2011 Oakland A's MiLB Depth Chart: Infielders

Today marks the first day the Oakland A's have had position players officially participating in their 2011 minor league spring training camp. With Opening Day less than a month away, the A's have a lot of roster decisions to make for their minor league affiliates. Inside is a look at the A's minor league infielders and where they might end-up at the start of 2011.

Note: This article only focuses on players who are likely to play for a full-season affiliate at the start of 2011.

Tuesday, March 15 is the day that position players are required to report to the Oakland A's minor league spring training camp. Over the next three weeks, the A's Player Development staff will be evaluating their minor leaguers with an eye on setting the Opening Day rosters for the organization's four full-season affiliates. Creating the minor league rosters is a difficult task each year. A number of factors go into determining how those 24- (for Triple-A and Double-A) and 25- (for the Single A teams) rosters are cobbled together. Players are assigned based both on their own development tracks and on the organization's overall developmental goals and needs. A player who put up good numbers at a level the year before isn't automatically granted a spot at the next level if there are more experienced prospects at his position who are blocking his path. Conversely, a player who struggled at a level might be promoted to the next step in his developmental path for a variety of reasons.

Below is a look at the A's minor league infielders who are likely to land on the Opening Day rosters for the Sacramento River Cats (Triple-A), Midland Rockhounds (Double-A), Stockton Ports (High-A) and Burlington Bees (Low-A). To give some sense of how tricky it can be to put together a minor league roster, keep in mind that there are 29 players on the list that follows and there are likely only 20-23 roster spots for infielders. Some of these infielders can also play the outfield, making the task a little bit easier, but there will still have to be some creative roster construction, especially when trying to factor how all of these players will get regular at-bats.

I have broken down these players into three categories: priority prospects, Triple-A depth and other prospects. These are crude labels to describe some of the factors that go into how the roster determinations will be made.

Priority Prospects

On every minor league roster there are certain players who are earmarked to play every day. The rest of the starting line-up is often built around these "line-up staples" and where other players are assigned is often determined by where these players end up. Some of them will be at the Triple-A level and will be among the first players tapped by the A's should they have an injury at the major league level, while others are still purely in the developmental stage of their careers.

Chris Carter

Positions
Primary: 1B
Others: OF

Notes:

Arguably the system's top prospect, Carter could still wind-up on the A's Opening Day roster, although he is much more likely to start in Triple-A, where he will get his five at-bats a day and continue to work on his defense. A first baseman for most of his minor league career, Carter will see a lot of time in left field this season, but he figures to get at least one start a week at first base so that if Daric Barton goes down with an injury, the A's can turn to Carter to be their everyday first baseman.

Eric Sogard

Positions
Primary: 2B
Others: SS, 3B

Notes: Sogard is currently battling for a spot as the A's back-up infielder on Opening Day. He has the advantage of being on the team's 40-man roster, but the A's are likely going to give their highest priority to a player who can be the back-up shortstop with Cliff Pennington coming off of shoulder surgery. Sogard has some experience at short, but he has had the vast majority of his playing time at second. He also missed a few games this spring with a sore thumb, although he is back on the field now. If he starts the season in Triple-A, he will likely get the majority of his playing time at second, but will also get looks at short and third, as he did last season. Even if he does win an Opening Day big league roster spot, he could return to Sacramento sometime in May when Adam Rosales, the A's regular back-up infielder, is healthy.

Jemile Weeks

Positions
Primary: 2B
Others: none

Notes: Weeks, the A's number one pick in 2008, has been a priority player since being drafted, but he hasn't come close to playing a full season yet thanks to injuries. He will play as often as his body allows, which the A's hope translates into 120+ games this year. Weeks has nearly 100 games at the Double-A level under his belt. He hasn't put up big numbers at that level yet, but he has played well this spring and could merit a look at Triple-A to open the season. Where he ends up may be tied to where Sogard and Adrian Cardenas (see below) start the season, as all three are primarily second basemen who need regular playing time.

Grant Green

Positions
Primary: SS
Others: none

Notes: Green was an ironman last season with Stockton, appearing in 131 regular season games, almost all of them coming at short. He has yet to play any other defensive position with any regularity and the A's are committed to giving him more time to develop at shortstop even though his glove lags well behind his advanced bat. Green spent the entire 2010 regular season at High-A, but got into the Double-A playoffs when Weeks went down with an injury. Green should return to Midland at the start of the season.

Stephen Parker

Positions
Primary: 3B
Others: 1B

Notes: Parker had a huge 2010 season for Stockton as the Ports' everyday third baseman and he figures to be the Midland third baseman in 2011. He played at first base in 2009 with Low-A Kane County and could get a few games at that position in 2011, but his main focus will be improving his defense at the hot corner.

Adrian Cardenas

Positions
Primary: 2B
Others: 3B, SS

Notes: The A's really wanted Cardenas, who has mostly been a second baseman in the minor leagues, to become a third baseman last year. He struggled with the transition to the hot corner, however, and finished up the year playing mostly at second base. The A's are crowded with priority prospects at second base at the higher levels with Sogard and Weeks joining Cardenas at that position, so look for the A's to move Cardenas around the infield during the season. With roughly 160 games under his belt at the Double-A level, Cardenas should open the year at Triple-A.

Yordy Cabrera

Positions
Primary: SS
Others: 3B

Notes: Cabrera was the A's second pick the 2010 draft. A high school shortstop, Cabrera may eventually move off of the position to third base thanks to his size, but for now he should remain at shortstop. He will more than likely spend the entire 2011 season in the Midwest League with Low-A Burlington. Cabrera may not break with the Bees on Opening Day, however, as the A's often hold their younger prospects back at extended spring training for the first few weeks of the season when it is cold and rainy in the Midwest.

Chad Lewis

Positions
Primary: 3B
Others: none

Notes: Like Cabrera, Lewis – the A's fourth pick in the '10 draft – is likely to spend the majority of the season with Low-A Burlington, although there is a chance that he will play at short-season with the Vermont Lake Monsters in his first full professional season given that he is only 19. Lewis has been a third baseman throughout his high school career and the A's like his defensive potential at that position.

Triple-A Depth

These players were either signed by the A's as minor league free agents during the off-season or were Triple-A players with the A's in 2010 and have some major league experience. While not all of them may be "prospects" in the traditional sense, all of these players have the potential to serve an important role during the season, as they are the players the A's will turn to first should one of their major league infielders go down with an injury.

If they aren't on the major league roster, these players will almost certainly be playing everyday with Triple-A Sacramento. River Cats' manager Darren Bush will be charged with getting each of these players regular playing time so they can be ready to join the big league roster at any time while also ensuring regular playing time for the priority prospects on Sacramento's roster.

Andy LaRoche

Positions
Primary: 3B
Others: 1B, SS, 2B

Notes: Although only 27, LaRoche is a major league veteran with roughly 260 major league games played on his resume. A top prospect a few years ago, LaRoche hasn't been able to replicate his minor league success at the major league level. He has been a third baseman for much of his career, but he has been moved all over the infield by the A's this spring and has played well. If the A's feel comfortable with LaRoche's defense at shortstop in particular, they may carry him in the back-up role until Rosales returns from the disabled list. He isn't on the 40-man roster, so the A's would have to move someone if they add LaRoche. If he is in Sacramento, LaRoche is likely to be the team's regular third baseman, although he will see time at the different infield spots and as the team's designated hitter.

Wes Timmons

Positions
Primary: 3B
Others: 1B, SS, 2B

Notes: Timmons is a long-time minor league veteran who signed a Triple-A contract with the A's over the off-season. In nine minor league seasons (all with the Atlanta organization), Timmons has played at third, first, second and short, although third base has been his primary position. He has seen time all over the infield this spring. Timmons would be a surprise pick to break camp with the A's, but the A's have had a history of bringing up veteran minor league infielders during the season from Triple-A when injuries strike (Steven Tolleson and Brooks Conrad being two recent examples). Timmons fits that mold and should get a lot of playing time for Sacramento all over the field.

Steven Tolleson

Positions
Primary: SS
Others: 3B, 2B

Notes: Tolleson was on the A's 40-man roster all of last season and put together an outstanding year at the Triple-A level while also making his major league debut. He has shown that he can hit in Triple-A and he hit well at the major league level, but the A's haven't been entirely confident in his defense. He has been shaky at times this spring with the glove, as well. If he can shore up his defense in the spring's final weeks, Tolleson could be the frontrunner for the A's back-up infielder spot as the only natural shortstop among the candidates. He was removed from the A's 40-man roster before the start of spring training, however, so the A's will need to make a roster move if they want to carry him. Tolleson should get regular playing time in Sacramento if he isn't carried by the A's on Opening Day and will be one of the A's first options when injuries strike.

Adam Heether

Positions
Primary: 3B
Others: OF

Notes: Heether was on the A's 40-man roster for a few months last season after he was claimed by Oakland off of the Milwaukee Brewers' waivers. He was designated for assignment last August and was a free agent this off-season, but elected to re-sign with Oakland. Heether finished last season with an injured right shoulder and he struggled during his time with the River Cats, batting only .228 with a 677 OPS. He had a 783 OPS in 50 games with Nashville before joining the A's, so he is capable of hitting better than he did with Sacramento. Heether saw a lot of time in the outfield last season and could fit on the River Cats' roster as a utilityman.

Other Prospects

The bulk of the organization fits into this "other" category. While these players may not be "priority prospects," their development is still important to the organization. It is not uncommon for a player from this "other" category to force his way onto the "priority" category with a good season. Stephen Parker is an example of such a player from last season. Many of these players will be viewed as everyday players on the rosters they are assigned to. The trickiest part of the Player Development staff's job is to figure out how to spread these players out so that they can continue to develop while also allowing for the other playing time considerations for the "priority" and "Triple-A depth" players.

Josh Horton

Positions
Primary: SS
Others: 2B, 3B

Notes: After a strong season with Double-A Midland in 2010, Horton was invited to big league camp for the first time. He was sent back to minor league camp this past weekend, but he got an opportunity to showcase himself in front of the big league staff. Arguably the best defensive shortstop in the upper-levels of the A's system, Horton also has a good eye and can hit for average, but he has never shown a lot of power. The A's will have to be creative when figuring out where to assign Horton. He has more than 230 games at the Double-A level under his belt, but it could be hard to find playing time for him in Triple-A if Tolleson, Sogard and Cardenas are on the roster. However, Green will be ticketed for the majority of the playing time at shortstop in Midland. If Tolleson or Sogard are on the A's Opening Day roster, Horton will likely be with the River Cats, but he could shuttle between Double-A and Triple-A throughout the season as the A's try to find at-bats for everyone.

Michael Spina

Positions
Primary: 1B
Others: 3B

Notes: Spina had a solid first full professional season as the Ports' everyday first baseman in 2010. A third baseman in college, Spina was a novice at first base and it showed at times, although he improved as the season went on. The A's like Spina at the first base position longterm and he will likely see the bulk of his playing time there with Midland in 2011. He could get a few spot starts at third to keep up his skills at that position, however.

Tyler Ladendorf

Positions
Primary: SS
Others: 2B, 3B, OF

Notes: Ladendorf is arguably the best defensive player in the A's system. He can play every position except catcher and first base and he plays them all well. His natural position is shortstop, but Ladendorf played primarily at second base alongside Green with Stockton in 2010. Look for Ladendorf to play all over the field in 2011 with the Rockhounds. Players as versatile as Ladendorf make setting minor league rosters a lot easier.

Shane Peterson

Positions
Primary: 1B
Others: OF

Notes: Peterson was acquired by the A's from St. Louis midway through the 2009 season and he has split his time between all three outfield positions and first base for Midland ever since then. Even though he has logged nearly 170 games with the Rockhounds over the past two years, Peterson is likely to return to Midland at the start of the 2011 season. If there is an opening in Sacramento at first or in the outfield during the season, Peterson should get an opportunity to move up then. Despite his extensive experience at the Double-A level, he is still only 23 years old.

Dusty Coleman

Positions
Primary: SS
Others: 2B, 3B

Notes: Coleman was a priority prospect for the A's in 2009 after signing an over-slot deal after the 2008 draft. However, he injured his wrist in May 2009 and played the entire season with the injury. The injury brought down his numbers and wound-up costing him the whole 2010 season, as he had two undergo two wrist surgeries to correct the injury. Coleman is healthy and is now having to re-establish himself on the A's depth chart. He finished the 2009 season with Stockton and is likely to return there as the Ports' everyday shortstop in 2011. The soon-to-be 24-year-old could also see time at second base.

Conner Crumbliss

Positions
Primary: 2B
Others: OF

Notes: Crumbliss, like Ladendorf, is the kind of player who makes a Player Development staff smile because of his versatility. Crumbliss has played the majority of his professional games at second base, although he has also seen significant time in the outfield. He should see time both in the infield and the outfield again in 2011 with Stockton. Crumbliss was the minor league walk leader in 2010 with 126 free passes.

Anthony Aliotti

Positions
Primary: 1B
Others: none

Notes: Aliotti had a nice first full professional season in 2010 with Kane County. He is an excellent defensive first baseman who also has above-average plate patience, although below-average power for the position. Aliotti, an East Bay native, should move to High-A as the Ports' everyday first baseman.

Jason Christian

Positions
Primary: SS
Others: 2B, 3B

Notes: Christian, like Coleman, was a top A's prospect in 2009, but saw his place on the A's depth chart impacted by injury. Christian's injury was to his shoulder and it cost him the final seven weeks of the 2009 season and a chunk of the 2010 campaign. He began the 2010 season with Stockton, but lost his spot on the Ports' roster while he was on the disabled list early in the year. Christian should get another shot with the Ports. He can play every infield position but first base and he has a good eye and speed, so Stockton manager Webster Garrison should be able to find at-bats for Christian at different positions.

Leonardo Gil

Positions
Primary: 3B
Others: 2B, SS

Notes: Gil showed surprising power with Kane County last season, blasting 13 homeruns in 437 at-bats. He has been an off-the-radar kind of prospect since signing with the A's, but that power is definitely notable. Gil struggles to get on-base regularly, however, and his OBP dipped to a career-low .296 last season. He will be playing for a chance to be on the Stockton roster this spring, but he could wind-up back in the Midwest League if he doesn't show improved plate discipline in camp.

A.J. Kirby-Jones

Positions
Primary: 1B
Others: none

Notes: Kirby-Jones was a star in his first taste of professional baseball, hitting 14 homers and posting an 887 OPS in 75 games with Vancouver last season. One could make the argument that Kirby-Jones' bat is ready for High-A, but Aliotti is likely to get the first crack at the Ports' first base job. That would leave Kirby-Jones in Burlington to start the year, but he will be a candidate for a mid-season promotion should there be any movement among first basemen in the upper levels of the A's system.

Michael Gilmartin

Positions
Primary: SS
Others: 2B, 3B

Notes: As the Kane County everyday shortstop in 2010, Gilmartin flashed a solid glove and, at times, showed a solid bat. However, he was streaky at the plate and had an overall line of .245/.326/.371. A switch-hitter, Gilmartin fared much better from the left-side (787 OPS in 326 at-bats vs. 384 OPS in 95 at-bats). Where he ends up on Opening Day will likely be tied not only to how he performs this spring, but also where Coleman and Christian start on Opening Day.

Ryan Pineda

Positions
Primary: 2B
Others: none

Notes: Pineda was the A's 28th round pick in 2010 and he signed towards the end of the signing period after competing in the Alaska summer league. Pineda's numbers for Vancouver in 2010 weren't that impressive, but he showed good plate discipline (17 walks in 95 at-bats) and played well during the A's Instructional League. He should receive a lot of playing time at second base for the Burlington Bees this season.

Tony Thompson

Positions
Primary: 3B
Others: none

Notes: Thompson was the second collegiate player drafted by the A's in 2010 (sixth-round pick). A former Triple Crown winner in college, Thompson put up disappointing numbers with Vancouver in 2010. The A's believe in his bat, however. He will likely go to Burlington unless there is an opening with Stockton. Whether he plays everyday at third base or sees time at third and first will, in part, be determined by whether Lewis is his teammate.

Nino Leyja

Positions
Primary: SS
Others: 2B, 3B

Notes: Leyja burst on the scene in 2008 as a 17-year-old when he shined in the Arizona Rookie League. He has struggled to regain that form over the past two years, which he spent shuttling between Low-A and short-season A. The 20-year-old has talent and is still very young. He may return to short-season in 2011. If he has a strong spring, however, he could force his way onto the Burlington roster, although Cabrera should get the bulk of the playing time at Leyja's natural position (shortstop).

Wade Kirkland

Positions
Primary: SS
Others: 2B, 3B

Notes: Kirkland was the A's 11th round pick last season. He hit for average with Vancouver (.271), but struggled badly with his plate discipline (nine walks against 59 strike-outs). The A's like his athleticism and he had better plate discipline in college, so he could get a crack at Burlington at the start of the season, although he will need to show a more patient approach this spring.

Michael Fabiaschi

Positions
Primary: 2B
Others: SS, 3B

Notes: Fabiaschi was a bench player for Vancouver last season after being selected in the 38th round by the A's. He didn't show much power, but he did reach base at a .374 clip. Fabiaschi can play multiple infield positions, so he is well-suited for a bench role and could end up with Burlington to start the season.


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