Today is the day when MLB General Managers earn a good portion of their keep. The day when the foundation of a strong farm system can be built that will lead their team to long term success at the MLB level. The Tampa Bay Rays and Washington Nationals have used their draft picks wisely and found franchise players that have turned them from cellar dwellers to contenders in recent years. The Oakland Athletics themselves are known for creating success through the draft as well.
Currently, names like Jemile Weeks and Grant Green are at the tip of most A’s fans tongues as they toil away in Triple A, they were 2008 and 2009 first round selections respectively. The A’s took Michael Choice in the first round in 2010, and also plays for the Sacramento River Cats awaiting his call to the show. Sonny Gray was selected in the first round of 2011 and is on the cusp of making his debut with the Athletics sometime in 2013. Addison Russell was selected in 2012, and is doing work for the Single A Stockton Ports.
Well known names for A’s fans like Cliff Pennington, Landon Powell, Joe Blanton, Mark Mulder, and Barry Zito were all taken in the first round by the Athletics and have established some level of MLB careers for themselves. For every pick like them, there are the Richie Robnett’s, Ben Fritz’s and Brad Sullivan’s who never get a whiff of the Show. Clearly no pick is a slam dunk, even in the first round.
Today the Athletics have the 24th pick in the draft. This is hardly an easy position to be in because once you get passed the Mark Appel, Jonathan Gray, Kris Bryant type guys at the top of the draft board it gets much more difficult to predict the MLB future of these college and high school players.
As with any major draft, there are mock drafts aplenty by various experts. So who do the experts see the Athletics taking today? I checked in on Jim Callis of Baseball America, Jonathan Mayo of MLB.com, Dave Perkins of Sports Illustrated, and John Sickels of Minor League Ball to see where their mock drafts had the A’s going. Naturally they all have different players head to the Athletics.
Callis has the A’s taking big right handed hitting Aaron Judge, a junior outfielder out of Fresno State who seeks to challenge Nate Freiman as the biggest position player in MLB. Standing at 6’7″ and weighing in at 255, he can generate a lot of power but may strikeout a ton as well. If the power is there, the K’s can be tolerated. He looks to project as a right fielder or could conceivably be converted to a first baseman.
Mayo projects Philip Ervin, and righty junior outfielder from Samford. He’s the anti-Aaron Judge, standing at just 5’11’. He appears to be able to generate power along with some speed as well. He’s a center fielder and may have the tools to stay there.
Perkins thinks the A’s will take right handed pitcher Andrew Thurman out of UC Irvine. Thurman projects as a middle of the rotation type starter, and appears to me to be something of an uninteresting, yet safe selection. He won’t blow away the radar gun, and won’t wow you with his breaking ball, he’s primarily a fastball/changeup pitcher. I would hope the A’s go for someone a little more exciting than Thurman.
Sickels likes Sean Manaea, a left handed hurler from Indiana State for the Athletics. Manaea is intriguing because his initial draft stock was much higher, but he has been dealing with some shoulder issues that will likely scare off many teams. His talent is evident though. With a mid to high 90’s fast ball and a tough slider and changeup to go along with it, Manaea appears to have the tools to dominate at the major league level. His health may always be in doubt though. Sounds like the classic high risk, high reward draft pick.
Former Athletics reliever Jim Mecir will serve as the team’s representative at the draft itself, which begins today at 4PM PST and can be seen on MLB Network.