There are many things that Oakland A’s Executive Vice President of Baseball Operations Billy Beane is good at.
He’s good at finding market inefficiencies. He’s good at making trades. He’s good at being played by Brad Pitt in a movie about how good at his job he is.
But the one thing he isn’t good at is drafting position players.
While Beane gets a lot of credit for the construction of the early 2000s “Moneyball” A’s, many of the team’s offensive superstars were drafted and signed by previous general manager Sandy Alderson.
Nick Swisher, taken in the first round of the 2002 draft, was arguably the best position player Beane had drafted up until 2012. When Beane did end up getting it right in drafting and signing players such as Andre Ethier and Addison Russell, they were traded long before they could make an impact in the green and gold.
This is why I’m so excited about the 2017 Oakland A’s.
After designating veterans Trevor Plouffe and Stephen Vogt to promote top prospects Matt Chapman and Bruce Maxwell, ownership is making it clear that the A’s are beginning yet another youth movement. And to make it more exciting, it will be spearheaded by home-grown players.
Maxwell and Chapman, drafted in 2012 and 2014, respectively, are two of five rookies drafted by Oakland who have been called up in recent weeks. Along with Ryon Healy, who made this year’s opening roster, these youngsters drafted by Beane are hoping to cement themselves into a cost-controlled roster that’ll hopefully stick together until the A’s open up a new stadium in 2019 or 2020.
During the A’s last rebuild from 2007-11, the majority of the rookies called up to the majors were acquired via trade. The only homegrown products who made their debuts during this time were catchers Kurt Suzuki and Landon Powell, outfielder Travis Buck, shortstop Cliff Pennington and second baseman Jemile Weeks. Of these players, only Suzuki and Pennington are still in the majors as bench players.
Some picks, such as first-round picks Weeks (2008), Grant Green (2009) and Michael Choice (2010), are still wallowing away in the minor leagues. If you want to be really pessimistic, 2007 first-round pick and current reliever Sean Doolittle was originally drafted as a first baseman before making the switch to pitching.
That all turned around in 2012, however, with all of the A’s first-round picks making it to the majors this season. While their first two picks (Russell and shortstop Daniel Robertson) were traded before making their major league debuts, first-round pick Matt Olson is looking to be the A’s first home-grown regular first baseman since Jason Giambi and second-rounder Maxwell is in line to call balls and strikes for the next several years.
2013 brought more talent to today’s A’s, as second-round pick Chad Pinder looks to have found a home in left field, third-rounder Healy as an excellent designated hitter option and 17th-round gem Jaycob Brugman nicely fills in the A’s barren outfield.
While inevitably it doesn’t matter how a player was acquired, it means a lot as an A’s fan to follow these players through the minors and eventually witness them make their debut. It shows that your front office can do more than just draft pitchers (which it does a thousand times better than drafting bats) and finding diamond-in-the-rough veterans, and can actually give you a player who you’ve already been familiar with for three or four years.
With even more excited home-grown players such as Renato Nunez and Yairo Munoz in the minors and the signing of Austin Beck, who many are calling the next Mike Trout, the future’s looking bright for the A’s lineups of the near future.