Rewind to June 2007, it’s the the MLB Amateur Draft. The A’s just went to the ALCS where they lost to the Detroit Tigers in 2006, they have the 26th pick in the 1st round, and the 41st overall pick in the supplemental round as compensation for losing Barry Zito to the San Francisco Giants. In that draft the A’s picked up two pieces who they thought would be cornerstones of the franchise for years to come. With the 26th pick the A’s took a pitcher from UC Riverside by the name of James Simmons, and with number 41 they took a first baseman from Virginia by the name of Sean Doolittle.
The two would always be associated in my mind after that draft as they set out on their ascension to Oakland. Things didn’t quite go as planned though, to say the least. As we all know now, Sean Doolittle has become a centerpiece of the A’s after a long road through the minor leagues, but of course he’s no longer a first baseman, he’s the A’s primary left handed set up man. James Simmons is still trying to make his way to Oakland.
Doolittle showed a great deal of promise in the lower minor leagues, in his first full season in the Athletics organization he hit 22 home runs between Stockton and Midland with an impressive .286/.358/.495 line in 603 plate appearances. He was a rising star indeed. That was until his knee problems began to surface. Multiple knee surgeries, and 2 full seasons later Sean Doolittle reemerged as a pitcher in 2012. His meteoric rise through the Athletics minor league system in 2012 all the way to his callup to Oakland after just 26 innings in the minors was nothing short of remarkable. His performance in Oakland was much the same and he’s already become one of the most dependable and dominant left handed relievers in the game.
James Simmons followed something of a similar career path, save for the drastic position switch. But shoulder problems derailed his progress and cost him the entire 2010 season. He had perhaps been on the cusp of getting called up from Triple A Sacramento in 2009, despite his struggles that season. After recovering he had to start back at the bottom and work his way through the system all over again. He’s done so quite admirably. Last season between Midland and Sacramento he posted a very impressive 2.98 ERA in 48.1 innings of work. Now he’s in major league camp, alongside his fellow 2007 draftee Sean Doolittle, and he’s fighing for a spot in the Athletics bullpen.
He may be facing rather long odds in a crowded bullpen, but chances are he might find himself in Oakland in 2013 at some point. He looked great in his first Spring Training outing, hopefully he can build on that. The grueling 162 game season is a war of attrition, and without a doubt vacancies come up on the roster as players get hurt, and Simmons should be at the top of the list when an opportunity arises. No doubt he will finally complete his journey to the Show, and no better way to do it than right alongside Sean Doolittle.