Re-Evaluating the Oakland Athletics' Top Draft Picks from the Past Decade
With the 2015 first-year player draft approaching on June 8, let's take a look back at how the last 10 Oakland A's first-round draft picks have fared.
Because hindsight is a beautiful thing.
For purposes of a tidy list, we'll stick with the first overall selection from each year dating back to 2005. There may be a better draft pick or a guy picked later who is playing better currently. If that's the case, that player may get a brief mention, but again, this article will concentrate on the first pick.
Also worth noting, guys more recently drafted—2012 through 2014, for example—will get more leniency.
So how have the A's done with their first picks? For ease, we'll call each one a hit or a miss.
Let's find out.
2014: Matt Chapman
The A's selected third baseman Matt Chapman with their first pick in 2014.
He spent time with three teams last season. After hitting well in three Arizona League games, he moved up to the Beloit Snappers and hit .237/.282/.389/.672. Alarmingly, he struck out 47 times compared to seven walks.
This year with the Stockton Ports, he's off to a much better start.
Chapman is hitting .268/.349/.536/.885 in 15 games. He's struck out 19 times and matched his walk total of seven. He's on pace for more home runs, RBI, runs scored and doubles as well.
Of course, that ranking comes on the heels of the Snappers' performance.
Factoring in a stronger year in 2015, Chapman could certainly rise in the rankings once again. But for now, the jury is still out.
Status: Too early.
2013: Billy McKinney
In a solid draft class that saw the A's take Bobby Wahl, Dylan Covey, Chad Pinder and Dillon Overton, Oakland chose Billy McKinney first.
Drafted out of high school, McKinney hit for contact very well in his first year in the organization. He increased both his walks and home runs in 2014 before being traded to the Chicago Cubs as part of the Jeff Samardzija deal.
McKinney dominated Single-A before moving up to Double-A this season.
In 10 games, he's hit .258 with three walks, six strikeouts and no stolen bases.
Robert Villarreal of Baseball Essential said, "A case can be made for many players in the Cubs’ system ... [but] when it comes down to it, the best outfielder on any level is still McKinney." I'm not sure we can say that this early, but there's no doubt he is talented.
And regardless, losing McKinney for Samardzija, who left in free agency, and Jason Hammel, who ended up back with the Cubs, all in addition to Dan Straily and Addison Russell, this trade hurt.
Status: Too early (leaning toward "Hit").
2012: Addison Russell
Addison Russell made his major league debut on April 21. Despite going 0-for-5 that day, Russell is coming around. Currently, his batting average is .241 with an on-base percentage of .293.
He's already popped three home runs, too.
The Cubs have been using Russell at second base rather than shortstop, since the team already has Starlin Castro at the position.
On Russell, Patrick Mooney of CSN Chicago said, "Russell carries himself with a quiet confidence and fits into the clubhouse so well that it’s easy to forget he’s only 21 years old and learning a new position on the fly in the majors."
Mooney also said Russell is still "untouchable."
Russell is still Baseball America's No. 3 prospect in all of baseball. When it comes to the draft, the A's nailed this one. It's too bad he's no longer with the team, though.
Also from this draft class: Max Muncy is contributing with the A's this year. Matt Olson is progressing as one of the organization's top prospects. Daniel Robertson, temporarily the No. 1 prospect in Oakland, was involved in the trade for Ben Zobrist.
2011: Sonny Gray
Here's what former Bleacher Report correspondent Brandon McClintock said of Sonny Gray when the team drafted him in 2011:
The A's lucked out here and got a top-10 talent who fell because of concerns over his durability (due to his size). There are some scouts who believe that he may need to be moved to the bullpen down the road because of his size. If Gray develops as expected, though, he projects to be an eventual front-of-the-rotation type pitcher.
"Some scouts" were wrong.
Gray is not only the best pitcher on the A's; he's one of the best pitchers in the league.
His 1.77 ERA is sixth best. At 2.64, his FIP number is eighth best. With the third-most innings pitched, he's turning in quality starts and going deep into ball games. Opponents are hitting .202 against Gray.
It's possible Addison Russell turns into one of the best draft picks of the last decade, but for now, it's obviously Gray.
The A's nailed another one.
2010: Michael Choice
Outfielder Michael Choice once hit 30 home runs as a minor leaguer in 2011. The then-21-year-old racked up 133 hits, in addition to a whopping 134 strikeouts.
Despite typical high strikeout numbers, Choice has always hit well in the minor leagues. He's also been touted as a top-100 prospect for several years.
In 2013, the A's gave him a shot with Oakland.
In nine games, he went 5-for-18, with one double, one walk and six strikeouts. Playing right field and center field, he made no errors. He was subsequently sent down, then traded later to the Texas Rangers for Craig Gentry and Josh Lindblom.
We won't evaluate the trade—just Choice, the talent.
Choice actually started the 2014 season as the everyday left fielder. At one point, he spent 43 games back in Triple-A, where he hit OK. But in total, he finished the 2014 season with an MLB batting average of .182.
So far, he's hitting .208 in Triple-A.
At this point, it's hard to tell what to make of Choice. He's shown he can hit for short durations, but in one longer opportunity, he did not. And now he's not doing much to force his way back up again.
But let's say he's still with the A's. The team would have Coco Crisp, Mark Canha and Sam Fuld, all of whom are still likely ahead of him.
Also from this draft class: A.J. Griffin made a quick debut as a second-half hero, skipping Double-A all together in 2012. The pitcher struggled a bit in 2013 and missed all of 2014. He's currently sidelined after Tommy John surgery but will begin rehabbing soon, per Susan Slusser of the San Francisco Chronicle.
2009: Grant Green
Grant Green is perhaps one of the most talked about prospects to come through the A's organization.
Taken out of USC in 2009, Green was supposed to be the shortstop of the future. That didn't quite pan out, and the organization desperately tried to find Green a new spot. First he moved to center field, then tried left field before moving back to the infield but at second base. He even tried his hand at third base.
The A's hardly gave him a shot in the majors before trading him to the Los Angeles Angels.
In 2013, he hit .280 in 40 games with the Angels. In 2014, he hit .273 in 43 games. This season, his major league batting average is .333 in three games. That's because once again, he's trapped in the minors, where he quietly puts up good numbers that just don't seem to turn any heads.
Also from this draft class: Dan Straily pitched in the rotation for a few years before he was packaged for Jeff Samardzija and Jason Hammel.
2008: Jemile Weeks
Jemile Weeks arrived on the scene with thunder in 2011, hitting .303 in 97 games, with 26 doubles, eight triples, two home runs, 36 RBI and 22 stolen bases. The heir apparent to second base allowed the A's to comfortably part ways with incumbent Mark Ellis.
But after a fantastic rookie campaign, things went downhill.
He followed up 2011 by hitting .221. But batting average aside, he increased his walks and only dipped slightly elsewhere, such as doubles, RBI and stolen bases.
Then in 2013, he hit .111 as a September call-up.
Today, the 28-year-old is hitting .200 with Boston's Triple-A team. The organization has tried him in left field, center field, shortstop, third base and second base. But so far, he has not appeared in a major league game this season.
2007: James Simmons
Recognize this name? Most fans probably don't.
The A's selected Donald James Simmons with their first pick in 2007. Simmons spent seven seasons—if we're counting 2010, in which he didn't pitch at all—in the A's organization, never reaching the major league team. In that time, he transitioned from a starter to a reliever.
Looking at Simmons' stats, he was all over the map while in Oakland's minor leagues.
He pitched OK to start, but an injury in 2009 put him out for an extended period (through 2010). He returned only to struggle. He seemed to put it together and had a fairly good 2012 season. But things went south once again in 2013, though, and the team parted ways with him.
The 28-year-old is now with the Nationals organization, pitching in Double-A.
Also from this draft class: Sean Doolittle, Oakland's second overall pick, is obviously doing well. Doolittle is a fan-favorite All-Star closer. He's set to return from a shoulder injury soon. He is currently rehabbing in Triple-A.
2006: Trevor Cahill
Trevor Cahill is an interesting case.
Cahill was part of a very young pitching staff that included Brett Anderson, Gio Gonzalez and Dallas Braden before he was traded to the Arizona Diamondbacks.
In three years with Oakland, Cahill had a win-loss record of 40-35 with an ERA of 3.91.
But Cahill is a great example of ERA's downfall as a stat when compared to something such as FIP. For instance, in 2009, his ERA was meh at 4.63. But his FIP (5.33) was way worse. The next season, Cahill held an ERA of 2.97, a fantastic number. But his FIP that year was 4.19.
The point is that while Cahill never truly dominated, he put together good seasons with Oakland.
The A's sent him to Arizona for Jarrod Parker, Ryan Cook and Collin Cowgill, which, with injuries aside, was a solid trade from Oakland's standpoint.
With the D-Backs, Cahill had one quality season before missing time in 2013 and imploding in 2014.
He is currently in Atlanta with the Braves, where he continues to struggle.
2005: Cliff Pennington
Cliff Pennington never won any awards. He was never an All-Star. He never single-handedly led the team to playoffs.
But he was more than serviceable.
He was an average hitter. He got on base about average with the league. Everything about Penny was just kind of average. But he did have his spurts—a solid .279 batting average in 2009, iron-man health and nearly 30 stolen bases in 2010, plus defense in 2012.
The trend continued after the A's traded him to Arizona. He had two years in which he didn't do anything wowing, but he didn't fail.
He's now a role player with the Diamondbacks.