Oakland will probably still be building their Draft Board when you read this and every team is engaged in discussions with potential draftees to determine price point; cost is a huge factor in the MLB Draft, as a team might end up selecting a less talented player who'll agree ahead of time to a below-slot bonus. This frees up funds that can be used later in the draft to sign another player who'll require an above slot bonus.
Will the A's attempt this strategy? That remains to be seen, but based on the current rumors Oakland seems intent on drafting the Best Player Available (BPA) at #6 and that player will likely require the entire $4+ million signing bonus assigned to the 6th spot of the draft. These are the players who have been most strongly linked to Oakland at this point of the draft process, as reported by Baseball America, Scout.com and MLB.com. I'll list them in the order they appear on MLB.com's Top 200 Draft rankings, as the BA and Scout rankings are located behind pay walls.
Jason Groome: LHP, Barnegat H.S. (NJ)
Many sources consider Groome the #1 prospect in the country. The reason why he might be available to Oakland at #6 is due to concern about drafting prep school pitchers in general. There is a lot of risk involved when taking a HS pitcher, especially early in the draft. The reward can be substantial, Clayton Kershaw (#7 overall in 2006) is a prime example, but a recent Baseball America article noted that nearly half of the High School LHPs selected first among their peer group failed to reach the majors. This makes HS lefties the most volatile of all draft groups.
Still, the 6'6" Groome sits 90-94 with his fastball, maxing out at 96 and can spin a tight curveball while flashing an average change-up making him a potential Top of the Rotation (TOR) SP. He faced a 30 day suspension due to transfer shenanigans that saw Groome spend his Junior year pitching in Florida and then coming home (to his parents' house) to spend his Senior year in New Jersey. A Vanderbilt commitment gives him plenty of leverage and it would take at least the full $4.069 million slot allotment to get him to sign.
Kyle Lewis: OF, Mercer College
The 20-year-old Junior has some of the best power available in the Draft. He faced early concerns about some swing-and-miss in his game but he's eased those worries by posting a 66/48 BB/K rate in 301 PA. There are legit concerns about the level of competition he faced but he dominated the Southern Conference to the tune of .395/.535/.731 and fared well when Mercer faced higher ranked teams.
He has bat speed and at least average tools across the board. Some scouts think he can stay in CF but the larger opinion is that he ends up in RF; I've heard some Jermaine Dye comps. Oakland has made adding RH power a clear priority as evidenced by the Butler signing and Khris Davis trade. Lewis has also been linked to the Phillies and Braves, so there's a very good chance he's off the board by the time Oakland picks.
Mickey Moniak: OF, La Costa Canyon H.S. (CA)
Baseball America and MLB.com consider the 18-year-old Moniak the best prep bat in the country. BA even goes so far as to rate his hit tool and strike zone judgement to be among the best in the high school draft class. The power is considered below-average, but those who believe in him think he'll get stronger and could hit 12-15 HR in the Show. He has above-average speed that combined with his instincts makes him one of the best defensive CF prospects in the draft.
He's committed to UCLA but it's doubtful he spends a day in class. A lot of mock drafts have Moniak going to Colorado at #4 but I haven't heard anything directly linking them to anyone. It's said they'd prefer a college arm but with A.J. Puk likely off the board by the time they pick they are a total wildcard.
Nick Senzel: 3B, University of Tennessee
Senzel is considered to have one of the most advanced bats in the country. He combines an above-average hit tool with average game power and excellent strike zone judgement (as evidenced by his 40/21 BB/K rate in 259 PA) to rake all over the field. These traits have had him linked to Oakland since the start of the scouting process this year and he's raised his draft stock by proving to be a capable defender at the hot corner while also seeing time at SS.
The still 20-year-old college Junior is considered one of the safest picks in the Draft and would be expected to move quickly through the minor leagues. He doesn't have the highest ceiling, earning only average marks in speed and power, but there's some thought that he has more power potential waiting to be unlocked. There hasn't been any word regarding bonus demands but it's known that Cincinnati has considered him for #2 overall.
The current rumor mill has these four players as being Oakland's prime targets at #6. But what happens if all four are gone by the time the A's pick?
There is a 5th player the A's were earlier linked to and that's University of Miami catcher Zach Collins. He fits the preferred Oakland hitting profile: lots of power and controls the strike zone. He slugged .631 and drew 69 BB to 48 K. There is of course a catch ... no pun intended. Scouts are divided on whether Collins will be able to stick behind the plate. He's worked hard to improve his game with the tools of ignorance but a fringe-average arm and a lack of mobility behind the plate mean the odds are against him sticking at catcher. Then again, Oakland has never set a premium on defensive excellence from their backstops.
The best way to describe Collins is this: if you think he's good enough to stick at catcher, then his bat makes him an easy Top 10 pick. He's generally rated in the mid-teens due to the uncertainty of his defensive home but he might be an ideal candidate to sign a below-slot deal at #6 if the A's top choices are off the board, which would free up money for them to pursue players who drop in later rounds due to bonus demands.
What will the A's do? I guess we'll find out June 9.