When the Oakland A's traded away three former All-Stars during the off-season, the organization's stated goal was to refurbish the farm system with an eye towards the future. Throughout the system, the club was lacking impact bats that could provide the A's with some much-needed power down the road.
Corner infielder Miles Head represents a possible solution to that need. Acquired from the Boston Red Sox in the Andrew Bailey trade, Head is off to a great start. Through his first 10 games, he's hitting .439 with three home runs for High-A Stockton.
As a 20-year-old in Boston's system, Head put up outstanding numbers during his first full season in professional ball. He hit .299/.372/.515 with an 887 OPS in 129 games. His 22 home runs between Low-A Greenville and High-A Salem put the 26th-round pick on Boston's organizational map as a potential steal in the draft.
The concern with Head was his pedestrian 2009 and 2010 seasons, where he struggled at the rookie ball and Low-A levels. Head was mostly a first baseman in the Boston system, but he has been spending a considerable amount of time at third base since joining the A's system. He doesn't boast incredible athleticism, but has good hands and a strong arm. Head spent the majority of his high school career at third base, but some believe that he's likely to stick at first base because that's where his range plays best.
"I'm more comfortable at first right just because I've played it for the last couple years," Head said.
"I'm working hard at third and trying to get used to it over there. It is a different position, but I used to play it back in the day so I'm kind of used to it."
Oakland appears to be intrigued with Head's advanced development as a hitter. His career line of .280/.355/.463 in his four seasons doesn't say he's a sure-fire major league hitter, but the organization likes his approach and power-potential.
"Not a whole lot of 19-20-year-olds hit 20 home runs in a full season out the get go," A's minor league hitting coordinator Todd Steverson said.
"He's obviously started the season pretty good and he's on pace to do some good things. The biggest thing is the maturity factor in the game.
"Sometimes power is God-given, OK. Not everybody has the ability to consistently leave the ballpark. That's just something you're kind of born with on that level…If strong enough, you can hit balls out of the ballpark. And he's strong enough."
Head feels he's at his best and hits for the most power in the middle of the field when he's not trying to pull the ball. That can be tough for right-handed hitters at Banner Island Ballpark with the left field foul pole being just 300 feet away. That's pretty typical of the hitter-friendly California League.
"Yeah, it's friendly for hitters. I try to stay with my approach no matter where I'm at. If you find a small ballpark and you try to hit home runs, it's not going to end up good for you," Head said.
"My physical tools I feel are there right now. I just want to be able to have my mental game right and go up there and stay consistent."
Head started last season with the Greenville Drive at the Low-A level, and he hit .338/.409/.612 with a 1022 OPS with 15 home runs before a promotion to High-A Salem. There, his numbers came back to earth, posting a .254/.328/.405 line with seven long balls in 63 games.
The Ports' cleanup hitter turned down a scholarship offer from the University of Georgia to take a $335,000 signing bonus with the Red Sox. Head is still transitioning to the West Coast, but said that it's been made easy with the good relationships he's developed with his coaching staff and teammates. He said he was excited to come to the A's after he found out he was traded.
"I saw 'Moneyball.' As soon as I found out, I thought about what a great opportunity it was to come to this organization, show off my skills, see what I can do and hopefully get moved up," Head said.
Steverson believes that Head could find himself in the major leagues down the road and likes his mentality as a true "ballplayer."
"What I mean by that is, he lives and sleeps the game," Steverson said.
"He's not out here for anything else other than the enjoyment of it and everything that baseball has to offer for you. And you got to enjoy that as a coach because when we come out here, we want guys to be on task with what they want to do and be single-minded in trying to get to the big leagues."
Generously listed at 6'0", Head doesn't possess some of the physical attributes that scouts look for, which is likely the reason he lasted to the 26th-round of the draft. But his swing is quick and compact.
"He's got good exit speed. What I mean by exit speed, when the ball hits the barrel, the time it takes for it to get back into the field. When he barrels the ball, you know he barrels the ball," Steverson said.
Head won't turn 21 until May, and the A's may not be in a rush to move him to Double-A anytime soon. But with a good year at Stockton, it's likely he'll begin 2013 at Double-A Midland where he'll have a chance to solidify himself as a major league prospect, with a chance to be put in the major league conversation in 2015.