Oakland A's Draft Q&A: Eric Kubota, Part 1

The 2013 MLB draft is in the books. On Friday, we spoke with Oakland A's Scouting Director Eric Kubota about the newest class of Oakland A's draft picks. In part one of the conversation, we cover Billy McKinney, Dillon Overton, Dylan Covey, Ryon Healy, Bobby Wahl, Chris Kohler, Bobby Wahl, Dustin Driver, Tyler Marincov, Ryan Huck, Kyle Finnegan and more...

OaklandClubhouse: Congratulations on finishing another year. It must be a big relief to have it over.

Eric Kubota: Thanks. It's always nice to have it done.

OC: It seems like you have a lot of the guys in the fold already. Is it nice to have so many of these contracts done already, or does it make that week after the draft a lot more intense?

EK: It's nice to get it out of the way. It's tough to have that hanging over your head for the whole summer. The best possible scenario is to get them signed and get them out [playing], both for their development so they are out playing, and for the peace of mind of the scouting director.

OC: I think there are three guys from your top-10 rounds who I hadn't heard anything about the team agreeing to terms with them: Dillon Overton [second round], Ryon Healy [third round] and Bobby Wahl [fifth round]. Are there any updates on their negotiations?

EK: I would add Dustin Driver [seventh round] to that mix. I know that he has Tweeted that he is signing, but nothing is completed yet. We are confident that that is all going to get worked out here within the next week, but it would be premature to say that they were signed.

OC: Both Overton and Wahl had some injury issues this season. Are you confident with their medicals that they are okay at this point?

EK: We are. We think that there is certainly some risk and reward there because they probably got to certain areas of the draft because some folks were wary of the medicals, but at this point, we are pretty confident with what we have seen and have reviewed with the medicals.

OC: You took two high school pitchers in those first 10 rounds: LHP Chris Kohler [supplemental third-round] and Driver? What do you expect from them down-the-road?

EK: Kohler is really an upside, projection lefty. A classic high school projection guy. We have seen him up to 93 [MPH]. We think there is a chance that he can throw with a plus fastball down-the-road. And he can really spin a breaking ball. There is some physical development needed for him to reach his ceiling. It's just one of those situations where you are betting on projection and what is coming down-the-line. Even though he flashes things that you really like now, you envision him showing more of those things consistently as he matures physically.

OC: With Driver, he was one of the top prospects to come out of his part of the state of Washington in the past several years. Had you guys been scouting him for a long time?

EK: Yeah. Driver is a guy who everybody has been on. He's been on the showcase circuit for years, so we have seen him since he was a sophomore in high school. He's always been a kid who has a really good arm and who can spin a breaking ball. We were pleasantly surprised to have him available there and we feel like we have a chance to sign him in that slot, as well.

OC: Going back to the top of the draft, you talked about Mark Kotsay as a comp for Billy McKinney [the A's top pick]. What struck me from the numbers he put together this season in high school was the lack of strike-outs. That reminded me of Bruce Maxwell from last year's class. Is that ability to make consistent contact something that you are looking for more and more recently, or has that always been something you have looked for?

EK: I think that is probably something that we have always looked for. I think more so that it is in relation to guys who strike-out a lot. I think we, more than anything, have shied away from guys who strike-out a lot. We have learned that guys who strike-out a lot as amateurs tend to continue to strike-out as professionals.

I don't think it is necessarily something that we locked in on with Billy, but it is certainly a reflection of the kind of hitter that he is. He has extremely good hand-eye coordination and he has a really good feel for the barrel [of the bat]. He is really able to get the ball on the barrel.

OC: Do you see much projection of growth for him physically, or do you think he's pretty maxed out growth-wise with the body that he has?

EK: We think he can get stronger. He's probably not going to grow height-wise, but we do think there is strength development left there, which could help both power and speed, really.

OC: With [6'5'', 225-pound] Ryon Healy, I assume there isn't much growing left for him to do.

EK: [laughs] Yeah.

OC: He's played both third base and first base as an amateur. Where do you see him position-wise as a pro?

EK: I think we are going to send him out and at least give him some time at third base. We have some scouts who believe he at least has a chance to play third base. For whatever reason, he played mainly at first base at Oregon, but we think he has the physical abilities to play over there at third and we are going to see how it works out.

OC: Both he and Ryan Huck [27th round] put together some really impressive power numbers in college this year with the new bats. Is it easier to scout how power will translate to wood bats with the new bats they are using in college?

EK: I think so. We have definitely found that the guys who hit homeruns and show power with the new bats, it's because of strength and the kind of things that lead to power with the wood bats. The big unknown is what technological gains have been made with that bat over the past year. Because it seemed like the homerun numbers were up this year.

But we do feel more confident the guys who hit homeruns with the new bats will be able to hit homeruns in the professional game.

OC: With Huck, I saw that he had played a little bit of catcher but had mostly been a first baseman. Are you projecting that he will be a first baseman or will he get a shot behind the plate?

EK: Yeah, most likely first base, but we may try to give him some time behind the plate. He is such a physically big kid. You don't see a lot of catchers in professional baseball who are that size, but since he's done it, we may give him a try back there.

OC: Your fourth-round pick Dylan Covey is obviously a player with a lot of history as a former first-round pick who decided not to sign when he found out that he had Type 1 diabetes. Is the diabetes a concern, or do you feel like he proved that he was able to pitch with the condition during his three years with San Diego?

EK: I think he has learned. It was new to him at the time [of when he was drafted in the first round in 2010] and new to the family. They had no idea and he had to learn how to manage it. We also know that there are plenty of players in professional baseball who have diabetes and are able to manage it. That's not really a concern for us right now.

OC: He was a little bit inconsistent during his time with San Diego, but he was obviously one of the top amateur players in the country at one time. Do you see him being able to get back to that level with some professional instruction?

EK: Yes. To be honest, we have seen flashes of that level of stuff from him. First and foremost, we really liked him coming out of high school and we scouted him heavily then. We have seen him show that same kind of stuff that he showed in high school. I think it took him some time to get back to it as he learned to deal with his diabetes, but we have seen his stuff. The issue has been consistency, but that was why he was able to fall to us in the fourth round. We still see flashes of the Dylan Covey who was a first rounder three years ago.

OC: The A's have a recent history of drafting pitchers from the San Diego program and you also took a player from UNC-Greensboro in this draft, which is another program that the A's have drafted out of with some frequency in recent years. Do you develop relationships with or expectations for players from certain programs, or is that drafting history more of a happenstance?

EK: I think that is pretty coincidental. In the case of UNC-Greensboro, that's where our scout lives, so he may have seen them more often than most people, but I think it's more coincidence than anything.

OC: Kyle Finnegan has a good fastball and I read that some scouts had him pegged as a back-end reliever in the pros. Will he have a chance to start in the beginning of his career, or will he be a reliever off the bat?

EK: I think he will go out as a starter. He was a starting pitcher for most of his career. We've seen him perform well in that capacity. He pitched well up in the Cape last summer as a starter, so he'll go out there in the beginning as a starter.

OC: Your eighth-round pick Tyler Marincov was a two-sport star in high school and was recruited collegiately as a quarterback, as well as a baseball player. What kind of athlete is he? Is he a corner outfielder only or is he a possible centerfielder?

EK: It's hard to say about the centerfield. He is certainly an athletic kid. He combines a rare combination of speed and power. If you look at his numbers, he stole a lot of bases and hit a lot of homeruns, which is a good combination to have. He will certainly have a chance to play centerfield, but no matter where he ends up on the field defensively, we think he will be an asset offensively.

Stay tuned for part two of this conversation.

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