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Staturday: Draft Edition

Some readers of this site may have noticed that there has been quite a lot of activity surrounding a recent event, the 2008 Major League Rule 4 Draft. Although it is not typically accompanied with the same fanfare of the NFL or NBA’s draft, these two days in early June have more of an impact on the fate of our beloved franchise than virtually any other in sports. As such, loyal readers must forgive this author for taking a break from his ongoing series, Pitch, Blease, which, you need not worry, will be picked up in three weeks, to delve into some numbers surrounding the draft.

No, the topic has not yet been beaten to death. The numbers I will be exploring are very different from the extensive set provided by Taj Adib and others over the last two days. Instead of focusing on the players drafted, I will be looking at trends over the last few years and what that tells us about this class.

The data is courtesy of Baseball America and runs from 2005 through 2008. I would have preferred to go back a couple more years, but that is as far as they do and this author is lazy. In case anyone has become interested, Staturday is in search of an intern to help out in compiling the basic data that allows us to do our work.

Rounds 1 through 3
With their first pick, the team selected the super-athletic Jemile Weeks. The younger brother of Brewer second baseman Rickie and the child of two track stars played baseball for the U.

With the second pick, the team selected Tyson Ross, a converted infielder who is still learning to pitch. He has the athleticism of a shortstop who outgrew the position. If he were still playing the field, I would imagine he would be a top defensive right fielder (assuming he can catch the ball). Instead he will be king of the hill, throwing nasty sinking fastballs and a wicked slider at a very low minor league level and working on his mechanics, trying to bounce back from a disappointing season at the University of California.

Arizona State catcher, Petey Paramore finishes this year’s opening troika. He is a patient hitter with a line drive approach but a lack of homerun power. The polished soon to be pro is a defensive wiz behind the plate, with a quick and accurate, but average arm.

So we have a second baseman, a right handed pitcher and a catcher, each drafted after their junior year out of top tier colleges. How does that compare to the previous three years? As it turns out, fairly normally. Eleven of the sixteen picks the team has made in the first three rounds were college educated, six were pitchers and two were middle infielders. Paramore was the first catcher the team has taken in the first ten rounds over this period, though. Perhaps more importantly, all sixteen picks signed with the team.

Rounds 4 through 10
In the fourth round, the team went for Anthony Capra, a lefty starter from Wichita State. Many think his future is in the bullpen but he pretty much is what he is, a left with an average fastball, good control and good secondary stuff who should move quickly through the organization.

They followed that up with Jason Christian, the Michigan Wolverine’s shortstop. A nice combination of a sweet glove and a frame that could add some real muscle, he is someone I like a lot.

In the sixth round the team switched gears and went with junior college super athlete Tyreace House. The outfielder has not really learned how to play baseball yet, but if he does, this is a pick that could pay off in a big way.

In the seventh the team grabbed Brett Hunter, another high upside player, coming off a season wrecked by injuries at Pepperdine, The fireballing righty has electric stuff, with a plus-plus fastball and a nasty 12 to 6 curve but inconsistent command and mechanics that make scouts wonder if he can ever stay healthy.

The team rounded out the group with JC outfielder Jeremy Barfield, who features major league bloodlines and, apparently, a temper to match, JC catcher Mitchell LeVier and high school outfielder Rashun Dixon.

All told, it adds up to two pitchers, one from each side, a shortstop, a catcher and a trio of outfielders. Three went to college, three to JC and one was drafted out of high school.

The team definitely leaned much more heavily on the junior college ranks than is typical. Only once in the previous three years had the team drafted a junior college player this early. Chad Lee, a right handed pitcher from Barton Community College was drafted in the 4th round in 2006 but washed out quickly. He is the only player the team has selected with any of its first twenty picks over the previous three years. The entire draft was JC heavy, as the team selected seven, while only having pick 9 over the previous three years.

The team has signed 81% of its picks in this portion of the draft over the last three years, so there is a good chance one or two will not be starting their professional career with the A’s.

Rounds 11 through 20
11th Chris Berroa OF, Junior College
12th Zac Elgie 1b, High School
In the 13th the team took injured college RHP Daniel Thomas.
14th David Thomas OF, College OF
15th Nino Leja SS, High School
In the 16th, college RHP Matt Fitts, drafted for the second time out of Lewis-Clark State, but he is eligible to return.
In the 17th, college 3b Bradley Glenn who you can watch take on Weeks’ Hurricanes in the NCAAs.
18th, Rayan Gonzalez RHP, High School
19th Michael Hart RHP, College
In the 20th Rodney Rutherford 3b, College

That makes for a total of six college kids, one JC player and three high school players. Over the past three years the team has gone much more heavily towards college talent at this point of the draft, selecting at least eight each year.

The team has seen four of their thirty selections in this group return to school, so one or two from this group may be lost.

Rounds 21 through 30
21st Mathieu LeBlanc Porter RHP, Junior College
22nd Preston Guilmet RHP, College
23rd Chris Rusin LHP, College
24th Ken Smalley RHP, College
25th Trey Barham, College
26nd Ryan Doolittle RHP, Junior College
27th Brent Warren OF, High School
28th Dusty Coleman SS, College
29th Justin Murray RHP, College
30th Kevin Jernigan 2b, College

That makes seven college players, two JC, one HS and a total of seven pitchers. I would guess that this will surprise many, that this late in the draft the team is still drafting so many college players. Even more surprising, perhaps, is that the team actually usually drafts even more. The three non-college players the team drafted this year matched the number it had picked over the previous three combined.

The team managed to sign the exact same portion, four out of thirty, as they did with the previous group.

Rounds 31 through 40
31st Mickey Storey RHP, College
32nd Ben Hornbeck LHP, College
33rd Shawn Haviland RHP, College
34rd Riley Welch RHP, High School
35th Virgil Hill CF, Junior College
36th Jonathan Berti SS, High School
37th Ryan Doiron RHP, High School
38th Bobby Crocker OF, High School
39th Dennis Clement RHP, High School
40th Jeffrey Dennis LHP, College

That makes four college players, one JC, five HS and six pitchers. It is only at this point in the draft that the team typically turns away from college players and focuses on younger talents. Over the last three years, only 32% in this group have come out of college.

We should not focus too much on these guys, though, as the team typically only signs about 25% of the players it drafts this late. Of the seven that signed, four went to college, three to JC and none only to HS – this, despite more than half of the team’s picks being spent on high school players. Additionally, the team only signed one pick in the last half of the group over those three years.

Overall, this draft looks fairly typical – with a heavy emphasis on college talent, especially in the late rounds and a ton of pitchers selected. The team has also continued its recent trend of going after high upside, high risk picks in the middle rounds. That said, while it may not show up in these numbers, the team did seem to move more towards athleticism and raw tools than it has in the past.

This leaves the question of whether the team will continue to sign its picks at the same rate – whether it will be able to bring any of the seven high school kids, some of whom have very live arms, into the organization.

How the team answers that question, I suspect, will have a huge bearing on how AN ultimately feels about this draft.