An Expert's Take On The A's System

The baseball Winter Meetings are next week and with several of their young players reportedly being dangled on the trade market, the Oakland A's figure to be the center of several rumors. Before the trades begin, we thought that it would be good to take a pulse on the state of the A's minor league system. We spoke with Scout's National Baseball Expert Frankie Piliere about several A's prospects.

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OaklandClubhouse: Michael Choice's swing-and-miss tendencies have been discussed a lot, but he seemed to improve his contact rate considerably as the 2011 season went on and during the AFL. Do you think that his K-rate is going to be a long-term concern for him?

Frankie Piliere: If he continues to look the type of prolific run producer I think he'll be, it doesn't worry me a whole lot. He did make a lot of progress in the AFL, but for the long term I think he's just going to be a guy who swings and misses. But his pitch recognition and selection has improved quite a bit.

OC: Do you see Choice as a centerfielder long term or a corner outfielder?

FP: I think he's a case of a player that's capable of playing the position, but on a deep roster there would probably be a better option to play center field. And, given what he's capable of [offensively], I can see the team making a decision to slide him to a corner spot. But he is capable of playing the position.

OC: How much did Grant Green's stock fall from a prospect-ranking perspective when he had to move positions?

FP: It hurts a little but not a whole lot. As much as I like his bat, I wouldn't be too concerned with where he plays because he profiles well anywhere. Sure, not playing shortstop hurts a little but this has always been a guy driven by his strong bat.

OC: What can you tell us about B.A. Vollmuth as a hitter? We only got to see a glimpse of him in the NY-Penn League, but he looked legit.

FP: I saw Vollmuth struggle mightily in the Cape two summers ago. But I still came away grading out his hit tool very highly. I think struggling up there probably helped prepare him for the pros too. He's a guy I think could advance quickly on the strength of his bat.

OC: Would Mark Kotsay be a good comp for Bobby Crocker?

FP: There are two types of comparisons in my mind. One type has to do with a player's profile and the type of career he'll have. The other is more in regards to a resemblance or style of play. When it comes to profile, I think Crocker and Kotsay is an excellent comparison. Crocker is probably not a star, but could be a very good regular that can do a lot of things well on both sides of the ball to help a team.

OC: If Sonny Gray's change-up comes around early next year, do you see him being ready to start in the big leagues in 2012?

FP: Absolutely. From his days in college I viewed him as a guy who would move up the ladder very quickly. And, the progress he's made with a changeup only makes his odds better. I can definitely see him pitching and succeeding in the big leagues in 2012.

OC: His 2011 season was obviously forgettable, but what are your projections for Ian Krol?

FP: Obviously he's still very young and did have his issues in 2011, but I still have high hopes for him. The stuff is quality across the board and I've always been a fan of his command and aggressiveness in the strike zone. His ceiling is not sky high but I think he could be a very quality third or fourth starter in the big leagues.

OC: Did you see much of Sean Doolittle as a pitcher in college? What were your thoughts on him back then on the mound?

FP: I think it's a great move sending him back to the mound. I saw a lot of him in college and liked him a lot. He's different from a typical power arm that teams try to make it work with on the mound. He won't be overpowering but has quality stuff and good pitchability. Think of him as sort of a Danny Hultzen lite, and coincidentally they went to the same school. He's not Danny Hultzen, but he's cut from that cloth when it comes to approach.

OC: Does Stephen Parker have the power to be a third baseman in the big leagues?

FP: I did expect to see bigger power numbers out of Parker in 2011, but I still buy into his power for the long haul. I'm interested to see how he fares in 2012 but I do think he has the power to profile there.

OC: Who is more likely to stick in the big leagues: Max Stassi or Ryan Ortiz?

FP: I'll take Stassi. There are things I like about both players but I think Stassi has more time and ability to make adjustments over the long haul.

OC: If you were running a team, would you stick Tyson Ross in the bullpen or continue to develop him as a starter?

FP: I have a strong belief that players should be developed as starters until they prove that they shouldn't be starters. With that said, I don't think Ross has proven he can't be a starter so for now I'd keep him in that role.

OC: The A's will have a pretty high pick in the 2012 first round again. What is your early assessment of the 2012 draft class? Are there early strengths and weaknesses?

FP: The 2011 class was a well-rounded class. It had a little bit of everything. 2012 is not going to be like that. The high school class is a distinct strength and the college side is going to be very weak. There will be college players like Mark Appel, who are true blue chippers in any year but after that it really drops off. But there are high school hitters and pitchers galore.

OC: How concerned are you about the impact of the new CBA on teams signing HS draft picks? Do you anticipate the international talent pool will shrink?

FP: I'm curious more than anything else about how it's going to impact everything. I think it will definitely make the draft more college oriented for the long haul and that may not be such a bad thing. As far as the international side, we might see more quantity but less in terms of big bonuses. But I think we have to wait and see just how much of an impact it has.

OC: Are you hearing if the A's are connected to any big name international free agents right now, either professional or amateur?

FP: At the moment I don't see them being big players on either market, but that can always change on the international side. The free agent class obviously isn't great this year and honestly if I'm the A's I don't see a big money free agent that could come in and make a big difference for them.

OC: If you were the Yankees, Marlins or Rangers, would Gio Gonzalez be a trade target? If so, what kind of packages would you be willing to give up?

FP: He would definitely be a target, but I'm sure they are considering the price tag. If I'm the A's the conversation with those teams has to begin with names like Manny Banuelos or Martin Perez. That's the type of centerpiece they should be getting back. However, that doesn't mean those teams will think that way. That's why it's difficult to trade talented, affordable young pitchers. It's difficult to get on the same page.

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