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Draft Preview

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Kevin Goldstein, staff writer and general manager for BaseballAmerica.com, resident BA A's expert and all-around good guy decidedly to help us A's fans get a sneak peek at the upcoming amateur draft (June 7-8). Who might the green and gold be targeting? Who are will be a future A's star? Inquiring minds want to know and Kevin has the answers.

You wouldn't believe the prediction about who the A's might take in the first round.

Enjoy.

Blez: The A's don't have as many draft picks in the early rounds for once this year. Do you think it might alter their approach in who they decide to take, and by that I mean, will signability not play as much of a factor since they don't have as many early picks?

Kevin Goldstein: Well, they do have some extra picks this year, with the 36th overall pick in the supplemental first round, and the 53rd overall pick in the second round. So while it might not be the bounty that A's fans are used to, it's still four picks in the first two rounds, which is more than most teams have. That said, if you look at last year's draft, most of the players they picked got right around slot money, so while I don't think signability will be a huge issue for them, I also can't see them taking Scott Boras' guys (if they drop) for example. I would bet there won't be any reaches there, and all of the players that are drafted are taken where they belong based on talent.

Blez: Do you think that the A's have lightened their stance on taking high school players, especially watching his buddy DePodesta sort of reverting course a bit? If they have, which high school player would they bend the college-heavy philosophy for? How do you think their drafted philosophy has evolved in general since 2002?

Goldstein: I'm not sure DePodesta necessarily reverted his course - I think Depodesta arrived in Los Angeles and smartly recognized that the Dodgers scouting director, Logan White, is one of the best in the business and has an excellent track record, so he didn't mess with it. Like any good corporation would, White was empowered and trusted to do a good job, and if you look at their system, you can't argue with the track record. As far as Oakland is concerned, I'm not sure the A's have had a stance AGAINST taking high school players, as much as they have had a stance FOR taking college players. They took a high school player in the 4th round last year, for example. The A's are not nearly as dogmatic about things as most people think. As other teams have followed suit and become more college-oriented, the pendulum for finding that market efficiency may be slowly swinging back towards prep players, and I'd expect them to take more than their usual share of high school players this year. For example, they might even take a high school player in the first round this year. If you look at the college players who fit well into the A's philosophy, it has looks more and more like those players could be gone by the time we get to 21. One name that has been connected with the A's lately is San Diego prep outfielder John Drennen, who a lot of scouts have compared favorably to an existing Oakland player, Danny Putnam. Like Putnam, Drennen is a little undersized but has a good bat and excellent makeup. He's also from Rancho Bernardo High School, the same school that Putnam (and Hank Blalock) played at.

Blez: Will the A's pull another Jeremy Brown out of their hat? By that, I mean an unexpected pick.

Goldstein: Probably not. There were no big surprises in 2004 or 2003.

Blez: If you had to guess who the A's would take with their first three picks, who do you think they have targeted and what do you think they like about those players?

Goldstein: Two players that definitely seem like the kind of guys the A's would like in the first round are Arizona outfielder Trevor Crowe and Oregon State outfielder Jacoby Ellsbury. Crowe has put up some of the best numbers in college baseball this year (thanks in part to a very hitter-friendly ballpark), and provides speed and power at the top of the lineup. He also lacks any defensive home other than left field, though some think he could maybe play second base. Ellsbury is a Johnny Damon-like leadoff man who's really shot up the charts this year. Now the bad news - both have moved up quite a bit lately, and I don't think they're going to be there anymore at 21. Some college pitchers that might be around at 21 include lefty Brian Bogusevic from Tulane and righty Cesar Carillo of Miami. But again, I would not rule out them taking a high school player this year. So I'm willing to go out on a limb here, but I have to say beforehand than predicting the 21st, 36th, and 53rd pick in the draft is pretty much taking a shot in the dark, but let's have some fun.

1st round pick (21): John Drennen, Ranch Bernardo HS, San Diego

Supplemental 1st (36): Jed Lowrie, 2b, Stanford

First 2nd round pick (53): Jacob Marceaux, rhp, McNeese State

If I get two out of three, I'm moving to Vegas.

I'll even predict they take Tennessee third baseman Chase Headley before the end of the fourth round. Let me know if I win.

Blez: Are there any Huston Street's in this draft? You know, players who can come in and make an impact pretty quickly even picking where the A's do?

Goldstein: Well, as we've seen of late, players who can come in quickly are relievers. The two big ones in this draft are Criag Hansen of St. John's and Joey Devine of North Carolina State. I'm not sure the A's are interested in relievers early on this year, but those are the two guys. Hansen could go early in the first, and Devine should be gone before pick #50. The position player who could get to the majors quickest in probably Nebraska third baseman Alex Gordon, who could go as high as two to the Royals, and certainly won't make it past the first five picks.

Blez: Out of the past three drafts, which draft class do you think is the best for the A's and why?

Goldstein: Drafts are very difficult to grade until you have 3-5 years to see how these players develop. For example, right after the 2002 draft, we graded Toronto's draft as the best among all 30 teams. Today, I think we'd grade it as above average, but nowhere near the best. Looking at the A's recent drafts, I think it's pretty clear that 2001 is their best of the decade so far (Bonderman, Crosby and Dan Johnson). Just going on the last three, 2003 is obviously the most disappointing, and while the most famous draft class ever (2002) is a solid draft, it's by no means a great draft - especially considering the face that they had seven first round picks. I really think the 2004 draft was in many ways "Moneyball II" and will end up surpassing the 2002 class fairly quickly. The big league squad is already getting a contribution from Huston Street, and I really like Robnett, Suzuki, Windsor and Webb.

Thanks, Kevin, AN greatly appreciates your insight.