A's Crystal Ball: 2012 Hitting Predictions

Earlier this week, we released five predictions for Oakland A's minor league pitchers for the 2012 season. Now we reveal five more predictions, this time on the offensive side of the ball.

1) Grant Green, Chris Carter and Michael Choice will combine to hit 65 home runs

Only a rash of injuries or trades would keep these three from spending the majority of the 2012 season in the minor leagues. Considering the A's lack of power in recent years, there will be plenty of eyes fixated on the power numbers of the organization's top power prospects. Sixty-five home runs sounds overly ambitious, but Chris Carter hit 39 in 2008 and 31 with Triple-A Sacramento in 2010 (where he will start 2012), while Choice hit 30 for High-A Stockton last year. Carter, a notoriously slow starter at new levels, likely won't have any adjustment period in the Pacific Coast League this year and should be coming into the season with a chip on his shoulder after being shut out of the first base competition with the A's this spring. Choice is expected to start the year at Double-A Midland, where the pitching will be tougher than the hitter-friendly California League. But given his power potential and career 927 OPS, it's reasonable to think he could hit 25-plus this year for the Rockhounds. Green is the wildcard. He hit nine long balls for Midland last year before being promoted to Sacramento for the Pacific Coast League playoffs. In seven games for the River Cats, Green had eight eights but only two doubles and no homers. The former shortstop-turned-outfielder has proven power after hitting 20 home runs for Stockton in 2010, so it's not completely unreasonable to think he could hit 15 or so to get the trio to 65.

2) Jermaine Mitchell will lead A's minor leaguers in total bases for the second year in a row

Between his 74 games for Midland and 56 for Sacramento, Jermaine Mitchell accounted for 284 total bases in 2011 while Michael Choice finished second in the A's organization with 253. It has been a long road for Mitchell, who showed a lot of promise in his rookie year of 2006 with a 967 OPS for short-season Vancouver. But until a breakout 2011 campaign, Mitchell had had a roller-coaster four subsequent seasons. Mitchell will look to make a lasting impression in 2012 after being added to the 40-man roster this off-season. The 27-year-old is at the height of his prime and will be setting the table for some quality run producers in Triple-A Sacramento's lineup. If he's able to build upon his .302/.401/.453 line with the River Cats last year, look for him to once again lead the club's minor leaguers in total bases.

3) The A's won't be recalling nearly as many minor league hitters as 2011

Slumps went through the A's lineup like a plague in the first two months of the season last year. Daric Barton, Kevin Kouzmanoff, Mark Ellis, David DeJesus, Andy LaRoche and others had terrible starts at the plate that led to a multitude of changes, including the firing of manager Bob Geren and the promotion of several minor leaguers. Jemile Weeks, Brandon Allen and Chris Carter were some of the beneficiaries of those struggles, but only Weeks was able to capitalize on his opportunity fully. This year, the A's appear to be rejuvenated and deeper after a Bob Melvin-run spring training and multitude of offseason acquisitions. Those positive vibes were reflected in the team's Cactus League-best 14-5 record. While spring training numbers usually mean little-to-nothing, this year's club seems vastly different from 2011's in all the right ways. That's why it seems unlikely team executives would elect to dip into the minor leagues in a major way to solve any forthcoming offensive woes. Also, Manny Ramirez (a minor leaguer in technicality only) will be eligible to play for A's on May 30.

4) B.A. Vollmuth will hit 20 home runs between Low-A Burlington and High-A Stockton in 2012

This two-part prediction has some big implications for the A's 2011 third-round selection. First, his 20 home runs would put him on the map as one of the organization's more intriguing third base prospects in some time. Second, he will be making the jump to High-A Stockton within a year of being drafted, which always bodes well for prospects on the path to the major leagues. Vollmuth possesses all the prototypical tools for a third baseman and showed them off during 12 games as a pro in 2011. After Vollmuth took some time to sign after being drafted, he played eight games in the Arizona Rookie League before lighting things up in four games with Vermont. There, he had seven hits in 17 plate appearances, amassing a 1517 OPS in four games. The 22-year-old's development is aided by having spent three years at Southern Mississippi, where he combined to hit 32 long balls in his final two seasons.

5) Michael Taylor will hit 20+ home runs and have an OPS of 900 or better for Triple-A Sacramento

Taylor is the last remaining piece from the Carlos Gonzalez and Matt Holliday trades, making him the unofficial poster child of the A's offensive struggles of the last few seasons. While many consider him a massive disappointment, his injury-hampered line of .272/.360/.456 with an OPS of 816 and 16 home runs last year wasn't nearly as bad as its perception. Perhaps he's a victim of his early successes in the minor leagues. He was a blue-chip prospect in Philadelphia's system when he averaged a 956 OPS from 2008 to 2009 in High-A, Double-A and Triple-A before being traded to Oakland. His numbers haven't been the same, but they did improve during his two years in Sacramento. A healthy start to 2012 could do wonders for Taylor after his 2011 season started slowly with a wrist injury before getting a taste of the major leagues in September. His .200 average in 35 plate appearances in with the A's made them believe he wasn't ready for the show yet, but Taylor having faced major league pitching could make things easier for him in Triple-A. The 26-year-old's tools didn't disappear plus there will be no shortage of motivation on his part, so it's not unreasonable to believe he's due for a revelation in 2012. With the possibility of hitting in front of Chris Carter and behind Jermaine Mitchell, Taylor may be in the perfect situation to revive his old self. If not, a change of scenery could be in the cards.

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