Hitters Off To Fast Starts In A's System

While the Oakland A's have technically been playing their regular season for more than a week, the A's minor league affiliates kicked off 2012 last Thursday. Here's a look at some of the A's hitter prospects that got off to a good start this year.

Michael Taylor, OF, Sacramento River Cats

The River Cats began the year in Las Vegas, where they took 3-of-4 games from the 51s behind a strong showing from nearly everyone in the lineup. Taylor led the way, getting eight hits in 14 at-bats with a home run and eight driven-in. He was one of two Sacramento players to play in all four games of the series and finds himself with a .444 average and 1143 OPS to start the year. Taylor is looking to maintain his strong start after a wrist injury derailed the first two months of his season in 2011.

Derek Norris, C, Sacramento River Cats

The catcher acquired in the Gio Gonzalez trade showed his power potential in his first three games with Sacramento, hitting two homers and driving in six hitting behind Taylor. He has five hits in his first 14 at-bats, including two doubles and even a triple. He's second on the team in RBIs with six, only trailing Taylor's eight. But the career on-base dynamo is one of four River Cats hitters to not reach base via walk. Not that manager Darren Bush is complaining. He'll gladly take a 1.071 slugging percentage and 1384 OPS from his backstop.

Stephen Parker, 3B, Sacramento River Cats

After a somewhat disappointing year at the plate last year, Parker is looking to regain his 2010 form, when he hit 21 home runs and drove-in 98 for High-A Stockton. He got off to a good start in his first three games with Sacramento, getting four hits in nine at-bats and walking four times. That puts his early on-base percentage at .571 and OPS at 1238. But he does have an error to his name and will need to improve defensively if he wants a chance to get to the majors.

Daric Barton, 1B, Sacramento River Cats (Rehab)

The A's have alternated their starting first basemen in 2012's first four games. Neither Brandon Allen nor Kila Ka'aihue appears to have earned a long-term spot on the major league roster with their early play, so the organization has plenty of eyes on Barton's hot start. In four games, Barton's hitting line of .368/.455/.684 with a 1139 OPS could vault him back to Oakland in a hurry since he's now eligible to come off the DL. He's second on Sacramento in hits with seven and hit a grand slam in Sunday's game, giving him five RBIs.

Josh Horton, IF, Midland Rockhounds

Horton is another infielder off to a hot start. With Double-A Midland, Horton has five hits in 11 at-bats, albeit all singles. But he's also walked six times, giving him a .647 on-base percentage and 1102 OPS in his first four games. The left-handed hitter starts the year with both a four-game hitting streak and walk streak. He has walked twice in each of the last two games. The lack of power is pretty typical of Horton, however. His career slugging percentage in his six seasons is just .358.

Michael Choice, CF, Midland Rockhounds

The A's top prospect has gotten off to a good start at the plate. He didn't hit a home run during the Rockhounds' first series, but he did reach base 10 times in his first four games, giving him an on-base percentage of .556 and OPS of 972. He has struck out four times, but the organization will take it if he's able to reach base at a good clip and hit for good power.

Conner Crumbliss, UT, Midland Rockhounds

Crumbliss is Midland's only player to have hit a home run in 2012. The utilityman had two to start the year. While Crumbliss has just four hits in 16 at-bats, he's slugging .688 and has an OPS of 1088. His 11 total bases lead the team while four players are tied for second with five. Crumbliss hasn't shown much power early in his career. He has slugged just .381 in his four years in Oakland's system, so his early jolt must be a pleasant surprise for the A's. More true to his career to date, Crumbliss has walked four times in four games and has two stolen bases.

Josh Whitaker, OF/1B, Stockton Ports

After hitting 17 home runs with a 957 OPS in the Midwest League last year, Whitaker has picked up where he left off in his first four games at High-A with the Ports. Whitaker has two home runs in 16 at-bats, where he's hit .375/.444/.813 with a 1257 OPS. However, the Kennesaw State alum has struck out five times. Last year set the bar high for the outfielder, who is poised to have another good year at the plate in the hitter-friendly California League.

Dusty Robinson, OF, Burlington Bees

It's been a good few days to be an outfielder in the A's system. In three games, Robinson already has two home runs and five RBIs for Low-A Burlington. Last season with Low-A Vermont, Robinson, a 2011 10th-round pick, had a line of .219/.270/.461 in 36 games. Robinson has struggled with plate discipline in the past, but he has already walked twice in three games after drawing only eight walks in 36 games with the Lake Monsters last year.

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