It’s day two of the getting two know series and today we focus on the other half of the Michael Wuertz deal with the A’s. Today we get to know middle infielder, Justin Sellers. Here is what Baseball America and John Sickels had to say about him over the past few years in their prospect handbooks.
2006 – “The son of former big league pitcher Jeff Sellers, Justin played at Marina High (Huntington Beach, CA) with top A’s prospect Daric Barton. Marina also has produced big leagers Kevin Elster, Marc Newfield, Steve Springer and Craig Wilson. Sellers’ tools and feel for the game impressed many teams, but his lack of size dropped the Cal State Fullerton recruit to the sixth round. One A’s official insists that if Sellers were even 6 feet tall, he could have been a late first-round pick. Signed for $150,000, he’s fluid in all aspects of the game. He has a smooth, level swing that allows him to hit for a high average. A baseball rat with fantastic instincts, he’s an excellent defender with good range to both sides and solid arm strength. He’s also an above-average runner. Sellers isn’t expected to fill out much because he has a small frame, and he offers little in the way of power. Oakland has worked with him to tame his approach at the plate and help him with his transition from metal to wood bat. With a good spring, he’ll be the everyday shortstop in low Class A.” ~ Baseball America
“Sellers was a sixth round pick last June, out of high school in Huntington Beach, CA. He is the son of Jeff Sellers, former Major League pitcher. Justin is a small guy but a very good athlete. Right now his best skills are on defense: he is an excellent defensive shortstop, possibly a Gold Glove candidate if he hits enough to play regularly in the Majors. That’s the problem: he may not hit enough. He controls the strike zone well, which is good, but he lacks power and does not drive the ball. He held his own in the Northwest League against older players, which is a good sign, but we need to see some full-season data. Scouts praise his work ethic and instincts, but are they enough to overcome his lack of size and strength?” ~ John Sickels
2007 – “The son of former big league right hander Jeff Sellers, Justin committed to play for Cal State Fullerton but signed for a relatively modest $150,000 bonus as a 2005 sixth rounder. A Marina High teammate of Daric Barton in 2003, Sellers was the youngest Kane County player for much of 2006. Oakland has considered making him a switch hitter but hasn’t gone ahead with the experiment yet. Sellers has passed fellow 2005 draftee Cliff Pennington as the best defensive infielder in the system. He has a feel for defense, making difficult plays look easy thanks to soft hands, smooth footwork, surprising range and a solid-average, accurate arm. Offensively, he controls the strike zone and has the bat speed to sting balls from gap to gap. His above-average instincts play well defensively and on the bases, where he’s a slightly above-average runner. Sellers had more fly outs than any A’s farmhand in 2006. He hasn’t adjusted his homer-oriented approach despite evidence that homers won’t be a big part of the game. They definitely won’t be if he doesn’t respond to the organization’s pleas that he hit the weight room and get stronger. Today’s A’s value defense more than most clubs. Sellers will need to show more professionalism to reach his ceiling as an everyday shortstop whose bats profiles for the bottom of a lineup. A stronger, more coachable Sellers will earn a spot in high Class A.” ~ Baseball America
“A sixth round pick in 2005 out of high school in CA, Sellers has emerged as an excellent defensive shortstop. His range, hands and arm strength all rate as quality tools, and he’ll have no trouble fielding the position at higher levels. His hitting is another matter. He controls the strike zone effectively, and he makes good contact. But he doesn’t the ball very much, and given his size and relative lack of strength, it seems unlikely that he’ll develop much power. If he can’t get the hitting going, he may end up as a utility player down the line, although he is young enough to move beyond that, especially given that he starts off with the advantage of strike zone judgment in his favor. Look at Sellers as the hitting equivalent of a projectable young strike-throwing pitcher in A-ball who doesn’t throw hard but might someday.” - John Sickels
2008 - “A high school teammate of Daric Barton, Sellers is the son of former big league right hander Jeff Sellers. He opted to sign with Oakland for $150,000, bypassing a commitment to play at Cal State Fullerton. Sellers is a natural defender at shortstop, with soft hands and above-average range. His arm strength isn’t great, but it’s enough to get the job done and plays up because of his ability to read balls off the bat and get a quick first step. Sellers has exceptional instincts that translate in the field as well as on the bases. Offense is the question. Sellers led the organization in fly outs in 2006 and he still hits too many balls in the air. He drops his back shoulder and pulls off pitches, minimizing his ability to drive balls. He needs to stay to the middle of the field and work to his strengths and not try to sell out for power, mostly because there simply isn’t much power there. He went 9-for-16 to finish his Hawaii Winter Baseball stint on a roll, batting .281 there overall. Sellers profiles as a solid-average defender who’ll hit at the bottom of a lineup. While he improved some areas of his approach, he needs more maturity and added strength when he reports to Double-A this spring.” – Baseball America
Conclusion – It seems that this is another kid, like Robnett, that hasn’t really fully reached his peak, but certainly has potential. Perhaps he’s the new Ronny Cedeno for us. I wouldn’t be surprised to see him in the mix for a backup infielder spot late in the year if he can show any hitting at all this year early in the year.