A's tab California native with first pick
Simmons posted 2.40 ERA in 123 2/3 innings at UC Riverside
OAKLAND -- With their first pick in the 2007 First-Year Player Draft, the A's again dipped into the college ranks by tabbing right-handed pitcher James Simmons, a junior out of UC Riverside, at 26th overall.
"I was shocked," Simmons, rated the 47th-best prospect in the Draft by Baseball America, said of going so high. "This is something I've dreamed about since I was 4 years old."
With the selection of Simmons, the A's have now taken college players with 13 of their 14 first-round picks since Billy Beane took over as general manager in October 1997. They also went with collegiate talent with their two sandwich picks as compensation for losing free agents Barry Zito and Frank Thomas.
Simmons, who is listed at 6-foot-4 and 215 pounds, has been the ace at Riverside for three seasons, but it was his performance in the prestigious Cape Cod Summer League after his sophomore season that opened many scouts' eyes. He posted a 1.18 ERA over 53 1/3 innings in a league that features elite college talent from all over the country.
"He was one of the most, if not the most, polished pitchers in the draft," said Oakland's scouting director Eric Kubota. "He flat knows how to pitch."
According to Baseball America, Simmons, 20, has the best fastball command in the college game. It's been clocked as high as 93 mph, but he typically works at 89-91. He walked 15 while striking out 116 over 123 2/3 innings for Riverside this year.
Simmons' secondary pitches haven't wowed scouts, but his toughness and makeup have, and his changeup has the potential to be a plus-pitch. His slider and curveball have graded out as below-average by most scouting services.
"Definitely, my offspeed stuff needs a little work," Simmons said. "My slider and curveball need to be revamped."
A native of Murietta, Calif., Simmons went 11-3 with a 2.40 ERA and five complete games in 17 starts this season, earning Big West Conference Pitcher of the Year honors while holding opponents to .220 average.
Here's minorleaguebaseball.com's report on Simmons: "When Simmons is on, he's the quintessential command right-hander, an efficient starter who fills the strike zone. When he has a breaking ball working, he's extremely effective. If he can't improve those offerings, though, he'll get too much of the strike zone and won't miss a whole lot of bats."
With their second selection, a compensation pick (No. 41 overall) from the Giants for losing Barry Zito as a free agent, Oakland took Sean Doolittle, a left-handed first baseman out of the University of Virginia who also pitched for the Cavaliers.
|26||Simmons, Donald||UC Riverside||RHP|
|41||Doolittle, Sean||U Virginia||1B|
|59||Brown, Corey||Oklahoma St U||RF|
|74||Desme, Gregory||Cal Poly San Luis Obispo||RF|
|90||Horton, Joshua||UNC Chapel Hill||SS|
|120||Demel, Samuel||Texas Christian U||RHP|
|150||Banwart, Travis||Wichita St U||RHP|
|180||Carignan, Gary||UNC Chapel Hill||RHP|
Doolittle, ranked No. 91 by Baseball America, hit .301 with seven home runs and a team-high 53 RBIs this season, and he's as the all-time leader in RBIs at Virginia with 167. He also went 8-3 on the mound with a 2.40 ERA and 69 strikeouts in 82 1/3 innings; his 22 victories ranks No. 1 all-time in the Virginia annals.
Doolittle, 20, was named a second-team All-America by rivals.com and a third-team All-America by Louisville Slugger.
MiLB.com's take: "Doolittle has excellent hitting skills and should hit well for average as a pro. An athletic first baseman with good hands, his draft status may depend on how much power scouts think he will hit for at the next level. He's a safe, solid draft pick who should have a big-league future. He was a two-way player at Virginia, but most scouts see him as a hitter and not a pitcher."
With their compensation pick (No. 59 overall) from Toronto for losing Frank Thomas, the A's took Oklahoma State junior outfielder Corey Brown, who has helped the Cowboys reach the NCAA Super Regional, which starts Friday.
Through Thursday, Brown, 21, was batting .339 with 70 RBIs and team highs in homers (21), walks (60) and on-base percentage (.495).
"We were thrilled he fell to our pick," Kubota said.
Second round, No. 74 overall (from Giants): Grant Desme, a 21-year-old junior outfielder out of Cal Poly San Luis Obispo, probably slipped this far in the Draft because of a wrist injury that ended his season early. A five-tool talent, he was considered one of the best collegiate position players in the Draft.
Second round, No. 90 overall: Josh Horton, a 21-year-old junior shortstop out of University of North Carolina, is a solid defensive player with great bat control and makes consistent contact. Some scouts aren't sure if he'll be good enough defensively to be an everyday player in the Majors, projecting him as a utility man instead.
Third round, No. 120 overall: Samuel Demel, a 21-year-old junior right-hander out of Texas Christian University, posted a 7-1 record and a Big West Conference-leading 13 saves to go along with a 2.17 ERA in 32 relief appearances for the Horned Frogs this season. He struck out 71 batters in 49 2/3 innings of work. He has a fastball in the mid-90s.
Fourth round, No. 150 overall: Travis Banwart, a 21-year-old junior right-hander out of Wichita State University, is 10-5 with a 2.68 ERA in 18 starts for the Shockers this season and has struck out 111 batters in 110 2/3 innings of work.
Fifth round, No. 180 overall: Gary Carignan, a 20-year-old junior right-hander out of University of North Carolina, is 1-1 with a 1.53 ERA and 14 saves for the Tar Heels this season. Scouts have said he doesn't have any above-average pitches, but the A's place a higher premium on getting outs than they do pure stuff.
The rest of the Draft will take place Friday.
Mychael Urban is a national writer for MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.