30. Michael Ynoa
|Ynoa is making his way back slowly from an elbow injury. b>|
It was more of the same for Ynoa in 2011, who has yet to break the 10 innings pitched total for his professional career. The highly touted right-hander had Tommy John surgery in 2010 and was expected to pitch for a few months towards the end of the season. Set-backs with his recovery prevented that from happening and he finished yet another season with zero innings pitched.
The good news is that Ynoa is mostly recovered from the surgery now and the A's are optimistic that he will be ready to pitch next spring. He is behind the schedules of fellow top A's pitching prospects Pedro Figueroa and Arnold Leon, who are also recovering from Tommy John surgery, but the 6'7'' right-hander is currently throwing without pain. A's minor league pitching coordinator Gil Patterson was recently in the Dominican Republic at the A's Dominican Instructional League and he said that Ynoa looked good.
"His fastball had life, [and he had] a good change-up and good spin on his curveball," Patterson said via e-mail.
Of course, there has been optimism about Ynoa's health before that has led to copious disappointment, so it remains to be seen next spring whether he is ready to pitch without restriction. If he is healthy, he is expected to pitch for short-season Vermont.
Despite only being 20-years-old, Ynoa's prospect clock is starting to run. Next year he will be only a little younger than many college juniors taken in the 2012 draft and he won't have much more professional pitching experience than those amateurs. Ynoa is unquestionably talented and he has excited everyone when he has been healthy enough to throw, but those times have been too few and far between. The A's will need to make a 40-man roster decision on Ynoa next November, and after that, the clock will really be running before he uses up all of his major league options.
29. Blake Treinen
|Treinen flashed impressive arm strength and an excellent slider this season. b>|
Going into the draft, Treinen wasn't a well-known name amongst most draft-watchers, but he was a guy that a number of scouts had started to get quietly excited about just before the draft. Despite an unusual trip through college that took him to numerous schools and finished at little-known South Dakota State, Treinen drew interest from scouts for his big fastball and sharp slider. The A's were able to grab him with their seventh round pick.
Treinen, who is already 23 years old, had been drafted the year before in the 23rd round by the Marlins, but the Fish pulled out of a potential deal with the right-hander after they saw inflammation in his rotator cuff during a routine MRI. No such impediments popped up for Treinen this time around and he signed quickly with the A's. After a brief stop in Arizona, where he appeared in three Rookie ball games, Treinen spent the rest of the year with Low-A Burlington. In 18 relief appearances, he had a 3.67 ERA with a 29:7 K:BB ratio and he held opposing batters to a .202 average.
The discussions about Treinen start with his hard, sinking fastball and his slider, which was described as being of the "wipeout" variety by A's Assistant General Manager David Forst. The 6'4'' right-hander can hit the high-90s with his fastball and he sits in the 92-94 MPH range. His sinker was called "heavy and hard" by A's minor league pitching coordinator Gil Patterson. The slider is his out pitch. His change-up isn't fully developed yet, although he did get some extra time to work on the pitch during Instructs.
Although Treinen was used exclusively as a reliever after signing, he will be moving back to the starting rotation – where he pitched in college – next season. Because of his unusual route through college, Treinen will turn 24 during the 2012 season, making him as old as many prospects with Double-A and Triple-A experience. The A's aren't overly concerned about his age, however.
"His age is certainly a bit of a detriment, but with pitchers we are less concerned about the age and more concerned about what's left in the arm and we think there's a lot left there," Eric Kubota, A's Director of Amateur Scouting, said after the draft.
The A's might not be concerned about his age, but if his development as a starter bogs down at any level, he could be moved back to the bullpen quickly. With his sinker and plus slider, Treinen has the stuff to be a back-of-the-bullpen reliever, but the A's aren't in desperate need for relievers, so there is no reason not to give him some time to develop as a starter. There is a strong possibility that he will start the year in the High-A Stockton rotation, where he will be challenged by hitters with two or three years of professional experience right off of the bat.
28. Conner Crumbliss
|Crumbliss' defensive versatility is a big plus. b>|
They say it's not how you start, but how you finish and that saying is the mantra that Crumbliss will live by in regards to his 2011 campaign. Nothing went right for the utilityman in April, as he hit only .136 with a 473 OPS. He picked up the pace considerably after that, hitting no lower than .260 in any subsequent month and posting OBPs of .372 or higher in each of those months. He finished the year with a .268/.404/.378 line in 120 games for the Stockton Ports.
Down-the-stretch only Michael Choice hit better for the Ports than Crumbliss. After the All-Star break, Crumbliss posted a .290/.411/.463 line and he had a 1015 OPS in August. All seven of his homeruns came in July or August and he also added 13 doubles and two triples during those two months. For the entire season, Crumbliss was particularly effective with runners on base and in scoring position. He hit .342 and .370, respectively, in those situations.
Since being drafted in 2009, Crumbliss has made a name for himself for being one of the most patient hitters in minor league baseball. His .404 OBP was actually the lowest of his career, although most players can only dream of reaching base that frequently in any one season. His 96 walks were the most in the Cal League and it was the second year in a row that he had led his league in walks.
The A's see Crumbliss as more than simply a walk machine, however. They love his ability to play second base and all three outfield positions and he has run the bases effectively since turning pro, swiping 61 bases in 79 chances. In addition, he has surprising power for a player of his size. While he will never be a middle-of-the-order threat, Crumbliss has the ability to turn on a pitch and reach the seats. Crumbliss' .463 SLG during the second half was more than just a product of the warmer weather in the California League. It was a result of a conscious decision on his part to alter his approach at the plate.
"I've been a lot more aggressive at the plate. I was kind of passive during the first half of the season and I've been swinging in a lot of early counts during the second half," Crumbliss said late in the season."Just trying to drive balls instead of hitting singles. Trying to hit doubles and get the ball in the gaps."
Ultimately, Crumbliss' ceiling is as a valuable bench player in the major leagues. He is a poor man's Tony Phillips, not as fast as Tony or quite as defensively versatile, but he can bring the same type of flexibility to a team's bench that Phillips did for the A's in the 1980s. A left-handed hitter, Crumbliss needs to improve versus left-handed pitching and he needs to figure out a way to start his seasons on a stronger note, as he struggled early in the 2010 campaign, as well. Crumbliss' advanced approach at the plate should allow him to move up to Double-A with relative ease. Another strong season in 2012 could put Crumbliss in a position for big league time at some point in 2013.
27. Cedric Hunter
|Hunter will be transitioning to a new organization. b>|
The A's claimed Hunter off of waivers from the San Diego Padres in late October. He was later removed from the A's 40-man roster and outrighted to Triple-A, but he could still be a player who is in the conversation for one of the A's five outfield spots at some point during the 2012 season.
A former top prospect in the Padres' organization, Hunter got off to a slow start in 2011 and then landed on the DL with a groin injury mid-July that cost him the rest of the season. Before the injury, he was batting .255 with a 680 OPS in 81 games for Triple-A Tucson. He also had six major league at-bats in April and he collected his first big league hit. For his minor league career, which began when he signed out of high school in 2006, his batting line is .291/.347/.392.
Hunter differs from many hitters in the A's system in that he doesn't swing and miss much. He has struck-out only 262 times in 2,678 career minor league at-bats. He doesn't walk a whole lot, but his K:BB ratio is nearly 1:1. Hunter also has some speed, although that hasn't yet translated to a lot of stolen bases.
"Cedric has great hand-eye coordination which is both a plus and hindrance," Randy Smith, Vice President, Player Development & International Scouting for the San Diego Padres, told our sister site, MadFriars.com.
"If he swings at a pitch he is going to get his bat on it, it's just a question of hard contact. He needs to work on keeping the ball on a line and use his speed. More hits into the gap and increase his run production will help. He has a great first step in center field and we are trying to translate that to the base paths for him to steal more."
Hunter's best season as a pro came in 2008, when he was with Lake Elsinore of the California League. He struggled during his first go-around in Double-A, but put together a solid half-season with Double-A San Antonio in 2010 before moving up to Triple-A Portland, where he struggled.
Hunter brings the A's some valuable depth at the centerfield position. He has a good glove in center and, as a speedy contact hitter, could potentially be a solid major league fourth outfielder/late-game pinch-hitter and runner. In many ways, he is a poor man's Mark Kotsay. The A's outfield situation is fluid at the moment and figures to continue to be fluid throughout the 2012 season. With a strong showing at Sacramento, Hunter should get a look at some point in Oakland next year.
26. Blake Hassebrock
|Hassebrock led the Bees' in ERA in 2011. b>|
Selected in the eighth round in 2010, Hassebrock had a somewhat disappointing debut as a pro when he posted a 5.96 ERA in 22.2 short-season innings. He more than made up for that poor start in 2011 with a standout campaign for the Low-A Burlington Bees. He was among the Midwest League leaders in ERA with a 2.64 ERA and impressed scouts with increased movement on his low-to mid-90s sinking fastball.
"Hassebrock has had an outstanding year. Scouts talked to me … about what a great find he was as an eighth-rounder. Our scouting department made a good decision there," A's Director of Player Development Keith Lieppman said.
Armed with that plus-sinker, Hassebrock was a groundball machine for the Bees. He induced nearly two groundouts for every flyout and gave-up only nine homeruns in 139.2 innings. Three of those homeruns came during his last two starts of the year as he was beginning to tire.
Hassebrock credited his success to a better conditioning program that not only got his body ready for the long season but also improved his finger strength, something he says played a large factor in his ability to get more movement on his fastball. The next stage of improvement for Hassebrock will be with his secondary offerings, specifically the change-up. He worked extensively on that pitch during the A's fall Instructional League and came out of camp with a new grip and confidence that it will be a weapon for him in 2012.
Right-handers hit only .220 versus Hassebrock, while lefties hit .282. Improving his change-up should help Hassebrock bring down those numbers versus southpaws. He also believes it will help him last later into games as he is able to have another weapon the second and third times through the order.
In addition to the fastball and change-up, Hassebrock throws a slider that has been an effective pitch for him at times. His fastball is typically in the 91-94 MPH range as a starter, but he has dialed it up to 97 on occasion. Hassebrock has been praised for his focus on the mound and his ability to attack the strikezone. His strike-out totals weren't particularly high in 2011 (110 in 139.2 innings), but that was partially by design, as he was looking to pitch to contact early in counts in order to go deeper into games. Groundball pitchers like Hassebrock often have lower strike-out totals than their flyball brethren. Adding an effective change-up should also give Hassebrock another strike-out pitch at the next level.
Although Hassebrock was a reliever in 2010, his move to the starting rotation in 2011 is for the longterm. At 6'4'', 215, he has a starter's build and showed good durability in 2011 by making 26 starts. He will move up to High-A Stockton in 2012 and will be one of the top arms on that staff.