With three selections on Day One and the fifth-largest bonus pool in the 2017 MLB Draft, the Oakland A’s are in position to add impact talent to their farm system. The A’s went heavy on college pitching on the first two days of the MLB Draft last season. Will they continue to add arms, or will they find some position player depth? I take a look at some of the names the A’s might consider in this year’s draft.
Ultimately, the A’s – like every team – have their own player ranking for every player eligible for this year’s draft. More than likely, the A’s will take the best player available on their ranking charts – regardless of position – with their top pick, but they could start looking to fill needs a little later in the top-10 rounds.
For their first pick, several mock drafts have the A’s selecting North Carolina RHP J.B. Bukauskas, a smaller right-hander with arguably the best pure stuff of any college pitcher in the draft. The A’s have done well drafting out of the state of North Carolina and Bukauskas comes from a top collegiate program and has the polish and stuff to move quickly. Some scouts see Bukauskas as more of a future closer than a starter, but most predict as a closer, he’d be an elite one.
The A’s have also been connected with University of Florida RHP Alex Faedo, who came into the season as a candidate to go first overall. Faedo’s stock has dipped some as his walks have gone up and his strike-outs have slid a little, but he has two above-average pitches and has struck-out 113 in 96.1 innings for the Gators. The A’s have used their top pick on Florida players each of the past two seasons (Richie Martin (2015) and A.J. Puk (2016)) and Oakland drafted two of Faedo’s rotation-mates last year (Puk and Logan Shore). At 6’4’’, 220, Faedo has a more traditional starting pitcher build than Bukauskas, although Bukauskas’ pure stuff grades better.
The A’s could use an impact centerfielder in their system. Vanderbilt’s Jeren Kendall is viewed as the top college centerfield prospect, but he has struggled to make consistent contact this season, although his power and speed numbers have been solid. Kendall has been all over the place on mock draft boards and he may be considered a stretch at six. However, Kendall’s power-speed combo, ability to play centerfield and top collegiate pedigree make him a very intriguing prospect, even with the swing-and-miss.
Teams don’t generally target first basemen with top-10 picks, but Pavin Smith of Virginia is a unique hitting prospect. Smith has the best bat control among the college hitters in this draft. He has struck-out just nine times in 261 plate appearances this season and he has 12 homers and a .346/.429/.571 slashline. Smith’s UVa teammate, Adam Haseley, could also sneak into the discussion at pick six. Haseley doesn’t match Kendall’s pure athleticism, but Haseley is a solid athlete nonetheless and has a chance to stick in centerfield. Haseley has walked twice as often as he has struck-out this season and he has a double-double in homers (14) and stolen bases (10). Haseley is a two-way player at Virginia and could see his offensive profile improve even more without having to worry about pitching. His profile is reminiscent of former Cavalier and current A’s reliever Sean Doolittle, who Oakland originally selected as a position player.
The A’s have selected college players with their top picks in each of the last three drafts, but there are a few high school players that could pique their interest. Top amateur prospect Hunter Greene won’t make it to the A’s at six. Other prep talents that could be available at six are shortstop Royce Lewis (J Serra HS, Calif.), left-hander MacKenzie Gore (Whiteville HS, N.C.) and outfielder Austin Beck (North Davidson HS, N.C.).
Lewis may eventually get too big to stick at shortstop, but he should be able to stay in center if that happens. He’s an excellent athlete with a good throwing arm and the potential to develop power at the plate. The A’s scout the Carolinas region extremely well and both Gore and Beck have significant upside, along with the significant risks that come with high school athletes. Gore is an excellent athlete whose stuff has taken a big step forward this season. He may be the second-best left-hander in this draft behind likely top pick Brendan McKay. Beck isn’t as polished as most players generally targeted by the A’s this high in the draft, but he has legitimate five-tool potential.
It’s hard to know who will be available for the A’s second Day One pick at #33, but if Missouri right-hander Tanner Houck lasts that long, the A’s could grab him. Houck had a disappointing end to his season, but he has struck-out more than a batter an inning in the competitive SEC the past two seasons. If Kentucky prep prospect Jordon Adell lasts this long in the draft, the A’s could take a flier on his immense power potential. He isn’t likely to still be on the board at 33, however.
If the A’s go with a pitcher with their top pick, they could grab Kentucky first baseman Evan White, who controls the bat extremely well and should hit for average at every level. He is a good athlete who has the ability to play in the outfield, as well as first base. The A’s could also take a look at North Carolina outfielder Brian Miller, who was a teammate of current A’s prospects Skye Bolt (2015 draft) and Tyler Ramirez (2016 draft) with the Tar Heels. Miller is an on-base machine who has above-average speed and performed well in the Cape Cod League last summer. He has played first base and outfield at UNC. Other players that could be in play at pick 33 are UNC shortstop Logan Warmoth, South Carolina right-hander Wil Crowe, California high school right-hander Matthew Sauer, LSU right-hander Alex Lange, Florida high school shortstop Mark Vientos and Stanford right-hander Tristan Beck.
On Day Two, the A’s could have interest in Mississippi State outfielder Brent Rooker. He’s old for a college junior (22 already), but Rooker is putting up Tecmo Baseball-like numbers for Mississippi State this season (.404/.505/.843). Rooker isn’t likely to be more than average defensively and he’s limited to first base or the corner outfield, but that offensive profile is hard to ignore.
Kentucky infielder Riley Mahan is another name who is likely on the A’s radar. Oakland scouts the UK program heavily and has made selections from the Wildcats the past couple of seasons. Mahan is a plus athlete with a pretty line-drive swing that has some power potential. He had a strong season on the Cape last summer. Mahan can play second, short and the outfield, although second is his most likely longterm position. He is a bit of a free-swinger, but he has shown some improvement with his plate discipline this season.
Texas prep outfielder Cole Turney carries a classic right fielder’s profile, something the A’s are lacking in their system at present. Turney is a well-built 6’1’’ with a strong left-handed throwing arm and a pretty swing. He comes out of a competitive baseball area in Richmond, Texas. The A’s have a history of selecting high school outfielders from Texas, with Billy McKinney and Matt Sulentic coming to mind.
Chase Pinder, younger brother of A’s utilityman Chad Pinder, is another intriguing Day Two candidate. Chase ticks off a lot of the boxes of what the A’s like for top-10 round picks: versatility with the glove, a strong approach at the plate, athleticism and good bloodlines. Pinder is primarily a centerfielder who can also play the corner outfield spots and second base.
Iowa first baseman Jake Adams has a ridiculous 24 homeruns in 53 games for the Hawkeyes this season. He’s an interesting story: a JUCO transfer who was committed to play for the University of North Dakota this season but had to scramble to find a Division I team when the UND program folded. The Hawkeyes were the lucky recipients of Adams’ services. He is a free-swinger and limited to first base defensively, but the power is impressive. Adams could be an interesting tail-end of Day Two selection.
There are a handful of college players eligible for the draft this season that the A’s selected out of high school in 2014. Oakland has never shied away from re-drafts if they like the development of the players during their time in college. Those players are:
Brock Lundquist, OF, Long Beach State: A second-team all Big West selection this season, Lundquist hit .275/.373/.423 this season. Those numbers are actually down from his first two seasons at LB State, as his strike-outs went way up this season. Lundquist is a good athlete with above-average speed.
Mike Rivera, C, Florida: Rivera has been on the receiving end of some of the filthiest pitches in college baseball the past three seasons as the Florida Gators’ everyday catcher. Rivera missed time this season with a broken hamate bone and his offensive numbers are down (.252/.349/.378), but he is a strong defensive catcher with some pop in his bat.
Tyler Schimpf, RHP, Texas: The Sacramento area native is a red-shirt sophomore after he missed part of his freshman season and all of last year with an injury. He is likely to return for his redshirt junior season, but Schimpf was highly regarded coming out of high school and he has performed well in 12 relief appearances for Texas this year.
Payton Squier, OF, UNLV: Squier is a career .330 hitter in three seasons for the Rebels. Squier has excellent bat control and has struck-out just 60 times in 754 career plate appearances. He doesn’t hit for much power, but the hit tool is intriguing.
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