Three takeaways: A's wrap up 2023 MLB Draft

July 12th, 2023

Baseball IQ and athleticism was a theme of Day 1 of the 2023 MLB Draft for the A’s, beginning with their selection of shortstop Jacob Wilson with the sixth overall pick on Sunday night and continuing with prep infielder Myles Naylor at No. 39 and Rutgers outfielder Ryan Lasko just two spots later at No. 41.

Day 2 brought a shift away from offense that carried over into the third and final day of the Draft. Starting with New Jersey prep right-hander Steven Echavarria as their third-round selection, the A’s took 11 pitchers over their final 18 picks.

“Pitching just goes off the board so quickly that you have to make a concerted effort to really line those guys up,” A’s general manager David Forst said. “Everybody is looking for the same thing. I think we’ve just found that as we watch our board on Day 2 fly off, pitching just goes. You have to prioritize it. … Grabbing pitching on Day 2 was a priority. If you don’t, they’re gone.”

Baseball bloodlines
Prior to the Draft, there seemed to be a pattern of players who come from baseball families throughout Oakland’s organization. Tyler Soderstrom (No. 1 prospect) and Logan Davidson (No. 22) are both sons of former big leaguers. Daniel Susac (No. 4) is the younger brother of former Major League catcher Andrew Susac.

In taking Wilson, Texas A&M right-hander Nathan Dettmer and Oral Roberts outfielder Jonah Cox in this year’s Draft, the A’s added three more players who are sons of former Major League players. Meanwhile, Naylor is the younger brother of Josh and Bo Naylor, both former first-round picks who play for the Guardians. His cousin, Denzel Clarke, is an outfielder who is rated the A’s No. 9 prospect, per MLB Pipeline.

“Bloodlines are important,” Forst said. “It’s definitely part of the equation.”

Dipping into the prep pool
The selections of Echavarria, a University of Florida commit, and Newbury Park high school (Calif.) right-hander Cole Miller, who was committed to UCLA, marked the first time the A’s have taken a prep pitcher in the Draft since 2019.

Part of the shift back towards high school players stems from the bonus pool money that comes with the No. 6 pick, which put the A’s in line to take a pair of young pitchers they were really high on.

“Everybody uses the pool a little differently,” Forst said. “Some of the things we did on Sunday night allowed us some flexibility [Monday] and we used that right away to take Steven and Cole with our first two picks. There’s a premium on some high school players to try and get them away from their college commitments.

“We were excited that both guys were on the board. Guys we’ve seen quite a bit of over the course of this spring. They’re both young pitchers with good arms and a lot of upside.”

Two-way sensation?
One of Oakland’s more intriguing picks was Georgia Tech’s Jackson Finley in the eighth round. In addition to pitching for the Yellow Jackets, he enjoyed a fair amount of success as a hitter, batting .328 with a 1.069 OPS, 17 homers, 17 doubles and 61 RBIs over 54 games in 2023.

Though Finley finished as a finalist for the John Olerud Two-Way Award in college, Forst said the A’s view him as strictly a pitcher at the next level.

“I would like him to stop diving and hurting his shoulder as an outfielder,” Forst said of Finley. “I don’t want to discount his bat. When you hit 17 homers at Georgia Tech, that’s no small feat. But we like the arm. He’s got two breaking balls and a four-pitch repertoire. It’s a good mix as a starting pitcher, so we see him as just a pitcher.”