From 2002-2011, the Oakland Athletics had 24 first-round picks. Of those 24 picks, GM Billy Beane opted for a college player every single time. Whether it was the lack of success of players like Ben Fritz, Stephen Obenchain and Richard Robnett, among others, or the fact the team hadn’t had a winning season in five years and was headed for another this season, Beane decided to switch it up a bit. This year, he went against his philosophy of taking players out of college whom he had a better read on as far as potential was concerned.
With three first-round picks in the 2012 MLB draft, including two sandwich picks for losing free agents Josh Willingham and David DeJesus, Beane went on the offensive and took three position players — all from the high school ranks.
Two of those players recently got promotions just two months into their pro careers. The third should follow suit very soon.
Addison Russell, the 11th overall selection, got his promotion a week ago after putting on a clinic in the Arizona League. Over 26 games, he went 44-for-106 (.415) with four doubles, five triples, six home runs, 29 RBI and nine stolen bases. He also drew 14 walks and has a slash line of .488/.717/1.205. Prior to his promotion to short-season Vermont of the New York-Penn League, he was leading the AZL in hitting, OBP, OPS and was second in SLG. He hasn’t skipped a beat with the spike in competition, going 3-for-4 in his debut with a double, home run and RBI. Over his five games at Vermont, he is 9-for-21 (.429) with a double, triple, home run, two RBI and a stolen base.
The 6’-1” right-hander has all the tools to be a star on both sides of the field. With his electric bat speed and raw power, he should be a high-average hitter with 30+ home run potential once he matures. Defensively, his range, instincts and strong arm should allow him to stick at shortstop despite some wondering if he will out grow his position and be forced to transition over to third base. Whatever the case, Russell has shown the ability to be the face of the franchise in a couple of years.
Daniel Robertson, the 34th overall selection, was a compensatory pick for the A’s losing Willingham. As a senior at Upland HS in California, he hit .560 over 27 games with six home runs, 31 RBI, 29 walks and just six strikeouts over 104 plate appearances. The 6’-1” right-hander has an advanced approach at the plate, great overall instincts for the game, and is known for his make up and a motor that never quits. The power is there already and will only get better as he matures.
After hitting .306 over 28 games in the AZL with 10 doubles, four home runs, 22 RBI and a .410 OBP, Robertson got a promotion to Vermont and should make his debut on August 8. His recent play was most likely the tipping point to get him at-bats against better competition as he went 7-for-16 with four doubles, two triples, seven RBI and three walks over his first four August games.
Matthew Olson, a 6’-4”, 235-pound masher out of Parkview HS in Georgia, was one of the best high school players in the country this past season. He led his team to a state title by hitting .407 with 11 home runs and 52 RBI over 37 games. He also flourished on the mound going 12-1 with a 1.64 ERA and 85 strikeouts over 85.1 innings. The left-hander has tremendous power to all fields and can more than hold his own at first base. The A’s nabbed him with the 47th overall selection as compensation for losing DeJesus to the Cubs.
He made his pro debut on June 24 and had himself a day going 4-for-5 with four runs, two doubles, a home run and four RBI. Over 31 games in the AZL, he is hitting .291 with 13 doubles, five home runs, 29 RBI and a .531 SLG. It’s only a matter of time before he joins Russell and Robertson at Vermont.
After all those years of missing on first-round picks, Billy Beane may have locked up 3/5 of his future infield in two days between June 4-5 of this year.