Melissa Lockard also contributed to this report
Tuesday, September 17 marks the opening of the Oakland A's 2013 Instructional League camp. This year, the A's have invited 44 players to participate in the camp, which runs until October 19.
Time spent in the Instructional League can often be the most valuable of a young player's career. "Instructs" is designed to provide A's prospects with lots of one-on-one coaching. The A's Instructs team will take on the Instructs clubs from the San Francisco Giants, Chicago Cubs, Colorado Rockies, Los Angeles Angels and Arizona Diamondbacks, as well as the SK Wyverns, a team from the Korean professional baseball league. The Aguilas of Mexicali and the NC Dinos of Korea are also participating in the Arizona Instructional League this year, although the A's will not be playing either of those teams.
The daily schedule for the Instructional League is generally filled with early morning meetings, plenty of conditioning and drills and then games. It can be grueling, but it also plays an important role in helping young players build foundations for the rest of their playing careers.
The youngest player attending this year's A's camp is Jesus Lopez, an infielder from Nicaragua who was signed by Oakland on July 2nd this year. Lopez, who will turn 17 on October 5, has received the highest signing bonus of any international player the A's have signed since the start of the July 2nd period this year. It is unusual for the A's to start an international amateur signing's career at their US fall camp, as the A's have a fall Instructional League camp at their Dominican complex, as well. Lopez has yet to make his professional debut.
The youngest pitcher in camp is right-hander Jesus Zambrano, who had an impressive professional debut this season in the Dominican Summer League. Zambrano turned 17 on August 23rd. He and left-hander Victor Veliz are the only members of the 2013 Dominican Summer League A's to be on the A's US Instructional League roster.
The A's top pick in 2013 – outfielder Billy McKinney – is one of 21 members of Oakland's 2013 draft class attending the fall camp. The A's second overall pick in 2013 – pitcher Dillon Overton – will be in Arizona at the A's complex this fall, but he isn't on the active Instructs roster as he is rehabbing after undergoing Tommy John surgery this summer.
Two of the A's three first-round picks from 2012 are on the Instructs roster – shortstop Daniel Robertson and first baseman Matt Olson. Both are coming off of strong first full professional seasons with the Low-A Beloit Snappers. The A's top pick from last year – shortstop Addison Russell – will be in Arizona this fall, but he will be participating in the Arizona Fall League rather than the Instructional League.
The oldest player on the A's Instructs roster is Jeremy Barfield, who is converting from the outfield to the mound. Outfielder D'Arby Myers, who had the longest hitting streak in the minor leagues this season, is just a few months younger than Barfield and he is also on the Instructs roster. Myers, who played for Double-A Midland this season, will be a minor league free agent when that signing period opens, but the A's are hopeful that they can re-sign him. Barfield and Myers are the only two players on the A's Instructs roster who appeared in games above the A-ball level this season.
The A's Instructional League workouts and games are open to the public and they take place at the A's minor league facility at Papago Park in Phoenix.
The Oakland A's 2013 Fall Instructional League Roster