Oakland A's 2011 Rule 5 Preview

The deadline for protecting prospects from the 2011 Rule 5 draft is merely weeks away. The Oakland A's have already had some activity impacting the 40-man roster this off-season, but the A's could still add players to the roster to protect them from the Rule 5 draft in December. We take a look at the players who could be added to the A's roster or impacted by the Rule 5 draft.

The Rule 5 Draft Rules

Any player not on a team's 40-man roster who signed his first professional contract in 2008 or earlier who was at least 19 years old at the time he signed and any player who signed his first professional contract in 2007 or earlier who was at least 18 years or younger at the time he signed is eligible for the Rule 5 draft this December.

Teams select in draft order until all teams have declined to select players. Once a player is selected from an organization, that organization can pull back another eligible player to be protected. Teams that select a player must keep that player on their 25-man roster for the entire regular season or offer him back to his original team. Teams generally set their rosters in advance of the 40-man roster in late November.

There is a minor league portion of the draft, but determining what players are exposed in that draft is tricky because it involves knowing whether players have been placed on a Triple-A or Double-A roster during the post-season. That information is usually kept secret by most organizations, so we won't address that part of the draft in this article.

As of October 31, the A's had no open slots on their active 40-man roster. The roster composition will be changing soon, however. Rich Harden, Coco Crisp, David DeJesus, Josh Willingham and Hideki Matsui are all expected to file for free agency this week. Sixty-day disabled list members Brett Anderson, Dallas Braden, Joey Devine, Trystan Magnuson and Daric Barton will need to be added back onto the active 40-man roster. The A's will also likely remove some players from the 40-man roster to open spots and they have a few arbitration-eligible players who may be allowed to pursue free agency.

Last off-season, the A's had a number of their top prospects that they needed to add to the 40-man roster, including Michael Taylor, Adrian Cardenas, Corey Brown (who was later traded) and Sean Doolittle. This year, they don't have nearly as long of list. Both of the A's top picks in the 2008 draft (Jemile Weeks and Tyson Ross) are already members of the Rule 5 draft and the A's added potential minor league free agents Jai Miller and Anthony Recker to the roster before the 2011 season ended, protecting them from the draft as well. Graham Godfrey, who had a breakout campaign on the mound for Sacramento this past season, was also added to the roster during the 2011 campaign, so he won't need to be protected either. The team will still have some difficult decisions to make regarding their roster, however.

Below we highlight some of the players who could be exposed to the Rule 5 draft this year and discuss their chances to be added to the A's 40-man roster and thus protected from the draft.

Notable Rule 5-Eligible Players

Previously Eligible

Jermaine Mitchell: Mitchell has been left unprotected from the past two Rule 5 drafts, but he wasn't much of a candidate to be selected in those previous years given his struggles from 2008 through 2010. The 2011 campaign was a breakthrough for Mitchell, who hit .332 with 15 homers and 16 triples and posted a 960 OPS for Triple-A Sacramento and Double-A Midland. Normally, Mitchell would be a slam-dunk to be protected. He is a solid defensive outfielder who can handle all three positions and he has good speed and plate discipline, all three characteristics making him an ideal fourth outfielder candidate for a team looking for depth through the Rule 5 draft. However, it isn't clear whether Mitchell will be ready for the start of the season.

Mitchell played much of the season with a torn meniscus in his knee. When he went to have the meniscus repaired this off-season, it was discovered that he had some additional structural issues with the knee that needed to be fixed. While the surgery was successful and a full recovery is anticipated, the rehab is six months, meaning he could potentially miss spring training and some, if not all, of April.

In some ways, Mitchell's injury could be a deterrent to teams looking to take him in the draft, and the A's could bank on that fact and risk leaving him exposed. However, it could also be an incentive for a team that has longterm plans for Mitchell. Injured players selected in the Rule 5 draft can be kept on the disabled list for most of the season and can even play up to 30 days in the minor leagues on a rehab assignment. If a team wants a longer look at Mitchell, they can keep him on the DL for much of the year, have him spend a month in the minors and then activate him during the expanded roster month in September, making him less of a risky investment than a player that has to be carried on the active 25-man roster all season.

The A's may have tipped their hand that they aren't going to protect Mitchell when they claimed Cedric Hunter off of waivers from the Padres last week. Hunter is a centerfielder like Mitchell with a solid glove and excellent on-base skills. Hunter doesn't have Mitchell's power or his raw speed, but he is more than three years younger than Mitchell. Of course, with all four of the A's main outfielders/DHs likely to leave the team via free agency this off-season, the A's should have room on their roster for both Hunter and Mitchell, but Hunter's presence certainly protects the A's if they lose Mitchell to the Rule 5 draft or if Mitchell's recovery from the knee surgery lingers later into next season than currently anticipated.

James Simmons: Simmons was the A's top pick in 2007 and he appeared to be on the verge of the major leagues at the start of the 2009 season. However, he struggled throughout that season with Sacramento. He developed a shoulder problem during that season as well that ultimately required labrum surgery. The surgery cost him the 2010 season and he went unprotected and unclaimed during that year's Rule 5 draft. This year, he made it back on the mound for the second half of the season. He threw 47.2 innings, mostly for High-A Stockton. Splitting his time between the rotation and the bullpen, Simmons posted a 4.91 ERA. He had his trademark fastball command and posted a 36:6 K:BB ratio, but his velocity was down and he was very hittable for much of the season. He finished with 56 hits allowed. If his arm strength returns next season, Simmons could re-emerge on the top prospect radar quickly, but given his numbers for the 2011 season, he is likely to go unprotected in this year's Rule 5 draft.

Travis Banwart: Like Simmons, Banwart was eligible for the Rule 5 last year, but went unclaimed. The right-hander was selected in the fourth round of the 2007 draft by the A's. He had an up-and-down 2011 campaign for Sacramento, finishing with a 4.63 ERA in 149.2 innings. Banwart had a solid 120: 46 K:BB ratio, but he allowed 22 homers and was a flyball pitcher in general for the River Cats. He has a good slider and a decent fastball. Banwart had some arm soreness early in his career that limited his innings some, but he has generally been durable, tossing at least 146 innings in each of the past three seasons.

With the A's current roster construction, Banwart isn't likely to be added given the organization's depth in terms of young starting pitching. That could change if the A's make some moves to trade some of that starting pitching for non-roster prospects. A final decision about whether to add Banwart to the roster is probably going to go down to the deadline.

Carlos Hernandez: Hernandez is in a similar position to Banwart. The left-hander was selected by the A's as a draft-and-follow out of high school in 2006, meaning he actually signed with the organization in 2007. Although not blessed with an overpowering fastball, Hernandez has risen steadily through the A's organization and has won at every level. This past season, his ERA was a career-high 5.27, but he had a number of strong outings mixed in with a few very poor ones. The A's have always admired Hernandez's toughness on the mound and his ability to pitch above his talent level. As an organization, they still haven't decided whether they see Hernandez as a starter or a reliever in the big leagues, although he has been a starter for most of his minor league career.

Like Banwart, Hernandez probably doesn't fit on the A's roster as it currently stands. However, if the A's don't tender a contract to left-handed reliever Craig Breslow or if they trade one of their starters, they could consider protecting Hernandez. He is currently pitching in the Mexican Winter League where he could catch the eye of another organization if he pitches well.

[UPDATE: Lansford was mistakenly included in the original version of this article. He is a minor league free agent.]Jared Lansford: Lansford was selected in the second round by the A's in 2005. The son of former A's star Carney Lansford, Jared was once one of the A's top relief prospects, but command issues have held him back the past few seasons. The right-hander had a 4.54 ERA in 81.1 innings this season, mostly with Double-A Midland. He did improve his walk totals (28 in 81.1 innings versus 27 in 54 innings the year before), but he still hasn't figured out how to miss many bats (48 strike-outs this year), something that hurt him this season. Lansford is an extreme groundball pitcher and he gets excellent movement on his sinking fastball. Given his mediocre strike-out and ERA totals the past two seasons, he is likely not to be protected in this draft, however.

Josh Lansford: Jared's older brother Josh was picked up by the A's as a free agent during the 2010 season. He began his career as a third-baseman but converted to the mound in 2008. Lansford pitched well for High-A Stockton this season, posting a 2.78 ERA with a 68:11 K:BB ratio in 58.1 innings. He also saw a spike in his velocity, sitting in the 91-93 MPH range and occasionally touching 95. Lansford has never pitched above the High-A level, however, so it would be a surprise if the A's chose to protect him from the Rule 5 draft, especially given their current bullpen depth.

Justin Souza: Souza was a member of the A's 40-man roster in 2010, but he suffered a broken elbow at the end of that season and was removed from the roster as he recovered from the injury. He missed the first part of the season, but managed to pitch in 63 innings for Double-A Midland and Triple-A Sacramento. Souza posted a 3.71 ERA and had a 48:13 K:BB ratio. The right-hander, who was a ninth-round selection of the Seattle Mariners in 2006, has excellent arm strength and looked like a promising relief prospect before the elbow injury. Although he wasn't 100 percent himself in 2011, he was healthy and a team that liked Souza's work in the past might be tempted to grab him in the draft. The A's aren't likely to protect Souza given the right-handed relief depth they already have on their roster, but as with Banwart and Hernandez, that could change if the A's make a few deals.

Matt Sulentic: The A's second pick in 2006 behind Trevor Cahill has had a strange minor league career. He began his career tearing through the Northwest League before stumbling badly in 2007 in the Midwest League. He had solid 2008 and 2009 seasons before suffering from a complete power outage in 2010. This year, Sulentic's power was a little better, but he still missed the .400 SLG mark for the second straight season. He did show good speed, however, swiping 24 bases in 31 chances and he has made himself into an excellent defensive corner outfielder. Although Sulentic hasn't hit lower than .272 since the 2007 season, his lack of power and his relatively low walk totals have kept him stuck at the Double-A level for the past three seasons. Given that the A's have yet to push him to Triple-A, he isn't likely to be protected in the Rule 5 draft by the team.

Gary Daley: Daley was signed by the A's as a minor league free agent at the tail-end of the 2010 season. Since then he has become something of a pet project for A's minor league pitching coordinator Gil Patterson. Daley was a third-round pick of the St. Louis Cardinals in 2006 out of Cal Poly. He struggled badly in the Cardinals' organization with his command. While his command can still come and go at times, Daley has improved significantly in that area since he started working with Patterson. He walked 67 in 148.2 innings for Stockton, Midland and Sacramento this season and posted a 4.90 ERA. He was set to be a minor league free agent this off-season, but the A's re-signed him. While the A's clearly think Daley is a talent worth devoting more time to, the team is unlikely to add him to the roster given his command issues.

Josh Horton: Horton was the A's second-round pick in 2007. He went unprotected in the Rule 5 draft last season and was not claimed. Horton was a non-roster invitee to the A's big league spring training this year and he was given an opportunity at the Triple-A level for the first time. He was also asked to serve as a bench player for the first time and he struggled in that role, batting only .217 in 26 games with the River Cats. Horton also had two bad hamstring injuries that cost him the majority of the season. The A's love Horton's glove and his ability to get on-base, but given his injury problems last season and his struggles with the River Cats, he is likely to remain unprotected for this year's draft.

Julio Ramos: Ramos was one of the A's most promising young left-handed pitching prospects at the start of the 2010 season. However, he was cut down by an elbow injury that season and has missed the past two seasons after undergoing Tommy John surgery. Ramos is nearly done with his rehab and has been throwing in games, but given the two years he has missed because of the injury, he is a longshot to be protected for this draft.

Jose Guzman: Guzman has been one of the A's steadiest minor league relievers the past two seasons. The right-hander saved 20 games for the Stockton Ports this season and had a 2.91 ERA in 68 innings. He struck-out 71 and walked 28 while holding opposing batters to a .203 average. Signed in 2005, Guzman was eligible for minor league free agency, but he chose to re-sign with Oakland at the start of the off-season. Guzman doesn't have a blazing fastball, but his 90-92 MPH fastball looks harder than it is thanks to a good breaking ball and a solid change-up. Given that Guzman hasn't pitched above the High-A level yet, it seems unlikely that the A's will add him to the roster, however.

Eligible For The First Time

Shane Peterson: Peterson was one of three prospects the A's received from St. Louis for Matt Holliday in 2009, and he's the only one of the three still with the A's organization. Peterson was a second-round pick of the Cardinals in 2008 out of Long Beach State. The first-baseman/outfielder had been stuck at Double-A Midland since being acquired by Oakland until injuries opened a spot for him with Sacramento for part of the 2011 season. He played very well for the River Cats, batting .293/.377/.479 in 46 games. Peterson struggled after a late June demotion to Midland and wound-up batting only .260/.357/.379 in 59 games for the Rockhounds despite getting off to a good start with Midland.

Peterson is an extremely patient hitter who walked 53 times in 105 games. He has also hit for average for most of his career. He doesn't have the traditional power one expects from a corner outfielder or first-baseman and he doesn't have the traditional speed of a centerfielder, but he does a lot of things well. Peterson (23) is young for a player drafted out of college in 2008. The A's have a lot of roster decisions to make regarding their outfielders, and Peterson will likely come up in any discussions about the outfield depth chart. Whether the A's protect him may be tied to whether they sign any of their four outfield free agents.

Brett Hunter: The A's made some headlines in 2008 when they inked their seventh-round pick, Hunter, to a seven-figure signing bonus. Hunter was highly regarded in college but had injury questions entering the draft. Since signing with Oakland, he has been plagued with injuries and mechanical issues, although the 2011 season was his most promising to date. The right-hander pitched at three levels (High-A, Double-A and Triple-A) and had a 3.08 ERA with 46 strike-outs and 23 walks in 49.2 innings. He held opposing batters to a .220 average and allowed only four homeruns. It was the first time in his professional career that he had double the number of innings pitched than batters walked.

Despite Hunter's improvements, he is still not a finished product and his command isn't major league ready yet. The A's have made a significant financial investment in Hunter, but given their current bullpen depth, they may risk leaving him unprotected.

Tyler Ladendorf: Ladendorf was acquired by the A's during the 2009 season in exchange for shortstop Orlando Cabrera. Ladendorf was a second-round pick by the Minnesota Twins in 2008 out of Howard Community College. Since coming to the A's, his glove has stood out, but his bat has yet to come around. He had a decent season at the plate with Stockton in 2010, batting .274 with 20 stolen bases in 24 chances, but he walked only 35 times in 126 games and slugged .381. This year, Ladendorf hit only .224 with a 623 OPS in 129 games, most of them for Double-A Midland.

Ladendorf is arguably the most talented defensive player in the A's system. He can play all of the up-the-middle positions – shortstop, second base and centerfield – and plays them well. A team looking for a defensive bench player might be intrigued by Ladendorf, although his struggles with the bat could be too big of a deterrent. The A's currently have Jemile Weeks, Cliff Pennington, Adam Rosales, Eric Sogard, Scott Sizemore and Adrian Cardenas on the 40-man roster, so there probably isn't room for Ladendorf unless the A's make some moves involving a couple of those players.

Petey Paramore: Paramore was the A's third-round pick in 2008 and many at the time believed he profiled similarly to A's catcher Landon Powell: a switch-hitting catcher with power and a good eye, as well as good receiving skills. Paramore's glove has, for the most part, come as advertised, and he has demonstrated the ability to take a walk, but his bat has never lived up to his draft profile. Paramore began the 2011 season with Double-A Midland, but he was demoted to High-A Stockton after hitting only .192 in 45 games. He managed only a .235 average with Stockton, although he did homer seven times in 119 at-bats. For his career, he has never posted an OPS above 733 in any one season. The A's currently have four catchers on their 40-man roster and good minor league catching depth in general, so they are unlikely to protect Paramore despite his good glove and his history as a high draft pick.

Dusty Coleman: Coleman was the A's 28th-round pick in 2008, but he was a draft-eligible sophomore, so the A's went over-slot to sign him to a six-figure bonus. The shortstop has flashed an excellent glove and good power since turning pro, but he had two seasons heavily impacted by a broken wrist and has struggled to keep his strike-out totals down. Coleman is currently playing in the Arizona Fall League as a member of the Phoenix Desert Dogs' taxi squad, meaning he can only appear in games on Wednesdays and Saturdays. He is currently struggling in Arizona, with only three hits in 28 at-bats. Coleman did hit 15 homers and he stole 21 bases this season for High-A Stockton, although he struck-out 171 times in 120 games. He played well in a 10-game stint with Triple-A Sacramento late in the season. Coleman has a lot of talent, but the development time he missed in 2009 and 2010 has hurt him. The A's will probably leave him unprotected for this year's draft.

Anthony Capra: Capra is currently representing the A's at the Arizona Fall League. The lefty had a tough 2011 season, a season during which he lost the feel for his mechanics and spent a portion of the summer in Arizona working with Garvin Alston on regaining a consistent motion. Capra walked 57 in 107.1 innings this season and has walked seven in seven innings at the AFL thus far. Although he has yet to find his way in two seasons at the Double-A level, Capra is still only those two years removed from being amongst the leaders in strike-outs for all of the minor leagues (170 in 152 innings in 2009). He has arguably the best change-up in the A's minor league system. Capra, who was the A's fourth-round pick in 2008, is not likely to be protected given his recent struggles, but a good season in 2012 could land him a spot on the roster next year.

Ben Hornbeck: If Capra has the best change-up in the A's system, Hornbeck's change-up is "best 1A." Like Capra, Hornbeck has utilized that change-up to rack-up impressive strike-out totals throughout his career. Also like Capra, Hornbeck is coming off of a disappointing 2011 season, although for a different reason than Capra. Hornbeck appeared in only 17 games – all in relief – this season thanks to arm troubles. After spending most of his career as a starter, Hornbeck was moved to the bullpen this year and it is a move that is likely to facilitate a quicker rise to the big leagues. He isn't a hard-thrower, but hitters have a tough time picking up the ball against him and he is able to pitch backwards thanks to that change-up. Had he been healthy all season, Hornbeck likely would have been a strong candidate for the 40-man roster, but his health issues make that less likely.

Jeremy Barfield: Barfield was the A's eighth-round pick in 2008 out of San Jacinto Junior College. The outfielder put together solid seasons in 2009 and 2010, but he struggled in his first season in the Texas League in 2011. In 131 games, he hit .257 and managed only a .384 SLG after slugging .417 with Stockton in 2010. Barfield has the best outfield throwing arm in the A's system and has shown flashes of being a profile corner outfielder with the bat. However, he has yet to develop the consistent power one would expect from a 6'5'', 240 pound outfielder. He is likely not to be protected in the draft this year, but he remains an intriguing prospect thanks to his raw tools. Barfield is the one of the youngest players in the A's "first-time eligible group," having just turned 23 in July.

Trey Barham: Barham wasn't a highly touted player when he was selected in the 25th-round out of VMI in 2008. However, since he turned pro, he has produced nothing but positive results. In 163 appearances, he has a career 2.68 ERA with 202 hits allowed in 225 innings pitched. He has struck-out 181 while walking 74 and has allowed less than half of one homerun per nine innings pitched. Barham saw a dip in his K:BB ratio this season with Double-A Midland, but his other numbers remained in-line with what he produced for Low-A Kane County in 2009 and High-A Stockton in 2010. He relies on deception and off-speed pitches for success, but, like Carlos Hernandez, he has shown he can pitch above his talent level. Like Hernandez, Barham's chances of making the A's 40-man roster this off-season are likely contingent on whether the A's trade or release any of their current major league left-handed relievers. Hernandez is also ahead of Barham on the A's depth chart, so Barham's chances of being protected this off-season are more remote than Hernandez's.

Ryan Doolittle: Doolittle has struggled arm issues since being drafted a slot behind Barham in 2008. The right-hander has pitched well when he has been healthy, but he has only logged 47 appearances in four seasons (he missed the entire 2009 campaign). Doolittle has arguably the best command and pitch-efficiency of any reliever in the A's system. In 112 career minor league innings, Doolittle has struck-out 8.36 batters per nine innings while walking 1.21 batters per nine innings. He was healthy during the A's fall Instructional League and was throwing in the 90-92 MPH range. Given his history of health issues, Doolittle isn't a likely candidate to be selected in the Rule 5 draft, so the A's will probably pass on protecting him this time around.

Shawn Haviland: Haviland was a breakout performer in 2010 with High-A Stockton when he struck-out 169 in 153.2 innings. However, his first taste of Double-A didn't go as smoothly. Haviland struggled the entire season with Midland, posting a 7.08 ERA in 143.2 innings. He gave up 205 hits and 24 homeruns and he struck-out only 110. The A's haven't given up on Haviland and he will have another chance at Double-A next season, but he isn't likely to be added to the roster this off-season.

Jason Christian: Christian, like Coleman, had a serious injury in 2009 and it has dramatically impacted his development. Christian was the A's fifth-round pick in 2008 and he starred for short-season Vancouver that year. He was off to a good start the next season with Low-A Kane County when he injured his shoulder. That injury cost him nearly half of 2009 and a reoccurrence of the injury cut into his 2010 season, as well. In 2011, he found himself in more of a reserve role for Stockton and Midland and he hit .266 with a 684 OPS in 76 games. Christian has a good glove and can play all around the infield. He also has good speed, but he hasn't shown much power at the High-A and Double-A levels and he has fallen behind players such as Coleman and Ladendorf on the A's middle infield depth chart. He isn't likely to be protected.

Other Eligible Players: Jonathan Joseph, Pedro Vidal, Jose Crisotomo, Douglas Landaeta, Kelvin Rojas, Bruce Billings, Scott Deal, Fabian Williamson, Mitch LeVier, Jonathan Ortiz, any free agents the A's sign to minor league deals before the first week of December and any players the A's remove from their 40-man roster who clear waivers before the first week of December.

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