20. Yordy Cabrera
Cabrera was the A's second-round pick out of a Lakeland, Florida, high school last season, although he was far from a typical high school selection. For one, Cabrera was significantly older on draft day than most high school picks, being a few months shy of 20. Secondly, Cabrera was more polished with the bat than most high school picks thanks to being around professional coaching his whole life with a father who played minor league ball and is currently managing in the Detroit Tigers' organization. Given those factors, the A's didn't hesitate to send Cabrera to a full-season league on Opening Day. Thus far, he hasn't made them regret that decision, as Cabrera is holding his own with the Low-A Burlington Bees.
After a slow start in April, Cabrera has been fairly steady for the Bees, posting OPS between 737 and 837 in May, June and July. Overall, the infielder is batting .259/.337/.424 with six homeruns and 15 stolen bases. The Midwest League is a tough offensive environment, but Cabrera has shown good power, the ability to spread the ball all over the field and improving plate discipline. He has also shown surprising speed. Defensively, Cabrera has displayed a strong arm and decent range at short, although he has also had the inconsistency typical of a younger player, having already committed 21 errors. He may still have to move off of shortstop to third base eventually, but the A's will keep him at short as long as he is still showing some ability at the position. He is likely to finish the year with the Bees and then head to High-A Stockton next season, where his offensive numbers should see a boost.
Status: Holding his own
19. James Simmons
Simmons, the A's top pick in 2007, missed all of last season with a shoulder injury that eventually required surgery to repair a frayed labrum and rotator cuff. The injury required rehab that lasted until the mid-point of the season. Although still on a restricted pitch count, Simmons is back on the mound and pitching regularly for the High-A Stockton Ports. The ERA for Stockton isn't pretty for Simmons right now (9.64) in 9.1 innings, but he has a 10:1 K:BB ratio and should continue to improve as he regains his arm strength.
Before injuring his shoulder towards the end of the 2009 season, Simmons was getting close to being major league ready. His change-up had taken a big step forward and he was getting better movement on his slider. Simmons' fastball command has always been at the top of the scale. If he can get his velocity back up to the 88-91 MPH range and get back to where he was with his secondary pitches, he could be a viable option for the A's in the backend of their rotation sometime next season. For now, he is concentrating on getting back to full strength and staying healthy.
Status: Back on the hill
18. Daniel Farquhar
Farquhar's stay in the A's organization was a brief one. The right-handed reliever was acquired by Oakland from the Toronto Blue Jays during the off-season along with Trystan Magnuson in exchange for Rajai Davis. After pitching eight scoreless innings for the Triple-A Sacramento River Cats, Farquhar was dealt back to the Blue Jays for reliever David Purcey (who was later traded by Oakland to the Detroit Tigers for infielder Scott Sizemore). Since the second trade, Farquhar has been pitching for Triple-A Las Vegas. He has a 4.37 ERA and a 28:12 K:BB ratio in 35 innings.
Farquhar struggled with his command while with the A's during big league spring training, but had shown some improvements in that area by the end of the spring. Thus far for Las Vegas, he is commanding the ball fairly well. The ERA is high mostly because he has allowed 42 hits in 35 innings, likely a by-product of the offensive-friendly Cashman Field. Farquhar is unusual in that he employs multiple arm angles, ranging from submarine to three-quarters. As many pitchers do who drop down, Farquhar struggles against opposite-hand hitters (in his case, lefties), but he induces a lot of groundballs. He has good velocity for a pitcher of his size (5'11'', 180). The 24-year-old should factor into the Blue Jays' bullpen picture at some point this season.
Status: Back with original organization
17. Travis Banwart
The ERA is higher than he'd like, but Banwart has actually pitched well, for the most part, for Triple-A Sacramento this season. The right-hander returned to Sacramento in 2011 after finishing strong with the River Cats in 2010, striking out 71 in 73 innings in his first extended stint at the Triple-A level. This year, Banwart has maintained solid K:BB and K/9 ratios (86:29 and 86/93.2 IP, respectively). His H/9 isn't terrible either (93/93.2), but he has been hurt by the 15 homeruns allowed, as well as some bad luck. His ERA stands at 5.48 through Sunday.
Banwart has always been a flyball pitcher, so the homerun total isn't totally surprising. In a less friendly league to hitters, Banwart's ERA would likely be significantly better. It was between him and Graham Godfrey when the A's needed a starter in mid-May. The A's went with Godfrey and he pitched well when given the opportunity, but Banwart will likely continue to be in any discussion the A's might have should Oakland find itself in a situation where they need another starter in the future. Banwart is eligible for the Rule 5 draft if the A's don't protect him this fall. Depending on how the trade deadline goes for Oakland, Banwart could get an evaluation period with the A's in September.
Status: Pitching better than the numbers show
16. Arnold Leon
Leon is making his way back slowly from Tommy John surgery, which he had early on in 2010. The right-hander made two short rehab appearances for the AZL A's in late June/early July, but the results were pretty and he hasn't been back on the mound in live game play since then. According to A's Director of Player Development Keith Lieppman, Leon suffered a set-back in his recovery and isn't expected back on the mound in the short-term.
The good news for the A's and Leon is that time is on their sides. The native of Mexico debuted in the US professionally as a 19-year-old at the High-A level. He spent the 2009 season at Double-A and was pitching extremely effectively as a starter at the end of that season. Had he not been injured in 2010, Leon likely would be pushing for a spot in the major leagues this season. Even with missing most of the 2010 and 2011 seasons, Leon will be only 23 for most of next season. The A's have used him mostly in relief as a pro, in large part to limit his innings as he has always pitched in the winter leagues in Mexico, but he has the command and the secondary pitches to be a starter. If the A's feel his arm can handle the work-load, he could slide into the rotation next season, although he will likely be limited to 100 innings coming off of injury.
Status: Rehab stalled
15. Rashun Dixon
It has been a year of steady improvement thus far for Dixon, who has spent the entire 2011 campaign with the High-A Stockton Ports. Dixon hit only .208 in April and .235 in May, but batted .306 in June and has an 814 OPS thus far in July. The outfielder has shown increased plate patience and more power as the season has progressed. He is currently batting .257/.337/.421.
Dixon is one of the most physically gifted players in the A's organization, but he was a very raw prospect coming out of high school. His growth as a player has been gradual, but each season he is getting closer to realizing his potential. The 11 homeruns Dixon has hit are already a career-high and he has done that while managing to cut down on his strike-out rate. Defensively, Dixon has mostly played right field this season for Stockton and he has shown a strong arm in right. He still doesn't run the bases as well as one would expect for a player with his speed, but overall, he has become a more complete player this season. Dixon had a strong finish to his 2010 season with Kane County. If history repeats itself in 2011, he should be well-positioned to start the 2012 season in Double-A as a 21-year-old.
Status: Improving every day
14. Fautino De Los Santos
After two-and-a-half years of injury, surgery and rehab, De Los Santos finally found himself pitching regularly and without restriction during the second half of last season. That good health carried over into this year and he has parlayed that into a jump of two levels from Double-A to the big leagues. While his command is still iffy at times, De Los Santos has shown closer-level stuff with the A's and should be a big league reliever for a long time, health-permitting. In 23 minor league appearances with Double-A Midland and Triple-A Sacramento, De Los Santos had a 2.17 ERA and a 36:16 K:BB ratio. In six appearances with the A's, he has allowed two earned runs in 8.1 innings and he has struck-out 11while walking five.
De Los Santos' fastball is all the way back to the level it was at before he had Tommy John surgery in 2008. The right-hander's fastball has averaged 96 MPH with the A's and has reached as high as 98. His slider has also been effective, sitting at 82-84 MPH, and his curveball has been a good pitch for him at times, as well. Command will always be De Los Santos' biggest weakness, but he has the kind of velocity and movement that can cause hitters to chase out of the strike-zone and allows him to work his way out of jams. Should the A's move Andrew Bailey at the trade deadline, De Los Santos could be a pitcher they consider for save opportunities next season.
Status: Establishing a big league career
13. Sean Doolittle
Doolittle optimizes the old song "Born Under a Bad Sign." If it wasn't for bad luck, Doolittle would have no luck at all. The A's 2007 supplemental first-round pick was bit by the injury bug during the early part of the 2009 season and that bug just won't let go. In 2009, Doolittle injured the patella tendon in his knee and it took two surgeries and nearly two years of rehab for Doolittle to make a full recovery from that injury. Just when he was getting close to being sent out to Triple-A Sacramento, he injured his wrist and was forced to wear a soft cast for nearly two months. Doolittle is just now fielding groundballs in Arizona, but he has yet to start swinging a bat.
At the time of Doolittle's injury in 2009, he was making a push to join the A's big league roster. Now his career is in peril, as he has missed most of the past three seasons. Despite the missed time, he was added to the A's 40-man roster this past off-season so that other teams couldn't select him in the Rule 5 draft. Whether he remains on that roster through this off-season will depend on how he progresses once he is swinging the bat again. Wrist injuries can be dangerous for a hitter. Should Doolittle's wrist not respond well once he is swinging the bat, it will be interesting to see if the A's decide to move him back on the mound. Coming out of the University of Virginia, Doolittle was considered an elite pitching prospect, as well as a top-flight hitter and first-baseman. Doolittle will be 25 for most of next season.
Status: Still rehabbing
12. Michael Ynoa
Three years after the A's made a big splash signing Ynoa to the largest bonus ever given out to an international amateur free agent, the A's are still waiting for a return on that investment. The 6'7'' right-hander didn't make his professional debut until 2010 because of elbow soreness that limited him to side sessions and simulated games during the 2009 regular season. Unfortunately for the A's and Ynoa, an elbow injury shut the hard-throwing phenom down soon after he began pitching for the AZL A's in 2010. He underwent Tommy John surgery last August and is still making his way back from that injury. The A's were optimistic earlier this year that Ynoa would be pitching for the AZL A's by now, but, according to Lieppman, Ynoa suffered a set-back and isn't expected to pitch in games anytime soon.
As the A's experienced with De Los Santos, the recovery from Tommy John surgery can be fraught with set-backs. Ynoa is only 19, but he has yet to log any significant innings as a pro. Even if he enters the 2012 season 100 percent healthy, the A's will have to be careful to limit his innings. He will also be likely limited to facing rookie or short-season level hitters, given his lack of experience. The A's will need to make a decision whether or not to add him to the 40-man roster after the 2012 season. Given the investment they made in him, they are likely to add him to the roster, but that will give the A's and Ynoa a limited timetable to get to the major leagues before his options run out.
Status: Stuck in neutral
11. Josh Donaldson
Since being promoted to Triple-A at the start of the 2010 season, Donaldson has seen his power numbers improve, but those improvements have come at the expense of his on-base numbers. In 2010, he clubbed a career-high 18 homers (despite playing only 86 games in the minor leagues) and slugged .474 for the Triple-A Sacramento River Cats, but his OBP slipped from .379 in 2009 with Double-A Midland to .336. This season, Donaldson has hit 14 homers in only 76 games and he has a .470 SLG, but his OBP has dipped to .330.
One area of Donaldson's game that has shown considerable improvement has been on the base-paths. The entire River Cats' roster has been looking to take the extra base whenever possible, and Donaldson has been effective in that area. He has a career-high 11 stolen bases in 12 chances. Donaldson has also played more third base this season, as the River Cats' coaching staff has looked to find ways to get him and fellow catcher Anthony Recker into the line-up at the same time. Donaldson has held his own there. Third base was his position at the start of his collegiate career before he was moved behind the plate. The added versatility could help Donaldson land a bench role in the big leagues long-term. With the A's likely to audition several players in August and September, Donaldson is a strong candidate to see big league time with Oakland this season. The A's will need to decide whether to keep Donaldson on the 40-man roster next season. The aggressive approach that he has employed at the Triple-A level left him exposed to a lot of strike-outs during his major league debut in 2010. Reverting back to his 2009 form with Midland would serve him better in the big leagues.
Status: Swinging for the fences