David Forst

MLB Draft 2019: A's farm system in good shape despite Kyler Murray loss

MLB Draft 2019: A's farm system in good shape despite Kyler Murray loss

OAKLAND — With the 2019 MLB Draft just one day away, A's general manager David Forst had to know the question was coming.

Was drafting Kyler Murray ninth overall last year a mistake? Or was it a calculated gamble that just didn't work out?

"I will say that a year ago when we were sitting there, with the information we had on Kyler, he was the best player for us to choose," Forst said Sunday. "I think everyone will acknowledge that circumstances changed between June and September, and then September to December. I don't know that anybody other than Kyler himself expected him to go out and do what he did. So with the information we had, looking at the talent, I think our process was good. Unfortunately, things changed."

What changed, of course, was that Murray greatly outperformed expectations on the football field. The Oklahoma Sooners quarterback won the Heisman Trophy and went No. 1 overall in the NFL Draft, turning his back on baseball.

Forst acknowledges that Murray's decision to choose football has left a bit of a void in the A's system, but the team won't allow that to change their approach in this year's draft.

"You can't say that you don't sort of feel the hole in the system of going a year without a first-round pick, but it doesn't change our process now," Forst said. "We can't sort of try to double down and make up for not having a 2018 first-rounder. But yeah, you look at the system, you look at the A-ball teams and where a first-rounder might be, and it's impossible not to notice that you don't have a first-round pick out there on the field."

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The A's will pick No. 29 in Monday's first round. Forst intends to select the best available player, regardless of position, rather than drafting based on any specific need.

"I think we're in really good shape in our farm system," he said. "(We have) a number of position players performing well at the upper levels. We have a number of pitchers either back or coming back from injury. So I think we feel pretty balanced as far as the system is concerned and are kind of free in this draft to go after the best guys."

The 2019 MLB Draft begins Monday at 4:00 p.m. PT with the first two rounds. Tuesday will feature rounds three through 10, with the draft concluding Wednesday with rounds 11-40.

Ex-A's reliever Shawn Kelley has no hard feelings toward former team


Ex-A's reliever Shawn Kelley has no hard feelings toward former team

OAKLAND -- After Shawn Kelley's stellar stretch run with the A's last season, it seemed likely he would return to Oakland as a free agent.

The 34-year-old right-hander appeared in 19 games last August and September, registering a 2.16 ERA and 0.78 WHIP, with 18 strikeouts in 16 2/3 innings. But while there was initially mutual interest in a reunion, the A's decided to go in a different direction and Kelley signed a one-year, $2.75 million contract with the Texas Rangers.

"We talked from the very end of (the season) about getting something done," Kelley told NBC Sports California. "I think when they got (Joakim) Soria and gave him that money (two years, $15 million), my agent called right away because we were kind of worried. We had been talking to (A's general manager David) Forst. Both sides were like, 'Yeah, let's get something done.' When Soria signed, we kind of saw the writing on the wall. And then (Forst) wished me luck in whatever decision I made. He said, 'We spent a little on a couple of guys and so we wish you the best and thanks for everything you did coming over, but we're out of money.'"

Kelley says he carries no hard feelings toward his former squad, as he understands the business side of baseball. He still has a great relationship with his old teammates and manager.

"I talked to all the guys when they came to Texas and I talked to them (Tuesday)," Kelley said. "I went over and gave BoMel a big hug and told him, 'Man, I'm sorry. I wanted to be here. It just didn't work out.' That's part of it. It wasn't for a lack of effort. There was obviously genuine interest from me and definitely some genuine interest from their side. Things just go different ways sometimes in free agency."

Kelley has carried last year's success into this season with the Rangers. He is already 3-0 with a save and a 1.80 ERA, as well as a 0.80 WHIP. He has notched nine strikeouts in 10 innings without issuing a single walk.

"It's been great," Kelley said. "It's a good group. It kind of reminds me of what we had over there last year (with the A's), as far as a good mix of young guys with some veterans, a lot of energy, and a lot of will to not give in and keep fighting. It's been a good experience."

Kelley is extremely thankful for the opportunity the A's gave him last season, especially after the Nationals let him go following his now infamous -- and probably overblown -- glove-slamming incident. He believes his time in Oakland rejuvenated his career.

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"I had fun when I went over there and saw a renewed energy and passion for just going out and having fun and enjoying it, and it not feeling like work every day," Kelley said. "It was a great experience. I loved it."

For now, Kelley is happy to be a Texas Ranger, although he doesn't rule out a return to Oakland down the road.

"Hey, you never know," he smiled. "One day, I may be back."

Inside A's starter Aaron Brooks' three-year journey back to the majors


Inside A's starter Aaron Brooks' three-year journey back to the majors

On October 2, 2015, Aaron Brooks limited the Seattle Mariners to two runs in seven innings, leading the A's to a 4-2 win. He wouldn't make another major league start for nearly three and a half years.
That opportunity finally came this week when Brooks took the hill against the defending World Series champion Boston Red Sox. The 28-year-old overcame his nerves and tossed six shutout innings, allowing just two hits and a walk, with six strikeouts.
"It was a good one to start on," Brooks told NBC Sports California. "The absence has been hard on me, but it's also been in the back of my mind that I believe I should be here and can be here. ... It feels good to get back and prove to myself that I belong here and I can compete."
Brooks spent the majority of the last three seasons in the minors as he struggled with injuries and poor performance. After stints in the Cubs and Brewers' organizations, he was traded back to the A's last September in exchange for cash considerations.
"I was excited," Brooks said. "I really feel like they appreciate what I can do and the work ethic I have. I think I fit right in here with the loose feel of having fun, but also getting work done. I'm super blessed and grateful that they continue to give me the opportunity."
Added A's manager Bob Melvin: "I have to give David (Forst) and Billy (Beane) credit on that one. We haven't seen him since 2015 and he hasn't started a big league game. So it's not like I was targeting him, but they kept a close on eye on him. I think now you're seeing him mature a little bit and gain some confidence."
Brooks missed most of the 2016 season with a hip contusion and struggled immensely in 2017, finishing with a 6.12 ERA in 26 games at the Triple-A level. He admits it was difficult to stay positive. 
"It was, but I'm a huge believer in positive vibes," he said. "Your mind is huge. For me to just go to the field every day, try to get as much work done as I can, stay as positive as I can -- just trying to do that every single day kind of helped me steer away from even trying to think about the negative side of things. I've got a great wife who tries to keep my mind off of it when I'm at home. So it hasn't been as bad as it could be, I would imagine, but I just try to stay positive."
Brooks got back on track in 2018, going 9-4 with a 3.35 ERA in 26 games for Colorado Springs, the Brewers' Triple-A affiliate. He says he didn't really adjust his mechanics but instead credits an improved mindset for the bounce-back season.
"A lot for me has been mental, just having conviction with every pitch and being able to adjust from pitch to pitch," Brooks said. "If you feel something out of whack with a certain pitch, you can flip the switch and not make it the same the next time."
Brooks' resilience and mental toughness impressed the A's. His ability to overcome adversity was a major factor in the team's decision to make him their number five starter.

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"It's a tough deal when someone keeps telling you no, trying to keep your confidence up and strive to get where you want to," Melvin said. "I know he's really embracing this opportunity and taking it pretty seriously. He's really working hard between starts and knows that he has a chance to stick in the rotation at the big league level for the first time in a while."
"Just being able to actually have a spot to call home is huge for confidence and it helps you relax a little bit," Brooks added. "Everyone in this clubhouse wants to have fun, first and foremost. When you're having fun and staying loose, you're able to relax and perform on the field."