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Oakland A's 2015 draft review: Richie Martin, Dakota Chalmers, and maximizing your bonus pool

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Kyle Terada-USA TODAY Sports

The 2016 MLB Draft begins on Thu., June 9, meaning it is just a few days 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 2014, and you can see the previous years' summaries linked below:

2011 draft review
2012 draft review
2013 draft review
2014 draft review

As a quick refresher, the A's entered this draft having done pretty well for themselves the previous four years. Their 2007-10 drafts were weak all-around, returning only a small handful of major leaguers with Tyson Ross looking like the most valuable player overall. But 2011 brought Sonny Gray, 2012 featured Addison Russell and a few role players, the 2013 class is sitting at Triple-A and poised to break out, and Matt Chapman gives the 2014 class a good chance at landing its own star. Let's see what they did the next year!

(Note: The "Coulda had" section is gone because it's too early to know yet who Oakland coulda had. Instead, there are a couple key stats at the player's current level -- for hitters, their league-adjusted wRC+ and their walk and K rates; for pitchers, their ERA and K/BB rate, and either an SP for starter or RP for reliever. Hitter stats are thru Sat., pitcher stats thru Sun. "Ext Spr Tr" stands for Extended Spring Training, meaning the player is in the organization but not currently on one of the full-season affiliates. "Level" and "Team" refer to current 2016 status.)

R# Player Pos C/HS Level Team (wRC+, BB%, K%) or (ERA, K/BB)
1 Richie Martin SS C A+ Oak Only 9 games played
2 Mikey White SS C A+ Oak 63 wRC+, 6.8% BB, 28.7% Ks
3 Dakota Chalmers RHP HS - Oak Ext Spr Tr
4 Skye Bolt OF C A Oak 95 wRC+, 9.8% BB, 20.3% Ks
5 Kevin Duchene LHP C - Oak Ext Spr Tr
6 Bubba Derby RHP C A+ Mil SP: 4.27 ERA, 3.1 K/BB
7 Kyle Friedrichs RHP C A+ Oak SP: Only 2 games played
8 Nick Collins C C A Oak 74 wRC+, 5.6% BB, 19.7% Ks
9 Jared Lyons LHP C A Oak RP: 1.74 ERA, 3.5 K/BB
10 Steven Pallares OF C - Oak Ext Spr Tr
11 James Terrell OF HS - Oak Ext Spr Tr
12 Chris Iriart 1B C A Oak 134 wRC+, 10.2% BB, 26.2% Ks
13 Brett Siddall OF C A Oak 120 wRC+, 10.7% BB, 15.0% Ks
14 Boomer Biegalski RHP C A Oak SP: 3.00 ERA, 3.7 K/BB
15 Ryan Howell 2B C A Oak 114 wRC+, 14.4% BB, 23.0% Ks
16 Dustin Hurlbutt RHP C A Oak RP: Only 1 game played
17 Brent Wheatley RHP C - - -
18 Brett Sunde C C - Oak Ext Spr Tr
19 Seth Brown OF C A+ Oak 104 wRC+, 14.2% BB, 21.6% Ks
20 James Naile RHP C A Oak SP: 3.35 ERA, 2.9 K/BB
21 Andrew Tomasovich LHP C A Oak RP: 7.90 ERA, 0.9 K/BB
22 Brady Bramlett RHP C - - -
23 Eric Senior OF HS - - -
24 Heath Bowers RHP C - Oak Ext Spr Tr
25 Evan Manarino LHP C A Oak SP: 1.46 ERA, 7.0 K/BB
26 Jordan Devencenzi C C A Oak Only 6 games played
27 Xavier Altamirano RHP C - Oak Ext Spr Tr
28 Marc Berube RHP C A Oak Hasn't yet played
29 Armando Ruiz RHP C A Oak RP. 6.38 ERA, 1.1 K/BB
30 Brendan Butler RHP C - Oak Ext Spr Tr
31 John Gorman RHP C - Oak Ext Spr Tr
32 Michael Murray RHP C A Oak SP: Only 2 games played
33 Mike Martin OF C A Oak Only 2 games played
34 Shane Conlon 1B C - Oak Ext Spr Tr
35 Tim Proudfoot SS C - Oak Ext Spr Tr

The draft went a total of 40 rounds, but as is normal for all teams the A's didn't sign their picks from Rounds 36-40.

Regarding the players listed at Extended Spring Training: Pallares and Altamirano played for Single-A Beloit until late May, but both were demoted after poor performances. Duchene had the beginning of his season delayed for vague injury reasons. In general, these players are waiting for the short-season Low-A Vermont Lake Monsters or the Rookie League AZL A's to start playing, at which point we will see most or all of them in action.

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. The A's top picks were Nos. 20, 63, and 97.

15. Andrew Benintendi (1R, #7)
17. Dansby Swanson (1R, #1)
40. Brendan Rodgers (1R, #3)
42. Alex Bregman (1R, #2)
49. Trent Clark (1R, #15)
61. Kyle Tucker (1R, #5)
69. Dillon Tate (1R, #4)
70. Carson Fullmer (1R, #8)
71. Brady Aiken (1R, #17)
74. Daz Cameron (1R, #37)
80. Tyler Jay (1R, #6)
84. Kolby Allard (1R, #14)
87. Ian Happ (1R, #9)
88. Cornelius Randolph (1R, #10)
98. Tyler Stephenson (1R, #11)

As you can see, draft position is by far the primary driver in the preseason rankings for this draft class, which makes sense. They've barely played in the pros, so nothing much has changed since they were drafted last year. The only exception is Daz Cameron, a high schooler who slipped specifically because of signability; the Astros were able to nab him relatively late because they had a massive bonus pool to play with and they were able to save money on other picks to give to him. Overall, the best of the bunch so far this season might be Bregman -- he's a shortstop in the Double-A Texas League with significantly better numbers than Matt Chapman.

This draft class is still getting its feet wet in the pros, so let's ignore what the other teams did and just look at how the A's picks are doing in the early going.

The top pick

In the so-called Year of the Shortstop, the A's were one of eight teams to take a shortstop in the first round. They used the No. 20 pick on Richie Martin out of Florida. Like in the last couple years with Billy McKinney and Matt Chapman, the pick of Martin could be seen as a bit of a reach, but unlike those guys he was at least a likely 1st-rounder. The response to his pick was favorable in our Open Thread, and the other guy many people wanted ended up going one spot before him anyway. His pre-draft ranks from the big boards of a few top sources:

BA: 29th
MLB: 34th
Law: 75th

Martin's calling card was his defense at short, which is expected to be good enough for him to play the position in the bigs. The question is how much he can hit to go along with it, though as Andy Parrino has taught us there is always a need for strong glovework at SS even if you can't hit a lick. At the plate he profiled as a top-of-the-order type with gap power, good speed, and good plate discipline. Here's a thorough bio from Baseball America, as well as our own writeup from Spencer Silva.

After the draft, Martin debuted at short-season Low-A Vermont. He held his own with a 112 wRC+ in 51 games, which lies in the range of "not notably awesome and not notably bad." His 2016 season didn't start until May 23 due to a torn meniscus in his knee, but he's back on the field now and off to a strong start -- in his first eight games, he's already homered and has a 141 wRC+ (10-for-31, 3 BB, 3 Ks). His career is still in its infancy, and he's already dealt with his first extended injury absence, but so far he looks like a perfectly good mid-1st-round pick.

The rest of the top picks

Like in the previous two years, the A's were able to grab more top-100 talent than they had top-100 picks. The rankings of their 2nd-thru-4th-rounders (BA, MLB, Law):

White (No. 63 pick): 68th, 64th, 63rd
Chalmers (No. 97 pick): 32nd, 33rd, 40th
Bolt (No. 128): 96th, 67th, NR

White went right where he was supposed to, down to the exact pick on Law's big board. Bolt brought talent and question marks and slipped accordingly. The big get, though, was Chalmers, a 1st-round talent who slipped due to signability but agreed for early-2nd-round money.

None of these guys have played enough pro ball yet to tell us much. White, the safe college infielder, was fast-tracked up to High-A but isn't hitting much yet; Chalmers, the high school pitcher, is still only 19 and hasn't pitched above Rookie Ball; and Bolt's season at Single-A has been interrupted by a couple of DL stints. We'll have to wait and see how they do, but for now they look like a promising and varied group of talent and a good haul for a team that didn't have great draft position. Once again, the A's seem to have gotten the most they could out of the picks they were given.

For more on each player, check out Prospect Watch from Sept.

Minor league levels

As you would expect, most of the 2015 class is still in the system. A total of 31 of them are still here, out of the 32 draftees they signed. That includes 15 of their top 16 picks. Here are their minor league levels:

High-A: Martin, White, Friedrichs, Brown
Single-A: Bolt, Collins, Lyons, Iriart, Siddall, Biegalski, Howell, Hurlbutt, Naile, Tomasovich, Manarino, Devencenzi, Berube, Ruiz, Murray, Martin
Unassigned: Chalmers, Duchene, Pallares, Terrell, Sunde, Bowers, Altamirano, Butler, Gorman, Conlon, Proudfoot

This arrangement is pretty normal. Only the very top members of this class have made it to Double-A already, so it makes sense that Oakland doesn't have anyone there yet. The A's have their top two picks at High-A along with a couple more advanced guys from the middle rounds, and the rest of the class is either getting started in Single-A or waiting for a short-season affiliate to get going.

At High-A Stockton, Brown has put up a league-average line so far. At Single-A Beloit, the standouts have been Iriart, Siddall, Biegalski, and Manarino. But of course, everything can change over the next couple years as these players develop.

Derby traded

Only one member of this class has been traded so far, and that is the 6th-rounder, Bubba Derby. He was shipped to Milwaukee as a complementary piece (along with higher-profile prospect Jacob Nottingham) in the deal for Khris Davis. Athletics Nation quickly fell in love with his name (Bowdien "Bubba" Derby), and he put up ridiculous numbers in his pro debut at Low-A Vermont, but the reality is that he's another mid-round lotto ticket like the rest of these guys and the A's included him in a swap for a real-life big leaguer who currently leads the club in homers and ranks top-10 in the entire AL. That's tangible MLB production from a guy with long-term team control.

Derby's departure made the draft class a little less fun, but there are plenty of other names to watch in this group. If he happens to be the one who pans out then that'll just be bad luck; the Davis trade was still a shrewd move to acquire quality MLB talent. For his part, he's not lighting up High-A like he did Low-A -- his peripherals are still good, but he's been far more hittable and his 4.27 ERA is merely pedestrian.

Trend: Maximize the bonus pool

With the way the draft is set up right now, the key to the game is finding ways to make the most of your bonus pool. Each pick has a recommended bonus amount tied to it, and the key is to keep the sum of all those bonuses below your total allotted pool. Exceeding that bonus pool brings penalties. In 2015, the A's went slightly over their pool, but not enough to bring any noteworthy punishment -- that's good because it means they didn't pass up the chance to spend as much as they could on the draft, which is just about the cheapest and most efficient way to add talent.

There's more to maximizing your bonus pool than just spending it, though. By picking certain players at certain times, the A's have been able to add more top talent than their draft position should theoretically allow. Here's how they did it in 2015:

- Their 1st-rounder, Martin, was a slight reach but belonged in the 1st round and signed slightly under slot. White, a legit 2nd-rounder, also signed a bit under. Between those two, the A's were able to save $350K.
- With their 5th-thru-8th picks, they saved another $250K by getting guys just slightly under slot.
- With their 9th and 10th picks, they signed guys for the minimum and saved another $300K.
- All those savings went into the 3rd and 4th rounds. Chalmers was a 1st-round talent who slipped to the 3rd specifically because he'd be expensive to sign, but the A's had plenty of leftover money to give him the seven-figure bonus he wanted. Bolt was maybe a 2nd-round talent who settled for 3rd-round money. The A's went about $825K over on those two, without sacrificing any quality in their top two picks, and mostly by going cheaper later on in the middle later. In that way, they ended up with arguably two 1st-round types and two 2nd-round types.

With their three top-50 picks this year, the A's bonus pool will be nearly twice as big as it was in 2015. That gives them even more flexibility with which to allot that money however it can bring in the most top talent. As mentioned above, the Astros also did a great job of this last year, thanks to having two top-5 selections.

Conclusion

It's far too early to draw any conclusions about this draft. We have no idea how these prospects will pan out, so all we can do yet is judge the wisdom of the picks and the soundness of the thought process. It appears the A's front-loaded their draft, choosing to do the most they could with their top four picks at the slight expense of the later rounds, and that seems like an excellent strategy. Quality drops significantly as you get deeper into the middle rounds, so your odds of finding a  keeper are much better if you put everything behind finding an extra 1st-round talent who slipped (like Chalmers) rather than finding the best darn 9th-rounder out there.

Current grade: B ... Oakland ended up with four top-100 guys on three top-100 picks, which is a great start. There are interesting sleepers from the middle-to-late rounds as well. And that's about all we can say so far. I refrained from a B+ because two of those top four picks have already had DL stints, which isn't really the A's fault but is still not an ideal way to start their careers.