Oakland A's Draft Q&A: Eric Kubota, Part 2

In part two of our post-draft conversation with Oakland A's Director of Scouting Eric Kubota, we discuss several of the team's day two and three draft selections, including Matt Stalcup, Jerad Grundy, A.J. Vanegas, Kevin Johnson, A.J. Kubala, Junior Mendez, Jon Massad, Iolana Akau, Edwin Diaz and more...

To read part one of this interview, please click here.

OaklandClubhouse: With your ninth and 10th round picks you took two college seniors, left-handed pitchers Matt Stalcup and Jerad Grundy. Are they two pitchers that you think can move quickly and maybe even get to Low-A this year?

Eric Kubota: It's hard to say. Where they end up will shake itself out. Our guys do think that they can move quickly because of their advanced experience as it relates to other guys. Both they are both left-handers. They are a little bit different. Stalcup is a stuff guy. He has the ability to miss bats and Grundy is more of ‘an average stuff, but really knows how to pitch' kind of guy. But we expect them to get out perform and succeed and move quickly.

OC: I think Grundy has been drafted four times now. Was he a guy that you saw other years in the draft that you thought about taking?

EK: Yeah, we've seen a lot of him. He's been in the Cape Cod League and he's been at Kentucky. He's certainly a guy that we know a lot about and feel comfortable with at that spot.

OC: You took at guy from Sacramento State that I assume you had a chance to see play given that you live in that area in Justin Higley. His numbers seemed a little bit down this year in terms of average, but his homeruns were up and I know that the Sac State park is a tough one to hit in. What kind of hitter do you project him to be?

EK: Justin is probably more of an upside college draft [pick]. As you said, his numbers haven't really borne out the kind of ability that we think he has. He can really run and he has power potential. We think his best days are ahead of him as he gets more instruction under his belt. We were less concerned about the numbers. Certainly it is something to consider, but we just loved the tool package with him.

OC: Edwin Diaz was your only pick from Puerto Rico. Do you see him signing?

EK: We do hope to sign him. Negotiations remain to be had and we are still not there yet. But we do hope to get him signed.

OC: Is he more of a third baseman developing power down-the-road, or more of a shortstop who hits for average sort of player?

EK: It's kind of hard to know. We like his actions at shortstop and we do like his swing. He has a frame that he can fill into and there is a chance he could grow off of shortstop. As of right now, we think he is a shortstop who has a chance to actually have some power if he continues to mature physically and gets stronger.

OC: You took two pitchers from Southern New Hampshire this year. I will readily admit that I wasn't that familiar with that program. What kind of pitchers are Junior Mendez and Jon Massad?

EK: If you look at the Division II standings, Southern New Hampshire is a pretty big Division II powerhouse. We do have one of our former minor leaguers [Chris Shank] who is the pitching coach there. Our scout up in the Northeast, Ron Vaughn, who used to be a cross-checker with us, saw both of those guys and liked them both. We value his opinion highly. As a staff, we haven't seen much of those guys, but we are going off of our scouts who really liked both of those guys.

OC: Sam Bragg, a junior college pitcher from Georgia Perimeter, had a commitment coming out of high school to Georgia but elected to go the junior college route. Do you think he has improved over where he was when he was coming out of high school?

EK: Definitely. He's another guy who is an upside pick. He's a JC freshman with upside. It's kind of a projection guy who has a good body and a good arm with the ability to spin a breaking ball. We'll throw him out there and let [A's Minor League Pitching Coordinator] Scott Emerson and the rest of his pitching coaches finish [Bragg] off and we'll see what we end up with.

OC: The last few guys in the top 20 rounds of your class – A.J. Vanegas and Iolana Akau – seem like they would be pretty tough signs at the slots they were taken at. Are you hopeful in bringing them in?

EK: They are there and we are hoping to continue to scout and have discussions with them. We'll just see where we end up as the summer goes on. But as it stands right now, they are probably tougher signs.

OC: Is Vanegas set to pitch anywhere this summer?

EK: I think he is not going to pitch this summer, so it's more of a situation where we'll be in touch with his advisors and his family to see if there is a point where they just want professional baseball. That's just going to be an on-going conversation.

OC: Akau missed a big chunk of his senior high school season with a broken thumb. Is he healthy now?

EK: He did miss some time with that, but he did come back and play. We are hopeful that he is going to play for a team on the mainland this summer where we can continue to scout him and we will see what happens.

OC: Your 24th-round pick, Kevin Johnson from Illinois, was a high-profile pitcher for that program. Their pitching coach is a draft pick of yours, Drew Dickinson. Johnson missed time at the end of the year with an injury. Is he now healthy? Do you think he will be able to move quickly given his polish as a college senior?

EK: It's hard to say. We are going to have to see where he is at medically before anything else. So it is hard to say anything definitively right now.

OC: In your last section of picks, you took a high school player from Arlington Country Day, A.J. Kubala. I have seen him listed as a third baseman, a first baseman and an outfielder. Do you see him as a third baseman at this point?

EK: It's going to shake itself out. We basically took an athlete there who has power potential and we'll just kind of see how it all shakes out in the end. As we get more time with him, his defensive position will settle itself more than us determining it for him.

OC: Do you see power projection for him as a hitter?

EK: Definitely, definitely. That's his calling card is power.

OC: You picked a whole handful of local high school kids with the final few picks of the draft. I assume most of those guys are going to go to college, but are there any of them that you are optimistic you might be able to bring in?

EK: We are hoping that we can continue to scout and have conversations with Francis Christy, the kid from Casa Grande in Petaluma. With some of those other guys, it was a matter of locking up the local guys in case they have a change of heart [about turning pro].

OC: In general with this draft, was it easier to approach the top-10 rounds with the draft salary pool the second time around, or did you find new and unique challenges with the new system this year?

EK: I think we were certainly more prepared for how we could approach it and how other teams could approach it. I don't know if easier is the correct word, but we were certainly more prepared for how it would work.

OC: Did you have any trade discussions with those comp picks?

EK: We did not with those competitive balance picks. Obviously some teams traded those picks earlier.

OC: Do you like that new wrinkle?

EK: It's nice having it there and it is a nice diversion at times to think about.

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