The 2001 draft began with a bang with Joe Mauer going first to the Minnesota Twins and Mark Prior going second to the Chicago Cubs. The Texas Rangers also hit it big with the fifth pick when they took Mark Teixeira. The New York Mets hit the grand prize in the supplemental first round when they selected third baseman David Wright.
The Oakland A’s had two first round picks and one supplemental first round choice. Oakland, who was coming off of their first playoff appearance in eight seasons, didn’t have a selection until the 25th pick. However, despite the low pick, the A’s got a lot of value out of that selection, taking current A’s starting shortstop and 2004 American League Rookie of the Year Bobby Crosby out of Long Beach State.
The A’s had the next pick (number 26), which they received as compensation from the New York Mets for signing pitcher Kevin Appier. Just a guess, but looking back, I’ll bet the Mets wish that they had used the pick rather than taking on Appier. Of course, the A’s may regret not holding onto this player, as well, but that is another story. The selection of high school pitcher Jeremy Bonderman with this selection may have been met with disdain by A’s GM Billy Beane at the time (according to legend from Moneyball, Beane was so upset that the A’s took a high school pitcher that high he threw a chair against the wall), but there is no question that Bonderman was among the best pitchers taken in the entire 2001 draft.
Oakland’s third first round selection came at the 37th pick, another “consolation” prize for the privilege of not having to pay Appier $42 million over four years. The A’s used that choice to take lefty John Rheinecker. Rheinecker has not yet had the success of Crosby and Bonderman, but he could still contribute to the A’s bullpen or rotation in the next year or so. He was one of the A’s most elite prospects coming into the 2003 season, but mediocre campaigns in 2003 and 2004 and an injury-marred season in 2005 have dimmed his star a bit.
Below is a list of the A’s picks from rounds one through ten, with notations on each player. For the record, five players from this list have logged time in the major leagues.
1. Bobby Crosby, SS (25th pick) -- Crosby arrived in the majors at the end of the 2003 season, only two years removed from his professional debut. Although it would take him until 2004 to record his first hit, he made up for lost time by capturing the AL’s Rookie of the Year award in 2004. Crosby had an injury-plagued 2005 season, but showed marked improvement at the plate when healthy, raising his OPS from 745 to 802. He is an above-average -- and occasionally spectacular -- defender and his impact on the A’s line-up is noticeable. Oakland struggled tremendously in 2005 when he was out due to injury, but excelled when he was in the line-up. He isn’t at Miguel Tejada’s level yet, but he is proving to be a solid replacement choice for the former MVP.
1. Jeremy Bonderman, SP (26th pick)-- Bonderman was included in the 2002 blockbuster trade that sent Ted Lilly to the A’s and Jeff Weaver to the New York Yankees. Of all of the players involved in that deal, Bonderman could easily end up having the best major league career. Despite being drafted out of high school, he spent only one year in the minors before making his big league debut for the Tigers in 2003. He lost 19 games for a Tigers team that set records for ineptitude in ‘03, but showed a lot of promise nonetheless. Bonderman recovered from that difficult rookie season and won 14 games for the Tigers in 2005 at age 22 , striking out nearly seven batters per nine innings. If Bonderman had stayed in the Oakland A’s organization, he may still be in the minor leagues, but he appears no worse for wear for having been rushed to the big leagues. He looks to have a very bright future in front of him.
1. John Rheinecker, SP (37th pick)-- Rheinecker appeared poised to be the A’s next star lefty in 2002 when he was part of the then-famous Midland rotation that included Rich Harden, Mike Wood and Jason Arnold. However, Rheinecker repeated at Midland in 2003 and struggled to match his success from 2002. Although he won 11 games for Sacramento in 2004, Rheinecker’s WHIP was a pedestrian 1.41. He appeared to be on the verge of breaking through into the major leagues in 2005 when he began the season 4-0 with a 1.77 ERA in his first seven starts. However, a tendon injury to a finger on his pitching hand kept him out the rest of the season. Rheinecker will be 27 in 2006 and he’ll need to show the A’s that he is ready for the big leagues soon.
2. Neal Cotts, RP (69th pick)-- Cotts was dealt to the Chicago White Sox as one of the players to be named later in the Billy Koch for Keith Foulke trade during the off-season before the 2003 campaign. Cotts, a hard-throwing lefty, was mostly a starter during his time with the A’s organization. In 2002, Cotts won 12 games for A-Modesto and struck out 178 in 137 innings. He continued to strike out batters at that incredible rate with the White Sox and was promoted to the big leagues at the end of the 2003 season. In 2004, Cotts became a regular member of the White Sox bullpen, although he struggled and posted a 5.65 ERA in 65 innings. He seemed to turn a corner in 2005, posting a 1.94 ERA in 60 innings and playing an integral part in making World Champions’ bullpen so tough. Cotts still struggles with his control (4.92 walks per nine innings for his career), but he strikes out a lot of batters (8.16 per nine innings for his career) and should have a long career in the big leagues as a lefty reliever.
3. J.T. Stotts, SS (101st pick)-- Stotts was also traded for a relief pitcher, going to the New York Yankees as part of the Chris Hammond deal before the 2004 season. Stotts has not had much success since turning pro. He posted decent batting averages with the A’s (.273 in 2001, .293 in 2002), but showed little power. He has struggled since joining the Yankees, hitting in the .230s. Stotts was a utility man for AA-Trenton in 2005 and briefly retired out of frustration over a lack of playing time, but reconsidered and finished the out the season.
4. Marcus McBeth, OF (131st pick)-- McBeth was drafted as an outfielder after a stellar career at South Carolina. He came with a reputation as a potential Gold Glove outfielder with a good bat. The defensive reputation proved to be spot-on, but McBeth was never able to adjust to hitting professional pitching. So at the start of the 2005 season, McBeth decided if he couldn’t beat ‘em, he’d join ‘em and he became a pitcher. After staying back with the instructors at extended spring training, McBeth made 18 appearances with A-Kane County and A-Stockton as a reliever in 2005. Although he struggled with his control (walking 15 in 22.1 innings), he also proved difficult to hit (he struck out 24). McBeth showed good stuff in a brief appearance at the Arizona Fall League. He has a mid-90s fastball with good movement and, while he will be a project, McBeth has a chance to make an impact as a reliever.
5. Jeff Bruksch, SP (161st pick)-- Bruksch is yet another A’s prospect whom GM Billy Beane used as a trading chip to improve the team at the trade deadline. The right-hander was traded in 2003 at the deadline to the Cincinnati Reds as part of the Jose Guillen deal. Bruksch has made 117 career minor league appearances, 90 of them starts, and he has a 29-38 record with a 4.53 ERA. He has had only one appearance above AA ball, a 2005 start with AAA-Louisville.
6. Austin Nagle, OF (191st pick)-- Nagle’s baseball career seemingly ended even before it began. The high school draftee played with Vancouver and Modesto in 2002, posting a 617 OPS in 105 games. He was never able to improve from those numbers, however, when he suffered a gruesome arm injury during spring training in 2003. His career appeared over and he hasn’t logged an appearance in the minors since then. However, he was reinstated to the active list before the 2005 season, so it is possible that Nagle could be mounting a comeback. He is still only 23 years old.
7. Dan Johnson, 1B (221st pick)-- Johnson is arguably the biggest value pick for the A’s in this draft. The slugging left-hander hit 96 homers and posted a .514 slugging percentage in four and a quarter minor league seasons with the A’s. He was promoted to the big leagues at the end of May in 2005 and immediately became an important part of the A’s offense. Despite a late-season slump, Johnson still finished with an 806 OPS and 15 homers in only 109 major league games. He figures to be a regular player for the A’s again in 2006.
8. Mike Frick, RP (251st pick)-- Frick’s promising career and life was cut tragically short when he was killed in an auto accident in November 2003. He was only 23 years old. Frick struck out 141 batters in 139 minor league innings for the A’s.
9. Casey Myers, C (281st pick)-- Myers has had an interesting minor league career with the A’s. Despite hitting .293 for his career in the A’s system, he has never received consistent playing time. He spent most of the 2002-2004 seasons at A-Modesto even though he hit over .300 for the Modesto A’s in both 2003 and 2004. In 2005, Myers had his first extended action in AA and he took advantage of it. In only 203 at-bats, Myers hit .340/.389/.498 with seven homers and 42 runs batted in. The right-hander has logged most of his time as a catcher, although he has played some first base, as well. It’s hard to imagine that Myers won’t see time in AAA in 2006 after the numbers he put up with Midland, but his career path has been so strange, it is hard to predict where he’ll end up next season.
10. Mike Wood, SP (311th pick)-- Wood, like Johnson, was another value pick. The tall right-hander zoomed through the minor leagues and made his big league debut with the A’s in September 2003. Wood appeared in seven games with Oakland in 2003 and posted a 10.54 ERA. He returned to Sacramento in 2004 and caught the eye of the Kansas City Royals when he began the season 11-3 in 15 starts with a 2.80 ERA. Wood was dealt to the Royals as part of the three-team deal involving Carlos Beltran and Octavio Dotel and spent the rest of the 2004 season with the Royals. He made 17 starts that season for KC and went 3-8 with a 5.94 ERA. He spent most of the 2005 season with KC, as well, splitting his time between the starting rotation and the bullpen. Wood’s future probably lies in middle relief, but he may see a few more starts with KC in 2006.
Other Notable Picks:
13. Chris Mabeus, RP (401st pick)-- Mabeus has been a solid late-inning reliever in the A’s system since turning pro. He appeared on the verge of making the big leagues in 2005, but he struggled with injuries and had an up and down campaign. He still averaged more than 10 strike outs per nine innings for the River Cats in ’05 and he stands poised to join the A’s bullpen in 2006 should any of the A’s relievers go down with injuries. In his career, Mabeus has struck out 327 batters in 344.1 innings.
14. Brett Price, P (431st pick)-- Continuing the theme of the draft of picking players who are later traded for big leaguers, Price was sent to the Expos/Nationals organization as the player-to-be-named-later in the Michael Barrett to Oakland deal before the 2004 season. Although he has never played above A-ball, the lefty has averaged just under 10 strike outs per nine innings in his career. The Nationals turned Price into a starter in 2004, but he had more success as a reliever in the Oakland chain.
20. Jeff Muessig, RP (611th pick)-- Muessig had Tommy John surgery in 2003, which slowed the pace of his career. However, he had 15 saves for the Stockton Ports in 2005 and he struck out 80 in only 60 innings of work. He had one appearance with the River Cats, as well.
33. Dan Fyvie, RP (1001st pick)-- Fyvie missed most of the 2005 season while he recovered from a torn ACL. However, the right-hander has had a nice career in the bullpen in the A’s organization. He has a 13-4 career record with a 3.05 ERA and 145:57 K:BB ratio in 165 relief innings. Fyvie hasn’t played above low-A ball, but he is only 23, so he has time to develop still.
37. Andre Ethier, OF (1121st pick)-- Ethier didn’t sign with the A’s in 2001, of course, but this began the team’s relationship with the outfielder. Oakland would draft Ethier again in 2003, this time in the second round. He would go on to win the Texas League MVP in 2005 and net the A’s Milton Bradley and Antonio Perez in a recent trade.