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MLB Draft 2018: Oakland A’s pick three college hitters on Day 1

The tool of the day was speed.

Photo by Corey Perrine/Getty Images

Day 1 of the 2018 MLB Draft is in the books, and the Oakland A’s used all three of their selections on college position players. The A’s picked in the 1st round (No. 6 overall), the 2nd round (No. 50), and the Competitive Balance B round (No. 70), and they chose the following players:

For full scouting reports click those coverage links, but here’s a short version for each of them.

  • Murray is an elite athlete with 70-grade speed but lacks experience due to splitting time with football. He’ll play one more season on the gridiron this fall before shifting his full-time focus to baseball in Oakland’s system next year.
  • Hannah has impact speed as well, with enough plate discipline and CF potential to give him a high floor. If his power develops then he could have a good ceiling as well.
  • Eierman has strong tools on both sides of the ball and high marks for makeup. However, he needs work on his approach and swing mechanics to unlock his talent, and he’s not guaranteed to stick at SS.

Next up, three reactions to the picks:

Three 1st-round talents?

Pre-draft boards aren’t everything, but they at least provide a rough barometer to start the conversation. Judging by the MLB Pipeline board, the A’s got excellent value on Day 1. Oakland picked at Nos. 9, 50, and 70, but all three of their players ranked in the top 36. Murray presumably would have been higher based on talent alone, without the questions about which sport he would play.

Any of them could have had a case to go in the 1st round, which suggests the A’s did a good job maximizing the value they collected with these crucial early picks.

Aim for the moon

I only have one specific preference when using a premium Top 10 overall draft pick: Get all the upside you can. A No. 9 pick isn’t the time to play it safe with polished but mediocre tools, it’s the time to gamble on the kind of talent you can’t acquire anywhere else. Even if the whole package comes with extra risk, it’s still worth it for a shot at greatness.

That’s exactly what the A’s did with Murray. He’s got all kinds of question marks and there are many ways this pick can go wrong, but he’s also got as much raw ability as anyone available. This draft was considered weak in high-end talent, so Oakland found a way to get one by thinking outside the box. All prospects have the odds against them, but at least the A’s got themselves a chance for a high ceiling as well.

This is the same principle the A’s used in the Sonny Gray trade last summer. In that deal they accepted extra injury baggage in order to add top-end prospects they couldn’t have afforded with lesser trade chips. If you’re going to trade Sonny, then get back the kinds of guys you can only get for a Sonny-type star; if you’re picking Top 10 in the draft, then aim for the moon and don’t weigh yourself down with a parachute.

Putting the Athletic in Oakland

Over the last couple years, the A’s farm system has added an incredible amount of speed and pure athletic ability. The Sonny trade brought back Dustin Fowler, who is already one of the fastest players in MLB, and Jorge Mateo, who might be the fastest in the minors with 80-grade wheels. That came on the heels of drafting Kevin Merrell last June, with a 70-grade of his own, as well as signing Cuban free agent Dairon Blanco who has also been reported as high as an 80-grade.

Those are the elite burners, but the list goes on. Franklin Barreto, Ramon Laureano, Richie Martin, B.J. Boyd, and Nick Allen all have games based on quickness and agility rather than brute force, and Austin Beck, Lazaro Armenteros, and Skye Bolt are all candidates to play CF despite having enough power for the corners. Even Matt Chapman can fly.

Now Oakland has added even more athleticism. Murray and Hannah are defined by their legs more than anything, and Eierman is a plus in that department too. Regardless of whether this is an intentional strategy or just a coincidence as they collect the best players available at every opportunity, the A’s are going to start getting fast over the next few years.

Day 2 of the draft starts Tuesday at 9:30 a.m. PT.