clock menu more-arrow no yes mobile

Filed under:

The Oakland Athletics and their drafting struggles

The Oakland Athletics have been one of baseball's best franchises since the turn of the century, winning the fifth-most games over that time span. But despite being a small market team that eschews big spending, their success hasn't been built on the amateur draft.

Ezra Shaw

General manager Billy Beane and the Oakland Athletics front office have managed to build a contender on a shoestring budget nearly every year since 2000. The A's are smart, thrifty, and crafty. We all know this by now.

However, they also have a pretty poor record in the amateur draft. In fact, their current 40-man roster features just four homegrown talents, all of them pitchers.

Here's a look at their top picks from every draft between 2000 and 2012:

2000: The A's did not have a first round pick this year, as they surrendered it to the Angels as a penalty for signing reliever Mike Magnante, who would managed a 4.00 ERA and 4.63 FIP in three seasons before leaving the game. Freddie Bynum, their second round pick, was dealt in a minor trade six years later, and he would manage -0.5 fWAR in 188 major league games, all as a member of the Baltimore Orioles.

Their third round pick, outfielder Daylan Holt, played five minor league seasons and managed a .245/.312/.400 line. Rich Harden, a 17th round pick was their only major league contributor from the 2000 Draft.

2001: Bobby Crosby was selected 25th overall by the A's, and his career got off to a promising start, as he totaled 6.5 fWAR and 28 home runs between 2004-05, and won the AL Rookie of the Year award. However, he was beset by a spate of injuries and managed less than 1.0 fWAR for the rest of his career before retiring in 2010.

Jeremy Bonderman was dealt to the Detroit Tigers a year after the A's selected him with the 26th pick in a trade that netted them Ted Lilly and cash. Bonderman was a solid pitcher through his age-24 season, and from there he has bounced around, while totaling less than 1.0 fWAR. Lilly had a decent season-and-a-half for the A's before being swapped to the Blue Jays for Bobby Kielty. Nobody else would total even 5.0 fWAR for the A's.

2002: The A's had seven different first round picks in 2002. Nick Swisher, taken 16th overall, would total 9.7 fWAR in four seasons for the A's until he was swapped to the White Sox in a deal that brought Gio Gonzalez. Joe Blanton produced 11.0 fWAR before Beane dealt him to the Phillies in a move that didn't bring back any prospects who panned out. None of the other players taken would make an impact for the A's, including Jeremy Brown, who would hit well in the minors before being DFA'd in 2007 and leaving the game for personal reasons in 2008.

2003: This draft featured the second selection of Andre Ethier after the A's took Brad Sullivan, Brian Snyder, and Omar Quintanilla with their three first round picks. Two years later, Ethier was traded to the Dodgers for Milton Bradley, who played just 115 games for the A's. This was their worst draft, as Sullivan and Snyder would never reach the majors, and nobody selected would enjoy more than a cup of coffee in the big leagues.

2004: Once again, the A's had several first round picks. Of their four, only Huston Street, taken 40th overall, would have an impact. He saved 94 games with a 2.90 FIP between 2005-08 before he was traded to the Colorado Rockies along with Carlos Gonzalez and Greg Smith for Matt Holliday.

This turned into a nightmare of a trade for the A's, as they would use Holliday for only half a season before trading him to the Cardinals for a trio of prospects who never panned out, while CarGo has been one of the game's best outfielders for several years now. Kurt Suzuki, taken in the second round, is the only other player from this draft that had an impact for the A's.

2005: Cliff Pennington, taken 21st overall, played 525 games for the Athletics and utilized his slick glove to produce 5.9 fWAR, including a season of 3.4 fWAR in 2010. He was used as part of a three-team trade that brought Chris Young last offseason.

Travis Buck, the other first round pick, has totaled just 2.8 fWAR in his career and spent the 2013 season in the Padres minor league organization. Nobody else selected would reach 1.0 fWAR.

2006: The A's did not have a first round pick this year, as they lost it to sign Esteban Loaiza. As of now, only two players selected from their 2006 draft have reached the major leagues, Trevor Cahill and Andrew Bailey. Cahill started 96 games from 2009-11 with a 3.91 ERA and 4.51 FIP for 4.2 fWAR before he was traded to the Diamondbacks in a move that brought Ryan Cook and Jarrod Parker.

Bailey saved 75 games for the A's between 2009-11 with a 2.07 ERA and then was dealt to the Boston Red Sox for Josh Reddick, who had an excellent 2012 season for the A's with 32 home runs and 4.5 fWAR, but is likely a platoon outfielder with a low batting average and excellent defense.

2007: This was also a poor draft for the A's. James Simmons, Sean Doolittle, and Corey Brown composed their three first round selections. Doolittle, drafted as a first baseman, has transitioned to a hard-throwing, high-leverage reliever. He's filled that role quite well in the past two seasons, managing 3.2 fWAR and striking out 26.3 percent of hitters, while throwing his mid-90's fastball on nearly 90 percent of his pitches. No other player selected has brought positive fWAR to the A's.

2008: The A's selected Jemile Weeks 12th overall. The University of Miami product was called up in 2011 and had a solid 97 games, hitting .303/.340/.421 for a 111 wRC+ and 1.7 fWAR. However, his 2012 season resulted in a disappointing -0.5 fWAR, and he appeared in just eight games this past season. Beane recently dealt him to the Orioles for Jim Johnson.

Tyson Ross was the team's second round pick. The big right-hander appeared in 53 games with 21 starts between 2010-2012 with a 5.33 ERA. He was dealt to the Padres for reserve infielder Andy Parrino and pitcher Andrew Werner. Ross showed some promise for the Padres this season, posting a 3.20 FIP and a 23.6 percent strikeout rate in 125 innings. No other player selected by the A's from the 2008 draft has spent more than a brief period of time in the major leagues.

2009: Grant Green was taken by the A's with the 13th overall pick in the 2009 draft. After being traded to the Angels for infielder Alberto Callaspo at the trade deadline, he appeared in 40 games for the Angels in 2013. The second baseman managed a .250/.301/.343 line for an 83 wRC+ and -0.1 fWAR. The 25 year-old may develop into a decent starter, but it's more likely he's a utility player.

Dan Straily, who was selected in the 24th round, has found a spot in the A's rotation. It might be a little early, but other than that, nobody else from the 2009 Draft looks very promising.

2010: Michael Choice, the A's selection with the 10th overall pick, was recently sent to the Texas Rangers in a trade that brought defensive wizard Craig Gentry. He has impressive raw power, but tends to strike out a lot. Choice did not appear on Baseball America's Top 100 prospects list prior to the 2013 season.

A.J. Griffin, who was drafted in the 13th round, has made 47 starts for the A's the last two seasons, where his fly-ball tendencies are a good fit for the spacious Oakland Coliseum. It may be too early to render judgment on some of the other picks, none of which have reached the major leagues.

2011: Sonny Gray was taken with the 18th overall pick by the A's, and the Vanderbilt product made a big impact this season, pitching to a 2.67 FIP in 64 innings and besting Justin Verlander in Game Two of the ALDS. He looks to have a rotation spot in 2014. Other prospects, such as B.A. Vollmuth, show some promise.

2012: Addison Russell, who was the A's first selection, is the top prospect in the A's organization, and widely considered one of the best shortstop prospects in baseball. Daniel Robertson and Matt Olson, the other first round picks, along with B.J. Boyd, a fourth-round selection, are at least a few years away, but carry promise.

The A's appear to have made some good selections in recent years, drafting players who should provide an influx of young, controllable talent that is the lifeblood of small market teams. Overall, though, they've received very little help by way of the draft.

Their 24 first round selections between 2000-2009 have averaged 4.0 fWAR. At face value that might look very dismal, but when you consider that the average draft position of those first-rounders has been the 31st pick, it's right in line with expectations.

Still, two-thirds of that production has come from the trio of Bonderman, Swisher and Blanton. In turn, those players have compiled over two-thirds of their career fWAR with teams other than the A's, and Oakland received very little in return for these players.

Also, it bears consideration that Cahill and Suzuki have been the organization's only second round selections who have achieved even a small measure of production. With the exception of Harden and Bailey, the A's did not draft a player below the second round between 2000-2009 who has totaled more than 5.0 fWAR.

In summary, much of the A's troubles in drafting are due to their lower first round selections. They have tended to pick in the 20's due to their winning ways, and several of their first round picks have been from compensation slots, which are even further back in the draft. Unlike some teams, they largely failed to hit on prospects in later rounds, though Griffin and Straily may be exceptions. Fortunately, some of their selections from later years could make a big impact. As for now, Billy Beane's wheeling and dealing has managed to keep them on top despite a real lack of help from the amateur draft.

All statistics courtesy of FanGraphs and Baseball-Reference.

. . .

Chris Moran is a former college baseball player and current law student at Washington University in St. Louis. He's also an assistant baseball coach at Wash U. In addition to Beyond The Box Score, he contributes at Prospect Insider and DRaysBay. He went to his first baseball game at age two. Follow him on Twitter @hangingslurves