For a complete directory of our coverage of the Oakland A's 2016 draft class, please click here.
OaklandClubhouse: Thanks for taking the time to do this call. You guys have been busy this week.
Eric Kubota: [laughs] It’s good to get so many signed quickly and out playing.
OC: Obviously two deals that won’t get done right away are A.J. Puk and Logan Shore, as they compete in the College World Series. Does having to wait for them to sign impact at all how the bonus allocation goes for other players?
EK: Not really. We have a pretty good indication of what it is going to take to get those guys signed.
OC: Is there any holding your breath when you have to wait to watch those guys pitch more before they sign? Or are you pretty used to that wait at this point?
EK: Yeah, you certainly are looking for them to get through their outings and be healthy, at the very minimum.
OC: Daulton Jefferies was at the Coliseum yesterday and he talked about how he had always admired Sonny Gray. With Jefferies being around six-feet and right-handed, there are always going to be comparisons between the two. Do you see similarities between Jefferies and Gray?
EK: I think we actually compared him more with Mike Leake, to be honest. Same conference. Similar sort of profiles in college. So that’s who we compared him to, but you can certainly make comparisons to Sonny based on stature and stuff.
OC: Does Jefferies have that sort of athleticism that Leake has? Leake was a pretty good hitter in college, in addition to being a pitcher.
EK: Yeah. Definitely. Daulton was a position player throughout high school. In fact, he played shortstop on our Area Code team. His brother is a professional player as a position player. He’s definitely a very athletic kid and that lends itself to his pitching.
OC: Going back to Puk, it doesn’t get talked about a lot but he started his collegiate career as a two-way player. Do you think he’s more athletic than people give him credit for given his size?
EK: We do. He’s a big kid and obviously it’s easy to see awkwardness if you want to see that, but we think he’s a good athlete. We know he went there as a hitter his freshman year and certainly we think he is more athletic than people give him credit for and we think that athleticism will help him reach his ceiling.
OC: With Shore, I have seen Joe Blanton comps put on him. Do you similarities between Shore and when Blanton was selected in 2004?
EK: I guess you could. I think Logan is a much more polished pitcher than Joe was at the same time and has had much more success. To be the Friday night guy for the University of Florida from your freshman season is pretty special and not something that happens all of the time. He’s done nothing but win at that level. He’s really advanced in how to pitch. He has been taught really well by his college coach, Kevin O’Sullivan, who is a really good pitching guy. It shows in how he goes about his business.
OC: Sean Murphy signed today. The hamate injury obviously impacted him this season. Do you get the sense that he will be taken along a little more slowly this season because of the injury, or should he be able to get out and compete right away?
EK: We’ll have to get him in with our trainers and doctors to see where he is in his recovery. It’s a very common injury and once it heals, it’s healed. We do think it did hamper his spring a little bit, but we will have to evaluate him when he gets here to see where he is at on that timeline.
OC: Did you have a first-round grade on him before the injury?
EK: Close, yeah. We would have thought we would have been talking about him if not with our first pick, then certainly with our second pick early in the spring.
OC: Do you see him as a player who can profile above-average both offensively and defensively at catcher?
EK: We think he is more advanced right now defensively, but there is definitely strength that he has to work with offensively that will allow him to be a good offensive player, but we do think his defense is ahead of his offense right now.
OC: Skylar Szynski, who signed today, stands out as the first high school player that you guys picked. I have heard him compared favorably to Nolan Watson (who was a first-round pick in 2015). Do you see him comparing favorably to Watson?
EK: I kind of did. It’s an easy comparison because he’s from the same area, and I think that’s why people had that comp, but he is definitely a prototypical upside right-handed high school pitcher. He’s not all that different from Dakota Chalmers, who we took last year. They aren’t all that different. They are all athletic and young and throw hard and have some good secondary stuff. We’ll see what happens as time goes on.
OC: JaVon Shelby signed this morning. He’s a guy who if the draft came after his sophomore year likely would have had first-round talk, but then he struggled this year. What do you see from Shelby from a talent perspective, assuming he can shake whatever ailed him at the plate this year?
EK: It’s funny. I saw JaVon early in the year and kind of fell in love with him. Obviously, he’s the son of a big leaguer [John Shelby], but the way he goes about his business, he plays the game really hard. He’s energetic with a plus arm and plus speed. He has strength and attack in the bat. I know he had a tough year offensively, but, for us, that was an opportunity to get a guy who we thought was a real talent in a lower round. He can really do a lot of things above average and we think that that, plus the makeup, is really going to take him a long ways.
OC: Do you see him as a third baseman or do you see him moving out to centerfield or right field eventually?
EK: It’s hard to say. He’s playing third base now, and that’s probably where he is going to start his professional career. He played second base last year. We do think he has the athletic ability to play centerfield possibly. Versatility is something that we value highly here and we think he brings that and will have the opportunity to play a number of different positions.
OC: Size will always be something that comes up when talking about Brandon Bailey, but do you see him being able to stay as a starter, or do you think he ends up as a reliever down-the-road?
EK: We definitely see him as a starting pitcher. We think he can really pitch. The stuff is mostly average across the board, but he really knows how to pitch and he can compete. We certainly see him as a starting pitcher.
OC: Do you see similarities between him and Bubba Derby from last year?
EK: Somewhat, yeah. That’s a valid comparison. We talked about that a little bit.
OC: Tyler Ramirez, who also signed today, is an interesting pick. Second year in a row that you guys have selected a North Carolina outfielder day two. It seems like Ramirez is the opposite of Skye Bolt, in that Ramirez is talked about more about production than raw tools. Is that fair?
EK: We thought that Tyler has been the best hitter on North Carolina for the past two years, so we think he can really hit. We think he is a plus runner, so it’s not that he doesn’t have tools. He has tools, as well. He’s not as big as Skye. There are a lot of differences from Skye in terms of the performance, but they do have some similarities and it’s not like Tyler doesn’t have tools. We really, really think he can hit. He’s a plus runner and we think he has a chance to stay in centerfield.
EK: I think they are both guys who have a chance to move quickly. They are both seniors who have an advanced idea of how to get guys out. I think they will get out there quickly and hopefully move up quickly.
OC: What can you tell me about 10th-round pick Mitchell Jordan?
EK: He can really pitch too. I encourage you to take a look at his summer in the Cape Cod League [he was the league’s Pitcher of the Year and had an 0.20 ERA]. When I saw him pitch on the Cape, which was probably more than two-thirds of the way through the season, I saw him give up his first earned run of the season. That may have been the only run he gave up the whole time. He can really pitch. We were certainly happy to get him in that round.
OC: How much does a player’s performance on the Cape impact how you evaluate him even after his college season?
EK: We try not to put too much into it, but it does mean something to us. It’s just another opportunity to evaluate guys. Sometimes you don’t get another chance to see them again in the spring. It’s also another chance to see how they do against better competition. We try not to over-emphasize it, but it is another point of information that we use when trying to make the decision.
Stay tuned for part two of this interview, when we discuss the rest of the A's 2016 draft class.