2008 A's Draft Q&A: Eric Kubota, Scouting Dir

Leading up to the draft, the Oakland A's scouting department spends thousands of man hours researching players throughout the US, Canada and Puerto Rico. All of that effort culminated in the selection of 50 players in the 2008 draft last week. We spoke to the A's Director of Scouting, Eric Kubota, about the draft inside…

Complete List Of The Oakland A's 2008 Draft Selections

OaklandClubhouse: Congratulations on being done with the draft!

Eric Kubota: Thank you. There is still some more work to do though. We have to get some of these guys signed up.

OC: Have any of them signed already?

EK: Yep. We've signed Jeremy Barfield, Mitchell LeVier, David Thomas, Rodney Rutherford, Mathieu Leblanc-Poirier, Trey Barham, Ryan Doolittle, Ryne Jernigan, Mickey Storey and Shawn Haviland.

OC: Can you describe what the war room is like on draft day? It moves so quickly. How do you decide from pick to pick? Do you have all of the players ranked before the start of the draft and take whichever player is at the top of the list at the time of the pick?

EK: Yeah, basically what we do for a week or so prior to the draft is put the players up in a preferential order. As guys get picked, we pull them off. What we do as the draft goes on, especially as it gets later in the draft, is that we start pulling guys off of the board and start making a secondary preferential list. So we sort of weed it down a little bit more.

OC: Were there any surprises for you before the first pick? I know not a lot can happen before the 12th pick, but did anything surprise you or make the team change its thinking?

EK: Not really. I think that while we didn't really know what order they would go in, I think we were fairly comfortable with which 11 players were going to go before we picked. So I think we were pretty confident about what players we would have to be picking from.

OC: Was Jemile Weeks on the top of your list the whole time?

EK: He was certainly on the top of the list of players on the board when we drafted.

OC: What drew you guys to him?

EK: The easy thing to point out, first off, is his bloodlines with his brother [Rickie Weeks, Milwaukee Brewers second baseman]. [Jemile] has also been a very good performer at a top-notch college program. He was also a Team USA member after his freshman year. He is very athletic and plays in the middle of the diamond, and he can run.

OC: With Weeks, do you see him as one of the players who will be difficult to sign, or are you confident that you will be able to sign him?

EK: I think he is pretty ready to get his career started.

OC: Was it one of those situations where you were looking at the strengths and weaknesses of the system when you were making the selection, i.e. looking for someone in the middle of the diamond?

EK: I don't think we were specifically looking for something, but during the course of our discussions that [the strengths and weaknesses of the organization] certainly creeped into our conversations.

OC: I know that we talked this spring about how the team had added more scouts to your staff. Did you notice a difference in the quality or amount of information that you had on players during this draft as a result of the added manpower?

EK: Definitely. First off, just in terms of sheer numbers, we had 150 more player [reports] turned in this season than we did last season.

OC: Did that help you find a couple of these players from smaller states such as North Dakota (Zac Elgie in the 12th round)?

EK: Yeah, it certainly helps us find those players. It also helps our area scouts by making their areas a little bit smaller, giving them a chance to go out and see those players more than once. That gives them the confidence to stand-up and say, ‘I really want this guy.'

OC: Obviously, you didn't have to drive too far to see Tyson Ross [the A's second-round pick]. Is he a guy that you were scouting as far back as when he was pitching for Bishop O'Dowd [an Oakland high school] or was it more his Cal career that sparked your interest in him?

EK: I had seen him before his senior year at O'Dowd. I did not see him during his senior year of high school, but then he pitched really well the summer after his senior year before he entered Cal. He is definitely a player that we have kept tabs on for a long time.

OC: There had been some rumblings that he might have been injured at some point this year. Is the team concerned about that at all, or do you get medical reports on players with injury questions before the draft?

EK: Yeah, definitely. We certainly looked into his medical history and we are very comfortable that he is healthy. He did have a minor setback this year where he had some minor shoulder and side soreness for a few weeks, but he came back after that and his velocities were up at the end of the year. I don't think we are any more concerned with him than anyone else.

OC: Seems like he is really excited to have been drafted by the home team.

EK: It was really a perfect storm for us to get him. We really wanted to bring him in both for his abilities and the intangibles that he brings as an Oakland kid who went to Cal. We were excited.

OC: Do you think the team will have to remake his throwing motion, or are you comfortable with how he throws now?

EK: I think he throws the way that he throws. And it works for him. I know that right out of the box, we aren't going to touch him.

OC: Were you surprised to still see him on the board in the second round?

EK: Yeah. Happily surprised.

OC: I had seen him in the supplemental first round on a couple of mock drafts.

EK: Yeah and I think going into the season, a lot of people would have said that he would go in the first round.

OC: Another guy kind of similar to that was Brett Hunter, who was your first pick on Day Two. Was he a guy that you had had in your discussions for earlier rounds before his injury trouble this year?

EK: Yes. Without a doubt. We had a lot of discussions about him this year. Obviously, he only made a couple of starts before he got hurt, but he was a very famous name early in the year because he had thrown well going into the year.

OC: He's a college junior, but is he going to be a tough sign because he was someone who had been projected to go higher earlier in the year?

EK: I think he has some expectations of where he would have went [if not for the injury]. We will be having fairly extensive discussions with his camp as the summer goes on.

OC: Both he and Ross are high-velocity pitchers when healthy. Has there been a conscious effort to bring more high-velocity throwers into the system where in past years, the team tended to pick guys more with good command than velocity necessarily?

EK: I think that is more just how things have worked out. Going back two, three, four years even, there have been more hard throwers that we have been able to sign. I don't think it was necessarily a conscious decision to go one way or the other way in terms of guys who can pitch versus guys with stuff. Certainly we've discussed it [in the scouting department] and we have discussed it with our player development people, but I think it has sort of naturally evolved in that direction [with adding more hard throwers] rather than there being any exact moment where we said, ‘let's go get more hard throwers.'

OC: We've talked before about how the team has been bringing in more athletic players into the organization. It seemed to me that the team took a lot of very athletic players in the draft this year. Is that a focus?

EK: I think more than anything, we felt that that was one of the real strengths of the draft. It was more that the players in the draft this year dictated that that was the direction that we would go in, as opposed to us making any conscious decision to go for athletes.

OC: One of those athletic players is Rashun Dixon. He has that football scholarship to Mississippi State. I saw that he played catcher in high school but was announced as an outfielder. Is that where you would see him playing if he were to sign?

EK: We think he was playing catcher in high school more out of need than that being his best spot. We think he has a chance to be very, very good in the outfield.

OC: Could he be in a situation where the A's would let him play college football and start his pro baseball career at the same time, or is the team looking for a complete commitment from him if he signs?

EK: I think our intention and probably his intention is just to concentrate on baseball.

OC: The team took a number of players with good bloodlines in the draft. You touched on that briefly with Weeks, but there is also Ryan Doolittle, Riley Welch, Jeremy Barfield and Virgil Hill. Is that kind of family background something that gives you a good indication of what kind of athletes they can be?

EK: Yeah, we think that having those kind of bloodlines is a big asset for a player, both from a make-up and mental standpoint, whether it is being around the highest level of baseball, or in Virgil Hill's case, being around an Olympic medalist in boxing and his mom was a four-time Olympian, as well. It's partially that and it is partially genetics. Ability is genetic. It comes from somewhere [laughs], so it helps if that player has parents who are athletic.

OC: With Ryan Doolittle, was he a player that you had on your radar before you started scouting Sean for the draft last year, or was he a player that you were looking at for awhile now?

EK: I think that him being Sean's brother gave us maybe a little more incentive to stay on Ryan. But he would have been scouted and drafted whether he was Sean's brother or not.

OC: What kind of player is he? Is he similar to Sean?

EK: He's a pitcher. He is strictly a pitcher, in our opinion. We think that he has some arm strength and some feel for how to pitch. I'm sure that he has some baseball savvy about him, too.

OC: Tyson Ross mentioned to me when I spoke to him on draft day that Petey Paramore [the A's third-round pick] was his catcher on Team USA. I noticed that you took a number of players with Team USA experience. What do you feel that experience brings to players as they head into pro ball?

EK: I think first off, the reason that they are on Team USA is that they have been identified as the top players in the country. Being around other great players, that atmosphere fosters added incentive and kind pushes them to get better. Those types of players are very competitive so they want to show that they are better than the next guy.

But, also, it is the opportunity to represent your country and travel abroad and play as a representative of your country. I think that it is an experience that, in the long run, can only help.

OC: What kind of catcher is Paramore? Is he a defense-first catcher or do you like his bat more?

EK: We think he is a very, very good defensive catcher. We think he has a very good chance to be a good switch-hitter with excellent plate discipline.

OC: Does he profile similarly to Landon Powell, but without the power from both sides of the plate?

EK: Probably. Somewhat, yeah.

OC: I saw Anthony Capra [A's fourth-round pick] pitch this weekend against Florida State. Obviously that wasn't his best outing, but what did you see from him during the year that you liked?

EK: We like his moxie, his ability to pitch. He is left-handed and is up to 92 with his fastball, so it is not like he is just a soft tosser. He's got stuff and he is a proven winner. Players out of Wichita State, whether they are position players or pitchers, go out and do well. Our experience with [2007 fourth-round pick and fellow Wichita State alum] Travis Banwart has been great.

OC: Is Capra similar to Banwart, but from the left-side?

EK: I guess, yeah. You could probably make some comparisons.

OC: What kind of player is Tyreace House [the A's sixth-round pick]?

EK: Maybe one of the most dynamic runners in the draft. He is a strong-bodied, athletic kid who can really run. He has got the makings of a really good swing. He might be a little more raw than some others, but we really like the upside and the athleticism.

OC: Is Chris Berroa [A's 11th round pick] a similar player to House?

EK: Yes, without a doubt. Chris might not be quite as good a runner, but he is just a tick below House probably. He is probably a little more polished with the bat at this time and maybe a little bit better defender, but it's pretty close between the two.

OC: We talked briefly about Zac Elgie from North Dakota earlier. Is it unusual to see a guy with that kind of power in high school [34 homers in his last summer season]?

EK: I think so. [laughs] I don't think I've ever heard of a guy hitting 34 homeruns before. That obviously catches your ear when you hear those numbers.

OC: How much did you get to see him in person? I know the team ordered tapes of his swing from his high school.

EK: I did not get to see him in person. Minot, North Dakota isn't exactly on the scouting trail. [laughs]

OC: Is he a guy that you think you can bring in? I know that he has a Kansas commitment.

EK: We are very optimistic that we can get something done with him.

OC: How did you find Mathieu Leblanc-Poirier [the A's 21st round pick who is from Quebec, Canada]?

EK: We have a part-time scout in Eastern Canada that we hired this year.

OC: And what kind of pitcher is Leblanc-Poirier?

EK: He supposedly throws up to 90 and he has got a very good curveball.

OC: Are you expecting [A's 18th round pick] Rayan Gonzalez to be a tough sign since he was one of those guys like Ross and Hunter who might have fallen a little bit?

EK: As of now, to be honest, he is probably more of a summer-follow for us. We will see what happens with him as the summer goes on.

OC: Brent Warren, the Iowa high school player the team took in the 27th round, had a heart problem in high school. Are you comfortable with his medicals or will the team need to take a closer look at them?

EK: I think we are probably going to have our medical people delve further into them and talk to his medical people. It's also an evaluation issue, as well. The Iowa kids are just hard to see because they start so late and don't play as much. This will give us the opportunity to use the summer and pay attention to evaluate him and see where we are at a month down the road. At that point, we'll see if it is something that will work for both parties.

OC: Some of the scouting reports I saw on Brent before the heart problems compared him to Ryan Sweeney. I know that probably every Iowa prospect gets compared to Sweeney in some respects, but do you think they are similar?

EK: They are both athletic kids and centerfielders. I think at the same age, Ryan was a little more physical than Brent is, but I think Warren might be a little better runner than Ryan was at the same time.

OC: Jason Christian [A's fifth-round pick] is another player from a cold weather state, having played collegiate ball at Michigan in the Big Ten. He started off slow in his career with the Wolverines, but really picked it up the last year and a half or so. When did he show up on the team's radar?

EK: We knew about him coming into the year and he came out to Arizona the first or second weekend of the year. We had a lot of people there and he played well. He kind of put himself on the map that weekend and then we really scouted him well for the rest of the spring.

OC: What kind of player do you see him being?

EK: It seems like I am a broken record, but he's an athletic, middle of the diamond guy [laughs]. He's tall and rangy right now, so he has a lot of room to add some strength. He can run and he has a nice, loose swing that I think as he gets stronger, there is going to be some power there. And we think he can stay at shortstop.

OC: What was your general impression of this draft? This was the second year with the TV aspect of it and the slower first couple rounds. Do you feel comfortable with the rhythm of the draft as it is now or is it still hard to get used to?

EK: It feels slow compared to that rapid fire that we are used to, but I think there is probably some benefit with the pace, especially since it is the first day.

OC: When there is that break between Day One and Day Two, is there an opportunity to call players who weren't chosen on the first day to gauge their interest if you are thinking about them for the first few rounds of day two?

EK: I think probably every team works the phones that night to find out who is still signable.

OC: Is there a ratio during the draft that you aim for of players who you think are signable and those that are going to be more difficult to sign?

EK: Certainly early in the draft, we expect to sign them all. We expect to sign everyone we take in the first 10 rounds. Obviously, as we go into the later rounds, you start to talk about guys that you might want to tie up as summer-follows and to give yourself some options in case some of those higher-round guys don't sign.

OC: Is it harder now that there is a tighter signing period with that August 15th deadline?

EK: I guess it is in the sense that you just don't have as much time, but I think having a hard deadline makes everyone cleaner.

OC: For you, is now the next step the July 2nd international signing deadline?

EK: It isn't just me, but we are, as an organization, gearing up for that and we are getting some more coverage both in the Dominican Republic and Venezuela. That is probably the next big thing, but my real focus right now is getting these guys signed.

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