Frankie Piliere's Take On A's Draft Class

The Oakland A's took a different direction with their draft class in 2012 from what they had done in past years. Heavy on high school players in the early rounds, the A's 2012 draft class is filled with high-risk, high-upside talent and power arms. We recently asked former Indians and Rangers scout and current National Baseball Expert Frankie Piliere for his take on the A's class.

OaklandClubhouse: You picked up on the A's interest in Addison Russell at 11 the week leading up to the draft, but were you surprised at all that they went with Russell at that pick?

Frankie Piliere: I was surprised. I heard them associated with him but there are a lot of things that you hear that you don't really buy [leading up to the draft]. You figure maybe they are interested in him for a later pick. I didn't anticipate him necessarily going that high. That doesn't mean I don't like the pick. I think it is a gamble-type pick. I think it is a good pick for them. It's either going look really, really good for them a few years down the road, or people are going to wonder what they were thinking a little bit.

Russell has a lot of upside with his bat. He's probably going to move to third base even though a lot of people told me this spring that he looked a lot better at shortstop, that he had slimmed down some. But given what I saw from him last summer, he's probably a third baseman. He's a really, really strong kid. He's going to hit for power and he runs pretty well. With this type of draft class where everyone was a little worried and playing it safe, I like taking a gamble that high.

OC: Do you think that supplemental first round picks Daniel Robertson and Matt Olson were gambles for the A's on that first day, as well?

FP: Robertson can really hit. The question with him is just how much he is going to learn to lift the ball when he hits. You look at his run numbers, like his 60-yard dash, he's not really a blazing runner or anything, but he's still a pretty athletic kid and he runs the bases pretty well. I think the overall package is pretty good. I think at that slot, that was a good pick.

Olson was not a guy I saw a lot, but a lot of scouts really, really liked this kid's bat. I heard some rave reviews about how this kid swung the bat this spring. It sounds like he could be maybe a little more of a polished high school bat.

OC: Olson played mostly first base in high school, but do you see him being able to move to a corner outfield spot given that he has a good throwing arm?

FP: I think it is possible. I have heard that on the table with a couple of scouts I talked to about him. Sounds like logically over time that first base is going to be his permanent home, but he does throw well so you have think that that is at least a possibility.

OC: Bruce Maxwell, the A's first pick in round two, had huge numbers for Birmingham Southern, but there wasn't a lot of pre-draft buzz around him. What was your take on Maxwell?

FP: It's actually quite coincidental that I had heard about him before the draft. I was talking to a couple of scouts who were going to Birmingham Southern and I was like, ‘Birmingham Southern? Why were they covering Birmingham Southern?' I looked into it and saw that Bruce Maxwell was there putting up these huge numbers. I checked into it further and apparently there were a lot of teams on this guy pretty high thinking that he was going to be a plate-discipline type power bat at the next level despite him facing pretty low-level competition.

There were a lot of teams on him. There were scouting directors in to see him late. I think the A's might have gotten a steal there because a lot of teams were thinking of picking him right around that range.

OC: The first pitcher the A's took was a reliever from Arkansas, Nolan Sanburn. Do you see him as the kind of reliever who could move quickly?

FP: I think he could go relatively fast. I think you are going to have to see the command be a little better. If you get him focused on being just a reliever and just commanding two pitches, suddenly that process speeds up a little bit. That's what I like about putting a guy in the bullpen who doesn't have perfect command. You narrow his stuff down a little bit and get him only working out of the stretch, you can simplify things. If you can do that, he has very good stuff – he can crank it into the mid-90s and he has a good enough secondary arsenal – I think he can move relatively quickly. I don't think he's a guy that you are going to see right away, but I think relatively quickly.

OC: Seemed like there were a lot of hard throwers in the draft this year. Did it seem like that to you, as well?

FP: Yeah. What you saw in this draft was a lot of that type of profile. Maybe not necessarily that finished product, three-pitch college pitcher, but a lot of quality arms. And a lot of relief arms. If there was one strength out of this draft, you could say it was in the power arms who maybe could help your bullpen pretty quick.

OC: The A's third-round pick was Southern California high school lefty Kyle Twomey. I think you had had him ranked a little higher than that. Were you surprised he lasted into the third round?

FP: A little bit. You never know with projection-type left-handers exactly. Some people are going to see those types of guys differently. It is going to depend on who buys into them. That's probably a good value where they did get him. That is probably on the low-end of where I expected him to go. He's got a lot of projection and his current stuff is pretty good. His arm works well, as scouts like to say about him.

That's what I liked about the A's class overall. They got a little bit of diversity in the higher rounds. They got a projection lefty. They got their hard-throwing reliever. They got their big college bat in Bruce Maxwell. They got their high-upside high schoolers. They did a little bit of everything.

OC: Is there anyone that you can compare Twomey to?

FP: You look at a guy like Max Fried earlier in the draft [pick seven to San Diego]. I hate to say this, but I think Twomey is a poor man's Max Fried. Not quite the polish. Not quite the tight spin on the breaking ball. Similar frame and similar upside to that. At best case, you are hoping for a Barry Zito type guy. A guy with a good long arm action who commands his fastball. He's probably a guy who is going to eventually live in the low-90s, if everything breaks the way you hope it does. That's a two-or-three type starter, ideally.

OC: Max Muncy out of Baylor was another first baseman that the A's took in the top-five rounds. Is he a guy you think can be moved around the diamond a little bit, or is he limited to first base?

FP: I think he could. I saw him play I believe two years ago and he's a pretty good athlete. I'm not sure what kind of numbers he put up this spring, but he has raw power. I saw him swing it pretty well with the wood bats. He has the kind of raw power that you might see emerge in the pros. I buy into guys if they are showing me that, especially playing in the Cape [Cod League] or any of these college leagues. I don't know if his numbers jumped out this spring, but I think he's a guy who can excel a little bit.

OC: Was there anyone else they picked either Day Two or Day Three who jumped out at you as an under-the-radar kind of pick?

FP: Not that I can remember. This year's Day Two and Day Three was really weird with the new CBA [collective bargaining agreement]. Every year you get the big signability guy in the eighth or ninth round, but that almost didn't exist this year. Everyone was taking these college seniors from small schools. Very, very uncharacteristic from that part of the draft. It was weird.

OC: Was that the biggest difference that you noticed under the new rules?

FP: Definitely. I think that was a distinct, distinct change. I was talking to people as the draft was happening and was saying, ‘is it just me or is this very unusual compared to the way the draft usually goes?' They were saying ‘yeah, it's very unusual.' All of sudden you were seeing guys drafted from schools that you almost have never heard of and senior signs in earlier rounds. That's not the way the draft has gone before. I think it radically changed things. I was curious going in how it was going to change the draft and I think it changed it a lot.

OC: Do you think it is going to have a big impact on this year's short-season leagues and the minor leagues in general moving forward?

FP: Yeah. I think with most of these guys, they weren't going to be drafted unless they were going to sign right away. You get all of these guys signing almost immediately – and I think we have already heard of a few who have – and that's the only reason that they are going to take these college seniors from small schools early in the draft is that the teams know they are going to get them right away.

The college game is going to get better. You are going to see a lot stronger college teams down the road. Right now, the choices weren't great in the college ranks. That's why you saw weaker drafts in rounds four through 10. But eventually this system is going to make the college game stronger, so a couple of years from now, they are still going to be able to draft college players at a reasonable price, but they are going to be the high school players from this year that didn't get signed. Eventually I think the system is going to balance itself out.

OC: What was the biggest surprise for you from Day One of the draft?

FP: I think it was hands down, no doubt about it, the number one pick. The rest of my mock was pretty much intact, at least the top options. If it wasn't the top option, it was one of the guys I mentioned. I don't think anyone saw the Carlos Correa pick coming. Houston had had him in for a workout at one point, but I think everyone thought that the Astros were just doing their due diligence. I don't think anyone thought they'd pull the trigger on that.

OC: Do you have a sense if Mark Appel [of Stanford] will sign with Pittsburgh?

FP:, I think he's going to be tough. They have a couple of picks they took later that I'm sure they want to sign. I don't know how they are going to give him and Scott Boras what they want. I also wouldn't advise him to go back for his senior year. If he did that, he'd have absolutely no leverage next year. He's in a really tight spot. It may be kind of a lesson learned for other guys in future drafts not to put these big price tags out there with the new CBA because it can burn you.

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