A Good Draft Behind Them, Athletics Turn Attention to the Undrafted

The Oakland Athletics had planned for a 40-round draft. When it only went five rounds, they had hundreds of names on their white boards. Starting today, they try to get some of those names under contract, although just how many remains up in the air.

The 2020 draft is in the rear-view mirror, and while the Oakland A’s like the group of five players – three collegiate pitchers, one collegiate center fielder and high school catcher Soderstrom, who was the first-round pick – the work has hardly begun.

As Oakland director of scouting Eric Kubota pointed out on a conference call after the club finished up its draft with 6-foot-5 right-handed pitcher Stevie Emanuels out of Washington, the third-to-last player taken in the draft, the acquisition of players has only just begun.

In normal years, there would have been 35 more rounds of players coming after Emanuels, but with Major League Owners attempting to rewrite the game by cutting the draft to just five rounds, those 35 rounds worth of players – and more – are out there.

Not since 1965, the last year before the draft was instituted, are there so many free agents on the market. 

“There’s a lot of `gotcha’ created on our board,” Kubota said. “We started this spring preparing for a normal 40-round draft. So, we’ll see how this all shakes out. There are going to be 30 teams trying to sign the same bunch of guys.”

Kubota, who says he doesn’t see the club putting any of the players drafted or the yet-to-be-signed free agents landing on the 20-man taxi squads that are being proposed as owners and players negotiate the possible start of a shortened season, also says he doesn’t know how many free agents the club might sign.

“We’ve talked about guys in generalities,” he said. “Now that we have specific names to go over, we’ll probably have a better idea (soon).”

The A’s are likely to continue to try to seek out pitching in the free agent market, knowing that pitchers from their own Tim Hudson to the Mets/Angels/Astros/Rangers Hall of Famer Nolan Ryan didn’t get drafted in the first five rounds.

Just on the Baseball America list of undrafted players, there are nine pitchers – three collegians and six high schoolers – available who had been ranked in the top 100.

At the top of the high school list are three preps from Florida, RHP Carson Montgomery (40th ranked), RHP Victor Mederos (59) and RHP Alejandro Rosario (60), followed by Georgia RHP Ty Floyd (59), Florida RHP Tommy Mace (75) and California LHP Ricky Tiedemann (80). Collegiate pitchers on the list include Ohio State LHP Seth Lonsway (74), East Carolina RHP Gavin Williams (81) and UC-Irvine RHP Trenton Denholm (97).

Under baseball’s new rules, free agents can be signed for a maximum deal of up to $20,000. With a normal schedule ahead of them, the A’s would probably want to sign about 40-45 of the free agents to stock their minor league system.

But as owners are attempting to trim the number of minor league franchises and with no minor league seasons taking place or likely to during the COVID-19 coronavirus pandemic, it’s unclear how many players the club eventually will sign.

Meanwhile, here’s a recap of the draft:

1 Tyler Soderstrom, C, Turlock High. He has big power, is likely to hit for an average and has a strong throwing arm. The only downside is his prior commitment to UCLA, but the A’s are confident they can get him signed.

2. Jeff Criswell, RHP, Michigan. His velocity this season ticked up a bit to 97 mph, and while he was off to a bit of a slow start this season with the Wolverines, last year he was an All-Big-10 performer with a 7-1 record and 2.72 ERA with 116 strikeouts with 106 innings.

3. Michael Guldberg, CF, Georgia Tech. He was a DH for most of last year after suffering a shoulder injury, but Kubota says the club sees him as a center fielder. He doesn’t have much power but he has speed and a .465 on-base percentage, so he could be a rally-starter at the top of the lineup.

4. Dane Acker, RHP, Oklahoma. A strong thrower who bounced from college to college to college, he threw a no-hitter this year with one walk and 11 strikeouts against LSU. That performance was deemed the 2020 season’s best single collegiate pitching performance by Baseball America.

5. Stevie Emanuels, RHP, Washington. A reliever for his first two seasons with the Huskies, he got off to a torrid start this season before college baseball was shut down. He’s 6-5 and 210 pounds, and he said his goal is to add some weight and strength going forward.

Follow Athletics insider John Hickey on Twitter: @JHickey3

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