The 2016 MLB Draft begins on Thu., June 9, meaning it is less than two weeks away. After a poor 2015 season, the Oakland A's will have the No. 6 overall pick, plus two more in the top 50 (Nos. 37 and 47), which means that the draft will be just a bit more interesting than it has been the last few summers.
Let's get warmed up by taking a look at some recent drafts. We'll look at who the A's picked, what kinds of trends they may have followed in their selections, and also how much success the players are having in the pros. Today we're looking at 2013, and you can see the previous years' summaries linked below:
As a quick refresher, the A's entered this draft riding a two-year streak of nailing their top pick -- first Sonny Gray, and then Addison Russell. Otherwise, though, those drafts had little in common, as in 2011 they focused exclusively on college players before going heavy on high-upside teenagers in 2012. Furthermore, the 2011 class has largely flopped, while the 2012 class has already produced a few MLB players and could still yield a few more. Let's see what they did the next year!
(Notes: Pinder* was selected using a Competitive Balance pick at the end of the 2nd round, and Kohler^ was selected using a comp pick received for failing to sign 2012 3rd-rounder Kyle Twomey. Level and Team refer to current 2016 status. Players in italics did not sign.)
|R#||Player||Pos||C/HS||Level||Team||Coulda had ...|
|1||Billy McKinney||OF||HS||AA||ChC||Sean Manaea|
|2||Dillon Overton||LHP||C||AAA||Oak||Chad Pinder?|
|2*||Chad Pinder||SS||C||AAA||Oak||Casey Meisner?|
|3^||Chris Kohler||LHP||HS||-||Oak||Cody Bellinger|
|4||Dylan Covey||RHP||C||AA||Oak||Tony Kemp|
|5||Bobby Wahl||RHP||C||AA||Oak||Matt Boyd|
|6||Kyle Finnegan||RHP||C||AA||Oak||Jake Bauers|
|7||Dustin Driver||RHP||HS||A||Oak||Kendall Graveman|
|8||Tyler Marincov||OF||C||AA||Oak||Chad Girodo|
|9||Matt Stalcup||LHP||C||A+||Oak||Zack Godley|
|10||Jerad Grundy||LHP||C||-||-||Chad Green|
|11||Lou Trivino||RHP||C||A+||Oak||Trevor Clifton?|
|12||Dakota Freese||RHP||C||-||-||Sicnarf Loopstok!|
|13||Justin Higley||OF||C||A||Oak||Mike Yastrzemski|
|14||James Lomangino||RHP||C||-||-||Cody Ege|
|15||Edwin Diaz||SS||HS||A||Oak||Matt Marksberry|
|16||Junior Mendez||RHP||C||-||-||Jonah Arenado|
|20||Lana Akau||C||HS||A+||Oak||Jose De Leon|
The draft went a total of 40 rounds. Here are the A's picks after No. 20 who signed and are still active in pro ball:
24th round: RHP Kevin Johnson is a reliever for the Single-A Beloit Snappers.
28th round: 2B Joe Bennie is in the everyday lineup for the High-A Stockton Ports.
Best MLB players in overall draft so far: Kris Bryant, Kendall Graveman, Chi Chi Gonzalez, Corey Knebel
Bryant (1R, #2) and Gonzalez (1R, #23) were off the board before the A's ever picked. Graveman ended up in Oakland anyway, though at a high price.
Baseball America Top 100 prospects from overall draft so far: The number before their name is their place on the Top 100. After their name is the round they were drafted in, and then their exact pick if they're from the first two rounds. The A's top picks were Nos. 24, 63, and 71.
6. J.P. Crawford (1R, #16)
22. Austin Meadows (1R, #9)
23. Jose De Leon (24R)
37. Jon Gray (1R, #3)
43. Ryan McMahon (2R, #42)
44. Clint Frazier (1R, #5)
45. Tim Anderson (1R, #17)
48. Sean Manaea (1R, #34)
54. Cody Bellinger (4R)
60. Aaron Blair (1R, #36)
62. Christian Arroyo (1R, #25)
76. Aaron Judge (1R, #32)
77. Braden Shipley (1R, #15)
78. Jake Bauers (7R)
79. Dominic Smith (1R, #11)
86. Hunter Renfroe (1R, #13)
96. Andrew Knapp (2R, #53)
Of these 17 prospects, eight were off the board before the A's picked at all. Six more were gone before they picked Overton in the 2nd round.
The top pick
For the second straight year the A's gambled on a high school hitter in the 1st round, using the No. 24 pick on Billy McKinney and prying him away from a commitment to TCU. At the time he was a somewhat unexpected selection, but not a disappointing one. The top pundits generally liked his swing and were optimistic about his offensive future, but they also noted that there weren't any other strengths in his game and that he'd have to keep hitting well in order to make it. He was drafted as a CF but was generally expected to move to a corner (which he has done, as he's played primarily RF the last two years).
The jury is still out on McKinney. He made it to Double-A last season a few months before his 21st birthday, which is an impressive beginning to his career. He's off to a slow start there this year (91 wRC+), but he's ahead of the game overall and there is plenty of time for him to pan out. This pick hasn't officially worked out yet, but in no way has he busted either. He even made Top 100 lists in spring of 2015, and all he's done since is succeed and get promoted.
Beyond that we have to wait and see how McKinney's career goes. Even if you think he was a reach and could have been had in the 2nd round, though, it still might have been worth taking him this early. If he'd slipped to the 2nd then he likely would have just gone to college, so picking him early was probably the only way to actually sign him. At this point his success matters little to the A's, since he's been traded away, but if he works out then he'll be the third straight A's 1st-rounder to do so.
(Click here for the A's official story at the time, including quotes from Director of Scouting Eric Kubota.)
Top pick traded away, again
We're going to digress for just a moment. I'm strictly concerned with the quality of the A's draft choices, and the quality of their subsequent trades is not a reflection of those choices. But one way to look at this draft is that the A's simply selected a trade chip with their first pick during a win-now window, so let's do a quick thought experiment to see what they got for that chip.
McKinney was shipped to the Cubs with Addison Russell in the Sharknado 1 trade, a deal that I still support overall. The A's wouldn't have reached the 2014 postseason without it (irrelevant that they then lost the playoff crapshoot), and they later replaced the main thing they gave up (Russell) by flipping the big-name rental (Shark, for Marcus Semien).
Here's some theoretical math, using the transitive property. The A's got Shark in one trade, and then sent him away in another; remove him as the middleman, and see how the two deals look against each other. In Sharknado 1 the A's gave up Russell, McKinney, and Dan Straily. They also got Jason Hammel for the final two months of the year, whose value can be included in the abstract concept of "a 2014 postseason invite." In Sharknado 2, they got back Semien, Josh Phegley, Chris Bassitt, and Rangel Ravelo. They also gave up Michael Ynoa, but I'm excluding him because frankly he's not a relevant prospect (currently a decent Triple-A reliever).
First, cancel out Russell and Semien. There is a good chance that both shortstops will provide similar value over their six cost-controlled seasons (2015-20), as Russell has the higher ceiling but Semien is already closer to his prime and is currently the superior hitter. If you still give the edge to Russell, then include the value of the (sadly ill-fated) 2014 postseason invite to balance the scales. Next, cancel out backend starting pitchers Straily and Bassitt; the former has had ups and downs, though he's currently succeeding in the NL, and the latter is almost certainly more talented but is missing this year due to TJS.
That leaves McKinney for Phegley and Ravelo. A solid-upside lotto ticket, in exchange for a quality MLB role player and a similar but lower-upside lotto ticket. I think that if the A's made that trade today, we'd probably consider it a win.
The rest of the top picks
First, let's begin with a quote from the comments of the 2013 draft open thread:
"I really want Sean Manaea, but I can't see a situation where it works. If he's healthy, he'll be taken too early. If he's not, he's not worth it at 24." - danmerqury
Billy Beane, hire this man! (To be fair, danbot wasn't the only one calling for Manaea. To be fair, danbot wasn't the only one calling for Manaea.)
Okay, on to the rest of the top picks. Here's one way of illustrating how well the A's did in what was considered by pundits to be a weak year for the draft:
Of @JonathanMayoB3's top 100 draft prospects, the A's ended up with #30, #34, #49, #59, #68, #71, and #84.— Ken Arneson (@kenarneson) June 8, 2013
The names attached to those numbers were, in order: Wahl, McKinney, Pinder, Driver, Covey, Overton, Kohler. To put that into context, their fourth pick was No. 100 overall, so they really maximized their mid-round selections. There were reasons -- Kohler and Driver had signability concerns, and Covey probably fell in part due to his diabetes.
There were concerns about Overton's velocity, and of course now we know it was because he needed TJS. The velocity never returned but he has succeeded nonetheless. Pundits didn't think Pinder would stick at SS, which he still might not, but his bat has developed as well as (or even slightly better than) anyone had hoped; the question was if he would hit enough to stick at 3B if he had move, and so far the answer is somewhere between "possibly" and "probably." Healy's stock is rising like a rocket this year. On the downside, Kohler and Driver have barely pitched due to injury; with every year that goes by, it gets less likely that their untapped potential will ever be realized. Wahl is a reliever now.
In contrast to the 2012 draft class, which has lost many players to trades, the next 10 picks after McKinney are still in the system. joined by another eight late-round picks. Here are their current MiLB levels:
Triple-A: Overton, Pinder, Healy, Brugman
Double-A: Covey, Wahl, Finnegan, Marincov, Bragg
High-A: Stalcup, Trivino, Akau, Bennie
Single-A: Driver, Higley, Diaz, Johnson
None of them have made MLB yet, but that's not surprising -- it's only been three years, and only a handful of 2013 draftees have debuted for any team. To this point, just having made it to Triple-A is good news, as there are plenty of ways a draftee (even a 1st-rounder) can stall out before that point. After McKinney, the A's next three picks have already reached the top of the minors, and Overton in particular looks like a lock to at least make MLB sometime in the next 12 months. Healy is off to a fast start after his recent promotion. Pinder was off to a slow start in Triple-A after earning the MVP award in his Double-A league last year, but he's picked up the pace in May.
Here's where the top guys rank within the A's system on our preseason Community Prospect List (note: Healy would be several spots higher if we re-voted today):
Trend: Best Player Available
Not only do I love how this draft class is working out so far, I also love the process that seemed to go into it. There was once a time when the A's probably preferred certain types of prospects, such as college over high school, but if that time existed then I think it has passed. You don't show up with four top-100 selections and score seven of the top-100 pre-draft names without being committed to taking the Best Player Available as your primary consideration. Director of Scouting Eric Kubota said exactly that at the time:
"I've always said that we take the best player on our board, regardless of class," A's scouting director Eric Kubota said. "Certainly there was a long stretch where we favored college players, but I never thought it was a conscious effort not to take high-school players. It's just that the way the board has fallen the last few years that it's worked out that way."
But even though it may not have been on purpose, I like this general strategy for a year when the team picks so late in the first round: Use your top pick on a high-ceiling high schooler, and then hedge your bets with some safe, polished college guys in the next few rounds. You get to shoot for the kind of impact superstar that Oakland can usually only get through the early parts of the draft, but if he doesn't pan out then you still have a dependable portfolio of advanced, higher-floor guys to fall back on.
At the risk of counting our chickens before they hatch, it's impossible to be anything but happy with this draft class. Most of the best options (Bryant, Crawford, etc.) were off the board before the A's had a chance at them. Their 1st-rounder is on track to panning out, their top mid-rounders are as well, and they scored a possible late-round gem (Brugman). And finally, arguably their two biggest misses (Manaea and Graveman) found their ways to Oakland via trade anyway.
Current Grade: B+ ... Their top four picks in a weak draft year are all in the upper minors and have good chances to make MLB. If two of them do then they keep this grade, if a third makes it then they get an A-, and if all four make it (or three plus a later pick like Brugman) they get a straight A.
Next time we'll look at the 2014 draft class.