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Draft Tip For Fans: Don't Get Hung Up On "Scouting Profile"

Cliff Pennington has actually been one of the A's more successful recent first round draft picks.
Cliff Pennington has actually been one of the A's more successful recent first round draft picks.
Jeff Hanisch-USA TODAY Sports

He makes it to the big leagues to become a legitimate, if a bit erratic, everyday shortstop. As a hitter he doesn't have power and isn't a big offensive threat, but he has some tools, including speed, that give him some value in the lineup.

Just the profile doesn't tell you everything. I just described Elvis Andrus, currently in the early stages of an 8 year, $120M contract, and I just described Cliff Pennington, who is now a journeyman having carved out a useful but not exciting big league career.

Richie Martin

Richie Martin's profile is similar to the ones you could use to describe Andrus and Pennington, but the range of possibilities for Martin extends far beyond those two. A player of Martin's skill set and scouting report could become Pete Kozma or he could become one of dozens of prospects who wish they were Pete Kozma.

So as a fan, the question should not be "Did we want a draft pick with this apparent skill set?" The question should be "What version of that skill set are we going to get?"

In Martin, the A's appear to have drafted a player who is a true shortstop without a lot of power. That's about what we know at this point. He may or may not prove to have good pitch recognition, ability to handle offspeed pitches at a higher level, a consistent throwing arm, a coachable personality and strong work ethic, the ability to make adjustments, and so on.

If you like his swing, if you like his "mental makeup," if you like his arm, then you might see more Andrus than Kozma. If you see a slap hitter playing pepper with a shallow outfield, if you see a mechanically flawed swing or the inability to recognize a good changeup, then you might see a bust. It's the same "scouting profile" only a different outcome.

And let's face it: Andrus and Pennington are not as far apart as they appear to be. Both are legitimate shortstops prone to make too many errors on routine plays. Both lack power -- the main difference is that Andrus has juuuuuust enough more pop that outfielders have to play him more honest and that might boost his batting average, and with it his OBP and slugging, about .020 points.

The line between Andrus and Pennington, Pennington and Kozma, Kozma and Toolsy McBust? It's fine. They were all similar players on paper when they were drafted and then some developed to have a bit more pop, a little more consistency with the glove, could stay with breaking pitches a tad better, and so on.

Mikey White

The same applies to the A's 2nd round pick, Mikey White. His profile -- a good shortstop with a weak arm that may move him off the position, a smart and hard-working "good makeup" guy who overachieves without tremendous god-given ability -- is a bit reminiscent of David Eckstein.

For all that Eckstein tends to be the butt of jokes, he carved out for himself a solid big league career. Oakland would be lucky to select an actual Eckstein with the 63rd pick in a weak draft. So it's not that the A's scored by selecting the next Eckstein or that the A's erred by selecting a player with limited upside and a relatively low ceiling. It's that the A's selected someone of a certain profile and you have to hope they found the "good kind".

So my advice for the rest of this draft, analysis of the first two picks of this draft, and future drafts, is not to focus on the type of player selected or how that skill-set, or scouting profile, seems to match the level of the pick. Rather I would look at what iteration of that skill set and profile you think the A's have found. The good kind? Score! The bad kind? Oh well. That's the draft in a nutshell.