The 2015 MLB Draft took place last week and the Oakland A's made 40 selections, beginning with Florida shortstop Richie Martin in round 1 and finishing with Illinois high school SS Nick Maton in round 40. We spoke with Oakland A's Director of Scouting Eric Kubota about the A's newest draft class.
OaklandClubhouse: This was kind of an unusual draft in that there didn’t seem to be any industry-wide consensus as to who was going to go where for the first 10 or 15 picks. Did that uncertainty create any differences for you guys as you were putting your board together?
Eric Kubota: Although we didn’t know exactly know what order they were going to go in, we had a pretty good idea of what guys were going to be gone. There are always going to be a few surprises when you are picking 20. It’s hard to know exactly all 19 that are going to go in front of you, but I think we had a pretty good idea that the majority of the guys that went would be gone. I think we were pretty well prepared for how things shook out.
OC: You guys have moved pretty quickly to sign players. I believe you have signed 27 out of the 40 picks already. Obviously, Richie Martin won’t be able to sign officially until after the College World Series. Besides Richie, everyone has signed in your top-10 picks except for Skye Bolt (round 4). Is there an update on where his negotiations stand at this point?
EK: Yeah, I think we are really close. I don’t foresee any issues there.
OC: After Day 1 of the draft, you spoke about how you had followed Richie Martin for some time before selecting him. Is there a comp for him defensively as he enters pro ball? Is he similar with the glove to where Cliff Pennington was at when he was selected in 2005?
EK: I actually think he does things a lot easier than Cliff did. They are similar in their athleticism. One thing that Cliff had to learn in pro ball was to tone down his energy at times. I think that Richie probably plays at a little calmer pace than Cliff did at the same point in their careers.
OC: You took Mikey White, another shortstop, with your second pick. This obviously isn’t the first time that you have selected two shortstops with your first two picks, so it might not be that unusual to have them at the same level to start their careers, but do you see Mikey playing more second base at the outset even if you project him to be able to stay at shortstop long-term?
EK: I think during Instructional League, he’ll probably play some different positions. In all honesty, during Instructional League, Richie will probably play some different positions, as well. We kind of do that with all of our infielders. But I will say that, as of right now, we see both of them as shortstops.
OC: In terms of his offensive profile, where do you see White fitting in as a pro? Is he more of a run-producer or a table-setter?
EK: I think table-setter is probably a good way to put it. He has shown the ability to get on-base. He has the speed to be disruptive on the base-paths. We can envision him hitting at the top of the line-up.
OC: Dakota Chalmers, going with your third pick, was one of the few high school players the A’s selected this year. I had heard some first-round buzz on him leading into the draft and it sounds like he got first-round money. The 98 MPH fastball is going to jump out at you, but what else is it about him that you think makes him a unique talent?
EK: We think he can really, really spin a baseball. We think he is going to have a plus curveball. He flashes it now. It’s just inconsistent. For a high school kid, he has a really advanced feel for his change-up. Stuff-wise, there is a lot to like now and there is a lot of projection left in his body. He’s not really physically developed yet. He’s on the leaner side. There is a lot more physical development to be done there.
OC: Is it coincidental that you have selected a high school pitcher in the third round three out of the last four years, or is that just a good round to grab those types of prospects?
EK: I didn’t even realize that. [laughs] At that point, you are trying to find the best opportunities available for you.
OC: Skye Bolt got off to a very fast start at UNC but then had that foot injury and never got back to that level production-wise. He obviously has a lot of skills. Is there a player that he reminds you of from a projection standpoint?
EK: It’s funny. I have been thinking about that a little bit. It’s not a perfect comparison, but a Jim Edmonds-type in centerfield with really good defense and power potential. Their bodies aren’t totally alike. Skye is more of a leaner, athletic looking guy and Edmonds is more of a stronger looking guy, but the ultimate profile, in a perfect world, that’s what we would look towards.
OC: The A’s take a lot of up-the-middle talent. That isn’t unusual around baseball, but does it give you more options when you take second base, shortstop, centerfield types in case they don’t stick at those positions when they get to the pros?
EK: Yeah, especially with middle infielders and centerfielders, you are generally looking at the best athletes on the field. That’s usually what sticks out with them right off of the top – the pure athleticism. Having that in their back pocket is only a positive for them as they begin to develop and find out what kind of player they are going to be in professional baseball.
OC: One of the other really athletic outfielders that you guys selected is James Terrell (round 11). He’s also one of the local picks (from Vallejo). What can you tell me about him, and do you think he is going to sign?
EK: Yeah, we feel very comfortable about that. In fact, I believe we agreed to terms with him yesterday. He’s extremely athletic. He ran a 6.43 60[-yard dash] at our workouts the other day. He can throw. We also think there is upside with the bat. There is going to be a lot of developmental time necessary for James to reach his potential, but he has a very high ceiling if he gets there.
OC: I believe he is one of a few guys you selected who is the son of a coach. We have talked about bloodline picks in the past. To be a coach’s son, is that a helpful thing when you are looking to measure the make-up of a player?
EK: I don’t think that we specifically look at that, but I don’t think it is a coincidence that James plays the game the way that he does. It’s no coincidence that his father is involved in baseball. It’s a bit of a chicken-and-the-egg question. We aren’t necessarily looking for that, but a lot of times, the guys we gravitate towards are coming from that kind of environment.
OC: Kevin Duchene (round 5) was part of that Illinois staff that was one of the best in the country this year. Drew Dickinson (former A’s prospect) is his pitching coach and Drew spoke very highly of Duchene’s polish and aggressiveness on the mound. Do you see Duchene being able to make a quick transition to pro ball?
EK: Yes. He’s got everything he needs now. He has a head start on knowing how to use everything that he has, as well. He’s not over-powering, but he’s not a soft-tosser. We have seen him up to 92. His breaking stuff and his change-up are average to better and he obviously knows how to use that. He’s got a jump on a lot of guys because he already has a feel for how he has to pitch.
OC: I noticed with the pitching class from this year, the guys you took seemed to almost universally have good feels for all of their stuff and a lot of polish. Last year, it was more velocity and upside that united the pitching class. Was this year’s group of pitchers more of a product of the strength of this draft class or a concerted effort to go after more polished pitching?
EK: I think it was more of a fact of the draft class. I don’t think we necessarily emphasized not taking velocity. We always want velocity, so that goes without saying. I’m not really sure we really emphasized going after guys who performed well but it is something that we certainly noticed as we were considering guys at different spots. It gives guys an edge when you are considering two guys.
OC: I got to speak with Kyle Friedrichs (round 7) after you selected him and it’s a great story with how he overcame Tommy John surgery and out-dueled Dillon Tate this year. He sort of reminded me of A.J. Griffin and the resume that he had had when he came into pro ball. Do you see any similarities between Friedrichs and Griffin?
EK: I hadn’t thought about that, but that makes a lot of sense. The thing with Kyle and the thing that you notice with a lot of these guys we took is that they all have very good control and command. One of the things that we have talked about is that it doesn’t get easier to throw strikes as you move up the ladder in professional baseball and the strike-zone gets smaller. The ability to throw strikes is something that certainly was important.
EK: I think we see all of these guys – certainly the guys we took in the top-10 rounds – as starting pitchers. Bubba is a converted guy. He was a position player at one time and he’s athletic. He’s another guy who just has a good feel for the strike-zone. He also has good stuff. We have seen him up to 93 and he has a plus change-up and an advanced feel for using what he has.
OC: I don’t know that I had ever seen anyone drafted from Georgetown. I lived in DC for awhile and wasn’t aware they had a baseball program, but a few guys were taken from there this year, including Nick Collins (round 8). What kind of prospect is he?
EK: He’s a guy who one of our scouts identified during the Cape Cod League last summer as sort of a gut-feel guy. He’s physical. He can swing the bat and he can really throw and we think his receiving skills are developing. I think we all know that baseball players come from all different kinds of backgrounds. Nick is just starting to come into his own and that’s why he’s coming from where he is.
OC: Jared Lyons (round 9) is another strike-thrower. What sort of pitcher does he project to be in the pros?
EK: He’s similar to Duchene in a lot of ways. He has kind of averagish stuff across the board with a good feel for how to use it. He’s another strike-thrower. There’s a lot of similarities. Physically, he’s a six-footer so he is more along the lines of a Scott Kazmir from a stature perspective, but Lyons is a guy who can really pitch with averagish type stuff.
OC: Steven Pallares (round 10) made national headlines with that steal of home to win a NCAA post-season game earlier this year. He played pretty much every role you can play in college but he really emerged as a starter this season. Is he really just starting to come into own as a player?
EK: That’s kind of what we think. We think he is a potential late-bloomer. He is a senior and you don’t often talk about seniors being upside-type draft picks, but we do think Steven has some upside. He can run and throw and he has some projection left in his body. He had a really good senior year. We are really looking forward to seeing what Keith Lieppman and the player development group can do with him.
OC: Ryan Howell (round 12) is another local pick (Brentwood) who played collegiately at Nevada by way of Oregon State and a few other stops. He had that labrum injury early in his college career. Are there concerns about whether he will be able to handle throwing as a pro, or do you think he can stay at second base?
EK: We do our due diligence medically. As of now, we feel comfortable that he will be able to handle the everyday rigors of professional baseball and we certainly don’t think the injury will impact his hitting at all.
OC: Do you see him moving around the field defensively perhaps?
EK: A little bit, yeah. He has the versatility to play some outfield and he played some second base this year, so he can handle the infield. Wherever we can fit that bat in, we’ll fit it in.
OC: Seth Brown (round 19) put up some big power numbers in his first season at Lewis-Clark State, the NAIA powerhouse program. Does he have among the biggest power potential of any of the guys you took this year?
EK: Yeah, we certainly think so. He comes from a smaller school but L-C State has put out its share of big leaguers. In fact, he was at least close to having as many homeruns (23) as strike-outs (25), which is pretty impressive. That is a feather in his cap alone. We are very interested to see how his power translates to our game.
EK: It’s an ongoing discussion. We are still talking. There is a chance that we can sign him, but it’s just going to probably take us awhile to work on the situation. All things being equal, we are really hoping to sign him.
OC: I know that Greg Fettes (round 39) is a summer follow. Are there other summer follows you are looking at right now?
EK: Yeah, Andy Cox (round 37) from Tennessee is kind of in that boat and Troy Rallings (round 36) from UW is in that boat. We took a couple of guys that we are going to see where we are at later this summer budget-wise.
OC: Eric Senior (round 23) from Toronto was another high school kid that you guys selected. Reading reports, it sounds like he really emerged as a prospect at a showcase Canada last year where he performed well with several Canadian prospects that were taken early on in this draft. Do you anticipate being able to sign him and what kind of player does he project to be?
EK: We certainly hope to sign him and we think there is a chance that we are going to be able to do that. He is a super athletic kid with a ton of upside. I only saw him on video but the video that I saw – and this is a hard comparison for a young kid – but on the video he looks like a young Vladimir Guerrero. He has the same kind of projectible body. You can just envision him being that physical and explosive as he matures.
OC: Brady Bramlett (round 22) came off of labrum surgery and threw a lot of innings for Ole Miss this year. I don’t think I’ve seen someone come off of that surgery and throw those kind of innings that quickly. Is he one of those rare pitchers who can recover quickly from labrum surgery?
EK: Yeah, once again, our medical people are comfortable with where he is at. I’m not optimistic about getting that deal done right now, however.
OC: If Mike Murray (round 32) had been eligible for the draft after his sophomore season, he might have gone in the top-10 rounds based on the year he had for Florida Gulf Coast in 2014. This year, some of the peripherals were pretty similar but his ERA was higher and he slipped in the draft. Do you see him as a potential sleeper in this draft?
EK: Yeah, we really feel good about getting him. For whatever reason, his season didn’t go as he had hoped, but we were really excited to get the opportunity to take him. He’s another guy who has agreed to terms and is really excited to get going. We are excited to see about how he develops.
OC: After selecting him last year, Tim Proudfoot (round 35) went back to Texas Tech, but you got the chance to bring him in this year. Everything I’ve read makes him sound like a pretty special defensive player. Are you excited about seeing him play defense in the pros?
EK: Yes, that’s what he does and he does it really well. We all know if there is a position where you can bring a lot of value just defensively, it’s at shortstop. He’s got plenty of opportunity in front of him.
OC: Besides James Terrell and Skye Bolt, are there any other picks that you are close to agreeing to terms with right now?
EK: Right now, I’d say none that we are close to agreeing to terms with but there are a few guys that we are hopeful of signing.