Scouting Director Eric Kubota On A's Draft

With the 2007 Draft finally in the books, Oakland A's Scouting Director Eric Kubota can finally take a break and assess the work that goes into preparing for a draft. We caught-up with Kubota on Tuesday to find out how the A's feel they did in the draft, what they liked about James Simmons, whether they ever considered Rick Porcello, whether certain players will have signability issues and more…

Eric Kubota, the Oakland A's Director of Scouting, recently completed his fifth year running the A's draft. Kubota has spent 22 years in the A's organization, the last five of which have been as the Scouting Director. Under his watch, the A's have selected numerous players who have already made an impact in the major leagues, including Nick Swisher, Joe Blanton, Huston Street and Travis Buck. We caught-up with Kubota on Tuesday to get his thoughts on the recently completed 2007 MLB draft.

OaklandClubhouse: First of all, what were your overall feelings about the draft? When you came out of the two days, were you pretty satisfied with who you came out with?

Eric Kubota: Yeah, I'd say that we were very satisfied. We had identified a lot of players that we were hoping to get and we were lucky enough to get quite a few of them.

OC: Were there particular needs within the system that you were looking to fill or was it more of a player-by-player availability that determined the picks?

EK: We generally don't look at the draft to fill needs within the system, especially on a player-by-player basis. It's more in general that we have an overall philosophy and an overall direction. I'd say when we were actually making the picks, there wasn't an actual strategy to those picks where we were trying to fill needs or anything like that.

OC: The last couple of years, you had selected a few high school and JC guys in the second to sixth rounds or so, but this year, you were pretty much taking college guys through the first 10 rounds. Was that a matter of strategy or was it just that college guys were available at the slots that you were picking at?

EK: It was more of a factor of what was available when we picked. I think that has always been the case. The last few years, it seemed like the high school guy was available when it came time for our pick and this year it seemed like the college guy was available. It's more a product of what is there than any specific direction or thought.

OC: What can you tell us about James Simmons? How long have you been looking at him and what do you really like about him?

EK: We've been probably watching him for the last few years. He is a big, athletic kid. He's young and he has very advanced fastball command for someone of his age and experience. He really knows how to pitch with his fastball, which is the number one thing when you are pitching in the higher minor leagues and the big leagues. He's already got a very good change-up and whatever we want to say about his breaking ball, the kid still struck out almost a batter an inning, so we think there is some development to be done on his breaking ball, but we feel like we can do some things to help him.

OC: Is he someone who you would imagine would move rather quickly based on how advanced he is already with his control?

EK: I think he has that possibility. I think the great thing about our organization and our system is that anybody who goes out and performs well will have a chance to move quickly in our system.

OC: What about Sean Doolittle [the A's second pick]? I know there had been some chatter that the A's might have been interested in Doolittle with your first pick. Were you pleased that he was still available in the supplemental round?

EK: Yeah, without a doubt. There was some talk about Sean going in the top-10 picks in the draft at one point, so we were very pleased that he was there when we picked.

OC: Do you plan to keep him as a first baseman? I know he was a pitcher at Virginia as well.

EK: Yeah, we plan to use him as a position player.

OC: His defense at first has been talked about as being pretty advanced for a college player. Is that something that jumped out at you about him?

EK: I think it was a nice plus. Obviously, we like him for his bat. We think the kid is a very good hitter. The fact that he has a chance to be a very, very good defensive first baseman is just gravy.

OC: When some of the higher profile guys like Rick Porcello started to fall in the draft, was there any consideration to taking a flier on a guy like that or were they never really on the draft board?

EK: We generally try to keep every option open so there was certainly a discussion about every player that was up there. As it turned out, though, Simmons was the guy we wanted so it worked out well.

OC: You took two outfielders in the second round. One of them, Grant Desme, is coming off of a wrist injury. Are you concerned about Desme's recovery from the wrist injury at all?

EK: No, we expect that he'll be 100 percent in a month or six weeks. It's an injury that is fairly routine and we don't expect it to hinder him at all in the future.

OC: I know with Corey Brown there had been some talk that he might have gone in the first round had it not been for an arrest he had in high school a few years back. Are there any concern on your part in terms of character with Brown?

EK: We certainly know of Corey's past and we certainly did a lot of due diligence in checking into that. We felt that it was something that was in his past and not indicative of Corey's character.

OC: Are those two guys likely to sign fairly quickly, do you think?

EK: I hope so. [laughs]

OC: Have you started negotiations with players at this point?

EK: All of them except for the ones that are still playing.

OC: You took a couple of college closers in the early rounds. If they sign, do you see guys like Sam Demel, Andrew Carignan, etc. as players who can move quickly through the system and help the team soon? Is there an appeal to choosing players who had a good chance of helping your club in a year or so?

EK: I don't think we really looked at the guys in terms of whether they were starters or relievers. It really just worked out that way. At that point in the draft, we were really just trying to take the best arms available to us. In those two cases, it worked out that they were relievers. Certainly there is opportunity in the bullpen [to move fast], but there is certainly opportunity for any pitcher in our organization to move up fast.

OC: Do you see Scott Hodsdon as a pitcher or an infielder?

EK: Pitcher.

OC: Travis Banwart looks like a bit of a sleeper in the fourth round. He beat some top talent this season. What do you like about his game?

EK: We like that he is a four-pitch pitcher with a very good mix and arsenal. He's a winner. There is a lot to like about Travis Banwart.

OC: You were able to re-draft Danny Hamblin after almost signing him last year. What do you see for his future? Do you think he'll ever get back to third base or do you see him more as a first baseman?

EK: More than anything, I think we are looking at him as a right-handed power bat. Athletically he can play third base, so we'll see how it shakes out. At the very worst, he can play first.

OC: When I spoke to Daniel Schlereth on Friday, he mentioned that he had been called about possibly going in the second or third round but ended up falling to the eighth round. Is there a concern about trying to sign a player who fell from possible second to eighth?

EK: I think we have a pretty good indication of what it is going to take to sign him. We probably wouldn't have taken him unless we were at least hopeful that we could get something done.

OC: In terms of his Arizona teammate Eric Berger, I know he is about a year removed from Tommy John surgery. Are you guys going to want to see him throw before you decide to negotiate with him?

EK: We're going to see what happens over the summer. I'm not sure that he is going to be cleared to throw in any games, but he is a guy that we have seen a ton of over the years.

OC: With no draft and follow, how do you plan to approach some of the later round picks that were of HS and JC players? Will you watch them in summer leagues before deciding whether or not to sign them?

EK: We just thought we'd give ourselves the option depending on what happens during the summer, to give ourselves the option of at least being able to talk to some of these players and see if they wanted to sign later in the summer.

OC: Is there an advantage to creating a relationship by drafting a player such as Seth Blair, who is a high school kid who had first round talent but has a strong commitment to Arizona State, even if he doesn't sign?

EK: I guess that is part of it. I hadn't really thought about it that way. It certainly helps. It is nice to establish relationships wherever you can. There is always the outside chance that a kid changes his mind over the next few months.

OC: Is it going to be a different approach to negotiation cycles this year with the shortened signing period?

EK: I think obviously that all of the new rules that were negotiated during the new period give the clubs some new leverage. I'm sure that will have some effect on negotiations as they go on this summer.

OC: Were there any players that you guys feel like you just missed out on that you had had on your board?

EK: There are always players who fit into that category. I will say that that happened remarkably little to us early the draft.

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