…And there wasn’t much rejoicing. Draft day 1 produced 3 new prospects and much angst amongst AN’s faithful. Jacob Wilson, Myles Naylor, and Ryan Lasko, selected with picks 6, 39, and 41 respectively, were not who the pundits would have recommended from the available players left at the time, nor did they pass the “real time reactions” test on this very knowledgeable site.
This doesn’t, however, mean the A’s scouts have failed, just that they are in the position of having to prove that their internal board was superior to that of the consensus around them.
Now weigheth in the Blogfather…
Jacob Wilson (6th overall)
First off, in being asked about selecting someone who lacked power, A’s GM David Forst referenced Jason Giambi as an example of players the A’s have drafted who have developed power on their way up to the majors.
Here’s a handy PR tip, David: perhaps don’t use, as your shining example, a player whose increased bulk and slugging after the draft was produced directly by steroid use. “We really think Jacob Wilson can hit for power once he begins taking PEDs like they’re going out of style.”
So no, Wilson is not a “future slugger” so much as he is how he profiles until further notice: a batter with a truly elite ability to put his bat on the ball — and who hits a ton of ground balls and other balls struck with low exit velocity. And that’s with an aluminum bat, facing college pitchers.
Two things immediately alarm me. One is that the A’s just eschewed warnings about low exit velocity to overpay for Esteury Ruiz only to find that while Ruiz is fun he is also slugging somewhere between my Aunt Bertha and Cindi’s cosmetology instructor.
And then you have the historical tendency of the A’s to draft light-hitting shortstops with early picks. That produced the “holy grail” of picks, the amazing (ly ok) Cliff Pennington, along with busts Richie Martin, Jameson Hannah, and Kevin Merrill, a group that could reasonably be termed “Hannah and her sisters”. (UPDATE: grover has informed me that I mixed up Hannah, who is in fact an outfielder, and Jeremy Eierman, who was in fact a SS, though not really fitting of the profile. Nonetheless, I am still in contact with Woody Allen’s agent to see if there is a suitable film title that includes “Jeremy” or “Eierman” that I can use for this paragraph.)
So the A’s scouts’ track record of picking slap hitters early and hoping they can slug later, and of scoffing at low EVs hoping every bleeder finds a hole? Not good. And so the Blogfather’s heart also sank when Wilson’s name was announced.
What is Wilson’s upside? It feels like it’s David Eckstein, whose slappy but relentlessly contacty style worked just well enough to terrorize the A’s, and whose strong fundamentals allowed him to stay at SS. Wilson has a better arm, but an awful lot has to go right for him to be a better big league player than Eckstein and that’s not really the bar you want to set for your 6th overall pick.
It’s also disconcerting when the pick after yours keeps being someone worth getting excited about and the picks right after Oakland’s were Rhett Lowder and then Yohandy Morales. At least to the “conventional wisdom” world that would have been a far better parlay than the Jacob Wilson/Myles Naylor duo. Which brings me to Naylor…
Myles Naylor (39th overall)
I know little about Naylor or Lasko, which is part of the problem: they weren’t among the “top 50-ish” guys you might get acquainted with in studying for the draft. So my complaint around the A’s picks at 39 and 41 isn’t so much around whether or not these two are good bets to reach the majors and contribute the way you hope a high pick will.
My complaint is that if the A’s liked these guys, but the consensus was that they were around the 80th-100th best prospects, then couldn’t you assume they were still going to be on your board when your fourth pick came around? Maybe even your fifth?
Or was it such a “coup” (that only the A’s recognize) to nab Naylor and Lasko that you just couldn’t afford to take the chance that another team might be reading the same tea leaves and recognizing that these guys should go 40-50 slots ahead of the consensus opinion?
So no, there isn’t really a scenario in which you should make Naylor your 2nd pick, even if he might have been a smart find with your 4th or 5th selection. As for his actual skill set and potential, I do like the bloodlines in that brothers Josh and Beau are terrific talents and possess some of the competitive fire you want to see. If Myles’ genetics and upbringing are predictive, one might foresee big things for Naylor III.
It’s also true that Cavin Biggio can’t hit and that the A’s drafted Daniel Susac knowing that if he’s exactly as good as his brother then the A’s wasted a 1st round pick. Sometimes it’s not just about your genes or the household you were raised in; you also need to be able to lay off a chase slider and to barrel high heat.
Ryan Lasko (41st pick)
As each pick was announced, MLB showed a few quick clips of each player. At this very moment it constitutes the entirely of my “eyeball scouting” for each of these 3 players.
What I will say is that at a glance (almost literally) Lasko is the one who caught my eye as seeming to have a playable swing and a solid all-around game on both sides of the ball. He won the “have a hunch he might be an overachiever” award for the day, with the caveat that his ceiling isn’t terribly high. But I can see why the A’s might have liked him. That doesn’t mean he had any business being drafted 41st overall.
I thought an astute comment on the draft thread was that the A’s front office “seems allergic to consensus”. It’s almost as if they compulsively have to reach, zag, and surprise to avoid, at any costs, doing what everyone else agrees would benefit them most. And that’s a great way to be a last place team.
How challenging would it have been to do what most other teams would have done and select Lowder with the 6th pick and Morales (ranked 20th at the time) with pick 39? It’s exactly what the teams who followed the A’s did because it was the obvious move given the board at the time.
We all hope Wilson has a better career than Lowder, Naylor success over Morales, and Lasko leaves pundits clapping their forehead wondering “How did we all miss him in the top 50?” But right now it looks a lot like Nick Allen, Estuary Ruiz, and the rest of the motley crew that has the A’s chasing history in the way you don’t really want.
Lots of highly ranked players were on the board each time Oakland made a strange reach for someone else. Here’s really hoping they know something we don’t — for a change.