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As the A's enter the 2004 Draft, it is no secret that they are in need of offense. With Tim Hudson, Mark Mulder, Barry Zito, and Rich Harden already cemented as the heart of the big league club. The A's also have Joe Blanton and Brad Sullivan -- two of baseball's best young pitchers -- pitching in various parts of their system. There is no shortage of arms in the organization. The A's are more than set in terms of pitching, and especially when you consider that the A's have had a great deal of success taking pitchers in later rounds (Hudson 6th, Harden 17th, minor league prospect Brad Knox 14th), there doesn't appear to be a great need to target pitchers in the early rounds. Offense though, is a huge question mark.
What the A's have in their system
In regards to drafting offense, the A's haven't been as lucky as they have with pitching. Nick Swisher is the top OF prospect for the A's, and
while he has a nice OPS, he will never contribute in the majors if he can't hit over .250 in AAA or stop striking out one of every 4 AB's. Modesto A's outfielder Andre Ethier has loads of potential, but needs to fill out his body and start hitting for some power, something he hasn't been doing in A Ball. Midland thirdbaseman Mark Teahen has been white-hot this year, but has seen his average drop .030 points (to .330) in the last 2 weeks after his incredible first month. RiverCat firstbaseman/leftfielder Dan Johnson is the only true prospect the A's have that is mashing in AAA. Johnson though, has had to answer questions with his bat at every level, and even now as his OPS in Sacramento rises above .950 with great power, he'll still be answering questions until he can hit in the majors.
Along with the aforementioned Ethier, the A's do have some solid potential at the lower levels:
Brian Snyder is hitting for average, slight power, and getting on base at a clip over .400. Snyder is doing it, though, at Low A Kane County as a veteran of college baseball. Snyder will need to learn how to pull the ball before he can ever become what the A's believe they drafted in 2003's 1st round. The recent past bodes well for the A's though, as they had to do the same thing with Mark Teahen, and Teahen has been nothing short of spectacular this season.
Brant Colamarino, like Dan Johnson, is a big, left hand hitting 1bagger. Made infamous by "Moneyball" for having "titties", Colamarino fell to the A's in 2002's 7th round for that very reason. Colamarino was horrible in the first half of last season at Low A Kane County, but he's been crushing the ball ever since. Colamarino has 11 HR's in 179 AB's along with 8 doubles and 2 triples. That power, added to a .352 BA, Colamarino has an OPS of 1.050 give him outstanding numbers, but this is a 23 (and 1/2) year old playing in A Ball.
John Baker, a 23 year old catcher, has been a major positive this year as he's been hitting the
ball really well in AA and is one of the few A's who can say that. Last season, Baker crushed the ball in Low A Kane County, but struggled mightily once he was promoted to AA Midland (4 XBH's in 150 AB's, an OPS under .600). It has been great for the A's this year that Baker has been able to rebound. Baker has slowed down a bit after a very hot start, but I'd tend to believe that the way he's hitting, he has to be seen as the future behind the plate for the A's.
What the A's might do in the 2004 draft
The A's drafting philosophy is no secret. The A's will go into the 2004 Draft looking for polished
college players. While the A's are said to be looking into a couple of high school players in the first few rounds, in all probability, the A's will draft the older players they covet that few other teams have interest in. Below are just a few players that the A's will likely consider taking.
Danny Putnam, Stanford, 5-foot-10 LF. 29 XBH's in 229 AB's (10 doubles, 15 HR's). 1.135 OPS
Dustin Pedroia, Arizona State. 5-foot-9 SS. 33 XBH's in 228 AB's (23 doubles, 9 HR's). 1.125 OPS
Kurt Suzuki, CS Fullerton. 6-foot-1 Catcher. 31 XBH's in 201 AB's (15 doubles, 13 HR's). 1.260 OPS
Ryan Jones, ECU. 5-foot-7 LF. 46 XBH's in 199 AB's (24 doubles, 18 HR's) with a 1.338 OPS
Chris Westervelt, Stetson. 5-foot-11 Catcher. 29 XBH's in 205 AB's (18 doubles, 11 HR's). 1.120 OPS
Bill Becher, New Mexico St. 6-foot-4 1B. 45 XBH's in 234 AB's (19 doubles, 25 HR's). 1.175 OPS
Chip Cannon, The Citadel. 6-foot-5 IB. 35 XBH's in 217 AB's (18 doubles, 15 HR's). 1.175 OPS
Huston Street, Texas. 6-foot RHRP. 1.60 ERA in 45 innings. 43 K's, 12 walks.
JP Howell, Texas. 5-foot-11 LHSP. 2.01 ERA in 111.2 innings. 134 K's, 41 walks
Jason Windsor, CS Fullerton. 6-foot-2 RHSP. 2.12 ERA in 118.2 innings. 98 K's, 16 walks. A .183 OBA
Taylor Tankersley, Alabama. 6-foot-1 LHRP. 2.00 ERA in 67.2 innings. 70 K's, 26 walks
The A's own pick numbers 24, 26, 36, 40, and 49. At 24, The A's would be ecstatic if Stanford's Danny Putnam was availible. The A's system is thin in terms of power and plus outfielders. Putnam would would help both problems. With 4 other picks in the top 49, the A's will probably take a few players a little earlier than they're expected to go to save money, especially with their major league payroll up a considerable margin this season. With the recent struggles of the A's bullpen, mainly closer Arthur Rhodes,
Huston Street might be a choice for #26. Street, who is closing for Texas, would be as good an option as anyone in the current A's bullpen to close games come August. Dustin Pedroia is another option at #26, or maybe even a pick or two later. Pedroia is exactly the type of player the A's would be expected to draft. Teams under-
value Pedroia because of his small stature, but the A's will love his preformance and consider him at 26.
At #36, the A's would have to lean towards a pitcher, and JP Howell is the type the A's would covet. Howell is under-valued because of a fastball that doesn't top 88, but he's a lefty with a knee-buckling curve ball. Sound familiar? If Howell falls past Texas at pick #30, the A's may jump over Howell. With #40, the A's would
be hard pressed to pass on Kurt Suzuki. Suzuki has come out of nowhere this season to be one of the top hitters in the nation. With a great work ethic and great paitence, Suzuki is said to be a favorite of Billy Beane. With #49, the A's would consider Ryan Jones when not many other teams would. Seems surprising considering Jones has
been one of the top 2 or 3 players in the country this season, but teams around the league will run away from his 5-foot-7 frame. The A's, though, will ignore that. If the A's can justify using a 2nd rounder on Steve Stanley in 2002 (the same size as Jones, but a slap hitter), then the A's probably wont worry about Jones' size.
The A's have a very underated farm system. It may be short on big names and future stars, but there are solid players everywhere you look. The A's may even have the highest number of future major leaguers in all of baseball, it's just a matter of if the majority of those players will be starters or backups. Even with those future major
leaguers, the A's are in need of a super prospect. One thing is for sure, the A's farm system will get much stronger and deeper after June 7th/8th.
2004 Draft Preview: A's needs and strengths
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