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Oakland Athletics 2018 MLB Draft Grades

Image credit: Kyler Murray (Photo by Michael Zagaris/Oakland A's via Getty Images)

BEST PURE HITTER: Former Arizona 1B Alfonso Rivas (4) hit .285/.397/.383 in 61 games for short-season Vermont. He ranked fourth in the New York-Penn League in walks (36) and on-base percentage. The Athletics love the lefthanded-hitting Rivas’ hitting approach and barrel frequency, and they think he has room to develop physically and perhaps find more power.

BEST POWER: SS Jeremy Eierman (2s) dropped 23 home runs as a Missouri State sophomore but followed with zero homers for Team USA and then just 10 as a MSU junior. He found his power stroke at short-season Vermont by clubbing eight homers to rank fifth in the New York-Penn League, and the A’s love his bat speed and plus power potential as a middle infielder. Oakland snagged physical 6-foot-4 OF Lawrence Butler (6) from the Atlanta high school ranks, and he impressed A’s field staff in the Rookie-level Arizona League with his big lefthanded power and desire to learn.

FASTEST RUNNER: Drafted ninth overall, Oklahoma OF Kyler Murray (1) turns in 70 run times on the 20-80 scouting scale to first base, but that’s only because he doesn’t get out of the batter’s box well. He is an 80 runner underway. The A’s saw 70-grade speed from former Dallas Baptist OF Jameson Hannah (2).

BEST DEFENSIVE PLAYER: Murray has a chance to be a premium defender in center field. 

BEST ATHLETE: What Murray can do on the diamond is truly astonishing given that, prior to 2018, he had focused on football since he was a high school senior. He posts high exit velocities, he runs and he defends. Now, the A’s hope Murray chooses to pursue baseball professionally rather than football, where he is a top Heisman Trophy candidate as the Sooners’ quarterback. He has not yet participated in baseball activities with the A’s.

BEST FASTBALL: Georgia Southern RHP Chase Cohen (9) topped out at 97 mph in short outings in the New York-Penn League. His delivery features a slight hesitation in his leg lift, and the A’s feel he has the repertoire to start. 

BEST SECONDARY PITCH: Mississippi RHP Brady Feigl (5) ranges from 90-93 mph as a starter and throws a power curveball in the low 80s.

BEST PRO DEBUT: RHP Gus Varland (14) pitched at Division II Concordia (Minn.) and flies under the radar—but maybe not for long. He ran his fastball up to the mid-90s and showed an intriguing breaking ball in a pro debut he finished with five starts for low Class A Beloit. At three stops he recorded a 0.95 ERA in 38 innings with 50 strikeouts and eight walks.  

MOST INTRIGUING BACKGROUND: Murray is the greatest two-sport athlete since Russell Wilson (2010 draft) or perhaps Jeff Samardzija (2006). Wilson ultimately chose football, though he signed for just $200,000 as a fourth-round pick. Murray signed for $4.66 million. OF Austin Piscotty (38) is the younger brother of A’s OF Stephen Piscotty. C John Jones (32) played at Division II power North Greenville (S.C.), which is coached by A’s 2004 first-rounder Landon Powell.

CLOSEST TO THE MAJORS: Feigl could jump on the fast track if he moves to the bullpen.

BEST LATE-ROUND PICK: Varland is the obvious pick as a 14th-rounder from a D-II program, but the A’s are excited to see what they have in switch-hitting Vanderbilt OF Alonzo Jones (25). Coming out of high school, Jones was perhaps the fastest player in the 2015 draft, but injuries and poor production plagued him at Vandy. He hit .235 in three seasons while seeing his OPS dwindle each season. 

The One Who Got Away: The Athletics signed 36 of the 41 players they drafted and they didn’t miss out on any of their main draft targets.

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