Oakland A's: Beyond The Top-50, Part Two

Every year, our most difficult task is choosing only 50 prospects to include in our Oakland A's top prospect list. There are many more players than those 50 to keep an eye on, some of whom will develop into household names in a few years. In a two-part article, we look at nearly 30 players that we considered for our list but didn't make the cut for one reason or another…

Putting together our annual Oakland A's top-50 prospect list is a difficult task. It got even more difficult as the off-season wore on and the A's added a number of prospects via trades. We released our original top-50 list in November and then re-released the list this past week to take into account those off-season moves. After all was said and done, we saw eight players drop off of our original list: Connor Hoehn, A.J. Kirby-Jones, Graham Godfrey, Tyler Vail, Anthony Recker, Evan Scribner, Wilfredo Solano and James Simmons. We profiled those players as part of our top-50 countdown (for links to all of the top-50 prospects articles, please click here), so they aren't included in this two-part "Beyond the Top-50" series.

Below are the players we considered for our original list that didn't make the cut. We have cut the list into two, with players A through L appearing in the first article and M-Z appearing in the second. For players A through L, click here. These names are in alphabetical order and are not meant to be a rank order.

Jose Macias: Like Josh Lansford, Macias made the transition from the infield to the mound, although Macias' switch came during his final year of college. He has taken to pitching quickly, showing an advanced approach to pitch selection. Macias threw 102.2 innings for short-season Vermont and Low-A Burlington. He had a 3.42 ERA with an 83:24 K:BB ratio. Macias is still improving his change-up and could take another step forward in 2012.

Eliezer Mesa: Mesa joined the A's organization this off-season from the Colorado Rockies. He was the player-to-be-named-later who completed the mid-season Mark Ellis trade. Mesa, an outfielder, is coming off of a disappointing season during which he hit only .256 with a 631 OPS for High-A Modesto. He missed the first two months of the season with a wrist injury that appeared to impact him even after he returned to the Nuts' active roster. He did finish the season on an up note, hitting .292 over the final 19 games. Mesa batted better than .300 in each of the two previous seasons and he has reached double-digits in stolen bases in each of the past three seasons. The 23-year-old will likely repeat the California League in 2012.

Jordan Norberto: Norberto was one of two players acquired by the A's from the Arizona Diamondbacks for reliever Brad Ziegler at the trade deadline last season. The left-handed reliever split his time between Triple-A Sacramento and the A's bullpen after the trade. He struggled with his command with the A's, walking seven in 6.2 innings, but he pitched well in limited action for Sacramento. Before the trade, Norberto had a 4.25 ERA and a 54:26 K:BB ratio in 48.2 innings for Triple-A Reno. Norberto is currently pitching for the Leones del Escogido in the Dominican Winter League. During the DWL regular season, he had a 2.45 ERA with 38 strike-outs in 33 innings. Norberto is a hard-thrower, frequently touching the mid-90s with his fastball. He also has a curveball and a change-up. Norberto has the stuff to be an effective middle reliever in the big leagues, but his command will need to improve to be a trusted member of the A's bullpen. He will compete for a spot in the Oakland bullpen this spring.

Colin O'Connell: Like Chris Lamb, O'Connell was a 2011 draft choice by the A's who signed just before the deadline. The 6'6'' right-hander had a distinguished career at Cal-State Fullerton and was the A's eighth-round pick. The right-hander has excellent command and he walked only eight in 77.1 innings in 2011 for Fullerton. O'Connell didn't appear in any regular season games after signing, so he will make his pro debut in 2012. His sinking fastball and a swing-and-miss slider are his two best pitches. O'Connell made appearances as both a starter and a reliever in college.

Chad Oberacker: The A's were fortunate to be able to draft Oberacker in 2011. He was a 19th-round pick of the Cardinals in 2010 as a junior out of Tennessee Tech, but the Cardinals failed to give Oberacker a competitive offer and he returned to college for his senior season. The A's snagged him in the 25th round in 2011. Oberacker spent his professional debut season with short-season Vermont and was one of their most consistent players. The outfielder hit .293 with a .371 OBP. He didn't show any power with the Lake Monsters (.350 SLG), but he stole 13 bases in 15 chances and played well defensively. Oberacker should get a chance at the full-season level with Burlington in 2012.

Argenis Paez: After two solid seasons with the A's Rookie League club, Paez looked poised for a breakout season in 2011. That breakout campaign never materialized for the right-hander, who struggled in four starts with the short-season Vermont Lake Monsters before being sent back to Arizona for the remainder of the year. In total, he finished with a 4.62 ERA in 64.1 innings, his worst ERA as a professional. The Venezuelan native is a groundball machine with excellent command. Despite the set-back, Paez is only 21 years old and still has a chance to make his mark within the A's organization. He will need to demonstrate he can succeed above the Rookie Ball level this season, however.

Andy Paz-Garriga: Paz-Garriga is the A's first amateur free agent signing out of France. A native of Cuba, Paz-Garriga moved to France as a teenager and spent his high school years there. He made his professional debut at the A's Dominican Academy in 2011. As an 18-year-old, he batted .315 with an 807 OPS in 24 games for the A's DSL squad. Paz-Garriga didn't show a lot of power, but he walked more than he struck-out and had a .451 OBP. The A's typically move slowly with their young catchers, especially those signed as international free agents, so he could repeat in the DSL in 2012. He will be a player to watch regardless of whether he is in the Dominican or the US next season, however.

Jensi Peralta: After three disappointing seasons, the Venezuelan shortstop put together a solid year at the plate for the A's Rookie League club in 2011. In his second year in the AZL, Peralta hit .301/.377/.463 in 38 games. Peralta dramatically improved his plate patience, upping his season walk total from four in 2010 to 14 in 2011. He also showed more power. Peralta was part of the first group of amateur international free agents the A's signed after pledging more resources towards international scouting before the 2008 season. Despite having four minor league seasons under his belt, Peralta is still young, having only turned 20 last July. The 6'2'', 180-pounder should move up to short-season Vermont in 2012.

Max Perlman: Perlman was an unheralded 35th-round draft pick of the A's out of Harvard this past June. The towering 6'7'' right-hander battled injuries during his career with the Crimson but also had an impressive stint in the Cape Cod League. A numbers game forced Perlman to pitch in the Arizona Rookie League rather than in short-season Vermont, but he got an opportunity to shine versus older competition late in the season when he made two starts for Triple-A Sacramento. For the River Cats he allowed only two runs on six hits in nine innings pitched. With the Rookie A's, Perlman had a 2.76 ERA and a 44:11 K:BB ratio with a .187 BAA in 42.1 innings. He has a big 12-6 curveball and locates his 88-91 MPH fastball well. As a 35th-round pick, Perlman will have to earn each promotion, but he is off to a good start and should pitch next season for Low-A Burlington.

Tanner Peters: Peters was the A's 16th round pick last season after a standout career at UNLV. Slight of frame at only 6'0'', 150 pounds, Peters nonetheless was the Runnin' Rebels top starter. After signing with Oakland, the A's put him on a 25-inning limit for the rest of the season, moving him to the bullpen to keep the wear-and-tear off of his arm after a long college campaign. Peters responded by dominating the New York-Penn League as the Vermont Lake Monsters' closer. In 26.2 innings, he allowed only 12 hits and eight walks. He struck-out 33 and posted a 1.35 ERA. Peters finished tied for fourth in the league with 11 saves. The right-hander will likely be moved back into the starting rotation in 2012. He has a four-pitch starter's arsenal (fastball, curveball, change-up and slider) and his fastball sits in the 89-93 MPH range. Peters doesn't have a traditional starter's frame, but the A's are likely to let him try that role for as long as he continues to find success there. If he struggles, he should have an easy transition to the bullpen.

Ryan Pineda: Pineda, the A's 28th-round draft choice in 2010, got off to a very slow start to his 2011 season with the Low-A Burlington Bees. In 40 games before the All-Star break, Pineda batted only .200 with a 598 OPS. He found his grove during the second half of the season, however. In 44 games, he hit .297 with a 791 OPS. He was a little more aggressive the second half of the season and showed more power. The middle infielder had big offensive numbers in college at Cal-State Northridge. If his 2011 second half is any indication, he could come into his own at the plate in 2012.

Julio Ramos: It has been two lost seasons in a row for Ramos, who missed the 2010 and 2011 campaigns thanks to an elbow injury that resulted in a 2010 Tommy John surgery. Before the injury, the left-hander was quietly rising among the elite pitching prospects within the A's system. In 2009, Ramos had a 2.38 ERA in 72 innings with Vancouver before finishing the year with two solid starts for High-A Stockton. The now 23-year-old hasn't pitched in a regular season game since then, however. When healthy, Ramos features a plus change-up and a solid slider that he is comfortable throwing in any count. His fastball sat in the 88-91 MPH range, but he located it extremely well and showed a good feel for mixing all of his pitches. He is expected to be healthy at the start of spring training and could re-emerge as a top pitching prospect over the next year.

Myrio Richard: Minor injuries have held Richard back some during his first two full seasons as a professional. The outfielder had an oblique strain that limited him during the first half of the 2011 season with High-A Stockton and he had a 726 OPS before the All-Star break. Healthy during the second half, Richard posted an 819 OPS that included a .381 OBP. Richard is an excellent contact hitter who struck-out only 69 times in 107 games. He also walked 43 times. Richard is a natural centerfielder, although he spent a significant time in the corners in 2011 to make room for Michael Choice in center. Richard has above-average speed (he stole 27 bases last season) and a solid glove. He could use a full season of health to show what he can do. The Louisiana native will battle for a spot in the Midland Rockhounds' outfield this spring.

Dusty Robinson: The A's 2011 10th-round pick was a big-time power hitter at Fresno State and he showed off some of that power during his stint with the short-season Vermont Lake Monsters. The outfielder hit seven homeruns and posted a .461 SLG in 128 at-bats for the Lake Monsters. Robinson batted only .219, however, thanks in part to an overly aggressive approach at the plate that led to a 34:8 K:BB ratio. The A's knew that Robinson would need to work on his approach when they selected him and he spent a lot of time working on controlling the strike-zone during Instructs. Robinson is 6'0'', 205 and has an energetic personality and a strong work ethic. If he can cut down on his swings-and-misses, he could put up big numbers this season.

Kelvin Rojas: Rojas was a relatively unknown graduate of the A's Dominican Academy at the start of the 2011. By the end of the year, he was a player to watch within the system thanks to a big season with the A's Rookie League team. The lanky outfielder hit .379 and narrowly missed out on the league's batting title. He posted a .440 OBP and a .544 SLG. Rojas was particularly strong versus left-handed pitchers. The right-hander had 20 hits in 34 at-bats and collected eight of his 18 extra-base hits versus southpaws. Rojas' age has kept him from being mentioned more frequently as a top prospect, however. He was 21 for most of the AZL season, which made him on the older side for the league, and he turned 22 in August. Still, his AZL numbers are hard to ignore. The native of Santo Domingo in the Dominican Republic participated in the A's US Instructional League this fall and, with a strong spring, he could make his full-season affiliate debut in 2012.

Murphy Smith: For the second consecutive season, Smith began the year with the High-A Stockton Ports. In 2010, Smith lasted only 10 outings with the Ports before the A's sent him back to Low-A. It was a different story for Smith in 2011. He was part of the Stockton rotation for the entire season and he lowered his High-A ERA from 6.19 in 2010 to 3.94. In 137 innings, Smith walked only 33 and allowed only 10 homeruns while striking out an even 100. A groundball pitcher, Smith gave up a lot of hits (151) but was solid nonetheless. The A's sent him to the Arizona Fall League after the season. He struggled in that advanced setting, allowing 36 earned runs, four homeruns and 51 hits in 26 innings. Despite those struggles, it was still a positive season for Smith, who should see time in Double-A in 2012.

Paul Smyth: Smyth has had a fairly smooth rise through the minor leagues, but he hit his first roadbump during the second half of his 2011 campaign with the Midland Rockhounds. The sidearming right-hander posted a 6.31 ERA after the Texas League All-Star break and finished the year with a 4.85 ERA, the highest of his career. Smyth also struck-out fewer than one batter an inning for the first time in his career (59 in 65 innings) and saw his walk rate rise. Despite those struggles, there is still a lot to like about Smyth, who saved 28 games for the High-A Stockton Ports in 2010. He may have to repeat the Texas League at the start of the 2012 season, but, should that be the case, he will be on the short list of pitchers to move up to Triple-A when roster spots open up.

Justin Souza: Souza was a question-mark heading into the 2011 season after having surgery the previous August to correct a stress fracture in his pitching (right) elbow. He missed the first month of the season but still managed to amass 63 innings pitched by season's end. Souza began the year with Double-A Midland and breezed through 14 appearances with the Rockhounds, posting a 1.33 ERA and a 17:2 K:BB ratio in 20.1 innings. He spent the rest of the year with Sacramento and had a 4.85 ERA and a 31:11 K:BB ratio in 42.2 innings pitched. Homeruns were an issue for the reliever, as he allowed 10, but all in all it was a solid comeback campaign after the injury. Souza has an excellent fastball and a good slider when healthy. If he is back to 100 percent for 2012, he could factor in the A's bullpen during the season if injuries strike the big league relief corps.

Daniel Tenholder: Tenholder is one of those rare relievers who has a true four-pitch arsenal. The right-hander isn't flashy, but he has gotten excellent results over the past two seasons. After posting a 1.86 ERA for short-season Vancouver in 2010, Tenholder had a 3.02 ERA in 53.2 innings for the Low-A Burlington Bees in 2011. He struck-out 58 and walked 18 while saving 11 games. Tenholder used his cut fastball and his curveball with more frequency in 2011, enhancing the effectiveness of his 88-90 MPH fastball and change-up. He should get a crack at the hitter-friendly California League in 2012.

Matt Thomson: Thomson opened eyes around baseball in 2010. After being drafted by the A's in the 12th round out of the University of San Diego, Thomson posted a 1.94 ERA with a 71:10 K:BB ratio in 51 innings for short-season Vancouver and High-A Stockton. Unfortunately, he ended that season with shoulder soreness that resulted in a minor labrum procedure. The A's were hopeful that Thomson would be able to pitch for at least half of the season, but after two appearances in June with Low-A Burlington, Thomson's shoulder sidelined him for the rest of the year. He had another surgery on the labrum. The A's are optimistic that Thomson will be able to pitch in 2012, but labrum surgeries are tricky. If he can regain his pre-surgery form, Thomson could rise through the A's system quickly.

Zach Thornton: The tall right-hander out of the University of Oregon had a big season out of the Low-A Burlington Bees' bullpen in 2011. Thornton threw 83 innings and posted a 2.39 ERA while striking out 82 and walking 33. He held opposing batters to a .204 average and coughed up only two homeruns. Thornton also had an appearance for Double-A Midland at the end of the season and he didn't allow a run in three innings, striking out four. Thornton can reach 94 MPH with his fastball. He has a history of shoulder problems from his days with Oregon, so he is likely to remain in a relief role as a professional.

Wes Timmons: At 32, Timmons is too old to be considered a prospect in the traditional sense, but after a big campaign with the A's Double-A and Triple-A clubs, he looks to be moving closer to making the big leagues. Signed as a minor league free agent before the start of last season, Timmons hit a combined .341 with an 888 OPS for the River Cats and Rockhounds. A versatile player, Timmons saw time at second base, first base, third base and even pitcher in 2011. Timmons has above-average bat control. He struck-out only 21 times in 95 games and walked 38 times. The A's liked him so much they re-signed him to another minor league deal this off-season with an invitation to big league spring training.

Jose Torres: The A's invited only four players from their 2011 Dominican Summer League squad to attend the organization's fall US Instructional League program. The only pitcher from that group was the 18-year-old Torres. The Venezuelan southpaw made his professional debut as a 17-year-old with the DSL A's in 2011. He had a 3.99 ERA in 49.2 innings pitched. Torres walked too many (24), but he allowed only one homerun and held opposing batters to a .242 average. He was impressive during Instructs, both in how he handled the transition to a new culture and how he improved his fastball command and his breaking ball. The change-up is already a solid pitch for Torres. He could make his US regular season debut in 2012.

Jeff Urlaub: Urlaub turned a disappointing mid-season demotion into a positive in 2011. The left-hander began the year with Low-A Burlington and although he didn't pitch that poorly (3.93 ERA and a 23:6 K:BB ratio in 18.1 innings), he was sent down to short-season Vermont in June. Urlaub took the demotion in stride and proceeded to put together an All-Star campaign for the Lake Monsters. He had a 1.67 ERA and struck-out 49 while walking only four in 37.2 innings. Urlaub doesn't do anything flashy but he has excellent command and has walked only 13 in 82 career professional innings.

Neil Wagner: One man's trash can be another man's treasure. After four-and-a-half years in the Cleveland organization, Wagner was shipped to the A's midway through the 2010 campaign and that was a move that changed his career. The right-handed reliever pitched well for Double-A Midland in 2010 and people within the A's organization took notice. Although he was forced to repeat the Texas League at the start of the 2011 season, he found himself on the radar of the A's front office in a positive light. Wagner posted a 3.26 ERA in 66.1 innings for Midland and Triple-A Sacramento and then was promoted to the big leagues towards the end of the season. He threw five innings for the A's, allowing four earned runs, and is expected to compete for a spot in the A's bullpen this spring. Wagner will be one of the hardest throwers in the A's camp. His fastball was clocked in the triple digits on multiple occasions last season and it regularly sat in the high-90s. Wagner also has a slider, a change-up and he will throw the occasional curveball.

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