Name: J.P. Sportman
Height/Weight: 5’9’’, 190
How Acquired: 27th round pick, 2014 (Central Connecticut)
The Oakland A’s used their 27th-round pick in the 2014 draft on Central Connecticut State’s J.P. Sportman. Sportman became just the 19th player ever drafted out of Central Connecticut. Two alums from the school have made the big leagues, with the A’s Evan Scribner being one of the two.
Sportman had a very productive collegiate career, hitting better than .325 in each of his last three seasons at CCSU. Sportman walked more than he struck-out his senior season and swiped 15 bases in 49 games.
"[Sportman] has a chance. A hard-nosed gamer." - Oakland A's Midwest Area Scout Rich Sparks.
In addition to his play for CCSU, Sportman made himself a draft prospect by shining in the summer New England Collegiate League. He hit .355/.392/.526 during the summer of 2012 and .340/.409/.524 during the summer of 2013.
Despite those solid numbers during college, Sportman arrived in professional baseball with something to prove. The A’s originally assigned Sportman to Rookie ball, where he was three-to-four years older than many of his teammates. Sportman got off to a bit of slow start with the AZL A’s, but after about a week-long adjustment period, Sportman emphatically proved he was too good to be in Rookie ball. He hit .368/.471/.439 in 15 games in July for the AZL A’s before being promoted to short-season Vermont.
Sportman continued to open eyes with the Lake Monsters. He hit .316/.357/.553 in 10 games in July for Vermont, earning a spot in the New York-Penn League’s mid-season All-Star game despite his late arrival to the league. Sportman faded a bit down the stretch, as many first-year players do, but he still finished his stint in the New York-Penn League with a .301/.333/.418 line. All three of those slash numbers were significantly higher than the New York-Penn League average. In total, Sportman finished his first professional season with a .309/.365/.409 line in 230 official at-bats. He homered three times, walked 22 times and collected 12 doubles.
After the regular season concluded, Sportman was invited to participate in the A’s fall Instructional League. He continued to open eyes during his fall stint. A’s Midwest Area Scout Rich Sparks got a short look at Sportman during Instructs and liked what he saw.
“He has a chance. A hard-nosed gamer,” Sparks said. “He has a solid, aggressive approach. Below average power but knowledge of the strike zone. He can run and can throw plus. He has good instincts in the outfield.”
Sparks compared Sportman to another A’s prospect who opened eyes in 2014 – outfielder Boog Powell. Like Powell, Sportman isn’t particularly big (5’9’’, 190), but he has a high baseball IQ and his instincts on the field allow him to maximize his physical abilities. Sportman uses the whole field well and has a good idea of what he is looking for when he steps to the plate.
Outfielder Craig Gentry is another current member of the A’s organization to whom Sportman compares. Although Sportman isn’t quite as tall as Gentry, they have similar skill-sets, a similar approach at the plate and a similar, all-out style of play. Like Gentry, Sportman can play all three outfield positions and his throwing arm is an asset from all three spots. Sportman is still learning the ins-and-outs of stealing bases in professional baseball, but he has the speed and instincts to make his legs a weapon. Like Gentry, Sportman handles the bat well and can grind out his at-bats. Sportman has more power than Gentry did at the same stage in his career, although Sportman doesn’t project to be a power-hitter as he develops.
Sportman should start his first full professional season in Low-A Beloit, where he will be in the line-up everyday for the Snappers. If the A’s see some movement amongst their outfielders during the season, Sportman will be in a good position to make a mid-year jump to High-A Stockton if he plays well for Beloit, much the same way Powell did in 2014.