|Jim Callis' Quick Take|
|I really like this draft. UC Riverside righthander Justin Simmons (first round) doesn't light up radar guns, but he can really pitch. He just might be the best righty college starter in this draft. It's not a good year for college position players, but the A's got four of the best in Virginia first baseman/lefty Sean Doolittle (supplemental first round), Oklahoma State outfielder Corey Brown (supplemental first round), Cal Poly outfielder Grant Desme (second round) and North Carolina shortstop Josh Horton (second round). Texas Christian righty Sam Demel will be in the Oakland bullpen quickly and was a steal in third round. Polished Wichita State righty Travis Banwart was another good value in the fourth round.|
OAKLAND--For the last few years, Scott Simmons has been doing everything he can to convince his big brother that the A's were about most exciting team in baseball. James, a devoted Angels fan, would have none of it.
Those days are over. The A's selected James Simmons with the 26th overall pick in the draft, prompting James to quickly dismiss his Angelic ties.
"Just to have the privilege to play for the A's means everything to me," Simmons said.
The word "polished" comes up every time the A's mention Simmons, talking adoringly of his fastball command and his ability to throw strikes to both sides of the place with his low-90s fastball. He also has an improving changeup along with both a curve and slider. The repertoire was good for a 116-15 strikeout-to-walk ratio this year at UC Riverside. He finished 11-3, 2.40.
A's scouting director Eric Kubota was impressed by what he saw. "James is one of the most, if not the most, polished college pitcher in the draft. We saw him a lot in the Cape (Cod League). He does a lot of things we want--he has great fastball command, and he flat knows how to pitch."
Simmons said he had no idea what to expect from the draft, and he had no clue whether he should expect a first-round call. "I really didn't hear anything from anybody," he said. "It was a big shock to me when my name came up."
He said that his brother Scott has been a big A's fan for years, since an A's farmhand came down and helped with baseball programs in the Northern California area, where they reside. James never caught that A's fever, at least until now. James did develop into a big fan of country music while growing up in rural area of Southern California, but he never developed much of a fondness for horses.
"My parents have had horses since I was little," Simmons said. "But I had a run-in with horses when I was 9 years old. He almost threw me off, and I haven't been back on one since."
Simmons says he hopes to sign quickly. "I don't see any problems with the process. I've dreamed about it since I was 4 years old and my dad first put a glove on my hand." That was even before he gave up horseback riding.
"He's in a position where we feel he's the kind of guy who could come quickly in our system," Kubota said. "He's a very advanced college pitcher."
And now, the A's hope, he is one signature away from beginning that quick advance through the system, at least as the A's see it.
• A's scout Neil Avent was delighted with the selection of Virginia first baseman Sean Doolittle in the supplemental first round. "He's a great athlete," said Avent, regional scout for the area. "He's got a lot of upside as a hitter and a great glove at first base." Avent said he would compare Doolittle with Dave Magadan or Mark Grace at first base. "He has a great swing that will get his share of doubles and hopefully home runs as well."
• Kubota was pleased to find North Carolina shortstop Josh Horton available in the second round, at the 90th overall position. Kubota praises Horton's athleticism and says he plans to leave him at shortstop to see if he can handle the position as a pro. Although Horton has something of an unorthodox approach at the plate, Kubota believes he has the chance to be an authoritative offensive player.
• One of the A's most intriguing picks of the day was Oklahoma State outfielder Corey Brown, who slid all the way down to the 59th overall pick, a supplemental first-round spot. Kubota refused to speculate why Brown had slipped, but one possible reason is a difficulty he incurred in high school for having had consensual sex with a 14-year-old. Kubota said that he and his staff had checked Brown thoroughly. "We did a lot of digging, obviously," Kubota said. "There was an incident in the past. We're very comfortable it was a one-time incident, when he was in the wrong place at the wrong time." Kubota added that Brown had the potential to become a legitimate five-tool player.
• Only the first five rounds of the draft were completed on Thursday, but Kubota still had an early reaction. "We're ecstatic with what we got. I think we found some very polished college hitters that we didn't expect to be around when we were drafting. I'm very pleased.