OAKLAND -- Much to their delight, and surprise, the A's snagged Florida's A.J. Puk with their first selection of the 2016 Draft, taking the towering left-handed power pitcher with the sixth overall pick.The 6-foot-7 Puk was considered a potential candidate to go first in the Draft."We were very surprised, to
OAKLAND -- Much to their delight, and surprise, the A's snagged Florida's A.J. Puk with their first selection of the 2016 Draft, taking the towering left-handed power pitcher with the sixth overall pick.
The 6-foot-7 Puk was considered a potential candidate to go first in the Draft.
"We were very surprised, to be honest," A's scouting director Eric Kubota said. "We started hearing this morning that he was sliding for whatever reason. Really at no point during this spring did we think we'd have the opportunity to even talk about him with the sixth pick, so we were pretty excited when we did get there.
"I probably did a little jig, to be honest."
• 37th overall: Daulton Jefferies
• 47th overall: Logan Shore
Just a year ago, Kubota and his team pulled the trigger on another player from Florida in the first round: shortstop Richie Martin, who went 20th overall. Puk said Martin, playing at Class A Advanced Stockton this season, texted him right away Thursday night.
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"I can't wait to get out there and play with him again," said Puk, who later learned that his teammate, right-hander Logan Shore, went to the A's in the second round Thursday at No. 47.
The Draft continues Friday with Rounds 3-10. The MLB.com preview show begins at 9:30 a.m. PT, with exclusive coverage of Rounds 3-10 beginning at 10 a.m. PT.
Oakland used the 37th pick on another collegiate pitcher, Cal's Daulton Jefferies, giving the organization three advanced arms.
"We just took the best players that were ranked highest on our board, and that's just how it worked out," Kubota said. "Sometimes that's the way it goes.
"It wasn't an intention going in, but the fact that these three specific pitchers were available, we were really excited. We had them all evaluated at one time or another as potential first-round picks, so for them to be there in those three picks for us, we think it's definitely a big step forward with our pitching depth, and we're really excited to see how their careers take off from here."
Puk is the organization's highest selection since 1998, when it took left-hander Mark Mulder second. Puk has already drawn comparisons to Mulder.
Puk's heavy fastball sits in the mid to upper 90s, and he also features a power slider and a work-in-progress changeup he's already identified as a key component to his future success. He has a 3.21 ERA with 95 strikeouts in 70 innings for the Gators this spring, after missing time with back spasms, but he's also walked 31.
"Probably as much as anything it's just consistency of command, and that's one of the big things he'll need to work on to move forward, but we've seen him do that," Kubota said, "and we think it's just a matter of experience as much as anything else."
"I'm going to take it one day at a time and continue to get better and try to get to the Major Leagues as soon as I can," Puk said.
The 21-year-old Iowa native comes from a football family -- his dad played at Minnesota, and he has three uncles who also reached the collegiate level -- but quickly learned to love baseball at age 9, when he tried out for a travel-ball team on a whim.
He attached himself to the St. Louis Cardinals, but also to another big lefty in a different uniform: CC Sabathia.
"I always enjoyed watching him pitch," Puk said.
Jane Lee has covered the A's for MLB.com since 2010.