Aug 21, 2009, 3:22 PM EDT
This is part of a series of articles examining what every team’s roster would look like if given only the players it originally signed. I’m compiling the rosters, ranking them and presenting them in a countdown from Nos. 30 to 1.
No. 30 – Cincinnati
No. 29 – Kansas City
No. 28 – San Diego
No. 27 – Milwaukee
No. 26 – Baltimore
No. 25 – Chicago (AL)
No. 24 – Chicago (NL)
No. 23 – Pittsburgh
No. 22 – Detroit
No. 21 – Tampa Bay
No. 20 – New York (NL)
No. 19 – Houston
The Moneyball draft didn’t spark a revolution, and the A’s just haven’t been all that successful at bringing in new talent this decade. That said, they don’t fare badly for a team that went eight straight years without a top-15 draft pick.
Four years ago, a rotation of Hudson, Zito, Mark Mulder, Harden and Jeremy Bonderman probably would have topped anything else these rankings have to offer. I’ve written off Mulder, though, and I don’t expect a whole lot from Bonderman going forward. At least Braden and Zito look like reliable enough fourth starters behind a quality trio, and Cahill remains one of the AL’s most promising young starters.
The bullpen has a nice one-two punch, and Gregg isn’t so bad as a third reliever. It’s just too bad the A’s didn’t come up with the money to sign their 40th-round pick from the Moneyball draft in 2002, one Jonathan Papelbon.
1B Nick Swisher
LF Andre Ethier
SS Miguel Tejada
RF Ryan Ludwick
3B Mark Teahen
C Kurt Suzuki
DH Jason Giambi
2B Esteban German
CF Travis Buck
OF Eric Byrnes
INF Bobby Crosby
INF Cliff Pennington
C John Baker
Unfortunately, Oakland’s impressive catching factory does only so much good here. Besides Suzuki and Baker, the team has also produced Ramon Hernandez, Gerald Laird and Miguel Olivo.
Also considered for the team was Dan Johnson, who has a case for starting over Giambi. Sadly, Eric Chavez seems like a weaker bet than Teahen going forward, though he’s another who could have been picked over Giambi.
If you don’t like Swisher in the leadoff spot, you can slot German and his .357 career OBP there and move everyone else down a spot.
As one might expect, defense is something of an issue here, since the A’s haven’t been loading up on toolsy up-the-middle players. Pennington is a nice upgrade over German defensively and should start when Hudson is on the mound, but I still think German is the better player. Buck offers below average range in center, and Byrnes might be the better option during those rare occasions when he’s 100 percent. Byrnes would definitely play over Buck against lefties.
There won’t be much Billy Beane bashing here. From 2000-07, the highest pick the A’s had in the draft was 16th, which was compensation from the Red Sox in 2002 and was used to select Swisher. The next highest was 21st. They weren’t passing over potential superstars to take safer college players; they simply never had a shot at the best the draft had to offer. Should they forgone spending $20 million on Esteban Loaiza and used some of that cash to try to find the next Tejada in the Dominican Republic? Of course. But they did fairly well with what they had, and if they hadn’t been particularly hard hit with injuries, they’d rank higher here.
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