Note: this is not a re-ranking of current prospects. A new top-50 prospects list will be released this off-season.
50. Sean Jamieson
After being selected in the 17th round last season by the A's, Jamieson gained notice by stealing 27 bases in 69 games for the Vermont Lake Monsters while also showing above-average defensive skills at shortstop. This season has been more of the same for the native of Ontario, Canada, who has been an effective lead-off hitter and a solid gloveman at shortstop. Jamieson has spent the entire season with Low-A Burlington, and he earned a spot in the Midwest League All-Star game by posting a .246/.371/.366 line. Jamieson has struggled since the start of the second half, however, and his current line sits at .232/.356/.344.
Jamieson isn't particularly flashy, but he does a lot of things to help his team win. As a lead-off hitter for the Bees, he has done a good job of seeing a lot of pitches and getting on-base. He has also used his legs effectively, swiping 19 bases in 21 chances. Jamieson, a right-handed hitter, has fared much better against right-handed pitching than he has versus southpaws. Defensively, he has continued to show plus range at shortstop. Assuming he can pull out of his current June swoon at the plate and put up numbers similar to what he posted the first two months of the season, he should punch his ticket to a promotion to High-A Stockton for 2013.
Status: Looking for a strong finish
49. Nick Rickles
A 14th-round pick of the A's last season, Rickles put together one of the top performances of any member of his draft class in 2011 by posting an 829 OPS and batting .310 in 47 games for the A's Rookie League team and short-season Vermont. The catcher showed excellent bat control and gap power, striking out only 28 times and collecting 17 extra-base hits in 47 games.
The Midwest League has been a hitter's nightmare for years and Rickles has experienced the worst of it this season with the Burlington Bees. The Florida native got off to a slow start in the cold weather and just now appears to be pulling out of his early season funk. He posted OPSs in the low 600s in April and May. Rickles has looked better in June, however, putting up a 719 OPS that includes a .400 SLG. The A's have a lot of promising prospects at the catcher position, so Rickles will need to continue to improve as the summer goes on to keep himself on a path up through the A's system. A second half that resembles his 2011 short-season performance should give Rickles a chance in the California League next year.
Status: Bat needs to warm with the weather
48. Rashun Dixon
After moving up at least one level every season of his career, Dixon found himself in an unusual position at the start of 2012 – beginning the season where he had ended the last one. The talented outfielder repeated the High-A level after hitting .243/.317/.379 for the Ports in 2011. Things didn't improve for Dixon with the Ports in 2012. He hit only .206/.276/.343 in 30 games with Stockton before the A's decided he needed a change of scenery. They sent Dixon down to Low-A Burlington to play in the Midwest League for the first time since 2010. Dixon has improved since joining the Bees, posting a .208/.358/.429 line in 23 games.
Although those numbers are an improvement for Dixon, they aren't good enough to get him back to High-A. The A's would like to see Dixon dominate the Midwest League. He has shown a good approach with Burlington, walking five times in one game and 18 times in 23 games. He just needs to find a way to get his batting average up and to continue to hit with power. If he can do that, he could be back in Stockton before the year's end.
Status: Trying to get back to High-A
47. Michael Spina
Since being drafted in the 11th round of the 2009 draft by the A's, Spina has been one of the more consistent offensive performers in the A's system. In 2011, he had his best season as a pro, posting an 803 OPS for Double-A Midland. The A's crowded first base situation at Triple-A forced Spina to repeat the Texas League. Given his success with the Rockhounds in 2011, it seemed likely that he would excel with Midland in 2012. Inexplicably, Spina has struggled dramatically instead.
In 65 games, Spina has a .172/.270/.303 line. He has walked a respectable 30 times but has struck-out 70 times. Spina has also hit seven homeruns – putting him on pace to eclipse his 2011 total – but he has hit only 10 doubles. With fellow Midland first baseman Anthony Aliotti putting together a career year and corner infielder Miles Head joining the Rockhounds' roster last week, Spina could struggle to get regular at-bats during the second half of the season. He will need to take advantage of the opportunities he does get to show that his first half was just a temporary aberration.
Status: Looking for a bounceback
46. Sean Doolittle
It was difficult to decide where to rank Doolittle this off-season as he made his shift from oft-injured position player to pitcher. His stuff looked sharp during the A's fall Instructional League, but he was throwing mostly against hitters with little professional experience. Although we were optimistic that Doolittle would make a successful transition to the mound, we thought it reasonable to expect some initial struggles from Doolittle, who hadn't pitched since his final year at the University of Virginia in 2007. Doolittle has made a mockery of our expectations, however.
The left-hander had a strong spring training both in big league and minor league camps and began his regular season with High-A Stockton. He breezed through the California League, striking out 21 and allowing only one earned run in 10.1 innings. Doolittle was then promoted to Double-A Midland, where he struck-out 19 and again allowed only one earned run in 11 innings. By late May, Doolittle had already reached Triple-A, although he wouldn't last at that level for long. After striking out eight in two appearances stretched over 3.2 innings for the River Cats, Doolittle was promoted to the big leagues. He has made seven appearances for Oakland out of the bullpen thus far, allowing four earned runs in 8.2 innings with 17 strike-outs and only two walks. He figures to stay in the A's bullpen for the long run.
Status: Big leaguer
45. Pedro Figueroa
Going into the 2010 season, Figueroa was one of the A's top pitching prospects. He had a stellar 2009 campaign with Low-A Kane County and High-A Stockton and looked poised to make a push towards the big leagues. The hard-throwing lefty struggled after making the jump to Double-A, however, and his season was cut short with an elbow injury that resulted in Tommy John surgery. Figueroa would miss half of the 2010 campaign and virtually all of the 2011 season. Coming into the 2012 season, Figueroa was a bit of a question mark. Although he was throwing well at extended spring training, it was still up-in-the-air as to whether he would regain his 2009 form. The A's decided to move Figueroa – who is already 26 years old – from the starting rotation to the bullpen to speed up his path to the big leagues.
That plan worked well for both the A's and Figueroa. He was outstanding during big league spring training and nearly made the A's Opening Day roster. It wasn't long into the season that Figueroa made his major league debut with Oakland. Since then, he has gone back-and-forth between Triple-A and the big leagues. With Sacramento, Figueroa has been outstanding. He has allowed only four runs and 15 hits in 21.1 innings pitched, while striking out 23 and walking six. With the A's, Figueroa has allowed only two runs in 12 innings, but he has had to work out of some tight spots thanks to less-than-perfect command. With Oakland he has walked nine and struck-out five. Figueroa is currently back in Triple-A after he made a three-inning relief appearance for Oakland last week. He is likely to get plenty of time in the big leagues later this season and if he can tighten up his command at the big league level, he may find a permanent home in the Oakland bullpen.
Status: Riding the Sacramento-Oakland shuttle
44. Chris Bostick
It is extremely rare to find legitimate top prospects in the later rounds of the MLB draft, especially in recent years since Major League Baseball got rid of the rule that allowed for "draft-and-follow" picks. The A's, however, may have found a gem with their 44th-round pick in the 2011 draft. Bostick didn't receive a lot of pre-draft buzz, thanks in large part to the fact that he played his HS baseball in upstate New York, where the weather interferes with year-round play. The A's took a flier on Bostick in the 44th round and signed him away from a scholarship to St. John's University after Bostick excelled during a summer collegiate baseball league. He signed in time to appear in 14 games with the A's Rookie League team and he posted a .442/.482/.654 line.
There are plenty of players who put up big numbers in short samples, especially in the Rookie Leagues, and then are never heard from again. However, there are plenty of reasons to believe that Bostick will be heard from for years to come. A's coaches raved about Bostick's hitting abilities during fall Instructs and he had a strong spring and extended spring camp. A broken nose late in the extended spring training season didn't prevent Bostick from landing on the short-season Vermont Opening Day roster. The 19-year-old has appeared in seven games for the Lake Monsters, most of them as the team's lead-off hitter. He has hit safely in all but one of them and has a .276/.364/.414 line with a homer and two stolen bases thus far. Bostick will be a prospect to watch in the New York-Penn League all season.
Status: Getting settled with Vermont
43. Dan Straily
It is reasonable to say that this is the last time Straily's name will appear on a prospect list this far down. The right-hander had a strong 2011 campaign with High-A Stockton, but he has taken it to another level this season and could be in the big leagues by the end of the year. The hard-throwing Straily is currently the minor league leader in strike-outs with 124 in 98.1 innings pitched. Given that his closest competition – Arizona's Trevor Bauer – was just promoted to the major leagues, Straily could run away with the minor league strike-out crown. That is, if he stays in the minor leagues all season.
Straily began the year with Double-A Midland after posting a 3.87 ERA and striking out 154 in 160.2 innings for Stockton last season. Straily made 14 starts for the Rockhounds and posted a 3.38 ERA with a remarkable 108 strike-outs and only 23 walks in 85.1 innings. He was recently promoted to Triple-A Sacramento and he struck-out eight in seven shut-out innings in his first start for the River Cats and followed that up with eight strike-outs in six innings in his second start. Straily isn't putting up these numbers with smoke-and-mirrors. He has added velocity the past couple of seasons and is now regularly clocked in the 91-95 MPH range with sinking action. Straily has always had a swing-and-miss slider and he has greatly improved his change-up over the past two seasons. With the A's rotation starting to resemble a MASH unit, Straily could position himself as a legitimate option for the A's this season with a few more strong outings for Sacramento.
Status: Making waves
42. Shane Peterson
It only seems like Peterson has been in Midland forever. In reality, it has been only the majority of the past four seasons. In a fair world, Peterson would have been in Triple-A two seasons ago, but the A's crowded first base and outfield situations have limited him to only 46 games with the River Cats. The 2012 season has been much of the same for Peterson. He was forced to start the year back with Midland after the A's stacked the Triple-A and big league levels with first basemen and outfielders.
Despite the disappointment of starting yet another season in Double-A, Peterson got off to a strong start this year. He posted an incredible .449 OBP over the first 46 games of the season. His overall line was .285/.449/.437 on May 28th when he suffered a high ankle sprain. Peterson hasn't played since, although he is healthy again and is expected to play in the Texas League All-Star game this week. If he can pick up where he left off before the injury, Peterson could force the A's to make room for him in Triple-A later this season.
Status: Getting back on his feet
41. Arnold Leon
Like Figueroa, Leon missed most of the 2010 and 2011 seasons after injuring his elbow and undergoing Tommy John surgery while with Double-A Midland in 2010. Also like Figueroa, Leon entered the 2012 campaign as a question-mark but looks like a potential long-term answer halfway through the season. Before his injury, Leon had been moved back-and-forth between the starting rotation and the bullpen. This year, Leon has served as a reliever exclusively and it is likely he will remain in that role moving forward.
Leon began the year with High-A Stockton but has already worked his way up the ladder to Triple-A Sacramento. Thanks to some shoddy defense and bad luck in Stockton, Leon's ERA was 5.28, but he pitched much better than that number, striking out 25 and walking only five in 15.1 innings. His ERA with Midland (2.30) was a much better reflection of how well he has pitched this year. In 15.2 innings with the Rockhounds, Leon struck-out 18 and walked only three. He made his first appearance for the River Cats on Monday in Las Vegas and was touched for a solo homerun (only the second he has allowed this season) in two innings pitched. Despite missing so much time, Leon won't turn 24 until September. Armed with a plus breaking ball, excellent command and the ability to induce groundballs, he could be a factor in the A's bullpen by next season.
Status: Making up for lost time