Name: James Simmons
Simmons was arguably the best control pitcher in the draft and one of the most polished starting pitchers. The UC-Riverside junior struck out 116 batters and walked only 15 during his 2007 collegiate season. The 20-year-old right-hander has above-average to outstanding command of his low-90s fastball and his plus-change-up. He also features a developing slider and curve-ball, although both pitches are works in progress.
Simmons uses a classic over-hand delivery and he takes advantage of his 6'4'' frame to create leverage on all of his pitches. Simmons projects as a number two or three starter in the mold of a Brad Radke, a pitcher who can throw a lot of innings and will force hitters to beat him as he won't beat himself with walks. UC-Riverside head coach Doug Smith told OaklandClubhouse that Simmons "has as good of command as anyone I have ever been around. He can throw it dead-on where he is looking the vast majority of the time."
Simmons has had a clean health track record. With his collegiate experience and his advanced command, Simmons will likely be given every chance to move quickly through the A's system.
SUPPLEMENTAL ROUND ONE
Name: Sean Doolittle
Doolittle's name was mentioned in some circles when talking about first round picks, so the A's may have felt fortunate to land Doolittle in the supplemental round. Although many collegiate first baseman are put at the position because of a deficiency in defensive prowess, Doolittle is actually an above-average defensive first baseman. He has a live body and is very agile both around the bag and on the bases.
While at Virginia, Doolittle was both a pitcher and a first baseman, but it is believed that the A's will keep him at first base. As pitcher, Doolittle was a left-hander who featured an 88-90 MPH fastball. Offensively, Doolittle projects as a Lyle Overbay-type: lots of line-drives with decent homerun power. Doolittle hit only seven homeruns as a junior, but the UVA home park is notoriously difficult on power hitters. He demonstrated good plate patience, accumulating nearly double the number of walks to strikeouts (46 to 21, respectively).
Doolittle batted only .301 as a junior, but many scouts believed that his time on the mound took away from the time he spent working on his hitting. He is an athletic first baseman in the defensive mold of first basemen such as Doug Mientkiewicz and Carlos Pena.
SUPPLEMENTAL ROUND ONE
Name: Corey Brown
School: Oklahoma State
Brown may be the best pure athlete that the A's drafted on Thursday. A wide receiver in high school who drew collegiate recruiting interest, Brown hits with power, runs well and has an above-average arm. Brown led the Cowboys with 21 homers and a .743 SLG in 2007. He walked 62 times in 60 games and hit .339. He also stole 23 bases in 26 chances.
The biggest knock on Brown is his tendency to strike out a lot. He really struggled in the Cape Cod League last summer, batting below .200 and striking out frequently. However, his tools are very projectable and he has more polish than many of the five-tool players that the A's have drafted over the last few years. A left-handed thrower, Brown models his game after Jim Edmonds and while he may not reach Edmonds' level on defense and power-wise, he has a similar skill-set to the Cardinals' centerfielder.
Name: Grant Desme
Desme seemed destined for at least the supplemental first round earlier this spring when he was lighting up the collegiate offensive leader boards. However, his draft momentum was stalled a bit by a broken wrist, which he sustained during the final weeks of the Mustangs' season. Despite the injury, Desme was still able to win the Big West Triple Crown in 2007 with a .405 BA, 15 homers and 53 RBI in 50 games played.
Desme began his collegiate career under the tutelage of Tony Gwynn at San Diego State. He transferred to Cal-Poly as a sophomore and spent two seasons as a Mustang. He projects more as a corner outfielder, although he did spend a season in centerfield for Cal-Poly. He has average speed and a good arm, but his biggest strength is his bat. He has good power to all fields and a quick stroke that should translate well to wooden bats.
Name: Josh Horton
School: UNC-Chapel Hill
Horton was one of college baseball's top contact hitters in 2007. He struck out only 15 times in 228 at-bats this season and he hit .333. As a sophomore, Horton hit .395 for the Tar Heels. He was named the MVP of the ACC Tournament and the NCAA Chapel Hill Regional this collegiate post-season.
Horton has average to above-average tools in all five categories. His range is only average, but he has an above-average arm. He may be moved to second base eventually, but he should have a chance to start his pro career at shortstop. Horton holds his hands high when setting up to hit and he points the top of the bat at the pitcher. However, he has quick wrists and is able to get the bat in a good hitting position despite his set-up. Like Brown, Horton struggled at the Cape last summer. Horton is a left-handed hitting shortstop with average speed. He projects to have above-average gap power for a middle infielder.
Name: Sam Demel
Demel was a high school standout in Texas, breaking Josh Beckett's career strikeout record. His height (6'0'') kept him from being considered a top prospect coming out of high school, however, and he was only selected in the 35th round as a senior. He elected to go to TCU, where he began as a starter but was later converted to a reliever. He had a standout season last summer in the Cape as a closer, saving 12 games and striking out 38 in 26 innings. He broke the TCU single season record for saves with 13 in 2007.
Demel has a classic late-inning reliever pitching repertoire. His fastball sits in the mid-90s and it has late movement. He has a sharp breaking slider that he uses as an out-pitch and a developing change-up that should only improve in an Oakland system that has made it a mission to teach the pitch to each of its hurlers. Demel has a herky-jerky throwing motion that reminds some scouts of former Reds' Nasty Boy Rob Dibble. It doesn't look pretty, but it can be effective in terms of hiding the ball from hitters. As a reliever with polish, Demel should move quickly through the A's system and could be considered at the major league level as early as late 2008.
Name: Travis Banwart
School: Wichita State
Banwart drew national attention mid-season when he out-dueled the highly touted Missouri State left-hander Ross Detwiler. Like Simmons, Banwart grades out as one of the most advanced pitchers in the draft in terms of understanding how to pitch rather than throw. Banwart's fastball isn't as good as Simmons' fastball, but, like Simmons, Banwart does have an excellent compliment of off-speed pitches, including an outstanding change-up. He has a starter's build (6'4'', 210) and projects to be a mid-rotation, work-horse type a la Jason Marquis.
After his start versus Detwiler in April, Banwart spoke to Scout.com about his approach to using his off-speed pitches:
"I get ahead with my curveball and show them that, and then I'll throw the hard slider just to show them something different, instead of throwing the slow curveball all the time," said Banwart. "It's great having the slider."
Name: Andrew Carignan
School: UNC-Chapel Hill
Carignan became the second Tar Heel and the second collegiate closer selected by the A's on the draft's first day when he was nabbed in the fifth round. Unlike Demel, Carignan has some work to do on his secondary pitches before he advances in the pro ranks. However, like Demel, Carignan features a solid fastball and an aggressive, no-fear approach to closing games.
Carignan has a smooth over-hand delivery that he repeats well. He gets late bite on his fastball and doesn't lose much velocity when he switches from the wind-up to the stretch. Many college relievers move fairly quickly through the minors and Carignan could be on the fast-track, as well. However, his pace will be set by how quickly he improves his slider and masters the change-up.
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