Image credit: Billy Beane (left), Kyler Murray and Scott Boras (right) at Murray's introductory press conference with the Oakland A's. (Photo by Michael Zagaris/Oakland A's/Getty Images).
Unlike the NBA or NFL drafts, MLB teams do not draft for immediate need. There’s good reason for that, as even the most MLB-ready draft prospects usually take two seasons to get fully established in the majors. But as we ready for the 2020 MLB draft, it is useful to look at where teams are deep and where they are thin at the MLB and minor league level.
Also of note:
2019 MLB RECORD: 97-65
STATE OF THE SYSTEM: The system is middle of the road right now and should be farther down the list next year (depending on what kind of major league season is played) for all the right reasons. If there’s any significant season, the A’s will likely graduate their top three prospects—lefthanders Jesus Luzardo and A.J. Puk and catcher Sean Murphy—by the time it concludes. From there, the group is highlighted by toolsy players like Austin Beck and Lazaro Armenteros, potentially solid players like Sheldon Neuse and Logan Davidson and new international signee Robert Puason. Having a system that rich in talent is good place to be for a team coming off back-to-back postseason appearances.
BEST DRAFT PICK OF THE DECADE: 3B Matt Chapman (first round, 2014). The A’s took Chapman out of Cal State Fullerton with their top pick in 2014 and have watched him blossom into one of the game’s best players. He’s coming off consecutive top-10 MVP finishes, has won two straight Gold Glove awards and made his first All-Star Game last year. Along with Matt Olson and Marcus Semien, he has become a cornerstone of Oakland’s franchise.
WORST DRAFT PICK OF THE DECADE: OF Kyler Murray (first round, 2018.) The A’s drafted Murray ninth overall knowing he planned to play another season of quarterback at Oklahoma, essentially banking that he wouldn’t be good enough to turn pro on the gridiron. That blew up in their face as Murray won the Heisman Trophy, went No. 1 overall in the NFL draft, signed a $35 million contract with the Arizona Cardinals and won NFL Offensive Rookie of the Year honors. He will likely never play professional baseball.
DEEPEST POSITION(S): Shortstop. The A’s shortstop group includes five Top 30 prospects, including four of their Top 10 in Puason (6), Jorge Mateo (8), Davidson (9) and defensive whiz Nick Allen (10). Each player offers a slightly different skill set, with Puason possessing average offensive tools and Mateo the owner of the system’s best speed. Davidson has a blend of offensive and defensive skills, and Allen can pick it with the best in the minor leagues.
WEAKEST POSITION(S): First base. With Alfonso Rivas dealt to the Cubs, the A’s have just one first baseman (Seth Brown) among their Top 30 prospects and only Eric Campbell behind him on the depth chart. Furthering their lack of first basemen, Brown primarily played the outfield in his first stint in Oakland last year. Luckily, it shouldn’t be a problem with Olson entrenched at first base for the foreseeable future.
DRAFT TRENDS: The A’s have selected a college player with their first pick in five of the last six drafts. The only outlier was Beck, whom Oakland drafted out of high school in North Carolina.