A's first-day results worth wait
Lack of early selection doesn't dampen draft optimism
OAKLAND -- Absent was the thrill that came with having multiple picks at the top of the draft, an enviable position enjoyed by the A's for three years before Tuesday's First-Year Player Draft.
Not absent at the close of the draft's first day, however, was optimism from scouting director Eric Kubota, who had to listen to 65 names get called before the club made Vista High School right-hander Trevor Cahill its top pick.
"I feel we did very well," Kubota said via conference call. "There was some concern about not having a first-round pick, but overall we feel very good about what we got, particularly in the middle rounds."
The A's had to surrender their first-round pick this year to the Nationals as compensation for signing free-agent pitcher Esteban Loaiza.
"Once we got to our pick, it was business as usual," Kubota said, "but certainly it was a long and agonizing wait for those first 65."
That Cahill was still on the board at No. 66 was a pleasant surprise.
"The day I saw him, he was as good as any high-school pitcher I saw all year," he said.
Kubota had similarly effusive praise for Oakland's second pick. In the third round, at No. 98 overall, the A's tabbed Matt Sulentic, a 5-foot-10, 170-pound outfielder out of Hillcrest (Tex.) High School who batted .676 with 19 home runs and 58 RBIs as a senior.
"He's one of the premium high-school hitters in the country," Kubota offered. "We liken him to a Lenny Dykstra type of player. He's not the most physically imposing guy, but just a very good baseball player."
Cahill committed early to Dartmouth and Sulentic committed early to Texas A&M, but Kubota said he didn't anticipate any problem signing either player.
In the fourth round the A's took something of an anti-Sulentic; right-hander Chad Lee of Barton County Community College in Kansas is 6-foot-4, 210 pounds. He missed all of last year with a torn ACL but came back this year with go 5-2 with five saves and 51 strikeouts in 43 innings to earn all-conference honors.
"He's a big, physical right-hander with a good fastball and an above-average slider," Kubota said. "Great combination of body and arm strength."
It wasn't until the fifth round that Oakland took a player from a four-year college, and anyone who's read "Moneyball" might think the A's have dramatically altered their draft philosophy over the past couple of years. The book chronicled the team's 2002 draft, in which they went heavy on college talent, and they did so again in 2003 and 2004.
But they selected a number of prep pitchers in the early rounds last year, and four of their first seven selections Tuesday were from the high-school ranks. Kubota suggested that the organization's draft "philosophy" is -- and should be -- fairly flexible from year to year.
"It always changes," he said. "We're always trying to react to the market that's out there."
Twelve of the team's 17 picks were drafted out of college, including fifth-rounder Jermaine Mitchell, a left-handed-hitting center fielder who batted .400 on the way to All-Southern Conference honors at UNC-Greensboro.
Kubota admitted that there was some disappointment Tuesday as players the A's liked were picked off ahead of their slots, but that's an annual deal. And for every disappointment, there's a pleasant surprise.
Among this year's pleasant surprises, Kubota said, were University of Arkansas-Fayetteville first baseman Dan Hamblin being available in the ninth round, and Southern Miss center fielder Toddric Johnson still being on the board in the 14th round, at No.. 428 overall.
"Nobody gets everything they want, and everybody usually gets something they didn't expect," Kubota said. "We like the guys we got a lot."
Mychael Urban is a national writer for MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.