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Oakland A's post-draft Q&A: Scouting Director Eric Kubota, part 2

In part two of our post-draft conversation with longtime Oakland A's Scouting Director Eric Kubota, we discuss the A's Day Three selections.

OaklandClubhouse: I have seen a lot written about Eli White’s glove and that being a strength for him. Is that a correct assessment?

Eric Kubota: Yeah, definitely. He’s super athletic. We think he can really defend. He’s a well above-average runner. We think he’s got an above-average arm and he’s got strength to work with at the plate. I saw the homerun at the ACC tournament. We think there are a lot of ingredients offensively for a hitting coach to work with and we really like the athleticism and the defense.

OC: Luke Persico really improved his contact rate this year. Was that a jump that drew your department’s attention?

EK: He’s a guy that we have liked for a long time, to be honest. We would have thought his performance would have been better at UCLA prior to now. He’s another guy who we saw at the end of the Cape. We liked him there. He got off to a slow start this year for UCLA, but he really picked it up as the season went on. We think he’s actually playing out of position. He’s played a lot of third base and first base, but we see him more as an outfielder in professional baseball. Once again, he has the versatility to have at least played different positions and played them well.

OC: There were a decent number of guys in this draft class that moved around positions in college. Is versatility something you target or was that more coincidence?

EK: I don’t think we seek it out, but it’s nice when it works out that way.

OC: When you get to Day Three, is there a point when you start looking at position and draft based on knowing that there are only X number of innings to spread around at each position, or is it Best Player Available throughout the draft?

EK: Certainly Day Three, you are starting to make sure that you are filling needs for your lower-level teams. We always need pitching, so you try to do the best you can to get as much pitching as you can while also getting the position players that you like. Day Three is definitely a point where we are very aware of the positions we need to fill and the point that we fill those needs.

OC: Nate Mondou, is he more of an offense-first second baseman at this point?

EK: We saw him a lot because Will Craig was on his team. We scouted him a lot. Most of us think he can really hit. He’s moved around a little bit because he played some third when Craig didn’t play third. We had a few guys in the room that really liked his defense. Those guys would say he’s equally bat and defense, whereas most would probably say the defense is a little bit behind the bat.

OC: Nolan Blackwood comes into pro ball as a submarining right-hander. Do you see him as a groundball-heavy reliever?

EK: Yeah, that’s what we have seen. He throws hard. It’s not just a deception thing. We have seen him up to 93 MPH and he has a decent breaking ball and he definitely sinks the baseball. These guys [sinkerball relievers] work their way up through the minor leagues relatively quickly. You can see him filling a role in the big leagues relatively quickly.

OC: Ty Damron is still pitching for Texas Tech in the College World Series. He seems like a guy whose stuff might be better than the results he has seen this year in college, especially from an ERA perspective. Do you see him as someone who will greatly benefit from professional coaching?

EK: We think this is a perfect case of a guy with really good stuff who may just need a change of scenery, for one, or just needs some help fine-tuning what he has. He has a really good college pitching coach at Texas Tech who pitched in the big leagues himself, but sometimes it is just a change of scenery or a different voice that helps. He’s a good bodied left-hander with stuff. At that point in the draft, you are taking a chance on that.

OC: Is Anthony Churlin someone who you will follow during the summer, or do you think a decision will be made earlier on whether he will sign?

EK: Hopefully he’ll be signed in the next few days.

OC: He and Jeramiah McCray are both 19 as high school seniors. Being 19 as a high school senior was something that was talked about impacting Blake Rutherford. Are you seeing more 19-year-old high school seniors these days with schools pushing up the kindergarten cutoff date in a number of districts?

EK: I’m not 100% sure it’s just school districts. I think sometimes it’s just parents do it, too, to have their kids a little bit older. When you speak about it in relation to how it impacted Rutherford [many pointed to his age as the reason he slipped out of the top-10], in this point of the draft, you are much more willing to look the other way to a certain degree on the age.

OC: Is Churlin someone who you see developing power as he fills out his frame?

EK: We think he has got power. We have seen him hit homeruns. He is an athletic kid. He’s a toolsy guy to put into the system and see how we can help him develop.

OC: Jimmy Coffman mentioned how impressed he was with Seth Martinez’s ability to command the baseball when he faced Oregon State earlier this year. Is there anyone who you would compare him to?

EK: I didn’t see him myself, but he certainly pitched very well this year and had very good numbers. Somebody like Martinez who has gone out and put up big numbers throwing on Fridays and pitching against the best pitchers the other teams have to offer, having that success is something that we certainly value.

OC: You guys selected a number of catchers this year beyond taking Sean Murphy in round three. Was adding depth to the catching position a priority for the later parts of the draft?

EK: I think we could certainly use some catchers and the strength of really all of the catchers that we took was their defense. I think trying to get some strong defensive catchers into the system can only help. 

OC: Skyler Weber moved around a little bit when he was at Georgia. Do you see him staying at catcher, or do you see him moving back out to the outfield in the pros?

EK: Our area scout has seen him catch and really believes that catching is the best position for him. Sometimes at the college level, it’s just a matter of trying to get the best nine guys onto the field and mixing and matching where to put them. He certainly has enough versatility to play the outfield and play some other positions, but we think his best position is behind the plate.

OC: Sam Gilbert was another one of those guys who had a high ERA but I read that he has been clocked as high as 96 MPH. Is he another raw talent despite being a college player?

EK: At certain spots in the draft, it’s hard to get performance and stuff, so you are getting one or the other. We see a guy who is up to 93-94 with a plus slider. We’ll see what that does for him in professional baseball.

OC: Brigham Hill was an interesting story in that he just arrived at Texas A&M and moved into a starter’s role midway through the season. Is he like Boomer Biegalski was last year where you will see how much money is left at the end to determine whether or not he is signed?

EK: Kind of. I do think that having their season end the way that it did, I think he is really hoping to go back and help his team go to Omaha next year. But the lines of communication are still open and we will see where we are at in a month.

OC: Are there other players who will be staying in touch with over the course of the rest of the signing period? 

EK: Only a couple. Michael Farley, the kid from Chico, and Shane Martinez, the shortstop from Southern Cal, both may want to sign, so we are continuing to monitor that situation.

OC: Martinez showed up on our top-20 California high school prospects list with notes about his defensive skills. Do you think he has a chance to be a plus defender?

EK: We like him a lot. We think it may not be at shortstop. It may be second base. It may be third base. We saw him a lot and we definitely like the player. If it works out, we’d love to sign him.

OC: Jeramiah McCray came to terms already. What kind of player do you think he can be?

EK: He is a classic, old school prospect. He’s a well above-average runner and he can really throw. The bat lags behind, but these are the kind of guys that 20 years ago in baseball, guys who could run and throw, we were taking as many of them as we could in general and throwing them into the system. It’s kind of old school in that sense. His brother played professional baseball and he comes from a very athletic family. There is certainly a lot of upside. We’ll see if we can help him develop the bat.

OC: Is there any chance that Christian Lindsay-Young will sign, or is he more likely to take one of his four-year program scholarship offers?

EK: He’s more of a summer follow. Our scout, Matt Higginson, did a really great job finding him and we would really love to sign him, but it might not match-up [numbers wise].

OC: There hasn’t been a brother of a current prospect drafted by the A’s for a little while. Was it fun to take Robert Bennie with Joe already in the system?

EK: I guess it can be a plus or a minus in general. But, in this case, it definitely helped us sign him because he is very familiar with what he is getting himself into and what we are about. He was really excited about getting here and getting going.

OC: Charley Gould did a little catching before moving to first base this year. Do you see him as a first baseman or will he move back to catcher?

EK: We see him as a first baseman.

OC: Danny Rafferty was announced as a pitcher, but he is a two-way player. Do you see him as a pitcher in the pros?

EK: Yeah, we see him as a pitcher, but he’s unlikely to sign.

OC: Cole Gruber’s profile reminded me of Billy Burns’ profile coming out of Mercer. Is he potentially a Billy Burns-lite?

EK: I don’t think he runs quite as well as Billy did, and that really is what makes Billy, but a similar profile, certainly.

OC: Josh Vidales spent two years on the Cape and is the all-time walk leader at Houston. Did you guys first see him on the Cape?

EK: No, our area scout, Armann Brown, has really liked him for a number of years.

OC: Do you think Damron and Collin Theroux are likely to sign once the College World Series ends?

EK: I don’t know for sure on Theroux, but we hope to get both signed.

OC: Brady Schanuel isn’t likely to sign at this point, I assume?

EK: We like him a lot. He’s signed to Ole Miss. We will continue to monitor him and see if we can cobble enough together once everything is all said and done to see if it is enough to get him to sign.

OC: I think Brett Bittiger was the only player the A’s re-drafted in this class. Obviously with his dad, Jeff, being on your staff, it must have been fun to select him again. How long have you guys known Brett?

EK: Since he was a little kid and Billy [Beane] has probably known Brett since he was born. Also, Casey Thomas is the son of one of our pro scouts, Tom Thomas. It’s nice to give those guys that opportunity. They both deserve it and we’ll see what happens.

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