Donaldson Excited To Be With Oakland

The news came as a shock to Josh Donaldson, but the first trade of a player's career is usually a seismic event. A first-round supplemental draft pick by the Chicago Cubs from Auburn University in 2007, Donaldson was dealt to the Oakland A's on Tuesday as part of a six-player trade that netted the Cubs pitchers Rich Harden and Chad Gaudin.

Included with Josh Donaldson in the trade were OF Matt Murton, INF/OF Eric Patterson and RHP Sean Gallagher – the centerpiece in the deal from Oakland's perspective.

A 22-year-old catching prospect, Donaldson was the second player drafted overall by Chicago last year. Per major league rules, a player cannot be traded until one year after he is drafted, and Donaldson passed that marked just last month.

His initial reaction to the trade is one of both excitement and surprise.

"I'm excited," Donaldson said.

"Any team that feels like I'm good enough to be a part of a trade, especially as a guy in a package for Rich Harden, I think it's a positive for me.

"You never really expect to get traded, especially being a year out (of the draft)," he added. "I think it's something that will be a positive, and hopefully the A's think a lot of me. I hope I can do good things for them and make it to the big leagues with their team."

In 63 games with Low-A Peoria prior to the trade, Donaldson batted only .217. Those struggles were a far cry from Donaldson's smash-hit professional debut campaign – one of the best all-around for any 2007 Cubs draft pick – when he batted .335 with nine home runs and 13 doubles in 53 games, primarily at short-season Low-A Boise.

Donaldson looked like an advanced hitter against Northwest League competition, and the Cubs as such had high expectations for the young catcher at the beginning of 2008. He entered the season as the highest-rated low-level catching prospect in the Cubs' minor league system by Scout.com.

"I think the sky is the limit for this guy and that he has a chance to be an offensive catcher in the big leagues," Cubs Minor League Hitting Coordinator Dave Keller said of Donaldson earlier this season.

"If you can catch and throw and hit a little bit, you've got a chance to play in the big leagues. This guy's got a chance."

But the Cubs also warned that Donaldson would be challenged this season – a point later driven home by his anemic batting average through the first two months of the season.

Donaldson said his numbers early on might not have been as bad as they appeared.

"I just didn't find a lot of holes," he said.

"(Lately) I've tried to get a better pitch to hit and find a pitch earlier in the count rather than leaving it in the umpire's hands."

The approach seems to have paid off in recent weeks, as Donaldson hit .286 over 15 games in June, raising his average over 20 points from June 1 to the start of July.

From Oakland's perspective, some of Donaldson's struggles were likely attributed to playing in the Midwest League, which often deflates offensive numbers. A's Manager of Baseball Operations Farhan Zaidi compared Donaldson's struggles with Peoria to the 2007 struggles of top A's hitting prospect Sean Doolittle, who batted only .233 in the Midwest League last season, but hit .305 with 18 homers in the California League this year before being promoted to Double-A on Thursday (he went 3-6 in his Double-A debut).

"I think people are kind of underrating [Donaldson] right now because he has gotten off to a tough start in the Midwest League this year," Zaidi said.

"But if you look at what Doolittle did in the Midwest League last year, he didn't do that well. In fact, Donaldson's slugging percentage in the Midwest League – despite only hitting .215 or something like that – is higher than Doolittle's slugging percentage was last year, and we all know what Sean has gone on to do this year."

Because of the deflating effect the Midwest League has on offensive numbers, the A's are sending Donaldson directly to the California League, where he will suit up for High-A Stockton. He made his debut on Thursday night and went 1-3 with a walk in the Ports' loss to Bakersfield.

The A's don't just see Donaldson as an offensive catcher, however. Although Donaldson had high error totals with Peoria this season, Oakland scouts liked what they saw out of Donaldson behind the plate.

"Our reports on his catching from when our scouts have seen him this season have been very positive," Zaidi said.

Donaldson threw out 38 percent of opposing runners in the Midwest League, maintaining a knack for limiting the running game that he first showed at Boise last year. Those skills were on display again Thursday in Donaldson's debut in the A's system with Stockton, when he threw out two runners in three attempts.

Donaldson was also charged two passed balls in that game, and despite a fair amount of errors this season he said his defense is one of his most improved areas this season.

"I feel I've gotten a lot better with calling games and seeing and blocking balls," Donaldson said.

The A's have had their eyes on Donaldson for awhile. Oakland scouted him heavily while he was at Auburn and actually considered drafting Donaldson in 2007 with their first supplemental pick before choosing Doolittle.

"When we made the Doolittle pick, it was really between him and Donaldson. [Donaldson] was a guy that Eric Kubota and the rest of our scouts really liked in the draft," Zaidi said.

While Donaldson is still going through the motions of his first trade experience, he said he feels the A's will be a good fit for him.

"I know that they always have a lot of college guys in their system, and I know they're one of the lower market teams that like to build from within their minor league system," he said.

"That's very encouraging for a guy like me in the minor leagues, because our ultimate goal is to reach the big leagues. Hopefully, I can do that with the A's."


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