Sunday, April 16, 2006

What happened to the Moneyball draftees?

The 2002 draft year for the Oakland A's was famously chronicled in Michael Lewis's bestselling book Moneyball. We all know that Joe Blanton and Nick Swisher, 2 of the famous 7 draft picks taken in the first round, are both on their way to successful major league careers with the Oakland A's. But what has happened to the other 5 Moneyball picks? Let's take a look at where they are today:

Jeremy Brown:
Arguably the most talked about draftee in Moneyball, Jeremy Brown is now playing with the Oakland A's AAA affiliate, the Sacramento Rivercats. In 14 at bats, he currently sports the following stat line:
0.421 BA, 0.478 OBP, 0.895 SLG, 3 BB, 4 SO, 3 HR

Brown has not lived up to some people's expectations, which partly has to do with the unfair hype and fame received from being a main subject in a bestselling book; some people just expect too much. While his BA has never been spectacular, he has shown a knack for getting on base and doesn't strike out too much. In 1288 minor league at bats, Jeremy Brown has 218 BB vs 260 SO to go along with a minor league career 0.382 OBP. That's a BB/SO ratio of 0.838.

Aside from the low BA, Brown has also had trouble hitting for power, spending 2 years at AA Midland with sub 0.400 SLG. Last season he seemed to turn things around, hitting 20 HR and 27 2B for a 0.487 SLG.

Brown is getting a bit old to be considered a prospect - he turns 27 this year - but if he can continue to get on base and keep the power numbers up, he should get a chance at a major league position. With Beane & Co.'s strategy of locking up top catching prospects in the past, Brown could be a marketable asset in one of Billy's famous trades. Another possible outcome is letting go of Melhuse and bringing in Jeremy Brown as the back up catcher for 2007. But there are plenty of other solid catchers in the A's farm system, so if Brown doesn't deliver he could easily be passed on the ladder.

John McCurdy:
John who? I doubt most people know who John McCurdy is, not to mention the fact that he was a first round draft pick in 2002. That's probably because McCurdy has languished in the Minor League system with pretty subpar numbers. In fact, he was demoted from AA Midland back down to A Stockton. Currently McCurdy sports a minor league career OPS of just 0.668, which does not translate well into future major league success.

In addition, McCurdy has shown a surprising lack of patience at the plate, walking only 99 times vs 343 strikeouts during his minor league career. That's a BB/SO ratio of only 0.289! It's looking like that final season at the University of Maryland where he batted 0.443/0.496/0.828 was just a fluke.

McCurdy turns 25 tomorrow and has never turned in a solid minor league season. Unless he can put together one hell of a season at single-A and double-AA ball this year, his professional baseball career could be over very quickly.

Stephen H. Obenchain:
This pitcher from the University of Evansville pitched well in both Vancouver and single-A ball until 2003 when he turned in a lackluster season. He continued to struggle in both A and AA ball through 2004-2005.

Currently, I can not find any record of him playing anywhere. I thought he was starting the season at AA Midland, but he isn't listed on their roster. Anyone out there with more info than me that can enlighten us? Did he give up on pro ball?

Ben Fritz:
Another first round pitching prospect who has bounced around the A's minor league system, spending time in both AA and A ball with limited success. Currently Fritz can be found pitching for the AA Midland Rockhounds. So far in 9.1 IP, he sports a 6.75 ERA with 3 BB and 6 SO.

I am bit puzzled by Fritz, because he seems like a pitcher with potential who just can't quite seem to put it together. Through 2005, he has pitched 255.1 innings with 215 SO and 109 BB, so he appears to be able to strike batters out, but along with that statline he has also allowed a whopping 258 hits for a minor league career WHIP of 1.44 and 9.09 H/9 (hits per 9 innings pitched).

While still listed as a starter for AA Midland, I wonder if a change to the bullpen might improve things a bit.....? Or not. Another prospect turning 25 this year, he needs to put up some solid numbers and advance to AAA Sacramento or he could find his options limited.

Mark Teahen:
The only other Moneyball draftee to make it to the majors outside of Joe Blanton and Nick Swisher, Teahan was involved in the 3-team Carlos Beltran trade that saw him going to Kansas City while Oakland ended up with Dotel.

Teahen did ok at AAA Omaha, but nothing spectacular, after going 0.275 / 0.383 / 0.391 at AAA Sacramento. In 2005, Teahen was called up to play 3B for Kansas City and hit a pedestrian 0.246 / 0.309 / 0.376 with 107 SO.

Teahen has started the season with Kansas City at 3B, but he needs to work on his plate discipline as he already has 11 SO in just 10 games. He needs to start showing the patience he had in college where he was 106 BB / 74 SO in 3 seasons at St. Mary's along with a high BA. He has shown the ability, at times, to hit for average, so it may be possible for Teahen to develop as a high BA/above average OBP hitter if he can cut back on the SO. Luckily he is only in his second full major league season and will only turn 25 this year, so he has several years to work on things before he hits his peak years. Of course, if he continues to hit the way he has during the month of April (0.235 / 0.270 / 0.382) then he might find himself back at AAA.

And there you have it. Out of 7 first round draft picks, 3 have made it to the major league level, with Joe Blanton and Nick Swisher both being called up in September 2004 to the Oakland A's and contending for the rookie of the year award in 2005. 3 out of 7 ain't bad at all, especially considering the major contributions both Blanton and Swisher have made and continue to make to the A's. Jeremy Brown, provided he can really perform at AAA Sacramento, has a good chance at making it on someone's major league roster at some point in the future. Whether he manages to make it as a starting or back up catcher depends on the team and his performance. McCurdy and missing-in-action Obenchain will most likely never make it at the major league level while Ben Fritz still has some life left in him.

In the future we will analyze the 2003-2005 first round draft picks as well.


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