It's that time of year again. That season that arouses excitement in some and leaves others in high dudgeon. It's MLB Draft season -- Monday June 8th, to be exact.
While some of us are excited by the idea of procuring the next Sonny Gray, others are surely thinking: Who the hell cares? We're going to trade them anyway. Sadly, you wouldn't be wrong expressing that sentiment. In fact, after trading Addison Russell and Billy McKinney -- wince -- to the Cubs last summer, only two first-round draft picks remain in the Athletics organization: Matt Chapman, last year's first-rounder, and the aforementioned Gray.
(Perhaps BB would have traded Chapman too if the current, now changed, rules didn't make it such a pain in the a** to do so. See: Trea Turner.)
That said, the next several years could be different. If you'll remember, it was four years of mediocrity between 2007 and 2011 that laid the foundation for two AL West crowns and last year's Wild Card berth. The AL West is stronger than ever and, if the A's are going to fully realize the work they began this offseason, some steps backward must be taken before they lay claim to the throne once again.
With that in mind, two of the industry's heavy-hitters weighed in on the upcoming draft. And, incidentally, both Keith Law (ESPN) and Jim Callis (MLB.com) agree the A's have strong interest in North Florida University outfielder Donnie Dewees.
Law included this brief capsule explaining the pick:
Oakland's been very heavy on Dewees of late, comparing him to Brett Gardner.
Based on his phrasing, it sounds like Mr. Law himself is not comparing Dewees to Garnder, but rather citing a source who did -- presumably one in Oakland's front office, but who knows how these games of telephone work?
Who is Donnie Dewees?
Dewees is a Florida native who starred as a three-sport athlete in high school (Football, Soccer, Baseball). Although he wasn't considered an elite baseball talent, it was clear almost immediately upon his arrival at North Florida that the Ospreys landed a special player. In 2013, his Freshman year, he hit .347/.429/.535 with five home runs and three stolen bases and earned all-conference honors. He missed most of his sophomore season with a broken wrist, taking a medical redshirt, but, upon his recovery, flourished in the Cape Cod league last summer. He earned league all star honors by slashing .340/.427/.473 with three home runs and 19 pilfers.
In 2015, he's taken another huge, somewhat unanticipated step forward. Before the season, no media outlet counted Dewees among it's top draft-eligible talents. In fact, Baseball America left Dewees off it's Top-100 college players entirely. To his detriment, Dewees is a 6-foot, 180-lbs speedster that's played against mostly inferior competition in the mid-major Atlantic-Sun Conference. To gain footing as a draft prospect, Dewees needed to set the world alight, which he's done. He leads NCAA Division-I baseball in slugging percentage (.763), hits (104), and runs (84); he's second in batting average (.432); and he's third in home runs (18). Overall, Dewees is slashing .432/.487/.763 with 18 home runs and 22 stolen bases in just 241 at-bats (as of May 21st). Also, for you plate discipline fanatics, he boasts an impressive 14/28 SO/BB ratio.
Note: The Atlantic Sun tournament is currently being televised on ESPN3, so you can watch Dewees yourself on either your computer or television. Here are some highlights from yesterday's game:
Dewees went 3-for-5 with a home run, two singles and a stolen yesterday, showing us his entire offensive package: power, speed, and contact. Both singles were infield hits and the home run was a no-doubter. Aesthetically, the Brett Gardner comparison fits. Like Gardner, he finishes his swing moving towards first base and shows surprising power for his size/style of hitting. The question, of course, is whether or not the power he's displayed against poor competition this year (the pitchers he faced in this game were chumpy) will show up in the theater of pro ball.
Which leads us to:
From Keith Law:
Dewees' feel for hitting is outstanding, with more than one scout saying he could have the best hit tool in the class because of his smooth swing and ability to go the other way. Dewees is also a plus runner who has a chance to stick in center field. Plus, he possesses fringe-average power.
Assuming Dewees can stay healthy, it wouldn't surprise me if he became a day-one prospect, one without elite upside but who could be a top-of-the-order hitter and move quickly through a system.
Hit: 45/60 Power: 40/40 Speed: 60/60 Defense: 50/55
Dewees has established solid credentials as a hitter. He has a compact swing, good bat-to-ball skills and a feel for the barrel. He doesn't project as a power hitter in the professional ranks, but he can drive the ball to all fields and is a plus runner. He tracks down balls well in the outfield, but he has well-below average arm strength. That may mean he will move to left field at the next level, which would put more pressure on his bat.
Our own: Jerry Brewer and Casey Hellman (AKA Guessatomo):
Overall, the reports are glowing. It sounds like Dewees could be a leadoff-type hitter who hits for high averages, steals bases and plays solid-average defense in center field. The biggest concern is the aforementioned arm strength, which could theoretically push him to a corner outfield spot. The Athletics, however, are no stranger to poor arms in center field -- ahem, Coco -- which could be one reason they're perceived as higher on him than the industry at large.