The Oakland A's 2009 draft created a fair amount of buzz thanks to a few high-profile picks. We…
Talkin' A's Draft With BP's Kevin Goldstein
OaklandClubhouse: I'll start at the top with Grant Green. Should people be worried about the struggles that he had at the beginning of the year with USC that likely caused him to drop from the top five picks, or is he a value pick at pick 13?
Kevin Goldstein: I think it is a great pick at 13. I think Grant Green went from being a bit overrated to more than a bit underrated, actually. It was a weird situation. He was playing through some injuries early in the season and he also had some unfair expectations. A lot of people coming into the year were comparing Green to guys like Troy Tulowitzki and Evan Longoria. I think that is a lazy comparison. There is not a lot of thought put into that. I think the comparisons come because he is a big, athletic, college, white shortstop from Southern California. That's what people were basing it on. It's a pretty different skill-set actually. Those are horrible comps.
That's what people went with, though, and so when he didn't become that this season, people starting saying, ‘what's wrong with him?' Well, nothing is wrong. He's Grant Green.
OC: What would you characterize Green's skill-set as being? Is he more of a slash-hitter than those other two guys?
KG: Probably compared to those guys, but he is hardly a no power guy. I think he is going to have a decent amount of power. Not in that group and not even in the Bobby Crosby range, but I think he is going to have double-digit homeruns. He's athletic and he is a slick fielder with good actions. People were concerned with the error total this year, but I think overall when you look at his tools and his actions, he is going to be a perfectly good shortstop. He is going to hit for average with gap power and he is going to steal some bases for you. He is going to be a very good overall player. I frankly was surprised that he was taken this low.
OC: Do you think that he will be tough to sign with Scott Boras as his agent, or are the bigger fishes going to be the tougher signs of Boras' clients?
KG: Sure. There is no such thing as a bigger fish when you are talking about Scott Boras' clients. They are all going to be tough signs. Oakland knows that and that's the thing. You look at these guys and you say ‘oh, I hope he is not going to be a tough sign.' Oakland certainly had conversations with the Boras people about Grant Green before they were willing to take him at 13. At least to get some ballpark or a feel for where this is going to go. Yeah, I think he is going to cost some extra money. No doubt about it. I don't think it is going to be crazy, but it will be more than the slot for 13. I'm guessing it will be north of $3 million.
OC: Another guy that they are obviously going to have to go over-slot to sign is Max Stassi [the A's fourth round pick]. Were you surprised he fell as far as he did even with the rumblings that he was asking for a lot of money?
KG: No, I think that is why. I was surprised when the first day ended that he was still on the board. I was actually really surprised and then after I poked around a little bit that night, I found out that he had a price tag on him that was pretty high. It was somewhere between $1.5 and $2 million. I think it was probably on the higher side of that range. When that happens, teams can shy away from him. I still thought that some teams who were looking for signability guys would take him. And I even wrote going into Day Two of the draft that a) I'm shocked that Max Stassi is still on the board and b) I think he is most well-suited for Boston or Oakland. So I ended up looking pretty smart there.
Stassi is a guy who was honestly and truly a good pick at 13, so they got the two guys that they wanted and if they can get them both for somewhere around $5 million, that is a pretty nice thing to do, to turn a first and a fourth into two guys that you wanted in the first.
OC: That's kind of unusual to put Boston and Oakland in the same group considering where they stand on the spectrum of things. Do you see things changing for Oakland, where they are now one of those teams willing to make a few splashy, over-slot draft picks every year?
KG: I actually think that the perception of what Oakland does is pretty far from the reality of what Oakland does. I think a lot of people are still caught-up in the whole Moneyball world and I think that frankly Oakland has been away from that for awhile. Yet when they take a high school pick, people are shocked. They took Trevor Cahill, a high school pick, with their first pick a few years back. It's not like suddenly they had some sort of transformation.
But I do think that we are seeing more and more teams willing to go over slot and more and more teams willing to be aggressive in the draft. Three or four years ago when there were only a few teams doing it, and you looked and what teams did with [over-slot signings], they got some pretty good players out of it. So teams were like, ‘why aren't we doing that?' In the whole grand scheme of things, when we talk about the baseball economy as a whole, it still isn't a lot of money. That's the thing. Five million dollars for two guys in Grant and Stassi seems like a lot of money compared to what Oakland has done in the past, but in the grand scheme of things? Not a lot of money at all. I think a lot of teams are coming around to that viewpoint, which is why you see more strange signability stuff every year when the draft comes by.
OC: Since you live in Illinois, I thought you might have some insight on Ian Kroll [the A's seventh round pick]. I know that he was suspended for the entire year. Did he get enough playing time to be a viable prospect?
KG: Well, you do certainly have to go on a track record with him. I'd love to say that I saw him a lot this year, but he was pitching in Wisconsin because he got kicked off of his high school team. But you are talking about a guy who came into the year as the best prospect in the state. Then the crap he got involved with happened and he got caught and so he was off of the team. He was pitching for a scout team up in Wisconsin and his stuff was a bit off, which is not surprising considering what it took for him to pitch in Wisconsin and ostensibly be away from the every day run of baseball. It's an interesting thing.
The question is whether he wants to go [pro] now. I don't think he is going to get a lot of extra money over a seventh round slot. But he kind of came into the year as a third or fourth round pick. Does he want to do that or does he want to take the risk and go to school? He is going to pitch at Arizona if he does go to school. Come 2012, will he be a much better prospect? He's not the kind of guy who can really blow-up. He's not a really projectable kid. It's an interesting decision for him.
OC: Do you think that when there are high school players who are entering the draft with ‘character questions' that it is better for them to go to college and try to work through that before turning pro, or is it more of a case-by-case thing?
KG: I think it is a case-by-case basis. I think generally – and this is just my personal bias – that high school kids are generally better off playing three years in the minors than three years in college. They are focused solely on baseball and they are playing a ton more games. They are also getting better instruction. If you think about Trevor Cahill, had he gone to college when they first drafted him, he would have been in this draft as a junior out of Dartmouth. He would have been just getting drafted. Instead, he is big league ready. That's the advantage of three years of pro baseball over three years of college baseball. I guarantee you that even if Trevor Cahill spent three years at some giant program, say he went to North Carolina or Texas or something, he still wouldn't be major league ready. With three years of pro baseball, yeah, he is ready.
OC: Another guy who sort of fell to the A's was Sam Dyson [A's 10th round pick]. I know that he is going to be more difficult to sign, but is he going to get the Brett Hunter treatment by the A's where they follow his progress this summer to determine how aggressive they are going to be with an offer to him?
KG: It's a perfect comparison. Absolutely, I think that is what they are going to do. He is a really interesting guy. He has, on a pure arm strength level, he's right there. He's up there with a lot of people. He's a pretty raw guy and he has a checkered health history. He's had a lot of shoulder problems in his career, but he is also big with really good now stuff. He's going to want, and I imagine he is going to get if he signs, seven figures. So it is going to come down to you take him now and it is a reservation, if you will. You are going to spend the summer watching him and deciding if you want to pay the coin it is going to take to get him. But it was a pretty aggressive pick.
OC: Were there any sleeper picks? Guys that you saw the A's pick who may have been over-looked?
KG: I'm biased, but I am a big Myrio Richard [A's ninth round pick] fan, a) because I am a big fan of his brother, and b) because I am a big fan of that college program at Prairie View where they play a pretty fascinating brand of baseball. But he is a very different player than his brother. He is a bigger, slower, more powerful hitter. He is a damn good athlete. He was the player of the year in the SWAC last year and he is an interesting guy, just like his brother was an interesting guy.
I think later on, you look at a guy like Josh Leyland. He is a very interesting guy. A very tough sign. Very, very tough sign. I think it is a flier at best in terms of whether they will be able to get him. He will probably be going to school [Washington State], but he is just a huge, huge kid with just a truckload of power.
OC: Given that the A's didn't have a second round pick or any supplemental picks, how would rate this draft for them? Do they have to sign Stassi or Dyson to make it worthwhile?
KG: I think it is a strong draft. I think they did a good job. I do think that it all revolves around Green and Stassi. That's like having two first round picks if they sign them. That's turning your deficiency of not having a second round pick or any supplemental picks because of free agency stuff and taking advantage of the situation and try to turn that into two first rounders. If they sign Dyson, that would make up for their lack of a second round pick. If they sign these guys, it is a fantastic draft for them. I'm quite sure that Stassi will sign. I don't think they take him in the fourth round if they didn't think they could sign him. Dyson is a whole other story.
OC: Who did you think had the most surprising draft in baseball? Was it Kansas City when they took some of those more high profile guys, or was there another team that caught your eye?
KG: It's funny, but Kansas City did that last year, too. They went out and paid a million dollars for a lot of their lower picks. As far as the American League, the drafts that I really like are the Chicago White Sox, Oakland and Texas, as far as teams getting the most bang for their buck.
Then Detroit did what Detroit always does. I think that it is amazing that nobody learns from what Detroit does every year. So many years, they never pick at the top and yet year-after-year, they get the best pitcher on the board. Rick Porcello was the guy two years ago. Jacob Turner [the Tigers' first pick this season] was the best high school arm on the board, and they got him at nine. A few years ago – and the guy didn't work out, but the trend is still there – they got Andrew Miller, who was the best pitcher on the board way later than he should have been. If you want to be more liberal with your definition, they got Justin Verlander with a lower pick than they should have. If you are going to let some great pitcher fall, Detroit is going to be happy to take him. They keep doing it. So I thought they had a good draft, too, to be able to get Turner at nine and maybe Andrew Oliver in the second round is a good value pick. He certainly fits into the Detroit world of ‘big guy who throws hard' even though he is a little inconsistent.
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