John Sickels is one of the true experts in the media who covers the minor leagues extensively. He's also a draft guru and on the eve of Billy Beane's favorite day of the year, I decided to check in with the SB Nation MinorLeagueBall blogger on the A's outlook for tomorrow and Wednesday.
Enjoy...I wonder if Beane will be able to sleep tonight?
Blez: The A's don't have a first round pick this year. How do you think that will impact their drafting, if at all?
John Sickels: Well, sure, of course it will. But this is a fairly thin draft class, and there might not be much difference this season between a lot of the late first round picks and some of the third round picks in terms of quality. I don't think we'll see them change their approach too much.
Blez: Do you have any idea on some players they might be high on?
Sickels: Not specifically although if you use some logic you can get a read on who would likely interest Beane and his staff: players they think are undervalued. In previous years that has been polished college guys, but last year they added in some high school picks because they felt that the market had changed and that some of the high school guys were now the undervalued properties. My guess is that we will see them do a pretty typical mix of polished college guys but leavened with some of the more "projectable" types. I think people misundertand the whole "moneyball" thing. . .it isn't "only draft college players," it is "exploit the inefficiences of the market." If the market is undervaluing high school players this year, then I'd imagine that Oakland will lean in that direction.
Blez: If you had the A's pick, what players would you be watching closely to see if they slip to you?
Sickels: Well, let's see. Oakland picks 66th, 98th, 128th, and 158th. I think they would grab Adam Ottavino if he gets down that far, which he probably won't. You might see cold-weather college guys like Garrett Olson or Ben Snyder, who are potentially undervalued in the market this year. I think that cold-weather players in general are undervalued, and perhaps that is a market inefficiency that Oakland might try to exploit.
Blez: Last year, the A's went heavy on younger pitchers bucking the stereotype of them concentrating on college guys. Do you think they'll go back their college ways or stay young again given this talent pool?
Sickels: I think it will be a mixture.
Blez: How do you feel about the A's players taken in 2005? Lansford, Italiano and Buck seem to be the standouts so far. Will Pennington turn it around and what do you think his major problem is right now?
Sickels: I'm not sure what the deal with Pennington is, to be honest. The other guys all look solid to me so far. I like Italiano's ceiling a great deal.
Blez: Best A's pick from 2005?
Sickels: Well, ignoring the guys at the top of the draft and looking at the middle rounds, Jason Ray looks very interersting. He's got to cut down on the walks, but I love the K/IP, H/IP, and low home run rate. Looks like some potential there if his control comes around. Jeff Baisley is making a lot of noise but let's see what he does at higher levels.
Blez: What do you think of the A's drafts overall since the famous Moneyball draft?
Sickels: 2003 doesn't look very good right now, other than Ethier. 2004 looks better but the extra picks help of course. 2005 is too early to tell.
Overall, draft day is my favorite day in the baseball season, other than Opening Day itself.
In the mock draft we did at minorleagueball.com, the mock scouting director took Milton Loo, Matt Long, Cyle Hankerd, and Brad Mills with the first four Oakland picks. Loo turned out to have signed with the Reds at the last second out of junior college, which we didn't know until after the Mock Draft. But the basic concept that the Mock Scouting Director used seems sound to me: high ceiling but raw power hitter (Loo), followed by a polished college pitcher (Long out of Miami-Ohio), a solid college hitter with defensive questions that hurt his value (Hankerd out of USC), and another polished college hitter from a top-notch program (Mills from Arizona). Obviously the names won't be quite the same, but it seemed like a very Oaklandish approach to me: a possibly undervalued junior college guy, a guy with a strong bat but uncertain defense, and two polished pitchers who might be undervalued in a class long on hard throwers.