Now that the 2017 MLB Draft is complete, the question can start to be asked: how did the Oakland Athletics fare in the draft? While the definitive answer to that question won’t be known for several more years, it is still fun to get a sense of how the A’s stacked up against the other 29 teams during draft week. To get those opinions, I asked several leading MLB draft experts that I admire for their take on the Oakland Athletics’ 2017 draft class.
I asked each of them two questions:
1) Did you like the overall make-up of the A’s first 10 rounds in terms of mix of upside talent and safer picks?
2) Were there specific picks that stood out to you as either particularly intriguing or puzzling?
Below are their responses. I recommend following each of them for more of their take on the MLB draft and on minor league prospects in general.
2080Baseball.com founder and MLB Draft expert Nick Faleris (@NickJFaleris):
1) Overall, Oakland appears to have executed a fairly straightforward over-slot approach to the first two days of the draft. Grabbing an over-slot talent in the first five rounds and banking bonus pool savings in the last five rounds by targeting senior signs with little to no negotiating leverage.
Austin Beck (OF, North Davidson (NC)) is one of the top overall talents in the draft, and had he been healthy last summer and able to compete with his contemporaries at the top of the class he might have been in the discussion to go first overall. He’s a toolsy outfielder who raked his way through the spring, showing big time bat speed and power potential. Because he hasn’t been able to put his skills on display with wood bats against the other top talents in the class, there is some buyer risk, but it’s a reasonable risk to take on — particularly with how well he showed in workouts.
Kevin Merrell (SS, South Florida) probably isn’t a shortstop at the next level, fitting better at second base or center field. He’s a burner — one of the better runners in the class — and is a high contact bat that doesn’t lift the ball particularly well right now. Selecting him in Competitive Balance Round A (33rd overall) is a bit of a stretch for the profile, but the assumption should be there is some sort of under-slot deal here that will help free up money for an over-slot pick later.
Second rounder Greg Deichmann (OF, LSU) was a very loud bat when I saw him in high school, but ended up slipping in the draft due to an inconsistent spring and questions about contact. His power came into full bloom this spring and he’s a nice get as one of the better pure power bats at the collegiate ranks. He fits best in RF but has knocked around the infield and could give Oakland some flexibility.
Nick Allen (SS, Francis Parker (CA)) is going to be a very popular pick with a lot of people. He’s an undersized spark plug with good bat speed and feel for the barrel, but not enough present strength to give teams comfort he’ll do damage at the pro ranks. There’s no question about the glove, which ranks as the best in the high school class, and he should be at least an above-average defender at shortstop, long term. He’ll likely require a significant over-slot bonus, making potential savings with Merrell and in rounds 6-10 a must.
Will Toffey (3B, Vanderbilt) brings a very advanced approach to the plate, as well as solid pop, but generates his power more with brute strength than bat speed. That makes me wonder how effectively he’ll be able to tap into that pop at the next level. If he can limit the coverage holes in the zone and make enough contact to keep advanced pro arms from regularly challenging him in the zone early, he should provide some on-base utility and maybe average pop. Not a sexy pick but a solid roll of the dice in the fourth round.
Santis Sanchez (C, International Baseball Academy (PR)) is a catch-and-throw backstop who has a chance to mature into average pop once his physique tightens, but there are questions as to how well he tracks in the box and whether he’ll make enough contact to be a useful down-order stick. Provided the signing bonus isn’t too large, he’s an interesting pick as an advanced catch-and-throw target with a slightly deflated draft value due to questions about the stick and, for some teams, an uninspiringly “soft” body.
Logan Salow (LHP, Kentucky) and Jared Poche (LHP, LSU) are both intriguing senior signs who should provide bonus pool savings without sacrificing too much on the talent side. Salow is a pure relief profile at present who leverages impressive command over a low-90s heater and tight, mid-80s slider to keep hitters working off the top half of the ball. It may only be a lefty-specialist profile but he has a chance to move through the system relatively quickly.
Poche is a standout collegiate starter despite below-average fastball velocity, thanks to good feel for an above-average curveball and average changeup. His curve can be tough to pick up out of the hand, adding to its effectiveness while helping the fastball to play up a bit. It’s a back-end rotation upside with more likely outcome as a lefty out of the pen. He’s the all-time wins leader at LSU and really knows how to compete.
Overall, it has the look of a very strong draft for Oakland. While you could argue they stretched a bit with Merrell early, nabbing Allen — even with the risks that accompany such an undersized middle infielder — is a real coup, and even with five rounds worth of senior signs the A’s managed to grab some interesting arms.
2) Outside the top 10 rounds, Garrett Mitchell (OF, Orange Lutheran (CA)) is a nice back-up option should issues arise in signing Allen. He’ll absolutely require an above-slot bonus (limited to $150K as a post-10th round selection) and it’s hard to envision how Oakland could free up the money for both him and their third rounder. Mitchell has impressive, easy lift and power and could be a quality up-the-middle defender in center field.
Rotoworld prospect writer Christopher Crawford (@Crawford_MILB):
1) I think the overall class is a fine one. Maybe not my favorite on paper, but there’s a lot to like. There’s a nice mix here of raw prep talent and safety in some of the college players. I always like to go best player available, but I do understand classes that mitigate the risk.
2) I get the Austin Beck pick, I’m just not sure how much I like it. He’s super talented — in terms of raw ability, only Hunter Greene comes close — but there’s so much risk here because of the competition he faced and I think he’s gonna struggle to hit for average. I also thought Kevin Merrell was about a round too early, but that could be a slot thing, since Beck is not going to be a cheap signing.
On the other hand, I LOVED the pick of Nick Allen in the third. If he was two or three inches taller, he’s a top-15 pick. Excellent defender, can run, and he has such good feel for the barrel. He was one of the real steals of the draft, in my opinion, and A’s fans should be thrilled to have him in the organization.
Scout.com co-MLB Draft lead writer Jeff Ellis (@jeffMLBdraft):
1) In the top ten rounds, it was a draft that feels mostly safe. Austin Beck is a gamble. He is a high ceiling player with a questionable hit tool. I think he has a chance to stick in center, and if everything goes well he could be an all-star type of talent. Nick Allen is a pretty safe utility or starting shortstop. I don’t think the ceiling is high for him or that there is a lot of risk. He can defend, the only question is can he hit enough to be a starter. The three non-senior top-10 round college players (Kevin Merrell (comp round A), Greg Deichmann (second round) and Will Toffey (fourth round)) were all solid values where they were drafted. The A’s had to go with seniors after round six to pay for Allen, which limited the pool of players in those top ten rounds. The A’s seemed to circle the wagons after day one, made some calls and figured out what they needed to do to add a first round talent in round three.
2) In the later rounds, Wyatt Marks (13th round) stood out. I wrote about him this year as he was leading the nation in strikeouts per nine and fewest hits per nine. He was a passable starter but excelled in his role as a multi-innings reliever. I think he is a legitimate relief prospect. In that same vein, Logan Salow (6th round) might have been the best left-handed reliever in the country this year. The two should be paired together and move through the minors as future pen options.
I think it was a logical draft; nothing really threw me too much. I don’t think I would have rolled the dice on Beck when they did, but it was not a reach. I was not very familiar with Santis Sanchez (5th round) either, so it is hard for me to judge anything without knowing the financials, but he was not on my radar.
Scout.com co-MLB Draft lead writer, Taylor Blake Ward (@TaylorBlakeWard):
1) Overall, the first and second day for the A’s saw success in safety. Eight of 11 picks came from major D1 colleges, which is to be expected from Oakland. The trio of prep picks really intrigued me and the fact they got Nick Allen in the third round is one of the better steals of the draft. He was arguably a top-30 talent, and would be a top-20 talent if he was just a few inches taller. Austin Beck may have a lot of questions, but it seems it was at the A’s private workout that he hushed any doubters on how he’d handle a wood bat.
2) Nick Allen is a steal in the third, as mentioned before. The last two picks were really intriguing to me. Jared Poche (9th round) is a very safe college arm who has a chance to reach the Majors as a back-end starter with no real stand out tools. Jack Meggs (10th round) is a true gamer. He’s one of those guys everyone will love as he progresses through the system. Overall, I think the A’s got multiple MLB players out of this draft, which is the goal every year. Some should have an impact within a half decade. I’m not a fan of the Kevin Merrell and Logan Salow picks, however. Better options at those stages of the draft.
I also asked David Rawnsley (@DavidRawnsleyPG ), Vice President of Player Personnel at Perfect Game, for his thoughts on Austin Beck and Nick Allen, since both players were rated highly by Perfect Game coming into this draft.
Rawnsley on Austin Beck:
The knee surgery really made him a wildcard going into this spring. I don’t think anybody even remotely expected to see this out of him this spring. I had seen him some before and a lot of people had seen him at our young events. On the MLB draft show, all of the video they had was from the junior national from the year before. I thought, ‘that was an old video. He was something like 15 years old.’ But that’s the latest video anybody really had.
He’s just a superior athlete. He’s pretty mature physically, but the biggest thing is that nobody has seen him hit against quality pitching. I saw him twice and the second time I was there to see him was the same day that Billy Beane was there. It was the first game of a tournament. They took batting practice at 11am at a local junior college field, and he put on an absolute display. There must have been 100 scouts there watching. A lot of them very senior. I had one guy who has been doing this a lot longer than I have say ‘I have never seen this many scouts out to see a morning BP in my life.’ This is somebody who is an ex-scouting director who has been in the game 30 years. And sitting among them was Billy Beane.
He put on a tremendous power display in BP that day. He has plus arm strength. Plus running speed. You had some people comparing him to a Mike Trout kind of athlete, which I think personally is inappropriate because you don’t compare high school athletes to Mike Trout. I don’t hear anyone saying ‘he reminds me of Ted Williams or Willie Mays.’ You don’t do that. But I actually had three different scouts tell me that. I kind of just cringed, but that’s the level of excitement he generated.
The scouts caught up with him quickly and he had a great, great spring. I think there is some risk in that pick and the A’s aren’t used to doing this high, high ceiling, high risk thing, but I’m glad they did and they did it on the right player because he could really be a high ceiling guy.
Rawnsley on Nick Allen:
I have seen Nick Allen play more than any other high school player that I have seen in my life, and I’m not exaggerating. I bet I saw Nick Allen play 100 games. Among everybody at Perfect Game, Nick Allen might be our all-time favorite player to watch play because even with the 1,000s of games I have seen, you can go out and watch Nick Allen make a play that you have never seen before at shortstop. He is a genius defensively at shortstop.
The thing that people began to appreciate about Allen is that, yeah, he’s 5’8’’ and about 155 pounds and that might be generous, but he really does have some pop in his bat and he’s got incredible base-running instincts. He’s not going to be a light-hitting shortstop. He’s going to go out and play aggressively on offense and he’s going to get on base, but watching him play defense is just a joy.
It’s like in the All-American game, in the second inning, he made two spectacular plays. I kept telling an old friend of mine that Allen was going to be the Team USA starting shortstop. And he’s like ‘no he isn’t. Look at all of the shortstops they have.’ I said, ‘just wait.’ Second inning of the first game, the tournament starts and he makes this ungodly play up the middle. I turn to my friend and say, ‘you see what I mean?’
Nick just has that physical ability and the instincts. That’s what really stands out. He just has instincts to make plays that you think, ‘how did he even think how to make that play?’ He sees the game slower on defense.
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