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A's will have early opportunities in Draft

MINNEAPOLIS -- A's scouting director Eric Kubota likens the days leading up to the Draft to Christmas season.

"Draft day is Christmas," Kubota said. "Right now, it certainly has the feel of those Christmas shopping days, the grind of it."

And the A's shopping list is larger than in recent years.

Oakland has five picks in the first two rounds, including the 11th overall pick, in the 2012 First-Year Player Draft, a three-day event that begins Monday in prime time. It marks the fourth time in five years the club will pick among the first 15 selections, the result of disappointing non-winning seasons.

The 34th overall selection is compensation for Josh Willingham, a modified Type-A free agent who ultimately signed with the Twins in the offseason. The loss of Willingham also gave the A's pick No. 62 in the second round and, in between, they'll take the 47th pick as well as compensation for Type-B free agent David DeJesus, who landed with the Cubs. Oakland's final second-round pick will come at No. 74.

The A's could essentially take a risk with their top pick -- perhaps on a high school player over a collegiate one -- since they have four additional selections before the third round, but Kubota insists the extra prizes "don't necessarily change our approach."

"It's certainly nice to have and nice to be in that situation," he said. "It's an interesting Draft, just because of the new rules, so I don't think anyone is sure of exactly how everything is going to shake out. But it's sure nice to be in that position having all of those picks."

Live coverage of the 2012 First-Year Player Draft begins with a one-hour preview show on Monday, at 3 p.m. PT on and MLB Network, followed by the first round and supplemental compensation round. will provide exclusive coverage of Day 2 and 3, featuring a live pick-by-pick stream, expert commentary and Draft Tracker, a live interactive application that includes a searchable database of Draft-eligible players. You can also keep up to date at Draft Central and by following @MLBDraft on Twitter. And get into the Draft conversation by tagging  your tweets with #mlbdraft.

Here's a glance at what the A's have in store as the Draft approaches:

In about 50 words
Unlike recent years, which brought about high-profile names like Stephen Strasburg and Bryce Harper, the identity of the No. 1 pick is something of a mystery, as are the ones that follow. Kubota maintains the high-school pool is larger than ever -- "It's much stronger on the high school side," he says -- but notes a handful of premium college pitchers are also favored.

The scoop
With Draft day less than a week away, Kubota and Co. are busy putting the finishing touches on what the organization deems "The Board." On it is a list of players they have recognized as potential early picks. Kubota says it wouldn't be out of the norm for his army to be rearranging a handful of names as late as Sunday night. And once the Draft is under way, the A's take a rather simple approach, not unlike the one many teams utilize.

"We're looking for the best player who's available when we pick, and that's a very honest answer," Kubota said. "As of right now, I don't think we're sitting here with any specific need in mind. We're just trying to get the best player for the organization."

First-round buzz
In regard to early picks, Kubota says, "I think it's pretty common knowledge that college position players are kind of at a premium in this Draft. There are a lot of high-ceiling athletes and pitchers. It's much stronger on the high-school side, but there are a few premium college pitchers out there, and there are a few premium college position players as well."

The A's have traditionally enjoyed the most success in identifying future Major League arms.

Money matters
Under the new Collective Bargaining Agreement, each team has an allotted bonus pool equal to the sum of the values of that club's selections in the first 10 rounds of the Draft. The more picks a team has, and the earlier it picks, the larger the pool. The signing bonuses for a team's selections in the first 10 rounds, plus any bonus greater than $100,000 for a player taken after the 10th round, will apply toward the bonus-pool total.

Any team going up to five percent over its allotted pool will be taxed at a 75-percent rate on the overage. A team that overspends by 5-10 percent gets a 75-percent tax plus the loss of a first-round pick. A team that goes 10-15 percent over its pool amount will be hit with a 100-percent penalty on the overage and the loss of a first- and second-round pick. Any overage of 15 percent or more gets a 100-percent tax plus the loss of first-round picks in the next two Drafts.

Shopping list
The A's are among several teams, Kubota says, that don't necessarily go into the Draft thinking about organizational needs, noting, "I think we feel like you can always help yourself to every position. We've been happy with the way it's gone in recent years. We're certainly very happy with [outfielder] Michael Choice and with [pitcher] Sonny Gray, and we're optimistic about how some of those players are going to develop over the next few years."

Trend watch
It's no secret that the A's have been keen on college players, an approach that has aided their desire of getting draftees to help at the big league level as quickly as possible. However, Kubota insists his team is open-minded when it comes to the college vs. high school decisions.

"We're always open to high school players," he said. "I think, as we sit right now, our top focus is getting the best player available, whether it's a high school player or college player."

Since 1997, the A's have drafted just one high school player in the first round -- Jeremy Bonderman in 2001.

Recent Draft History
Rising fast
Though there's no reason for the A's to rush him, righty Gray is on the fast track to join the always formidable pitching staff in Oakland, having started his professional career at the Double-A level. Gray, selected by the A's as the 18th overall pick in the first round a year ago, allowed just one run with 18 strikeouts in 20 innings for Midland in 2011.

After turning heads with a solid showing both there and in big league camp this year, Gray was expected to put up big numbers for the Rockhounds, all the while improving on command that has often hurt him. Thus far, he hasn't dominated like he did last season, with an ERA above 4.00, but the Vanderbilt product is continuing work to keep his walk rate at bay.

A's recent top picks
Year Player Position Current team
2011 Sonny Gray RHP Double-A Midland
2010 Michael Choice OF Double-A Midland
2009 Grant Green OF Triple-A Sacramento
2008 Jemile Weeks 2B A's (MLB)
2007 James Simmons RHP Double-A Midland
Cinderella story
Once a top prospect in the A's system as a first baseman, 2007 first-round Draft pick Sean Doolittle decided to turn to relief pitching last summer after injuries sidelined him for a third year in a row. The lefty made his pitching debut in the instructional league last fall and has found great success on the mound, as evidenced by his ability to go from Class A Stockton to Double-A Midland and, just days ago, Triple-A Sacramento all in a span of two months.

He posted a combined 0.84 ERA at Stockton and Midland, recording 40 strikeouts in 21 1/3 innings. Should he continue to excel at the Triple-A level, Doolittle -- already stationed on the 40-man roster -- could be in the big leagues sooner than later. If not in the next few months, he has a good shot at being called up in September.

In The Show
Jemile Weeks and Tyson Ross are the only players from the past four Draft classes to reach the Majors, and it doesn't appear they'll be joined by anyone else this year, unless outfielder Grant Green -- drafted in the first round of the 2007 Draft -- posts large enough numbers to warrant a September callup.

Oakland Athletics, Tyson Ross, Jemile Weeks