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Oakland Athletics Draft Report Card

By David Rawnsley

Best Debut: LHP Barry Zito (1), who pitched for Vancouver in the Triple-A World Series, may have had the best debut of any 1999 draftee and is the early favorite to become the first to play in the major leagues. OFs Kirk Asche (9), Mike Lockwood (23), Ryan Ludwick (2) and Michael Wenner (11) also had notable starts.

Best Athlete: The 6-foot-3, 200-pound Ludwick, who hit .275-4-34 at Class A Modesto, grades out at average or above-average in all five tool areas. He runs better than the organization expected.

Best Hitter: Ludwick has above-average bat speed and was the higher pick, but Asche (.288-17-67 at short-season Southern Oregon) may have as much hitting potential. He has similar bat speed and excellent upper-body strength.

Best Power: 1B Jorge Soto (3), who hit .244-11-30 in the Northwest League, has enormous raw power potential. He missed instructional league with a hairline fracture in his back, which sets back his conversion to catcher.

Fastest Runner: Wenner, 20, led the Rookie-level Arizona League in stolen bases with 36 and is an above-average runner down the line.

Best Defensive Player: Ludwick projects more as a right fielder because of his above-average arm, but has average speed and excellent instincts in center field. Wenner’s speed makes him a top defensive outfielder.

Best Fastball: Oakland rarely drafts high velocity pitchers. RHPs Keith Surkont (4) and Darin Moore (5) both can touch 92-93 mph.

Most Intriguing Background: Surkont’s grandfather Max won 61 games with six major league teams from 1949-57. Ludwick’s brother Eric, a former major leaguer, pitches in the Marlins system. RHP Justin Sobchuk’s (10) father Dennis once was the No. 1 pick in the hockey draft and spent several years in the NHL.

Closest to the Majors: After finishing the year pitching for Vancouver in the Triple-A World Series, Zito could open the 2000 season in the A’s rotation. The club is more likely to give him a full year in Triple-A like it did with 1998 first-rounder Mark Mulder.

The One That Got Away: OF Jay Garthwaite (12), the A’s highest unsigned pick, has run up prodigous home run numbers in high school and summer ball, but will attend Washington.

Best Non-Draft Sign: The A’s signed C Gerald Laird (2), a 1998 draft-and-follow, for a $1 million bonus before the 1999 draft, effectively giving Oakland two first-round picks.

Summary: If you factor in Laird, the A’s ’99 draft stands up against any in baseball, despite the club’s below-average scouting budget. Zito was the perfect pick for the immediate interests of the big league roster.

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