Prospect Mailbag: Draft Questions And More

In this edition of our Prospect Mailbag, Senior Writer Todd Morgan fields two questions about the Oakland A's 2006 draft and a question on Jeff Baisley and a question on Cliff Pennington and Travis Buck.

I noticed that the A's drafted a lot of "toolsy" players this year and not a lot of guys who have shown much power. Is the organization looking to change from a power/patience approach to more speed/patience or was there just more speed on the market this year than power?
Kevin, Alamo

Honestly, I think that Michael Lewis' perspective on the A's draft strategy has precipitated an inordinate amount of attention on what is essentially a non-issue. In other words, the A's draft strategy is getting a lot more ink than it deserves. I don't say that to criticize either the A's or their fans, or even Michael Lewis. The organization is just trying to take the best players available.

Last year, their selection of high school pitchers in early rounds drew a lot of gasps, but without Michael Lewis' book it wouldn't have been a story. What we saw this year is an A's team trying to add a new dimension to their organizational makeup based on what was available. The 2006 draft was short on impact and long on upside. Without anyone polished to target, the A's decided that tools players with upside made sense. With a little luck, Oakland's draft class will be full of players who fulfill that upside.

Let's face it, Oakland's minor league cupboard is bare. Big-time prospects like Daric Barton and Javier Herrera are hurt. Cliff Pennington is struggling and even bright spots like Landon Powell (behind the developmental curve due to last years injury) and Travis Buck (still not showing much power) come with caveats. Without any first rounders, it didn't surprise me to see the organization do something different again this year.

My question for readers is this: If the A's take college players in each of the first 10 rounds next year, will you be surprised?

How would you grade this year's draft as opposed to last year (factoring in the extra advantage of having two first round picks last year)?
Pete, Chicago

Based on the performances of Pennington (.203/.302/.277 at Hi-A Stockton) and Vince Mazzaro (4.44 ERA, 43 K, 26 BB, 81 H in 73 IP), the injury to Craig Italiano and the failure to sign Justin Smoak, I'd say the two drafts are pretty similar. If the A's cant sign Michael Leake or Danny Hamblin, they're looking at a 2006 draft class with projectable prep players (Trevor Cahill, Matt Sulentic) and a raw JUCO righty with injury issues in Chad Lee. I'd lean toward 2005 because of Travis Buck (.306/.388/.490 at AA Midland), but he was taken long before the A's even had a pick this year. Though if the A's sign Mike Ambort, I'd have to go with 2006. I love that guy. Just love him. For now, call it even and let's revisit the question in a few years.

Why is Jeff Baisley still in Kane County ? He might break 130 RBI if he stays there all year! I know that Leslie, Snyder and Spanos are ahead of him in the system, but is there any chance that Jeff will move up this year?
Oliver, Tampa

A 12th round pick last year out of the University of South Florida , Baisley didn't do much in his pro debut with short season Vancouver (.252/.362/.413). He started the year at Kane County based more on his age than anything else (no 23 year-old should be playing lower than Low Class-A), but he's tearing the cover off the ball. He probably deserves a shot in Stockton , where both Brian Snyder and Myron Leslie are in his way. I do think there's a chance for Baisley to be promoted this year, but it's going to take a hot streak by Snyder or Leslie and a promotion for one of the two in order for it to happen. Late July, perhaps?

What has been more surprising: Cliff Pennington's struggles or Travis Buck's successes? Has this season severely set Pennington back? Could Buck be in the big leagues next year?
Jamie, Pleasanton

Cliff Pennington's difficulties at Stockton have more people scratching their heads. As for Buck, the A's are very high on him. I sat at a Cal game in late April and listened to four guys from the team rave about Buck's makeup and approach, so I wouldn't be surprised to see him in Oakland during the second half of 2007. I still think he needs to add power to his skill set, because 10-15 homers from a corner outfielder won't cut it at the big league level. A shot at a major league roster spot in Spring of 2008 may be more realistic and better for his development in the long run.

Pennington looks like he might be coming around, but a two-month slump has to have the team worried. His physical tools are not imposing, which means he's going to have to get by with his on-base skills, speed and defense. If any one of those tools isn't there, he will be nothing more than a utility guy in the big leagues. If he can get back to slashing line drives all over the field and using his speed to disrupt opposing teams, he could be a valuable commodity at the top of the lineup. Watch his OBP and SLG closely the rest of the season. If they start inching closer to respectability, chalk this season up to a learning experience and hope that he can find his way to Midland sometime next year.

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