Oakland A's General Manager Billy Beane has built his reputation on being a wheeler-and-dealer. During his tenure running the A's, Beane has never been shy about pulling the trigger on a trade to improve his team's current fortunes or its future outlook. The results of Beane's work have been impressive. Since 2000, the A's have reached the post-season eight times.
Beane's wheeling-and-dealing has had another consequence: very few players who were originally drafted or signed as amateurs by the A's remain with the organization as big leaguers. Going into the 2015 season, the A's have only three homegrown players who are virtual locks to contribute to big league team in a significant way - Sonny Gray, Sean Doolittle and A.J. Griffin. Doolittle and Griffin will begin the year on the disabled list, leaving 2011 first-round pick Gray left to carry the homegrown mantle until their return.
But what if baseball players were tied to their original organizations for the duration of their careers? What would the A's 2015 Opening Day roster look like? I take a look at the homegrown A's 25-man roster below. Does it compete well with the current projected Opening Day roster? You decide.
The Homegrown Team
Sonny Gray (1st round, 2011; 2014 MLB stats: 14-10, 3.08 ERA, 219 IP)
Tyson Ross (2nd round, 2008; 2014 MLB stats: 13-14, 2.81 ERA, 195.2 IP)
Tim Hudson (6th round, 1997; 2014 MLB stats: 9-13, 3.57 ERA, 189.1 IP)
A.J. Griffin (13th round, 2010; missed 2014 season – Tommy John surgery)
Trevor Cahill (2nd round, 2006; 2014 MLB stats: 3-12, 5.61 ERA, 110.2 IP) Competing for a spot:
Dan Straily (24th round, 2009; 2014 MLB stats: 1-3, 6.75 ERA, 52 IP)
Barry Zito (1st round, 1999; sat out the 2014 season) Top prospect:
Dillon Overton (2nd round, 2013) Summary: Two members of the A’s homegrown rotation are likely contributors to the A’s 2015 actual rotation – Opening Day starter Sonny Gray and right-hander A.J. Griffin. Griffin, of course, is making his way back from Tommy John surgery, but the A’s 2010 13th-round pick is expected to re-join the A’s rotation when he is healthy. He has a career 3.61 ERA in 47 regular season MLB starts. The A’s have gotten a lot of value out of their later-round starting pitcher selections. Only Gray and Barry Zito were first-round picks out of this group. Trevor Cahill and Tyson Ross came in the second round, while Tim Hudson, Griffin and Dan Straily all came via picks later than the fifth round. Top homegrown prospect Dillon Overton remains in the A’s organization and could impact the big league club as soon as mid-season 2016.
Huston Street (supp. 1st round, 2004; 2014 MLB stats: 1.37 ERA, 41 SV, 57 K in 59.1 IP)
Sean Doolittle (supp. 1st round, 2007; 2014 MLB stats: 2.73 ERA, 22 SV, 89 K in 62.2 IP)
Santiago Casilla (amateur free agent, 2000; 2014 MLB stats: 1.70 ERA, 19 SV, 45 K in 58.1 IP)
Ryan Webb (4th round, 2004; 2014 MLB stats: 3.83 ERA, 37 K in 49.1 IP)
Blake Treinen (7th round, 2011; 2014 MLB stats: 2.49 ERA, 30 K in 50.2 IP)
Alexi Ogando (amateur free agent, 2002; 2014 MLB stats: 6.84 ERA, 22 in 25 IP)
Ian Krol (7th round, 2009; 2014 MLB stats: 4.96 ERA, 28 K in 32.2 IP)
Nolan Sanburn (2nd round, 2012)
Summary: The A’s homegrown bullpen would be the envy of many actual teams around the league. The homegrown crew features three closers (Sean Doolittle, Huston Street and Santiago Casilla) for 2014 MLB playoff teams and another (Blake Treinen) who could be used in that role by a projected playoff team in 2015 (the Washington Nationals). Alexi Ogando and Doolittle both began their careers as position players in the A’s organization. Ogando never threw a pitch in a game with the A’s, although Oakland was exploring the idea of moving him from center field to the mound when he was caught up in legal issues that kept him from entering the US for five years. Ryan Webb and Ian Krol were high school picks who started their careers in the rotation with the A’s but had just moved to the bullpen when they were traded to different organizations. Top homegrown prospect Nolan Sanburn was traded at the end of last season for Adam Dunn. He is making a strong first impression this spring on his new organization, the Chicago White Sox.
Kurt Suzuki (2nd round, 2004; 2014 MLB stats: .288/.345/.383 in 131 G)
Anthony Recker (18th round, 2005; 2014 MLB stats: .201/.246/.374 in 58 G)
Bruce Maxwell (2nd round, 2012)
Summary: None of the A’s homegrown MLB catching corps are currently in the A’s organization. Kurt Suzuki had two stints with the team and most recently played for Oakland in 2013. He was an AL All-Star last season with the Minnesota Twins. John Baker and Anthony Recker have carved out nice careers for themselves as back-up catchers. Max Stassi appears to be the future behind-the-plate for the Houston Astros, although he has Jason Castro ahead of him on the depth chart. Stassi still has rookie-eligibility, but for the purposes of this article, we aren’t considering him a prospect. Bruce Maxwell, who was a non-roster invitee to A’s big league camp this spring, is the top homegrown A’s catching prospect. He is slated to spend the year in Double-A.
Nick Swisher, 1B/DH (1st round, 2002; 2014 MLB stats: .208/.278/.331 in 97 G)
Cliff Pennington, SS/2B (1st round, 2005; 2014 MLB stats: .254/.340/.350 in 68 G)
Grant Green, 2B/SS (1st round, 2009; 2014 MLB stats: .273/.282/.354 in 43 G)
Jemile Weeks, 2B (1st round, 2008; 2014 MLB stats: .297/. 372/.432 in 17 G)
Justin Sellers, SS/2B (6th round, 2005; 2014 MLB stats: .188/.316/.188 in 17 G)
Competing for Spots:
Dan Johnson, 1B (7th round, 2001; 2014 MLB stats: .211/.333/.342 in 15 G)
Gregorio Petit, SS/2B (amateur free agent; 2001; 2014 MLB stats: .278/.300/.423 in 37 G)
Omar Quintanilla, 2B/SS (1st round, 2003; 2014 MLB stats: .207/.258/.241 in 15 G)
Addison Russell, SS (1st round, 2012)
Summary: The A’s have used a lot of high-round picks on infielders over the past 15 years, but they haven’t had much to show for it. Nick Swisher has had an excellent career as a first baseman/outfielder/DH, although he is coming off of his worst season as a pro. Cliff Pennington has been valuable – in large part because of his glove – when on the field, but injuries have plagued him throughout his career. Jemile Weeks had a promising rookie season with the A’s in 2011, but he struggled in 2012 and has been striving to get back to a regular role in the big leagues ever since. Grant Green is competing for a spot with the Angels this spring, but his lack of a natural position has made it tough for him to stick in the big leagues. Justin Sellers hasn’t hit as a major leaguer, but he has proved to be a solid back-up infielder defensively.
Dan Johnson, Gregorio Petit and Omar Quintanilla were all among the A’s top prospects in the middle part of the 2000s. All three continue to hang around the big leagues as non-roster invitees to MLB camp, but all three are in their 30s. Addison Russell, the A’s top pick in 2012, is one of the top prospects in all of baseball. The A’s traded Russell to the Cubs last summer, and Russell appears ready to unseat incumbent Chicago shortstop Starling Castro sometime in the next 12 months.
Andre Ethier (2nd round, 2003; 2014 MLB stats: .249/.322/.370 in 130 G)
Ryan Ludwick (2nd round, 1999; 2014 MLB stats: .244/.308/.375 in 112 G)
Michael Choice (1st round, 2010; 2014 MLB stats: .185/.250/.320 in 86 G)
Billy McKinney (1st round, 2013)
Summary: The A’s infield depth on their homegrown roster looks significant compared to the A’s homegrown outfield. Andre Ethier and Ryan Ludwick have both had solid MLB careers, but both appear to be on the downside of their MLB careers. Michael Choice was the only outfielder the A’s used a first round pick on since Ben Grieve until Oakland selected Billy McKinney in the first round in 2013. Choice looked poised to establish himself as a major-league regular during his September call-up in 2013 with the A’s, but he has struggled badly since being traded to the Rangers last off-season. Billy McKinney was traded to the Chicago Cubs along with Addison Russell last summer. McKinney’s bat took off during his time with High-A Daytona and his stock is rising as a prospect.