06/04/2002 10:31 pm ET
Swisher's a sweet top pick for A's
Second-generation pick one of four in first round
By John Schlegel / MLB.com
Oakland A's round-by-round picks
OAKLAND, Calif. -- Nick Swisher might not have been considered a first-round pick by many scouts going into the 2002 season. But he considered himself one.
More important than that, the A's considered him one.
So when the outfielder was selected by the A's as the No. 16 overall pick in the 2002 First-Year Player Draft on Tuesday, the Ohio State University star and the A's were both smiling.
Swisher, a switch-hitter and the son of former Major League catcher and 1973 No. 1 pick Steve Swisher, was one of four first-round selections the A's made on Tuesday. While they were all proud to be picked that high, Swisher was especially glad to have raised his stock with a stellar junior season with the Buckeyes, batting .348 with 10 homers and 52 RBIs and a team-high .620 slugging percentage.
"A lot of people had speculated about me being a second- to fourth-round pick, and in my mind that wasn't good enough for me," Swisher said. "I had to go out there every day and bust my butt to be a No. 1 draft pick.
"Did I think I was a first-rounder? Yes, I did. But I knew I had to go out and prove that to everybody else."
Ohio State U.
Muscular, athletic build on large frame. Body similar to Rusty Greer. Quiet hitting approach. Quick bat through zone. Takes hands to ball well. Aggressive hitter. Shows power from both sides. Instincts for the outfield. Playable arm. Son of former Major Leaguer Steve Swisher.
It turns out the A's considered Swisher a candidate for their top pick this year all along, having scouted him as a sophomore and watched his development since.
"We had our eye on him before the season even started," A's scouting director Eric Kubota said. "He was a guy in the back of our heads we said, 'We'd really like to get this guy.' "
They got him, along with three other first-rounders on a busy first day of the draft for the A's that saw them select 25 college players among their first 28 selections.
The A's also took Kentucky right-hander Joe Blanton, Maryland shortstop John McCurdy and Fresno State right-hander Ben Fritz in the first round. They had four first-round picks because they'd lost Jason Giambi, Johnny Damon and Jason Isringhausen to free agency, awarding them the first-round picks of the Red Sox (16), Yankees (24) and Cardinals (30).
Swisher was at the top of the A's list because he's a switch-hitter with power potential from both sides, and -- even though he split time between the outfield and first base -- he projects as a center fielder.
"What made him extremely attractive to us is he's a center fielder with some power," Kubota said. "He's got great instincts in his whole game, both offense and defense, and he's got great bloodlines with his father being a big leaguer and an All-Star."
Said Swisher: "I've been around pro ball since I was 6 years old. My dad managed in the minor leagues in Double-A and Triple-A, as well as playing in the big leagues. For me, to share this with my father, a first-round pick in 1973, we're just so ecstatic."
Here's a look at the rest of the first-round picks for the A's:
JOSEPH BLANTON, No. 24
A power pitcher at 6-foot-3, 225 pounds, Blanton set a Kentucky single-season record with 133 strikeouts in his first season as a starter.
Stocky, muscular build on large frame. Similar body type to Tim Belcher. Live, quick arm. Fastball has occasional sink when down in zone. Slider and curveball both show late break and bite.
"He misses bats, and some guys just have a knack for doing that," Kubota said.
The Brownsville, Ky., product had a 5-7 record and 4.59 ERA in 14 starts for the Wildcats this season, but more impressively walked just 37 while registering those 133 strikeouts in 100 innings. He'll take whichever role -- starting or relief -- is handed to him.
"I actually like both," he said. "There's ups to both of them. Starting, you get to stay in the game awhile, whereas relieving you're coming in with an adrenaline rush."
JOHN McCURDY, SS (No. 26)
Not considered a top prospect before the season, McCurdy's stock rose mightily during a huge 2002 season with Maryland. McCurdy, the 6-2, 220-pound shortstop led the Terps with a .443 average, 19 homers and 77 RBIs, also stealing 20 bases in 23 attempts.
"I came into the year knowing I had to have a big year," McCurdy said. "I just worked hard every day and busted my butt and did whatever I could to make baseball my career."
McCurdy, originally from Crofton, Md., is one of 40 semifinalists for the Dick Howser Trophy, given annually to the nation's top collegiate baseball player.
Said Kubota: "We look at him as a Jeff Kent-type second baseman. He'll go out and play shortstop right now, because there's no rush right now, but that's where we see him eventually."
BEN FRITZ, RHP (No. 30)
At 6-4, 225, Fritz is a strong young man -- and it showed as he started 16 games as a pitcher and started all 43 others for the Bulldogs behind the plate as a catcher, at designated hitter or at first base. A typical weekend series: pitcher on Friday, first base on Saturday and catcher on Sunday.
"He's very durable and sturdy, obviously," Kubota said. "We think he can only get better as a pitcher."
Named 2002 Western Athletic Conference pitcher of the year, Fritz posted seven complete games, going 9-5 with a 3.24 ERA. Originally from San Jose, Fritz batted .283 and led the team with 10 homers and 54 RBIs. Fritz was named a second team All-American this season by Collegiate Baseball.
Fritz won't mind becoming only a pitcher once he starts his professional career with the A's.
"I'm like the other guys: I just want to play the position that'll get me to the big leagues," he said. "If that's the way they see me doing it, that's where I'm glad to be."
John Schlegel is a regional writer for MLB.com based in the Bay Area. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.