"Moneyball" has been money for the A's thus far

There has been much discussion about the seven "Moneyball" draft picks that the A's made in the 2002 draft, when they held seven of the first thirty-nine picks. Bobby Lee examines the progress of those seven picks.

Nick Swisher has found himself in the major leagues, but he didn't start all that different from what he's done all season long. Playing for AAA Sacramento, Swisher did 3 things consistantly this season -- he walked, he K'ed, and he hit for extra bases.

In his debut, Swisher opened with a walk, then doubled, walked, and K'ed before grounding out. Swisher recorded his first major league hit in his first official major league at-bat. In comparison, it took Bobby Crosby 17 major league at-bats before he got a hit. Swisher is likely to get consistant playing time as the season comes to an end, making him the first "Moneyball" draft pick to do so. But now, what should we make of the "Moneyball" kids?

The A's had to do things differently during the 2002 draft. They had 7 of the first 39 picks, but had to watch how much money they spent on those picks as owner Steve Schott put a salary cap on what the A's would be allowed to spend on draft picks. This is a fact that is hidden in criticism of the way the A's management drafts players. Those who are critical of the A's 2002 draft will probably mention the name of Jeremy Brown, who has had a down season, or John McCurdy, who has had two incredibly disappointing seasons, before they discuss the names of top prospects from the draft like Nick Swisher and Joe Blanton. Yet should the A's seriously be expected to produce 7 top prospects out of their 7 (salary strapped) early picks?

In order, the picks were:

16th - OF Nick Swisher
24th - SP Joe Blanton
26th - SS John McCurdy
30th - SP Ben Fritz
35th - C Jeremy Brown
37th - SP Steve Obenchain
39th - 3B Mark Teahen

Of those, Nick Swisher and Joe Blanton are in all likelyhood the A's top two prospects. Mark Teahen was so impressive this season that he (along with Mike Wood) was able to net the A's Octavio Dotel in a trade. Teahen, at just 22, has produced very solid numbers in AAA this season.

Jeremy Brown has had a good but not great season in AA and time is running out for him as he is already 25 years old. A plus for Brown, though, is that Billy Beane was quoted just a month ago in saying that he expects Brown to be called up at some point in 2005.

Ben Fritz showed signs of being a good prospect last season, but he was having a terrible season in AA before he went down with Tommy John surgery.

Steve Obenchain is pitching decently in AA this season, but not great and he's doing it in relief. John McCurdy has probably been the biggest bust of the draft. McCurdy started in AA this season where he posted an OPS of well under .700, thanks in part to a walk rate of 1:20 PA's. He has since been sent down to A-Modesto where he is hitting just .178 in 45 AB's.

That's 3 of the 7 picks as legitimate major league prospects, one as a solid yet unspectacular prospect, and 3 as major letdowns. Baseball traditionalists will always bash the draft just because the A's tried something different with their draft, but if you take a look at the first round of the 2002 draft, it becomes clear that the A's did plenty well for themselves.

There were 39 first round picks (compensation A round included) and just over two years later, Swisher aside, only six are current major leaguers. The first pick of the draft, Bryan Bullington, is putting up numbers similar to Joe Blanton, but he's doing it a level lower. The third pick, Chris Grueler, is already having to come back from major elbow surgery. The 8th pick, Scott Moore, has an OPS of .706 in A-ball. The tenth pick, Drew Meyer, has an OPS of .620 in AA. Twentieth pick, Denard Span, has just six extra base hits (0 HR's) in over 220 AB's in A ball. The Mariners couldn't even get 28th pick, John Mayberry, Jr., signed (he looks to be a top pick next season out of Stanford).

While the A's could have done better then they did, it would have been hard to ask for much more. Viewing the top 39 picks, it becomes very clear that the A's did well for themselves. Not to mention that the A's were able to turn third rounder Bill Murphy into Mark Redman through a trade. Or how fourth rounder John Baker may just be the best catching prospect out of the entire draft. Nick Swisher was only the first of what may just turn out to be a lot of "Moneyball" draft picks to play in the major leagues.

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