"As long as the big league club's winning," said A's scouting director Eric Kubota, who's in his 13th season in that capacity. "That's the Catch-22, I guess."
A total of 24 teams, all of whom finished 2013 with a record the A's the trumped, will draft ahead of them come Thursday. That leaves Oakland with the 25th pick. They had the 24th slot last year, snagging high school outfielder Billy McKinney.
The A's have just two selections in the first two rounds, with a pick at No. 65 following their first overall choice. They had five in that same span just two years ago, the result of compensation picks that are no longer for the taking.
Kubota, enjoying his 30th season with the A's organization, maintains that the positioning of the A's first pick has no impact on their approach. There's no point in trying to predict the unpredictable, after all, particularly since the implementation of spending rules last year fostered various Draft strategies among clubs.
"The farther you go down, the harder it is to know in all the picks ahead of you," Kubota said. "But I think if you're thorough in your process, you end up just being in a position to react with the best player that's on your board at that point. It's a little easier now, with TV and the built-in breaks, giving us a little more time to discuss things."
The 2014 Draft will take place from Thursday-Saturday, beginning with the Draft preview show on MLB.com and MLB Network on Thursday, at 3 p.m. PT. Live Draft coverage from MLB Network's Studio 42 begins at 4 p.m., with the top 74 picks being streamed on MLB.com and broadcast on MLB Network. MLB.com's exclusive coverage of the second and third days will begin with a live Draft show at 9:30 a.m. PT on Friday.
MLB.com's coverage includes Draft Central, the Top 200 Draft Prospects list and Draft Tracker, a live interactive application that includes a searchable database of Draft-eligible players. Every selection will be tweeted live from @MLBDraftTracker. You can keep up to date by following @MLBDraft, and get into the Draft conversation by tagging your tweets with #mlbdraft.
Plucking an arm with high upside has always been the A's specialty. The only two homegrown players on the A's active roster -- Sonny Gray and Sean Doolittle -- are pitchers.
Going that route would make sense in a Draft featuring dozens of quality arms, but that also makes the bats more coveted. Overall, the talent level is considered greater than last year's Draft.
"I hesitate to kind of rate it, though, because we all want to say that we know what it's like," Kubota said. "But three years, four years, we'll then be able to decide what kind of Draft class it was."
Here's a glance at what the A's have in store as the Draft approaches:
In about 50 words
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, a system that is set up to ease the selection process.
There is a feeling across the scouting ranks that the talent level in this year's Draft class is up from 2014. Right now, "what we're doing," said Kubota, "in the simplest terms, is taking 800 players and put them in a preferential order. There's a process we try and follow, and I think we're all comfortable in that process.
"It's the greatest day for us, because it's what we work for all year round. For us, it's a bit of a grind in the week leading up to it, but it's a year's culmination of work. So we get excited. You still get the same butterflies, and you still get anxious, and there's still that thrill every time we get closer to our first pick."
The A's certainly haven't shied away from high school bats, and in his latest mock Draft, MLB.com's Jonathan Mayo had Oakland taking prep third baseman Michael Chavis, who is considered to be capable of one day moving behind the plate. It's his bat that's drawing plenty attention. At the same time, this is considered to be a pitching-rich Draft class, so don't be surprised if the A's go in that direction.
Under the 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.
The A's have a total of $4,778,300 to spend in the first 10 rounds.
Organizational needs aren't exactly a high priority in the Draft, at least in the early stages. It's a widespread philosophy held by most organizations, since needs are always changing. Taking the best available player is most important, but Kubota also said, "There are obviously points at which you probably consider organizational needs, but early on, it's more about taking the best guy." That being said, pitching is always on everyone's list, no matter the time of year.
Long keen on college players, that trend was bucked in 2012, when five of Oakland's first seven picks came from the high school level, including first overall pick Addison Russell. Last year, too, the A's used their first pick on a prep player.
"I think it's as much a product of what's available as anything else, and I think we're always open to taking high school players," said Kubota, "but there was a period of time where there were college players that were there that we like. It's a product of what is available out there when you pick."
• Recent Draft History •
Russell, on the mend from a torn hamstring, has been on the fast track since the A' signed him out of high school two years ago. Still just 20, Russell has already been in two big league camps, and he's one of the youngest position players at the Double-A level, where he'll continue making adjustments upon his return. If he can play catch-up quickly, Russell is expected to be the frontrunner to assume everyday shortstop duties in Oakland next year upon Jed Lowrie's anticipated departure via free agency.
Once a top prospect in the A's system as a first baseman, 2007 first-round Draft pick Doolittle turned to relief pitching nearly three years ago after injuries continued to sideline him. The lefty has since joined the big league ranks and made a name for himself as one of the best lefty relievers in the game, most recently signing a five-year deal with the A's and gaining closer duties.
In The Show
Doolittle and Gray are the only players from the past five A's Draft classes in the Majors at the moment, through A.J. Griffin is expected back next year after recovering from Tommy John surgery, while Dan Straily is rediscovering his groove in Triple-A Sacramento.
A's recent top picks
2013: McKinney, OF, Class A Advanced Stockton
2012: Russell, SS, Double-A Midland
2011: Gray, RHP, Oakland A's
2010: Michael Choice, OF, Texas Rangers
2009: Grant Green, INF, Los Angeles Angels