the A's are maybe the only team for which Carney
would let his son sign as a pitcher.
Mazzaro: Am I really writing about the third straight high school pitcher taken by the A's
before the third round? Wow. Good stuff, good body - only concern is his motion (he throws
well across his body), but a solid pick at #101.
Blez: And finally, any players taken later in the A's draft that you think could be a
surprise major leaguer?
Goldstein: My sleeper would be Smoak, but he's far more talented than your average 16th round pick, and he's more than likely going to college. As for players more realistically entering the A's system, gimme Jason Ray, a bit of a late bloomer (he didn't start pitching until his sophomore year) who already touches 96 and has a very fresh arm.
Thanks, Kevin! AN truly appreciates your time.