Mid-Season Review: A's Prospects 50-41

During the off-season, we named our top-50 prospects in the Oakland A's system. Now that we have passed the midway point of the season, we thought it would be a good time to check the progress of those players. In the first of our series, we take a look at the progress of prospects 50-41 from our off-season list.

50. Josh Horton
Horton began the season with Sacramento in a back-up role for the River Cats. A natural shortstop, he played mostly third base with Sacramento. Horton landed on the DL with a strained hamstring on May 13. At the time, he was batting only .217 with a 564 OPS. He returned for two games in mid-June before he was sent back to Double-A Midland. He appeared in one game for Midland before landing on the DL once again after aggravating the hamstring injury. At the All-Star break, he was still on the disabled list.

Horton has been a regular starter his entire career, so his struggles as a part-time player are perhaps not surprising. Assuming he returns fairly soon from the DL, Horton should get more regular at-bats for Midland as the season progresses. A solid defensive infielder, Horton has always been a reliable player in terms of getting on-base, but he hasn't shown much power and he doesn't have a lot of speed. Consequently, he profiles as a back-up infielder at the higher levels, so he will need to show he can handle a part-time role in the future.

Status: On the DL

49. Josh Whitaker
Whitaker began the season back in Arizona at extended spring training, but he got an opportunity with the Low-A Burlington Bees when injuries opened spots on the roster in late April. He has made up for lost time in a major way and has been one of the Bees' top hitters for much of the season. The powerfully built first-baseman/outfielder put up a .308/.375/.517 line during the first-half of the season.

After the A's fall Instructional League, Director of Player Development Keith Lieppman was excited about the power Whitaker displayed. Whitaker has carried that into the 2011 season. Nitpicking, Whitaker could improve his strike-zone judgment some, but overall he has done everything at the plate that one would want to see from a collegiate draft pick in Low-A. If there is any roster movement upwards during the second-half of the season, the 22-year-old is likely to get a chance in the California League, where he could put up huge numbers. In a system starved for right-handed power, Whitaker is a prospect to watch.

Status: Stock rising

48. Trey Barham
Barham has been a steady riser through the A's system since being drafted in 2008, moving up one level a season. He has spent the year in Double-A, pitching out of the bullpen for the ‘Hounds. It has been a tough year for the Midland pitching staff, but Barham has done a good job, with the exception of a rough month of May that raised his ERA significantly. In April and June, Barham's ERA was under 2.80, but in May, he had a 10.13 ERA in 5.1 innings of work over nine appearances. Overall, he has a 3.27 ERA in 33 innings.

Barham's command hasn't been as good as it has been in past years. He has already walked 19 in 33 innings. He walked 19 in 68.1 innings for High-A Stockton last season. Barham's flyout-to-groundout ratio has also dipped, but he has still done a good job keeping the ball in the park, allowing only two homeruns. Barham doesn't have overpowering stuff, so he will need to rely on location and deceptiveness to succeed. Displaying better command during the second half of the season will position him better for a jump to Triple-A in 2012.

Status: Needing to refine the command

47. Conner Crumbliss
Crumbliss got off to a slow start with Low-A Kane County in 2010 and he repeated that April performance this season with a .136 average. He rebounded with a big May (.295 BA/812 OPS), but has slipped to a 713 OPS thus far in June. Before the Cal League All-Star break, Crumbliss had a .241/.397/.277 line, although he has been hot since the break (.316/.409/.421 line in five games).

Crumbliss has the best eye of any player in the A's system. He led the minor leagues in walks in 2010 and, this season, is seventh overall and second in the Cal League. He has also done a decent job on the basepaths with 12 stolen bases in 17 chances. Crumbliss has excelled from a batting average perspective with runners on-base, not surprisingly, as it is harder to walk him with runners on. He hasn't shown the same level of power that he did the previous two seasons, however. With his on-base skills, Crumbliss doesn't need to be a huge power hitter, but he will need to show that he can punish pitchers who challenge him in order to continue to receive walks as he moves up the chain. He had a big second half in 2010 and another good second half should punch his ticket for Double-A Midland for 2012.

Status: On-base, but not a lot of power

46. Jake Brown
Brown started the season as part of a dominant Low-A Burlington Bees' rotation. For the Bees, Brown had a 1.69 ERA and a 39:6 K:BB ratio. He was promoted to High-A Stockton in late May and he hasn't found the same level of success with the Ports, although his starts have been better of late. In seven starts with Stockton, Brown has a 6.98 ERA with a 19:7 K:BB ratio.

As with Barham, Brown is a lefty who relies on location. A's minor league pitching coordinator Gil Patterson has compared Brown's throwing motion to Mark Buehrle's and, like Buehrle, Brown has to mix his pitches and live on the edges of the strike-zone to succeed. When Brown has struggled with the Ports, he has gotten too much of the heart of the strike-zone. He has allowed seven homeruns in 36.2 innings with Stockton and his hits-per-innings pitched has risen. The Cal League isn't a place where pitchers can get away with location mistakes that often. If Brown can tighten his command, he should find more success in the second half. If not, he may be moved into the bullpen next season.

Status: Learning at a new level

45. Michael Spina
Spina began the season red-hot, posting a 1093 OPS in April. He has cooled off each subsequent month and finished the first half with a .252/.374/.430 line. He has hit extremely well at home (970 OPS). Spina has had surprising struggles against left-handed pitchers (633 OPS), a number that seems more fluky for the right-handed hitter than indicative of a long-term trend.

Spina's biggest weakness last season was his plate discipline, and he has done a better job of working his way on base this season, walking 48 times in 74 games. Spina still strikes out a healthy amount (71 times thus far), but that is to be expected for a middle-of-the-order hitter. Hitting for power in the Texas League can be a difficult task. Spina is on track to reach the 20-homer and the 85-RBI plateaus for the second straight year. His defense at first has also improved in his second full year at the position. With the A's backlog at first-base in Triple-A, Spina is likely to stay in Midland for much, if not all, of the rest of the season, but he is positioning himself for a promotion next season to Sacramento.

Status: Meeting expectations

44. Shawn Haviland
The most difficult jump in baseball for a pitcher is from Single-A to Double-A and Haviland isn't alone this season on the Rockhounds' staff this season in struggling with that progression. After posting a 3.69 ERA with 169 strike-outs in 153.2 innings for High-A Stockton last season, Haviland has slumped to a 7.75 ERA in 76.2 innings for Double-A Midland.

Haviland has still been a strike-out pitcher this season, whiffing 61. His walks have gone up a little (26 thus far), but not considerably. What has gone up has been the hits-per-inning and homeruns, suggesting that Haviland isn't doing a good enough job locating within the strike-zone to survive the more sophisticated Double-A hitters. Haviland has a decent fastball, but he isn't going to blow hitters away, so location will be key for him. It may take another go-around at the start of next year for Haviland to get it right at the Double-A level. He can take to heart the fact that it took both Graham Godfrey and Travis Banwart two times through Double-A and now both have found success at Triple-A (and in Godfrey's case, the major leagues).

Status: Missing his spots

43. Tyler Ladendorf
Ladendorf has had an up-and-down season for the Rockhounds. He was stone cold at the plate in April, batting under .200, but he rebounded in May to hit .267 with a .364 OBP. In June, the struggles returned and he batted .236. His overall line in the first half was .249/.337/.364.

Ladendorf is a defensive wizard who can play all over the field and he has above-average speed. He was a power hitter in college, but doesn't profile as one as a pro. When Ladendorf is at his best, he is getting on-base, is disruptive on the base-paths and is contributing with the glove. Thus far this season, he has only been able to be that player in flashes. The 23-year-old may need another year at Double-A if his first half is a duplicate of his second half, although his defense could play at Triple-A right now.

Status: Looking for consistency

42. Connor Hoehn
Hoehn's 2011 season has been stymied by injuries and inconsistent mechanics thus far. The hard-throwing right-hander has been fairly effective when he has been on the mound, but he has only had 16 appearances this season for High-A Stockton. In those 16 appearances, Hoehn has a 4.50 ERA, but his peripherals have been solid: 17 hits allowed, five walks and 27 strike-outs. His only poor secondary stat has been homers-allowed, which is currently six in 22 innings. Hoehn has been on the disabled list since early June, and he has been working with A's coaches on mechanical changes while he has been on the DL, according to A's Director of Player Personnel Keith Lieppman. Lieppman expects Hoehn to return to the active roster soon.

Hoehn can reach 95 MPH with his fastball, but he has been more effective in the 90-92 range, as his location has been crisper and more consistent. He has the stuff to be a set-up man-type at the higher levels and his improved command makes that ceiling more of a possibility. He will need to get healthy, however. Despite being a 2009 draft pick, Hoehn is still relatively young, as he turns 22 next week, so he has time to continue to refine that command once he gets back on the mound.

Status: On the shelf

41. Royce Consigli
After two seasons in the Arizona Rookie League, Consigli leaped all the way up to the Low-A Midwest League this season. The 19-year-old is the youngest position player on the Bees' roster, but he has held his own in a difficult environment for hitters. Consigli's season has seen peaks and valleys thus far, and at the All-Star break, he had a .250/.344/.348 line. Since the break, he is batting .318 with a 759 OPS in five games.

Despite the ups and downs thus far this season, Consigli has shown a lot to get excited about. He has been a game-changer at times and has improved his plate patience, walking 32 times in 70 games thus far. The left-handed hitting outfielder has struggled versus southpaws, something that is likely to improve as he gains more experience. Consigli is likely to stay in the Midwest League for the rest of this season and if he continues to play as he has thus far this season, he'll make the jump to the Cal League next year as a 20-year-old.

Status: Holding his own


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