Cougars fans will certainly want to follow the progress of A’s prospect Sean Doolittle this season. You might remember his name for a couple of reasons. Doolittle pitched in this past weekend’s Cactus League opener between the A’s and Cubs in Arizona and struck out two in a hitless frame.
That’s right – Sean Doolittle is a pitcher now. That wasn’t the case five years ago at Kane County.
In 2007, Sean was selected by the Oakland A’s as a compensation pick, as part of the Frank Thomas deal (boy, that seems like a long time ago!). By mid-summer 2007, Doolittle came our way as a first baseman. In 55 games, he batted .233 with 4 home runs and 29 RBI.
Doolittle’s ’08 season was split between High-A and Double-A, where he combined for 22 home runs and 91 RBI. All was looking good.
Things got a little off track after that.
A series of unfortunate injuries (2 knee injuries as well as a wrist ailment) slowed his progression through the A’s system in 2010 and 2011, to the point where it was difficult to swing a bat through the pain last summer.
Doolittle, however, had one big thing going for him. He has considerable pitching experience, dating back to his time at the University of Virginia, where he won 21 games from the bump – as well as leaving the school as the career RBI leader with 167.
So last summer, Doolittle inquired through the A’s about transitioning from a position player who was snakebit with the injury bug, into a pitcher.
“I made the switch the last week of August,” Doolittle said in a story published recently from The Associated Press. “By the time I was ready to pitch, there was only one game left in the rookie league and they told me I could pitch in it. That’s my only game experience.”
So far in camp, Doolittle has turned heads. A’s manager Bob Melvin says “the ball explodes out of his hand. He has a great arm … and he’s left-handed, which is good.”
Time will tell if the transition does wonders for resurrecting Sean’s career.
A couple of other interesting notes about Sean and the relevance with this story.
– Sean’s younger brother, Ryan, was a Cougar here in 2010.
– Also interesting is this nugget from the AP story (click HERE to read). Sean was drafted by the Braves out of high school. Current Royals Asst. GM of Scouting and Player Development JJ Picollo (who was in town last month for our Royals Hot Stove event), was in the Braves front office at the time, and was “influential”, according to Sean, in getting him on the radar.
– Finally, keep in mind that the A’s have had at least one success story in converting a position player to a pitcher. That would be another former Cougar in Marcus McBeth (’03, ’05), who was a late converter to pitcher but once he did, it catapulted him into the Major Leagues in 2007 with Cincinnati.