30. Argenis Paez
For the past two seasons, Paez has been an under-the-radar prospect, putting up outstanding groundball numbers with good K:BB ratios for the A's Rookie League team in Arizona. He finally made it out of Phoenix at the start of this year's short-season, but struggles early with the Vermont Lake Monsters have landed him back at Papago Park. The 21-year-old right-hander made four starts for the Lake Monsters and posted a 6.14 ERA with an ugly 10:11 K:BB ratio. His groundout-to-flyout ratio was a solid 1.92, but that was down from his 2.86 mark in 2010 and 3.91 mark in 2009. The 11 walks were very uncharacteristic for Paez, who walked only 17 in 65.2 innings for the AZL A's last season. Paez made an appearance for the AZL A's on July 7th and allowed two hits and a walk with two strike-outs and one earned run in two innings pitched.
With Paez's normal command and his ability to induce groundball after groundball, he should have been well-suited for success in the New York-Penn League. Hopefully he and the A's Arizona pitching coaches can figure out what went wrong for him with Vermont and he can get back to pitching at that level by the end of the season.
Status: Trying to right the ship
29. Trystan Magnuson
Magnuson was acquired by the A's as part of the deal that sent Rajai Davis to Toronto during the off-season. Magnuson was added to the A's 40-man roster shortly after the trade to keep him protected during the Rule 5 draft and the tall right-hander has already been called upon twice when the A's needed a fresh relief arm from Triple-A Sacramento. He has made three appearances at the major league level. In one, he allowed six runs in two innings, but in the other two, he gave up only a hit and no runs in 4.1 innings pitched. Magnuson has spent most of the season with Sacramento, where he has a 2.90 ERA and 40 strike-outs against 18 walks in 40.1 innings pitched.
Magnuson has been consistently solid with Sacramento. When he has run into any difficulties, it has generally been against left-handers, who are batting .237 against him with 11 walks. Right-handers are hitting only .150 and only seven have walked in nearly double the number of plate appearances. He has tinkered with his slider and cut-fastball at various points during the season and has demonstrated the ability to make adjustments mid-season when things aren't going well, an important trait for a reliever. On many clubs, Magnuson might already have a regular spot in the big league bullpen. Should the A's start selling relievers near the trade deadline, Magnuson will likely be one of the first pitchers recalled from Sacramento.
Status: Doing what he needs to do
28. Ryan Ortiz
There was arguably no hotter hitter in the A's minor league spring training camp than Ortiz. Unfortunately, all Ortiz could do during spring games was hit, as he was continuing to rehab a right shoulder injury that had cost him the second half of the 2010 season. Ortiz was finally healthy in mid-May and he joined the High-A Stockton Ports, the team for whom he hit .277 with an 873 OPS in 58 games last season. Ortiz fared even better with the Ports in 2011. In 28 games, he batted .340 with four homers and a 971 OPS. He was also able to catch on a regular basis, a good sign after his recent shoulder troubles. Ortiz was promoted to Double-A on June 30 and in seven games for the Midland Rockhounds, he is batting .304 with two homers and four RBIs.
One of the most legendary players to come out of Oregon State's baseball program, Ortiz has done nothing but impress as a pro. The catcher has hit at every level he has played at and has shown the ability to hit for power, average and work his way on base. The only thing that has slowed his progression has been that shoulder injury, which the A's hope is a thing of the past. Ortiz entered pro ball with his offense ahead of his defense and the shoulder injury has limited his ability to work on his throwing as much as he would have normally, but he has improved his footwork some and should continue to become a better defensive catcher as he gains more playing time. The A's will have decisions to make on the catching front next season as it regards the roster status of Landon Powell, Josh Donaldson and potential minor league free agent Anthony Recker. Should one or more of those catchers leave the organization, Ortiz could start next season in Sacramento. For now, he will be concentrating on finishing this season healthy and swinging the bat the way he has all season.
Status: Swinging the heavy lumber
27. Chad Lewis
Lewis was the A's fourth-round pick last season out of a Southern California high school. The corner infielder signed on the final day of the signing period and appeared in only four games for the A's Rookie League team before getting his feet really wet during the A's fall Instructional league. Lewis was kept back at extended spring training this spring/early summer to continue working on his game before being sent to short-season Vermont at the start of the New York-Penn League season. In 20 games for the Lake Monsters thus far, Lewis is hitting for average (.293), but has yet to hit for power (.329) and has walked only three times.
Lewis won't turn 20 until December and he is just starting to learn about professional baseball, so a slow start is to be expected. The A's project Lewis to be a gap power hitter down the road and liked his ability to handle the bat and spray the ball all over the field when Lewis was in high school. He has split his time between third base and first base this season, but the A's still view him primarily as a third baseman. This is considered a learning year for Lewis and he will likely start next season with either Low-A Burlington or High-A Stockton, depending on how quickly his power develops.
Status: Learning his swing
26. Brad Kilby
Before the start of spring training, Kilby was optimistic that he was going to make a quick recovery from left shoulder surgery that he had had late in the 2010 season after months of rehab did nothing to correct the injury. Kilby had a set-back early in spring training, but still believed he would be able to make it back to live game action by mid-season. Unfortunately, the pain never dissipated in his shoulder and bicep and he had to have surgery again. He will miss the rest of the season.
Kilby is a minor league free agent at the end of the season. He has an impeccable track record of effectiveness both in the minor leagues and during his stints with Oakland. However, the timing of his shoulder problems comes at a very bad point in his career, as he will now need to convince a team that he is healthy this off-season without the benefit of being able to prove it in game action. If Kilby appears to be progressing with his rehab this off-season, the A's could bring him back on a minor league deal. It would be a low-cost risk on a pitcher who looked like he had made a permanent home for himself in the A's bullpen in late 2009.
Status: Recovering from a second surgery
25. Wilfredo Solano
Solano signed a seven-figure deal with the A's out of Venezuela as a 16-year-old in 2009. He debuted as a professional in the Dominican Summer League in 2010 and batted only .179 but showed good plate discipline, walking 30 times in 45 games. The A's brought Solano over to the US for the A's fall Instructional League and he impressed the coaching staff with his work ethic and his power. He has spent the entire 2011 season, including spring training and extended spring training, in Arizona. Solano is currently suiting up for the A's Rookie League club. He is off to a slow start in his first 12 games, batting only .222 with one extra-base hit.
It's way too early to judge Solano's season, but one disturbing statistic is that he has walked only once and has struck-out 16 times in his first 12 games this year. The A's believed Solano was too passive last season and were working with him to be more aggressive at the plate. Hopefully he hasn't moved to the other extreme now. Nevertheless, Solano turned 18 in January and has plenty of time to progress as a player. There is a good chance he will still play short-season ball next year before graduating to the full-season leagues in 2013.
Status: Learning the game
24. Tyler Vail
Vail was the A's fifth-round pick last season and the fourth of four consecutive high school players taken by Oakland. Unlike the other three, Vail signed quickly and had time to amass 31.2 innings for the A's Rookie League team by the end of the season. That extra experience coupled with an impressive showing at the A's fall Instructional League gave Oakland the confidence to send Vail to a full-season affiliate early in the 2011 campaign. Vail joined the Low-A Burlington Bees in early May and has made 13 starts for the Midwest League team. Thus far, Vail has struggled with the Bees, posting a 5.68 ERA with a 34:28 K:BB ratio.
Vail's struggles with Burlington have stemmed with inconsistencies with his breaking ball and change-up. Vail's fastball has added velocity this season and now regularly hits 94 MPH with movement, but his secondary pitches are still a work-in-progress. Vail won't turn 20 until November, so the A's have plenty of time to let him develop. He may repeat at Burlington at the start of next season, but once he figures out his secondary offerings, he should move up at a steady pace.
Status: Working on the soft stuff
23. Matt Thomson
At the end of last season, there was no player from the A's 2010 draft class with more helium than Thomson, who posted a 1.94 ERA with a 71:10 K:BB ratio in 51 innings for short-season Vancouver and High-A Stockton after being selected in the 12th round of the 2010 draft. Unfortunately, Thomson finished that season with a slight tear in the labrum of his right shoulder. He rehabbed the injury over the off-season and began the year at extended spring training. He was sent to the Low-A Burlington Bees in early June. The plan was for Thomson to throw a limited number of innings as a reliever this season while continuing to strengthen the shoulder. Unfortunately, he made it two outings before the pain returned and Thomson was sent back to Arizona.
Thomson is working with the A's coaching, medical and rehab staff to determine whether he should continue to rehab the injury or have surgery. Labrum surgery generally sidelines pitchers six-to-nine months, so it would put him out for part of next year as well. Most pitchers who have tried to rehab a labrum tear unsuccessfully once eventually have the surgery. Thomson was a senior when he was drafted, so he will be 24 at the start of next season. He is a fairly polished pitcher, however, so if he is able to recover fully from surgery, he could still make it to Double-A by the end of next season. Still, the shoulder injury is a definite set-back for a player who was on the rise at this time last year.
Status: Contemplating surgery
22. Steven Tolleson
Tolleson had a breakout season in 2010, batting .332 with a 915 with Triple-A Sacramento and hitting .286 in 25 games with the A's, his first taste of the major leagues. Despite those numbers, Tolleson was removed from the A's 40-man roster just before the start of spring training. He cleared waivers and was invited to big league camp as a non-roster player. It appeared at the start of camp he would have a shot at making the A's Opening Day roster as the back-up shortstop when it was revealed that Adam Rosales would miss the start of the season with a foot injury. Instead, Tolleson was sent back to minor league camp early in spring training, a clear indication of where he stood on the A's depth chart. He hit .274 with a 782 OPS in 46 games for the River Cats before he was traded to the San Diego Padres for cash considerations on the same day that Oakland acquired Scott Sizemore from the Detroit Tigers.
San Diego has been a good landing place for former A's prospects over the last few years, with players such as Chris Denorfia, Aaron Cunningham and Ryan Webb finding some major league success with the Friars. Tolleson could be the next in that line, as he has been one of the Tucson Padres' best players since being traded. In 33 games for the Triple-A Padres, Tolleson is batting .322 with an 841 OPS. His defense isn't at the same level as his bat, but he can play multiple infield and outfield positions and has a solid approach at the plate. He has a good shot at a career as a bench player in the big leagues.
Status: Thriving with change of scenery
21. Aaron Shipman
Shipman, the A's third-round pick in the 2010 draft, is in the middle of his first full season as a professional after appearing in only four games for the A's Rookie League team last season after signing late in the signing period. He spent the spring and first part of the summer at the A's extended spring training camp working on his skills. While at extended, Shipman had to deal with some minor knee tendinitis, but he was healthy by the time he was sent out to be part of the Opening Day roster for the short-season Vermont Lake Monsters. He got off to a slow start with Vermont, batting only .125 over his first 10 games. However, he has been swinging the bat well lately. Over his last nine games, Shipman is batting .286 with a .474 OBP.
Shipman is an excellent athlete with well above-average speed. He already has six stolen bases in his first 19 games this season. Although he has hit towards the bottom of the Vermont line-up for much of the season, Shipman profiles as a lead-off hitter and he has shown the patience for that role thus far, walking 19 times in 60 official at-bats. Drafted out of high school last season, Shipman is only 19-year-old and has plenty of learning to do as a player. His time with Vermont this season will set the foundation for his 2012 campaign with a full-season affiliate.
Status: Gaining experience