Experts Changing Their Minds on Athletics First-Round Draft Choice

In the last week, four major scouting organizations have remade their mock drafts, and in all four, the Oakland Athletics, picking with the No. 26 choice, are seen as taking a different player. Maybe that's just what happens when players are drafted without having played in the last three months because of the COVID-19 coronavirus pandemic.
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The Major League Baseball June draft was always going to be worth watching, if for no other reason than the 30 MLB teams will make just five selections – one Wednesday and four Thursday – rather than live up to the standards of the past.

In recent years the draft had lasted 40 rounds. This time around, players who don’t go in the first five rounds are eligible to signed as a free agent for no more than $20,000 – much less than most of them would have gotten – or go back to school.

Ten days ago, we looked at how those who follow the draft closely believed the Oakland A’s were learning. There were five different mock drafts examined, from ESPN.com, Baseball American, mlb.com, theathletic.com and FanGraphs.com.

Perhaps not surprisingly, we came up with five different answers. That was a little weird, although with the COVID-19 coronavirus pandemic having shut down high school and college baseball as well as the major and minor leagues, players weren’t out there to be judged by scouts and statistical analysts. Everybody was going on old information, and the results underscored that by being all over the place.

Since then, four of the ranking organizations have updated their mock drafts and, to no one’s shock, all four have a new player they are assigning as the A’s first-round draft pick.

Here’s a look at where the pundits were and where they are now:

MLB.com: The new favorite to land in Oakland with the 26th pick is RHP Chris McMahon of Miami. ESPN’s Jonathan Mayo described McMahon as having “a very high floor, which could lift him a few spots higher.” Previously mlb.com’s selection for the A’s was Louisville RHP Bobby Miller, called by analyst Jim Callis as being someone who “pairs a mid-90s fastball with a mid-80s slider and keeps getting better as he gets more acclimated to starting.”

Theathletic.com: Keith Law, who devotes lots of time to analyzing the draft, now sees Mississippi State shortstop Jordan Westburg. That’s a change in the last week or so, with Law previously suggesting that North Carolina first baseman Aaron Sabato. Of Westburg, Law says he is an “above-average athlete and has the arm for the left side of the infield.” While Law downplays his hand and foot speed, he says Westburg brings with him the potential of being a shortstop who makes hard contact. Of Sabato, Law said the draft-eligible sophomore “has huge exit velocities, patience and power.”

Baseball America: Mount Carmel (IL) High shortstop Ed Howard is now the player Baseball America’s Ben Badler believes will wind up in green and gold. Badler says, “Oakland hasn’t shied away from athletes in the past, and we have them getting some good value in Howard, who has an argument as one of the better pure defenders in the class. Before the change, Badler was leading to Arizona catcher Austin Wells, saying Wells possesses “one of the better bats left on the board.”

FanGraphs: After originally believing the A’s would go with a pitcher, Eric Longenhagen posted Monday morning that he’s now seen first baseman Aaron Sabato of North Carolina. He doesn’t say why he made the move in the post, but elsewhere he describes liking the amount of “raw juice” Sabato brings as an offensive player. The pitcher that Longenhagen originally went with was Miami right-handed pitcher Slade Cecconi of whom he said “he has the best build and athleticism of the remaining college arms.”

ESPN.com is the only one of the five not to have updated the mock draft for 2020 (as of Monday morning). ESPN.com’s Kiley McDaniel sees the A’s taking Baylor shortstop Nick Loftin, of whom McDaniel says “Loftin is among a couple of college types tied the A’s. His carrying tools are contact and defense, making him the opposite sort of player from last year’s first-round pick shortstop Logan Davidson.”

So there it is, but there are still a couple of days left, so don’t be surprised if other new names crop up.

Follow Athletics insider John Hickey on Twitter: @JHickey3

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