MLB Draft 2011: Sonny Gray and the Oakland Athletics' Top 10 Draft Picks
Christmas comes in June for the Oakland Athletics front office.
Since the release of Michael Lewis' best seller, Moneyball, it has been well documented how the A's value draft picks. Billy Beane and his most trusted assistants spend countless hours on statistical analysis to evaluate which picks they feel have the best chance of making an eventual impact.
Obviously there is no exact science to selecting top high school and college players. There are always some early round busts and some late-round surprises.
Some Oakland first-rounders of note: Eric Chavez (1996), Mark Mulder (1998), Barry Zito (1999), Bobby Crosby (2001), Jeremy Bonderman (2001 - traded to the Detroit Tigers), Nick Swisher (2002), Joe Blanton (2002), Landon Powell (2004), Cliff Pennington (2005) and Jemile Weeks (2008).
Each of these players has reached the Major Leagues, with Weeks making his Major League debut tonight.
Grant Green (2009) and Michael Choice (2010) are considered the A's top two prospects working their way through the minor league system.
The majority of the attention this year—and deservedly so—will go to the first-round pick, Sonny Gray.
Here's a quick break down of the A's draft picks from rounds 1-11 (no second round pick due to the signing of Grant Balfour).
1st Round: Sonny Gray, RHP, Vanderbuilt
I guess it's just become common to take a prospect and compare them to a current or past major leaguer.
Sonny Gray probably shouldn't complain about being compared to Tim Lincecum, and A's fans should welcome that comparison (despite it being a reference to the cross-bay rivals).
Gray stands at just 5'11" and 185 lbs, which is where the comparison gets its basis. Like Lincecum though, he has a powerful arm, consistently hitting between 92-96 MPH. He complements his fastball with a nasty curveball that is already considered a plus-pitch.
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.
We'll hold off on predicting back-to-back Cy Young awards in his first three seasons, but he should be another top starter for Oakland to add to the growing list of top pitchers developed in their system.
3rd Round: B.A. Vollmuth, 3B, Southern Mississippi
The A's did not have a second-round pick in this year's draft because of the signing of Grant Balfour.
In the third round, the A's selected third baseman B.A. Vollmuth out of Southern Mississippi.
Vollmuth has also spent time at shortstop in college, but with Grant Green in the A's system and projected to be the team's shortstop of the future, it is likely that Vollmuth will spend his time developing at the hot-corner.
He has good line-drive power, but needs to work on his pitch selection and plate discipline.
If Vollmuth can develop a more disciplined plate approach, he could develop into a solid every day third baseman down the line.
4th Round: Bobby Crocker, CF, Cal Poly San Luis Obispo
This is the second time the A's have drafted Bobby Crocker. He was originally selected by Oakland in the 38th round of the 2008 draft.
He moved up to the fourth round three years later, but still landed with the same team. Hope he doesn't mind.
Crocker led all hitters at Cal Poly with a .339/.431/.497 batting line in 2011.
Crocker was described by his college coach as an incredible hard-worker. Cal Poly coach, Larry Lee, told the Santa Cruz Sentinel:
"Bobby, from Day 1, has been an incredible worker. If you tell him he has to work on a certain part of his game, it's the last time you'll have to say it. He will put an awful lot of time into getting better. We talk about making your weaknesses your strengths, and he's done that in a number of different areas."
Crocker is expected to develop into a five-tool player. His work ethic should help him reach the big leagues and become a solid everyday player.
5th Round: Beau Taylor, C, University of Central Florida
Beau Taylor out of the University of Southern Florida rounds out the A's top five picks in this year's draft.
He had a batting line of .342/.412/.466 in 2011.
Scouts have said that Taylor plays great defense behind the dish, shows good power with the bat and is a disciplined hitter.
6th Round: Dayton Alexander, CF, Feather River College
Dayton Alexander hit .382/.469/.592 this past season for Feather River College.
He has committed to transfer to Washington to play next season, and could postpone his professional career to try improving his stock and re-enter the draft after next season.
There is not a whole lot of scouting information about Alexander, but if this link about how he wound up at Feather River College is accurate, at least we know his determination and work ethic are commendable and hopefully a good indication of the effort he puts into his development as well.
7th Round: Blake Treinen, RHP, South Dakota State
These are going to get much shorter as the information becomes much more scarce the further we progress into the draft.
South Dakota State's Blake Treinen should be no problem for the A's to sign though, and he has huge upside as a pitcher.
He was a senior this past season, so returning to college is not an option for him.
He became an intriguing draft selection when he reached 97 MPH on several radar readings this past year.
He has a solid build for a power pitcher at 6'4", 220 lbs, and his ratios were good at 84 strikeouts to just 25 base on balls.
8th Round: Colin O'Connell, RHP, Cal State Fullerton
Collin O'Connell had a great junior season for Cal State Fullerton this year.
He had a strikeout-to-walk ratio of 49:6. He appeared in 16 games for the Fullerton Titans in 2011, 12 games as a starter.
He apparently has modeled his pitching style after Giant's ace Tim Lincecum.
9th Round: Jace Fry, LHP, Southridge High School
Thankfully I have a lot of family in Oregon who were able to give me information about the A's ninth-round pick, Jace Fry, a high school lefty pitcher.
This past January he committed to play baseball at Oregon State University, seemingly a fallback option if he does not decide to play professional ball.
Fry's fastball is clocked in the 88-90 MPH range regularly. He went 10-0 with a 1.42 ERA his senior season in high school. In 59 innings, he gave up 30 hits, struck out 92 and walked 18.
Oakland scout, Jim Coffman, has been Fry's pitching coach for the past four seasons. Any wonder why the A's selected him?
Fry is said to be basing his decision on whether to play in college or go pro solely based on the money offered to him in a signing bonus.
He likes the A's organization handling of young pitchers though and believes he can be moved through the system quickly by signing with the A's.
10th Round: Dusty Robinson, OF, Fresno State University
Dusty Robinson, the WAC Player of the Year for 2011, hit .326 with six homers and 24 RBI for the Fresno State Bulldogs this past season.
He has been described as a "grinder" with good speed and power.
Robinson is considered a solid defender with a good arm in left field, and has potential plus-power by the time he develops and reaches the Major Leagues.
Scouts believe he strikes out too much to hit for a high average as a pro, something he will need to work on if he is going to rise through the A's system and eventually try to send balls flying over the fences of the Oakland Coliseum.
11th Round: Christopher Lamb, LHP, Davidson
The A's drafted a local guy!
Chris Lamb went to high school in Berkeley before enrolling at Davidson.
The 6'1", 185 lb, lefty had good ratios last season for Davidson, striking out 85 batters while walking just 19.
Lamb throws his fastball between 86-92 MPH and complements it with a splitter and changeup. His 3/4 delivery has been described as "funky" and deceiving to lefty batters.
Lamb projects as a back of the rotation type starter, although he likely could be converted to a bullpen arm as he develops in the minor leagues.
He may choose to stay in school for his senior year, although playing for the home town team could be enough temptation to sign a pro contract and finish his degree after pursuing a pro career.