Although the Oakland A's had plenty of surprising prospects surge to the big leagues last year, there were a few names that took a step back in their development. For 2013, the organization's minor league depth will take a hit with a number of players that started 2012 in the minors beginning the season on the major league team. But a repeat performance from last year's impressive draft class will go a long way towards improving the A's minor league system as a whole.
Heading into the year, the A's will assume the role of a contender and might trade prospects at the deadline in order to acquire a key piece or two for the stretch run. The A's already did that this off-season in dealing prospects Max Stassi, Brad Peacock, A.J. Cole, Zack Thornton and A.J. Kirby-Jones for players the A's hope will contribute to the big league team in 2013. The overall depth of the A's system would improve dramatically if some of their talented prospects put together rebound seasons after statistically average or poor 2012 campaigns.
Here's a look at five A's minor league position players who could be poised to post rebound seasons.
Stephen Parker, 3B
Parker came last season looking at perhaps his most important year as a pro. After a strong 2010 during which he posted a 900 OPS with 21 homers with High-A Stockton, Parker's power numbers predictably declined the next season with Midland in the Texas League, although his OBP and BA remained solid.
There was hope that the former fifth-round pick would have the opportunity to regain his power stroke in the better hitting environment of the Pacific Coast League in 2012. Howeer, Parker's .256/.327/.390 clip with just 20 extra-base hits in his first full season with the River Cats left a little to be desired.
With the offensive struggles the A's had at third base for a majority of the 2012 season, there's a good chance Parker pressed knowing a good run at the plate could have led to his first promotion to the big leagues. He struck out almost three times as much as he walked, taking a big step back from the numbers he put up in his previous three seasons.
Parker will be in the fold at third base again for Sacramento and will hope to cut down on his strikeouts and prove 2012 was an outlier season and not an indication of his overall value. Josh Donaldson may have a strong grip on the third base job for now, but he will have to avoid any sophomore struggles to maintain his hold on the job, which could give Parker an opportunity to prove himself on the major league level if he's able to bounce back from last season.
Rashun Dixon, OF
After being drafted in the 10th round in 2008, Dixon made a splash by hitting 10 homers in just 201 plate appearance in the Arizona Rookie League. But unfortunately for Dixon, he's been unable to repeat those numbers and needs a good season to reaffirm his standing with the organization. Dixon earned a demotion for the first time in his career last year when he went from High-A Stockton to Low-A Burlington in mid-May.
Dixon still has a few things in his favor, mainly his physical tools and young age. He will need to realize some of his potential this year if he wants to move up the organizational latter. The 22-year-old has power to all fields and above-average speed, as well as a decent grasp of the strike-zone, but he needs to start the cycle of success breeding confidence. A repeat performance of last season's .206/.278/.343 slash line with Stockton could be very difficult for Dixon to overcome.
B.A. Vollmuth, 3B
Add Vollmuth to the list of talented third base prospects to have struggled in recent seasons. The former third round pick from 2011 might have been considered the organization's most talented player at the hot corner before the A's drafted Daniel Robertson last June. In 2012, Vollmuth was promoted from Burlington to Stockton in June despite not posting eye-popping numbers with the Bees. He hit .260/.337/.441 with seven homers in 300 plate appearances for Burlington before the promotion. With Stockton, he went on post a mediocre 733 OPS for the California League.
As a whole, it wasn't a great season offensively for the Ports, and struggles at the plate may have been contagious. At 23, Vollmuth is too talented of a player to not put up solid numbers in the California League, where he's likely to begin 2013.
Bobby Crocker, OF
Crocker came into 2012 with high expectations after what he able to accomplish in the short-season after he was drafted. After getting picked in the fourth round of 2011, the Cal Poly alum hit .322/.367/.441 while stealing eight bags in 32 games with Vermont in the New York-Pennsylvania League.
Crocker is viewed within the organization as a potential 20-20 guy, having above-average speed despite his 6'3'', 230-pound frame. But his speed is well ahead of his power at this point, as he spent the second half of 2012 struggling to drive the ball consistently, which can be the case with players in their first full season as pro. He finished the year with a .268/.347/.369 line with 109 strikeouts in 112 games. Crocker did manage to steal 17 bases, but also was caught 10 times.
The A's remain very intrigued with Crocker's potential as a dual-threat player and have plenty of time to develop the 22-year-old. A good spring could earn him a promotion to the California League, where slugging numbers are often bloated. Crocker's 2012 on-base numbers were respectable, but he will have to cut down on his strikeouts. That could come if he focuses on driving pitches earlier in the count. This spring – only his second as a pro – Crocker should become more comfortable with the professional approach to the season and begin to pair production with his physical tools.
Dusty Coleman, SS
Coleman led Double-A Midland with 15 home runs last year, but he struck out in 37.4 percent of his at-bats. While it marked the second time in his pro career he's hit 15 home runs, his strike zone discipline has to improve if he wants to move up the chain and get himself out of the Texas League. His .201/.284/.363 slash line from 2012 could look a lot different should he find a way to cut down on the whiffs.
If he's able to improve his contact rate and perhaps cut down on his swing, there's a chance Coleman could get himself to Triple-A Sacramento where he could surround himself with better hitters in a better environment. Coleman is one of the best defensive shortstops in the A's system, and the organization has always raved about his athleticism. Injuries have hurt his development some. Coleman's power at the shortstop remains intriguing. Look for Coleman to come into 2013 having made lots of adjustments in the offseason.