OAKLAND — The A's flurry of trades last offseason was sparked by a desire to upgrade their farm system, which they accomplished by bringing in a boatload of prospects.

Today offers another golden opportunity to improve in that area, as the A's hold the No. 12 overall pick in the Major League Baseball amateur draft, which runs through Friday. It's their highest first pick since 1999, when they grabbed Barry Zito at No. 9.

Of the 13 players the A's received in their four deals over the winter, nine were pitchers and three were outfielders. But that won't affect how the A's look at the board when the 12th pick rolls around.

"We rarely, if ever, draft for need, so (the trades) probably won't affect too much," assistant general manager David Forst said. "Especially picking up high where we are at No. 12, we're looking at the best player available."

Who that might be is anybody's guess, because there's little consensus on which players are being targeted by the teams drafting ahead of the A's.

Forst said this year's draft class is marked by a strong group of college hitters, particularly at first base.

It wouldn't be a shock to see the A's take a corner infielder.

A recent Baseball America mock draft had them taking Arizona State third baseman Brett Wallace, a Sonoma native and two-time Pac-10 Player of the Year. A mock draft produced by mlb.com had them choosing outfielder/pitcher Aaron Hicks of Wilson High School-Long Beach.

The A's second-round pick comes at No. 58 and their third-round choice at No. 90.

Former A's pitcher John "Blue Moon" Odom will represent the A's at the draft, which takes place in Orlando, Fla.

Walk on wild side

A's starting pitcher Justin Duchscherer said he was losing his grip on the ball during Wednesday's 10-2 victory over Detroit. He spent much of the game switching out baseballs, trying to find one he liked. With runners on first and second in the seventh, Duchscherer tossed one ball into the A's dugout and requested another. One problem: Home plate umpire Angel Hernandez assumed the ball was still live, an infraction that would have advanced each runner two bases and given Detroit a run. But first-base umpire Eric Cooper indicated he had called time, and the runners stayed, which prompted an argument from Detroit manager Jim Leyland.

Short hops

A's minor league pitcher Fautino De Los Santos likely faces nine to 12 months of rehabilitation after undergoing Tommy John surgery last week, Forst said. De Los Santos, 22, is considered one of the A's top pitching prospects after coming over from the Chicago White Sox along with Gio Gonzalez and Ryan Sweeney for Nick Swisher. Forst stressed De Los Santos had no history of elbow problems with Chicago. "He pitched (April 24) and was throwing 96 (mph), and then he went out to throw his side and couldn't pick up his arm, so it was pretty sudden." "... Third baseman Eric Chavez sat Wednesday because his legs were a little stiff, but manager Bob Geren said Chavez's back felt OK after a home-plate collision Tuesday.

— Joe Stiglich