OaklandClubhouse Mailbag: Windsor & The Draft

Todd Morgan is back at the mailbox and answering your questions. He takes one on Jason Windsor, one on Brad Knox and a slew on the upcoming 2007 draft. Don't forget to send your questions to the OaklandClubhouse mailbox at oaklandclubhouse@yahoo.com.

I am a Jason Windsor watcher and want to go to spring training this year. Will Jason get a look at the big league spring training and if he is effective with an average or better spring do you think he will make it to the majors this year? I understand he has developed a much improved curve ball that he lacked according to the manager last year.
David, San Jose

Windsor should get plenty of innings this spring because he's really at a career cross-roads entering the season. His cup of coffee at the big leagues last summer wasn't very successful, and that combined with his age (he'll be 25 in July) brings his value as a prospect into question. If I'm evaluating him as GM of another team, do I still think he can start in the big leagues? Probably not, although he deserves at least a few more starts before he's relegated to the bullpen for good. Will he get those starts? Unless he's traded to a team that can afford to experiment, it's doubtful.

One thing that Windsor has going for him is that he threw 95 MPH in the first inning of his first big league start. That radar reading could be a key to his future, because it showed that he's capable of throwing big league heat. It will certainly be taken into consideration by scouts trying to assess his value, because being able to throw 95 mph with a great change (I haven't heard any news on his curve one way or the other) is a very good foundation for a big league relief pitcher.

Ultimately, Windsor will need to perform extremely well in March, as he is competing with three pitchers with significant major league starting experience (Brad Halsey, Joe Kennedy and Kirk Saarloos). Best case scenario? He earns the fifth starter's job out of spring training and spends April working as a swingman in Oakland. If he shows promise as a swingman, he will find a role on the big league club or will be traded. If not he'll spend the year in Sacramento; perhaps the first of many as a ‘tweener - the dreaded AAAA talent.

Worst case scenario is that he goes directly from a mediocre training camp to Sacramento.

Last year about this time you projected the 1st Round of MLB draft. Are you planning to do this for 2007 draft?

Where do you feel Brad Knox will end up this year - AA or AAA? (Brad is a neighborhood kid from Houston.)

Who do you think will be the top-5 college catchers in the 2007 draft?

I'm currently about halfway through the first round with my 2007 first round projection and plan to have it published in the next week or so. Hopefully, I'll be able to stick to the plan this year and write mid-season and week-of-draft follow-ups; life got in the way last year.

Knox really doesn't have much left to prove in AA, so I'd say he will be in AAA in 2007. He appears to have a good chance at a big league future. If he improves his command a bit he could find himself in the mix for the fifth starter job in Oakland down the road, but that would be a pretty big jump right now. If I were him I'd ask to be moved to the bullpen. He's most likely going to end up there anyway, so settling into that role now might help him prove he's worth a roster spot on a big league club earlier. Of course, it would be a surprise if Knox or any other pitcher asked out of the rotation before his team made the decision for him. So he'll probably get a Windsor/Komine-type start or two in Oakland and then wind up pitching in relief by 2008.

And finally, here are the top five college catchers in what is looking like a pretty solid draft for catchers:

1. Matt Wieters, Georgia Tech (better bet as a 1B long-term, but best hitter in the draft by far)

2. J.P. Arencibia, Tennessee (all bat right now, though he has a good arm and is smart behind the plate; needs to improve agility)

3. Mitch Canham, Oregon State (lefty hitter with upside, still new to catching)

4. Josh Donaldson, Auburn (nice overall package, a bit stronger defensively)

5. Preston Clark, Texas (defense on the Taylor Teagarden level - I'd take him before Canham and Donaldson, but MLB teams won't)

Who do you think the A's will target in this year's draft? Is there a position you think they will try to address?
Betsy, San Lorenzo

My feeling right now is that the A's will be looking closely at college lefties right up until draft day. This is due to the number of intriguing lefthanders eligible for this year's draft as much as it is due to an organizational weakness. Still, it doesn't take a genius to look at the A's system and see that they don't have a high-profile pitching prospect who currently projects as a Joe Blanton-type, much less a guy like Rich Harden or Dan Haren. The pitchers they have who could someday reach that level as a prospect are all very young, unproven righties – Trevor Cahill, Craig Italiano, Jared Lansford, Vince Mazzaro and maybe Ryan Webb. Thus, college lefty.

If they choose to go in a different direction, either by choice or because all the lefties are gone when they pick, I can see them drafting just about any position, though I have to think polished pitching will be a priority. I don't see them taking an outfielder early because they're pretty well stocked with OFs right now, but I wouldn't rule it out completely.

Any chance the A's draft more high school pitchers this June? Are they looking at drafting a shortstop since Bobby Crosby seems like a bust at this point?
Faruk, SF

To address the Crosby question first: no, I don't think the A's will target a shortstop in this year's draft due to Crosby's inability to stay healthy. That is not to say that they won't draft a shortstop, but just that Crosby won't figure into the decision. Not much, anyway.

Even the most polished college players are usually a year or two away from the big leagues, and those who can make the jump quicker than that aren't going to be around when the A's make their first pick late in the first round. If they take a shortstop early, I think it will happen sometime between the sandwich and third rounds. The earlier they take one, the more it will indicate that they lack confidence in Justin Sellers, Gregorio Petit and, to a lesser degree, Crosby.

As for selecting more high school pitchers, it's always possible that they'll pull the trigger on one or two. I don't, however, see them taking three or four in the early rounds the way they did in 2005. There are too many quality college arms available this year, and the system needs them to hit on some pitchers who are closer to the big leagues. Notice that their ability to make trades has diminished over the last few years, and one reason for that is that they don't have a cache of Mark Teahen- and Mike Wood-types to deal. Once they replenish the upper levels of the system with near-ready prospects, they'll be able to target a few more prep pitchers who need lots of development time.

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