A's Draft History: Looking Back At 2007

On Thursday, the Oakland A's will begin the annual process of welcoming a new crew of prospects into their minor-league system. Before we meet those new A's prospects, we take a moment to look back at the A's 2007 draft, specifically the players who were taken by Oakland in the top-10 rounds.

Through the first two months of the 2008 season, the A's have surprised many in the baseball world by winning while in the midst of a youth movement. Analysts who once projected the team to be at the start of a long rebuilding project are now beginning to believe that the A's organization is likely on the verge of another long run of success just as it had from 1999 through 2006. In those eight seasons, the A's averaged nearly 94 wins, captured four AL West titles, made five playoff appearances, and finished no worse than second place. Those Oakland teams also created the blueprint for how small market teams could compete on a yearly basis while having fewer resources than most of the other teams in the league.

The A's 2007 first pick, James Simmons, jumped right to Double-A last season.
The A's were able to contend for such a long period of time because they built from within through the amateur draft. Unlike free agency, where the teams with the largest payrolls are in the driver's seat, the draft allows every team to be on equal ground and compete for the same players. The A's have used the draft to stockpile talent in order to improve their major league roster with homegrown players while also developing players to be used in trades. Whether it is players like Eric Chavez, Joe Blanton, Bobby Crosby and Huston Street, who currently play in Oakland, or players like Nick Swisher, Ben Grieve, Jeremy Bonderman and Andre Ethier, who were traded away to bring in talent, the players the A's have drafted have been a major key to the A's success over the past decade.

The draft process and the search for talent is a long and grueling process that never ends for an organization's scouts. It culminates every June when teams select upwards of 50 to 60 players to add to their farm system. Even though there are an infinite number of rounds in the MLB draft, the first 10 rounds usually determine the amount of success each franchise has. Every now and then a team will hit on a late pick like when the A's selected Rich Harden in the 17th round, but most top quality major leaguers come in the early part of the draft. For example, 38 players have appeared in games for the A's thus far in 2008. Thirty-four of these A's were selected in the MLB amateur draft. Of those 34 players, 26 were selected in the first 10 rounds, with 18 of them going in the first five rounds, including nine in round one.

Now that we've established that the first 10 rounds of the draft usually set the bar for success, let's look back at the 2007 draft and see how the players taken by the A's in the first 10 rounds are doing so far in 2008. Due to some compensatory picks, the A's actually got to select 13 players in the first 10 rounds last June. Of the 13 picks, the A's took five right-handed pitchers, three left-handed pitchers, two outfielders, two first basemen and a shortstop. Out of the 13 players taken, all 13 were college players and 11 of them wound up signing with the A's.

Stats good through Sunday, June 1

ROUND 1

With the 26th pick of the 2007 draft, the A's took James Simmons out of UC-Riverside. After signing just two weeks after the draft, the right-handed starter was fast-tracked to Double-A Midland, where the A's limited his innings after he had a heavy workload in his final season at Riverside. Simmons made two starts and 11 appearances out of the bullpen while compiling a 3.94 ERA in 2007.

In 2008, the 21-year old received his first invite to big league camp during spring training and impressed the A's by throwing three scoreless innings while allowing just one hit in two appearances. Back at Midland for his first full season in the minors, Simmons got off to a great start with a 2-2 record and 2.93 ERA. Known for his great command, he struck out 31 batters while walking just eight and held Texas League batters to a .243 average before recently being shutdown with a case of "dead arm." Simmons, whose fastball sits in the 88-92 range, has seen a recent drop in velocity. So even though his shoulder is pain-free, he will require some rest in order to regain arm strength and hopefully the zip on his fastball. Velocity issues aside, the maturity and the control that Simmons has shown thus far leads many to believe that he will be a quality starter in the big leagues.

The A's third first-round pick in 2007, Corey Brown, hit 11 homers in short-season for Vancouver in 2007.
With the first of their two first round compensatory picks, the A's took first baseman Sean Doolittle out of the University of Virginia. In 2007, Doolittle appeared in 13 games and hit .283 for short-season Vancouver before moving up to Low-A Kane County for the final 55 games of the season. While with the Cougars, he hit .233 with four homers, while driving in 29.

In 2008, the A's promoted the 6'3'' first baseman to High-A Stockton, where he has absolutely dominated the California League through 54 games. Going into the draft, Doolittle was thought of as an athletic first baseman with the potential to hit for a high average, but scouts questioned his power. The fans in Stockton have seen him both fulfill his promise as a high-average hitter while answering the critics of his power. Doolittle has hit .340 in 2008 and has launched 14 home runs to go along with 15 doubles, 45 RBIs and a 1070 OPS. With his combination of high average and high slugging, Doolittle is already one of the best position prospects to be taken by the A's in the past six or seven drafts. The sky is the limit for this fast rising 21-year old talent.

Last but not least in the first round of the 2007 draft for the A's was Oklahoma State outfielder Corey Brown, who was taken by the A's in the supplemental portion of the first round. After 59 games at Vancouver last year, Brown finished second in the Northwest League in slugging percentage at .545, fourth in home runs with 11, and fifth in RBIs and walks with 48 and 37, respectively. Those numbers earned him a spot on the Baseball America Short-Season All-star team. In 2008, Brown has continued to improve after moving up to Low-A Kane County. The athletic outfielder is hitting .270 with eight home runs and 28 RBIs. Brown is trying to cut down on his strikeout totals of 77 in 59 games in 2007 and 65 so far in 53 games in 2008. If he can make more consistent contact and continue to drive the ball, Brown will have an opportunity to put up some even more impressive numbers once he gets promoted to Stockton and the more hitter-friendly California League.

Round 2

In the second round, the A's went with another outfielder when they took Grant Desme out of Cal Poly, San Luis Obispo. Going into the draft, Desme was talked about as a possible five-tool player and was considered one of the better collegiate position players in the whole draft class. Desme broke his wrist in his final season at Cal Poly and has continued to struggle with injuries since being drafted. After appearing in 12 games for Vancouver and hitting .261 with one homerun in 2007, Desme had off-season wrist surgery. Then during spring training this year he injured his shoulder while trying to make a diving catch and has yet to return. Desme has loads of talent and one has to hope that these injuries won't continue to hamper him.

Grant Desme has been slowed by injuries since being drafted.
With their second round compensatory pick, the A's selected shortstop Josh Horton out of the University of North Carolina. The shortstop that helped lead the Tar Heels to a College World Series appearance batted a combined .276 with two home runs, 21 RBIs and a .419 on-base percentage at Vancouver and Kane County in 2007. Known as a spray hitter who hits for average and makes consistent contact, Horton appeared in four games for the A's during spring training and went 1-for-5 with an RBI. So far in 51 games at High-A Stockton, he has continued to hit for a high average (.300) and has walked 32 times while striking out just 34 times. Horton, a left-handed hitter, has been quite impressive against lefty pitchers so far this year as he has a .400 average in 50 at-bats against southpaws. His high on-base percentage of .405 and solid glove work at shortstop provide a good presence in the middle of the infield, a spot on the diamond that has been one of the weaker spots in the Oakland farm system the past few years.

Round 3

Sam Demel has had success as Stockton's closer.
In round three, the A's selected hard-throwing reliever Sam Demel out of Texas Christian. Scouts loved Demel going into the draft due to his mid-90s fastball and plus changeup. This max-effort power thrower struggled in his first taste of pro ball with High-A Stockton, but dominated once he was sent to Low-A Kane County. At Kane County, Demel had a 0.96 ERA with four saves, 10 strikeouts and an opponents' average of .107.

Demel has returned to Stockton for 2008 and is showing much better there this season. So far in 2008 he has made 21 appearances and has racked up 35 strikeouts in just 24.1 innings. Demel has a 3.33 ERA and batters are hitting only .191 against him. Control has occasionally been an issue for Demel, but he has been very hard for Cal League hitters to make contact off of. With his velocity and a quality changeup that he uses for his out-pitch, look for Demel to continue to blow hitters away and rise fast through the A's system.

Round 4

Travis Banwart has recently been promoted to Stockton.
After posting a career ERA of 2.92 to go along with 27 wins at Wichita State University, right-handed starter Travis Banwart was selected by the A's in the fourth round. Banwart began his career at Kane County, where he quickly became one of the best pitchers in the Midwest League. In 2007, he made 12 appearances, six starts, and posted a 2.60 ERA in 45 innings while striking out 41 and limiting opposing batters to a .206 average. Banwart returned to Kane County to begin 2008 and picked up right where he left off by making seven starts and compiling a 2.38 ERA to go along with 41 strikeouts in 41.2 innings. He was recently promoted to High-A Stockton and has impressed in his first three starts by holding batters to a .220 average while striking out 13 and putting up a 3.55 ERA.

Round 5

Andrew Carignan can reach 97 with his fastball.
Just two rounds after picking a hard throwing reliever in the person of Sam Demel, the A's tabbed collegiate closer Andrew Carignan out of the University of North Carolina. Carignan, a college teammate of round two pick Josh Horton, signed later than most of the A's other picks and then reported to Kane County, where he found immediate success. In 13.1 innings pitched for the Cougars in 2007, the righty struck out 19 batters, carried a 2.03 ERA, and held batters to a .136 average.

In 2008, Carignan began the season at High-A Stockton, where he picked up four saves and posted a paltry 0.90 ERA to go along with 17 strikeouts and a .147 average against in 10 innings pitched. It didn't take long for another promotion as the reliever moved up to Midland, where he now carries a 2.08 ERA with six saves and 12 strikeouts in 13 innings. Carignan has a strong fastball that is in the 92-97 MPH range, but is still working to try and improve his command as he gets closer to the big leagues.

Round 6

Scott Hodsdon has recovered after a slow start this season.
The A's went back to picking starting pitchers when they selected Scott Hodsdon out of Azusa Pacific in the sixth round. In short-season ball with Vancouver, Hodsdon proved to be a winner, as he won seven of his eight decisions in 2007. In 67 innings, the righty struck out exactly one batter per inning while posting a 4.57 ERA. Hodsdon was promoted to Kane County to begin 2008 and he has put up a 3.54 ERA despite the fact that batters are hitting .301 off of him. He has allowed more than a hit per inning but has pitched out of trouble most of the season to allow just 19 earned runs in 48.1 innings. Hodsdon has also shown good command by dishing out only 10 walks this season. After struggling to start the year, Hodsdon has allowed only six earned runs over his last 31 innings pitched.

Round 7

Lance Sewell was slowed by injury last season.
In the seventh round, the A's took their first left-handed pitcher when they nabbed Lance Sewell out of San Diego State. The lefty reliever appeared in five games for Vancouver in 2007 and struck out 10 batters in 6.2 innings to go with a 4.05 ERA before being slowed by injuries.

In 2008, Sewell is pitching at Kane County where he has a 4.76 ERA and one save. Opposing batters are hitting .214 off of him and he has struck out 10 batters in 11.1 innings. You can never have too many left-handed pitchers in your system and Sewell looks like he has a chance to be an effective strikeout pitcher out of the bullpen.

Round 8

Round number eight became the first round where the A's selected a player that they could not sign. Daniel Schlereth, a lefty reliever out of the University of Arizona and son of former NFL Denver Broncos lineman and current ESPN analyst Mark Schlereth, turned down the A's offer to sign. A year later it looks like the hard throwing lefty will cash in on his decision, as he is now projected to go as high as the late first round in some mock drafts. Another year removed from Tommy John surgery, his stuff has continued to improve while throwing 93-96 MPH. Schlereth has helped lead the Wildcats to the NCAA Super Regionals this week and if the A's want to get him they will have to take him much higher than the eighth round.

Round 9

It was a replay of round eight just one round later when the A's took another left-handed pitcher from the University of Arizona in the person of Eric Berger. Even though the lefty from Roseville, CA, missed the 2007 season after having Tommy John surgery, the A's took a chance that he might sign, but Berger declined just as his teammate Daniel Schlereth had a round earlier. Berger returned to the mound in 2008 and the starter had a solid junior season going 6-3 with a 4.43 ERA. Look for him to follow Schlereth once again, but he probably won't last until the ninth round again.

Round 10

Danny Hamblin is back on the field after missing the first eight weeks of the season.
In the next round, the A's re-drafted Danny Hamblin, who had turned down their offer after they took him in the ninth round of the 2006 draft. Hamblin left the University of Arkansas as the all-time school leader in homeruns.

In 2007, Hamblin quickly signed on the dotted line with the A's and proceeded to crush the ball at Vancouver. After 65 games, he finished second in the Northwest League in RBIs with 65, fourth in homers with 11, and fifth in doubles with 21. Injuries have slowed Hamblin down in 2008, as he has appeared in just seven games for Kane County and hit just .190 thus far. Give him some time to find his swing and don't be surprised to see Hamblin put up some big numbers before moving up to Stockton.

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