A's Asst. GM David Forst On Michael Inoa

On Wednesday, the Oakland A's made headlines when they inked the top prospect out of the Dominican Republic, right-hander Michael Inoa. We spoke with the A's assistant GM, David Forst, about signing Inoa, whether it would affect the A's draft budget and more…

OaklandClubhouse: What does it mean for a "small-market" team to be able to land a premier talent like Michael Inoa?

David Forst: I think the most important thing from our perspective is that the things we talked about after last season with the direction that we sort of laid out for the organization, we've implemented that and are following through with that and we were able to put ourselves in a position to compete for someone like Michael. Obviously, we made the trades during the off-season, which was the first step, but the international side of things was very important to us and to see that part of the plan go into effect so quickly is a good sign for the organization.

OC: Was it difficult for the A's to be involved in a negotiation like this with organizations that had been involved in the international market for a number of years?

DF: I think the way that we went about it made it easier. Billy [Beane, A's GM] was really committed to the relationship-side of this negotiation, to getting to know the player and vice versa, making sure that we represented ourselves to him. Obviously, Billy went down there a number of times. Ownership went down there. Billy Owens [A's Director of Personnel] was there. I went down there separately and met with the family. Because that was the direction that Billy wanted to go with the negotiation, ultimately – and Michael said this at the press conference [on Wednesday] – that really put us over the top.

OC: You mentioned that you met with the family. I have heard that it is a pretty unique family, both in terms of how athletic the family is and how close-knit it is. What was your impression of Michael's family?

DF: I was very impressed. Obviously, there was a language barrier there. Apparently, my four years of high school Spanish got me nowhere. [laughs] But they are very humble people who were interested in the right things, learning about our player development staff and the pitchers that have come through our organization. It was clear that they understood what the money was going to be and how that was going to change their lives, but Michael's career was more important to them than the money was.

OC: There has been a lot of talk about the difference between drafting high school and college pitchers, and the A's have obviously tended to take collegiate pitchers in the draft. Michael is obviously a different case entirely given that he is 16. How confident are you that he is going to be able to reach his potential even though he is very early in the injury nexus for pitchers?

DF: Well, we are going to do our best [to make sure he reaches his potential]. There are no sure things. Unfortunately, you look throughout the game and pitchers get injured no matter where they come from – international free agents, high school pitchers, college pitchers – we understand that this is a risk of the game. We've already spoke with Gil Patterson [A's minor league pitching coordinator] and Keith [Lieppman, A's director of player development] to lay out a plan to give Michael the absolute best opportunity to stay healthy and to perform.

OC: Does Michael having a throwing motion that you think that he will be able to continue to use, or is that something that will be tweaked by Gil and Keith in the coming months?

DF: I don't think there is a major overhaul planned. Part of the attraction and part of the scouting report on this kid is how clean his delivery is, especially for someone his size. I think any time that you are looking to sign an amateur pitcher, some of the analysis is the delivery and the injury risk and we felt like, as those things go, this kid is pretty clean.

OC: Have you ever heard of a pitcher throwing in the mid-90s at age 16? I haven't seen too many like that.

DF: It's pretty rare. There are the high school kids that go in the first round in the draft who are 17 or 18 years old who have been throwing with plus-velocity since their sophomore or junior years of high school. So there are kids out there who throw like that, but it is really only the top one percent or so of kids that age.

OC: You've obviously added a lot of pitching talent to the organization since last fall. Do you feel, moving forward, that pitching will define this organization and how it will succeed?

DF: It has for as long as I have been here. I don't see that changing. For all of the publicity that the offense got during the early part of this decade, I think we know that [Tim] Hudson, [Mark] Mulder and [Barry] Zito carried that team early and even the last few years, in '06, Danny [Haren], Joe [Blanton] kind of carried the rotation, and going forward now, with [Rich] Harden and [Justin Duchscherer] and [Dana] Eveland and [Greg] Smith behind them, I think that we know that pitching is really going to determine our fate.

OC: Does signing Michael to a big bonus like this have an impact on the remaining budget to sign those draft picks that haven't been inked yet?

DF: Not at all. No relation.

OC: Has there been any progress in signing some of the unsigned picks?

DF: We've made progress with Jemile Weeks [the A's number one pick]. I think we are hopeful of having him in the fold in the next week. Everyone else, we are sort of monitoring. Brett Hunter is playing for Team USA, so we are keeping an eye on him, and a couple of other high-profile guys that we drafted – Zach Elgie and Brent Warren – we are following them throughout the summer.

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