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Wednesday, January 30, 2008

Baseball America: Top 10 Prospects:  Oakland Athletics

From Juan Bustabad to Jeremy Brown Abadbust…the A’s Top 10.

One of the main reasons for the rebuilding project is that the farm system wasn’t nearly as deep as it once was, with more complementary players than blue-chip prospects. The A’s haven’t drafted as well as they did under former scouting director Grady Fuson, who oversaw the club’s drafts from 1995-2001 before leaving to become an assistant GM with the Rangers. (He is now a vice president with the Padres.)

After emphasizing high school pitchers in the 2005-06 drafts, the A’s went back to their previous focus on college players who have a chance to move quickly. Their first 14 picks were collegians and they didn’t sign a single high schooler. Righthanders James Simmons (first round), Sam Demel (third) and Andrew Carignan (fifth) all have a chance to join the big league staff within two years.

Repoz Posted: January 30, 2008 at 08:16 PM | 24 comment(s) Login to Bookmark
  Tags: athletics, minor leagues, prospect reports, scouting

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   1. Danny Posted: January 30, 2008 at 08:39 PM (#2680150)
It's encouraging that they grabbed 4 guys who rank ahead of Barton, but I think he's too low. He's a much surer bet than anyone above him, and he's basically the same age as the Gonzalezes.
   2. MSI Posted: January 30, 2008 at 08:55 PM (#2680167)
What do the rankings change if thats the case then?
   3. Shooty is obsessed with the latest hoodie Posted: January 30, 2008 at 08:55 PM (#2680168)
Heh. Goldstein, Sickels and BA all have the same 10 players on their respective lists, just in different orders.
   4. Khrushin it bro Posted: January 30, 2008 at 09:22 PM (#2680210)
I think it'll be interesting how they shift their organizational theories on spending now that they are rebuilding. Will they go overslot on draft bonuses? Will they start grabbing a bunch of Latin American guys (they already grabbed Leon)? I think it's an exciting time to be an A's fan.
   5. Danny Posted: January 30, 2008 at 09:27 PM (#2680221)
That seems to be the plan:

The new course of action was charted last October, shortly after the A's had concluded their worst season since 1998. Beane sat down with Forst and others and conducted a top-to-bottom organizational review, Oakland's first in years. A new strength coach was brought in to examine why players were having such a huge problem with injuries. The A's also hired five new area scouts, adding to a staff that had become one of the smallest in the league, and re-sectioned the country to get better coverage. They increased their scouting budget in Latin America and elsewhere internationally, and have earmarked more money for signing bonuses.
   6. Billy B Posted: January 30, 2008 at 10:23 PM (#2680298)
For an organization that has supposedly done a poor job drafting/developing guys, it is interesting to see four former White Sox farmhands on this list.
   7. More Dewey is Always Good Posted: January 30, 2008 at 10:33 PM (#2680302)
For an organization that has supposedly done a poor job drafting/developing guys, it is interesting to see four former White Sox farmhands on this list.

I think that speaks more to the A's abilities to draft and develop than it does the White Sox.
   8. Danny Posted: January 30, 2008 at 10:56 PM (#2680313)
That's true to some extent, but it also has to do with the White Sox spending more on international scouting/signing (DLS) and drafting high school players (2004-2005 draftees like Street and Buck would be on the list in place of Carter and Cunningham if they weren't pretty much MLB-ready when drafted).

The A's recent drafts haven't been anywhere near as good as the Fuson drafts, but they haven't been that bad.

2002: Swisher, Blanton, Teahen
2003: Ethier
2004: Street, Suzuki
2005: Buck
2006: Cahill (no 1st round pick)

I'd like to see Philly run the A's through his system to see the expected return on their picks.
   9. philly Posted: January 30, 2008 at 11:03 PM (#2680319)
The A's also hired five new area scouts, adding to a staff that had become one of the smallest in the league, and re-sectioned the country to get better coverage.


A few months ago I looked at the size of the Sox scouting dept in comparison to 9 other teams one of which was the As.

Those 10 teams averaged 5.5 directors/crosschecker and 15.3 area scouts. The As were the smallest at 4 and 12. As a result it did seem that these scouts would be stretched very thin, especially in the middle of the country.

Here's the post:

http://sonsofsamhorn.net/index.php?showtopic=25589
   10. philly Posted: January 30, 2008 at 11:21 PM (#2680330)
I'd like to see Philly run the A's through his system to see the expected return on their picks.


It's tough so soon, but I think the A's have been ok. As long as you can get one solid to very good player per draft than it's hard not to be at least above average. The A's got two in 2002. Ethier is probably one although playing time is an issue. Street is fine with or without Suzuki. Buck should be fine. Cahill looks fine. I'd be surprised if they weren't solidly up, although perhaps lacking star level talent.

I still say a big part of the A's current situation is that they didn't get enough out of Fuson's last two drafts that looked so good at one point. Crosby, Harden, Bonderman were all elite prospects who, in an ideal world, would have been the next pre-FA core to take over from the orginal Big 6. It's the failings of those players to stay healthy and meet their potential or to stay in the organization that have had a bigger effect on the 06/07 As.

One thing I've been thinking about with respect to amatuer talent acquisition is that we've become accustomed to just thinking about it in terms of the draft (and that further broken down to the all important HS v C!!! debate), but there are three signficant pipelines - international, HS, C.

So much was made of the As choosing C at the exclusion of HS and I think for the most part the A's have done a better job in the C ranks and therefore have done fine. But they've been filling 2 DSL teams for the last decade and have gotten nothing out of that. With just one pipeline flowing it's really tough to be a high quality player development team. When the A's were at theier best in the early 2000s they mixed in quality international players (Tejada, Ramon Hernandez and some age-gate trade bait) and HS players (Chavez and Bonderman as a trade bait) with their C players. But Hernandez was signed in 1994 and Bonderman drafted in 2001. It's been a long, long time since the A's have gotten anything from those two sources of talent.

I don't think it's a coincidence that the potential next very good A's team could feature international players (DSL, Gonzalez) and HS players (Gonzalez, Anderson and even the picked up in trade Barton) to complement their steady, good supply of C players.

The state of the A's farm pre-rebuild is what happens when you only acquire solid collegiate amatuer talent even if you're pretty good at it.
   11. Khrushin it bro Posted: January 30, 2008 at 11:49 PM (#2680343)
Focusing on college talent gave the A's many guys they could reasonably plug into their lineup both quickly and without super high signing bonuses.
The international pool is usually a long way off, requires signing bonuses and is risky. The high school pool (which they went for in '06) is also far off and risky. The A's tried to sustain their success focusing their cash on mid-level free agents and safer college picks. This led them to be mediocre and in need of a rebuild.

Basically I agree with you Philly.

EDIT: It also sustained them on a smallish budget for longer than expected.
   12. Tony H. Posted: January 31, 2008 at 12:00 AM (#2680353)
That picture of Brett Anderson makes him look 10 years old.
   13. Danny Posted: January 31, 2008 at 12:05 AM (#2680357)
I'd say it makes Anderson look just like Joe Blanton.
   14. JMM Posted: January 31, 2008 at 12:16 AM (#2680363)
That picture of Brett Anderson makes him look 10 years old.

Yeah, but does he sing?
   15. Voros McCracken of Pinkus Posted: January 31, 2008 at 12:43 AM (#2680376)
Call me crazy, but I don't think the A's are necessarily out of it for 2008. Yes everything has to go right with a bunch of guys, but you could see guys like Denorfia and Duchscherer surprising and keeping them involved. They've got a little bit of infield depth too.

The injuries obviously have to stop, particularly for Crosby and Harden. But it's not impossible. Considering the massive prospect haul they got for Haren and Swisher there are a hell of a lot worse spots to be in. They need only gaze across the bay to find one.
   16. Ivan Grushenko of Hong Kong Posted: January 31, 2008 at 12:50 AM (#2680381)
The A's tried to sustain their success focusing their cash on mid-level free agents and safer college picks.

These free agents were a lot worse than the draft picks -- Loaiza, Rhodes, Piazza, Witasick, Hatteberg, Dye, Redman...Thomas and Stewart are the exceptions...maybe Embree.
   17. philly Posted: January 31, 2008 at 02:32 AM (#2680451)
So I'm actually in the process of updating my draft expected slot probability stuff. I just finished up through slot 50, so let's see how the A's have done from 2002-2006 with the major caveat that I use career numbers and these players are far from the end of their careers.

This probably won't formant for crap, but the A's have made 17 picks within the first 50 slots. The table has the Year, Slot, Player, expectedWARP1 based on the 1987-1996 drafts with a rolling slot average, the player's actual WARP to date and then a guess about what the next few years until FA will be. Basically I doubpled the guys with ~3 yrs service time and gave Buck the same total as Teahen. That's a little conservative, but in the ballpark.

Year Slot Player expWARP WARP guessWARP
2002 16 Swisher 14.0 15.1 30.2
2002 24 Blanton 12.1 16.2 32.4
2002 26 McCurdy 8.6 0 
2002 30 Fritz 7.7 0 
2002 35 Brown 4.6 0.1 
2002 37 Obenchain 4.3 0 
2002 39 Teahen 2.6 12.2 24.4
2003 25 Sullivan 9.7 0 
2003 26 Snyder 8.6 0 
2003 33 Quintanilla 6.4 
-0.4 
2004 24 Powell 12.1 0 
2004 26 Robnett 8.6 0 
2004 36 Putnam 4.5 0 
2004 40 Street 2.6 14.7 29.4
2004 49 Rogers 6.0 0 
2005 21 Pennington 15.1 0 
2005 36 Buck 4.6 3 25
  Total 132.1 60.9 141.4 


So I have those 17 slots as expected to produce 132.1 WARP and with conservative guesses for Swisher, Blanton, Teahen, Street and Buck that would but the A's over 140 WARP. Even bumping that total to 150 WARP that's a bit lower than I expected, but it's certainly above average.

I actually prefer looking at probabilities of achieving different levels of success. Those slot averages are derived from distributions something like : 80% near useless, 10% useful, 5% good, 4% very good and 1% great. All of those busts drive the average down so that it's actually not too difficult to go above slot, but the major value comes from the very best players.

If I look at the average distribution for those 17 slots I get:

13 players less than 10 WARP (essentially useless)
2 players at ~15 WARP (useful complementary)
1 player at ~ 35 WARP (solid to good)
1 player at ~60 WARP (very good)

There's also a random 0.1 in the 100+ WARP column.

What the A's are likely to get with a more risk averse philosophy is:

12 players less than 10 WARP (essentially useless)
5 players between 25-40 WARP (solid to good)

And that actually is a pretty good representation of the pros and cons of that draft style. If those 5 players make 25-40 WARP, then the A's will have pretty much accomplished what they wanted. Is that cluster of 5 good players better than 2 complementary player, 1 good one and one very good one? Probably. Probably not if that one very good one is actually an excellent 100+ WARP one though. And probably not if it's just 4 players, ie the wildly inconsistent Teahen flames out or one of the pitchers blows out his arm or something.

Now that doesn't consider Ethier, Suzuki and Cahill who Danny mentioned in his post. Those were drafted after the top 50. Those players - well at least the first 2 - will certainly add value, although it's also true that those later picks come with some expected value cost as well.

Well, I don't think that changes anybody's basic thoughts about these drafts, but at least for me it's nice to see that the details support that.
   18. Walt Davis Posted: January 31, 2008 at 10:47 AM (#2680599)
Even bumping that total to 150 WARP that's a bit lower than I expected, but it's certainly above average.

And you're assuming that none of the "bust" guys will contribute anything -- i.e. there's no "guessWARP" for the ones who haven't had significant time in the majors yet. That might well be reasonable (I have no idea how those guys are doing), but on average I'd think a handful of such guys are likely to contribute something over the next 5 years or so. Probably not enough to change the designation from "above average".
   19. philly Posted: January 31, 2008 at 01:05 PM (#2680623)
Right, guys like Powell and Putnam have the chance to kick around and have 10 WARP careers. Although I was a little surprised at how many of these "safe" college guys are already very clearly on the road to never making it.

Although I probably shouldn't be. One of the changes I made in my probabilities table is to include the chance that a pick never makes it. That number is up over 33% very early in the first round and up over 50% in the 30s. And on top of that there's a whole bunch of guys whose #1 pick status probably carried them to cups of coffee, but produced nearly nothing at the MLB level.

No matter what teams do a pretty big portion of their early picks will simply never sniff a productive major league career.
   20. Shooty is obsessed with the latest hoodie Posted: January 31, 2008 at 01:28 PM (#2680631)
Good stuff, philly, thanks. I'd like to see the A's roll the dice more on high risk/high reward guys. They seem to go to the extremes with each draft and I have to believe there's a happier medium there, but the organization is going to have to commit more money to the draft in order to get better talent in the second and third rounds and internationally. I think they're starting to realize this. I hope so, at least.
   21. Mister High Standards Posted: January 31, 2008 at 01:56 PM (#2680649)
Beane sat down with Forst and others and conducted a top-to-bottom organizational review, Oakland's first in years.


Am, I the only one or does this suprise you? I wouldn't think that a once every few years organazational review was good business.
   22. Shooty is obsessed with the latest hoodie Posted: January 31, 2008 at 02:12 PM (#2680656)
Am, I the only one or does this suprise you? I wouldn't think that a once every few years organazational review was good business.

I don't think MLB teams are run like normal corporate businesses. I bet these kind of reviews are out of the ordinary for almost all of the teams. This would be a good time for Keith Law to jump in, though. Did the Jays have yearly organizational reviews? Are the A's out of the ordinary here?
   23. DCA Posted: January 31, 2008 at 02:35 PM (#2680674)
Am, I the only one or does this suprise you? I wouldn't think that a once every few years organazational review was good business.

I'm with you. I can see a reason not to do it every year ... since there's a danger of reading too much into a single off year and overcorrect as a result, but it would be better to recognize this and still do an annual review. Also, how much of the A's relatively "poorer" recent drafts -- which haven't exactly been bad -- are due to them picking at the end of the round instead of the beginning? Zito, Chavez, and Mulder were pre-draft blue chips ... they wouldn't have been around to select in the bottom half of the first round.
   24. Walt Davis Posted: January 31, 2008 at 07:06 PM (#2680939)
Am, I the only one or does this suprise you? I wouldn't think that a once every few years organazational review was good business.

Depends on what they mean by a "top-to-bottom organizational review." If the A's brass didn't get together every year and review which players were progressing, decide whether they thought their AA coaching staff was doing a good job, were there any scouts that needed replacing, is the stats guy overspending on donuts, etc. then yes, I'd be surprised. But I wouldn't be surprised if the A's didn't take apart the engine then put it back together every year.

And #16 is right ... the main A's problem the last few years has been bad FA/extension decisions (which tosses Kotsay into the pot as well ... and, for some, Chavez although that was a fine extension at the time it was given).

I'd say I'm surprised that any team thinks they can compete without being highly active on the international scene. The draft is designed to be "fair" so even if you think your evaluation tools are superior, there's a limit to how well that's going to pay off. International FAs are inherently "unfair" and with some investment, you can make a killing, especially if your evaluation tools are superior. (Of course stat analysis ain't gonna do crap for you internationally outside of Japan and maybe Korea. Then I doubt it does crap for you with HS players and probably not much good with college.)

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