Mid-Season Review: A's Prospects 20-11

During the off-season, we named our top-50 prospects in the Oakland A's system. Now that we have passed the midway point of the season, we thought it would be a good time to check the progress of those players. In the next in our series, we take a look at the progress of prospects 20-11 from our off-season list.

Note: this is not a re-ranking of current prospects. A new top-50 prospects list will be released this off-season.

20. Raul Alcantara

Sometimes all a player needs is a second chance to make a first impression. Alcantara's first season in the A's organization didn't go as well as he or the organization would have liked. Challenged with an aggressive assignment to Low-A as a 19-year-old, Alcantara struggled all season with the Low-A Burlington Bees. Sent back to the Midwest League at the start of the 2013 season, Alcantara dominated that level and is now making his way through the California League.

The Dominican right-hander put together an All-Star first half with the Snappers before earning a promotion to Stockton. With Beloit, Alcantara posted a 2.44 ERA and he allowed just three homeruns in 77.1 innings. Although he struck-out a relatively low number of batters (58), Alcantara walked just seven. In addition, his strike-out totals climbed as the season wore on. He is four starts into his first crack at the Cal League. Thus far, the 20-year-old has held his own, posting a 2.50 ERA in 18 innings. His walks are up (five), and he is currently sporting a 12:5 K:BB ratio. Although Alcantara hasn't missed as many bats as most elite pitching prospects, he has strike-out stuff and is learning how to get more swings-and-misses. He has above-average command and the ability to pitch in the lower-half of the strike-zone, both attributes that will be plusses for Alcantara in the Cal League. In many ways, Alcantara profiles similarly to Ian Krol at the same stages of their careers, with the exception of Krol being left-handed and having better breaking stuff, while Alcantara has better velocity.

Alcantara had a scare on July 3 when he was struck in the knee with a line-drive, but he put together a dominating start in his next outing. If Alcantara can continue to hold his own for Stockton, he will jump to Double-A in 2014 and should enter next season as one of the A's top prospects.

Status: Coming into his own

19. Beau Taylor

It has been a disappointing season for Taylor, who has yet to get his bat on-track with Double-A Midland. The left-handed hitting catcher is batting just .214/.301/.292 in 154 at-bats for the RockHounds this season. Taylor hit well at every level before reaching Double-A midway through last season, but he has struggled to find his footing at the plate in Double-A.

Injuries may have played some factor in Taylor's struggles, at least early in the season. For the second straight year, Taylor missed the first few weeks of the regular season while rehabbing an injury sustained during spring training. He appeared in only five games in April. Since then, he has shared time behind the plate with David Freitas. Defensively, Taylor has played well. He has a .992 fielding percentage and has had just three passed balls in 260 chances. Taylor's throwing has improved over last year and he has caught 24% of base-runners attempting to steal.

As a hitter, Taylor has an excellent eye and a line-drive swing, but his line-drive percentage has been down this year. He will need to produce better results at the plate to get a shot in Triple-A. Taylor moved quickly to Double-A and he is only 23, so he has time to develop.

Status: Looking for better results

18. Arnold Leon

Leon had a rocky spring, but his regular season has been much more stable. Added to the A's 40-man roster before the season, Leon struggled in big league camp and then had a memorable stint in the World Baseball Classic. He threw at a batter during the Canada-Mexico game that led to a brawl between the two clubs. Once the regular season started, Leon was sent to Double-A Midland to be part of the RockHounds' rotation. A reliever last season (his first full season since undergoing Tommy John surgery in 2010), Leon has handled the switch back to the rotation without issue. After a strong first half, Leon was promoted to Triple-A Sacramento and added to their rotation when Justin Thomas was released by the A's.

In 15 starts between Midland and Sacramento this season, Leon has a 3.83 ERA. He has struck-out just 59 in 84.2 innings, but he has walked only 13 and has allowed just nine homeruns. Leon has a deep arsenal of pitches, mixing a fastball, slider, curveball and change-up. As a starter, his fastball generally sits in the 89-92 MPH range. As a reliever, it bumps up a few miles-per-hour. His ability to pitch in both roles will give him an advantage if the A's have openings on their pitching staff this season or next. Despite missing virtually all of the 2010 and 2011 seasons, Leon is still just 24 and is nearly major-league ready.

Status: Succeeding as a starter

17. Nolan Sanburn

There was a lot of positive buzz emanating around Sanburn going into spring training. Former A's minor league pitching coordinator Gil Patterson raved about Sanburn's stuff during the A's fall Instructional League. Sanburn looked poised for a big first full professional season when injury delayed him during spring training. A sore shoulder shut the Arkansas alum down for the first six weeks of the season. Once he was healthy again, Sanburn needed to rebuild the strength in his shoulder gradually. As a result, he didn't make his 2013 debut until part-way through the Arizona Rookie League season.

After two rehab appearances with the AZL A's, Sanburn was sent out to Low-A Beloit, where he had been tabbed to go before injuring his shoulder. Sanburn made his Snappers' debut on Wednesday. His first appearance was out of the bullpen and it was a solid performance. He threw two scoreless innings. He walked two, but didn't allow a run or a hit and he struck-out two. Sanburn started and relieved in college. The A's see him as a starter long-term, but they will stretch him out slowly the rest of this season to ensure that he remains healthy going into the fall Instructional league.

Status: Back on the mound

16. Matt Olson

Olson was the third of three first-round selections made by the A's last season. All three players were high school draft picks and all three demonstrated poise beyond their years in their professional debuts last season. Olson showed impressive power, hitting nine homeruns in 188 at-bats between the A's two short-season clubs. That performance and solid work at the A's fall instructional camp and during spring training earned Olson a spot on the Opening Day roster for the Low-A Beloit Snappers.

Olson has handled the pitcher-friendly Midwest League well thus far. He isn't hitting for as high of a batting average as he did last season (.282 last year; .243 this season), but he is doing a better job with pitch recognition and using the entire field. Olson made the Midwest League's All-Star game and currently sports a .243/.341/.421 line. Olson has excellent raw power. At 6'5'', he is likely always going to be vulnerable to strike-outs, but, with his power, he can still be a very productive hitter if he can continue to improve his approach. Defensively, Olson moves around the first-base bag well, has a strong arm and good hands. He has put himself in good position to move up to High-A next season.

Status: On a good course

15. Vicmal De La Cruz

De La Cruz elicited a lot of excitement when he made his pro debut in 2011 and posted an 891 OPS in 58 games for the DSL A's. De La Cruz walked more than he struck-out that season and collected 19 extra-base hits in 192 at-bats. It has been a struggle for De La Cruz since he came stateside last year, however. He posted a 668 OPS for the AZL A's last season and has managed just a 583 OPS in limited action thus far this year.

A shoulder injury impacted De La Cruz somewhat last season, but he has been healthy this year. Pitch recognition has been the biggest issue for De La Cruz. He has a 13:3 K:BB ratio and has found himself chasing pitchers' pitches far too often. De La Cruz has above-average bat speed that should, with some refinement with his approach, allow him to hit for average in the pros. The native of the Dominican also has an above-average throwing arm and decent speed. He is still just 19 and has plenty of time to adjust his approach at the plate.

Status: Still learning

14. Michael Taylor

For the fourth consecutive year, Taylor has spent the majority of his season with Triple-A Sacramento. The outfielder has set several River Cats' records, which is an accomplishment that cuts both ways, as it indicates success at the Triple-A level while also hinting at failure in the major leagues. Taylor has been consistently excellent for the River Cats this year. Through Wednesday, he had a .306/.370/.517 line with 11 homeruns in 242 at-bats. Taylor has also played well defensively.

Early in the season, Taylor was given a few opportunities to stick with the A's when they had injuries in their outfield. He wasn't able to capitalize, however, collecting just one hit and two walks in 23 at-bats. With the A's pushing for the playoffs, they don't have the luxury of breaking young players in, so Taylor wasn't given much time to work through his struggles. He has the talent to be a major league player, but he likely needs a different situation to get that extended opportunity.

Status: Looking for an opening

13. Pedro Figueroa

After a strong turn in big league camp, Figueroa looked like he would be the A's first option if there was an injury in their bullpen. He struck-out 10 and walked just one in 10.2 innings in big league camp and was with the team for most of the spring. However, he hasn't found the same success since the regular season started and he has watched as several other relievers have been promoted to Oakland ahead of him.

Pitching exclusively for Triple-A Sacramento thus far this year, Figueroa has a 4.50 ERA in 40 innings. His strike-outs (33) are down and his walks (26) and homers (6) are up this year compared to his strong 2012 campaign with the River Cats. Command has always been Figueroa's biggest vulnerability, but he has generally struck-out enough batters and induced enough groundballs to mitigate the damage from his walks. With his strike-out- and groundball-rates down, Figueroa's poor command has become more of a liability. Given the normal wear and tear on major league bullpens, the A's will likely need more relievers from Sacramento before the year is done. For Figueroa to be one of those relievers, he will need to re-discover the form that earned him big league time last year.

Status: Struggling with his command

12. Ian Krol

Krol was the player-to-be-named-later in the package the A's sent to the Washington Nationals as part of the three-team John Jaso/Michael Morse deal. Krol spent three tumultuous seasons in the A's organization, but it has been smooth-sailing for the left-hander since being traded. Krol was moved into the bullpen late last season by the A's, who were looking to limit his innings after he missed virtually the entire 2011 season with an arm injury and a suspension. The Nationals liked what they saw out of Krol in a relief role and kept him there. It took him only two months to reach the big leagues.

Krol began the year in Double-A, where he dominated for Harrisburg. In 25 innings, he allowed just two earned runs and posted a 29:7 K:BB. Although hitters batted just .157 against him in the minors, Krol has actually been better since his early June promotion to the big leagues. In 13.2 innings for Washington, he has allowed two earned runs, but he has a 13:1 K:BB ratio and batters are hitting just .128 against him. Krol, who has seen his velocity jump up a few ticks as a reliever, has become a valuable member of a bullpen that struggled early this season. Should the Nationals make a push to the playoffs, Krol will be one of their key bullpen contributors.

Status: Dominating the big leagues

11. Renato Nunez

There isn't much subtly to the game of Nunez. The 19-year-old generally has one thought in mind when he swings: to hit the ball as far and as hard as he possibly can. It is an approach that can sometimes get him in trouble, but it can also produce some standout results. Last year, Nunez made his US professional baseball debut and hit .325 and posted a 953 OPS in 42 games with the AZL A's. Despite being still quite raw, Nunez skipped short-season and went straight to Low-A.

Nunez has handled the difficult Midwest League quite well, although his offensive production has slowed over the past three weeks. Nunez was named to the Midwest League's mid-season All-Star team, having hit 13 homers before the All-Star break. He hasn't homered since the break, although he has hit for a better average. Overall, through Wednesday, Nunez had a .276/.316/.464 line, not bad for a player who won't turn 20 until next April.

There is a lot to like about Nunez's game. He has plus bat speed and the power to reach the seats to all fields. He also has a knack for barreling the ball on the bat. Where Nunez still needs improvement offensively is with his strike-zone recognition. He is very aggressive and is rarely looking to work the count. His K:BB is currently 88:16. Nunez is a decent bad ball hitter, but he will need to learn to be more selective about the pitches he goes after to continue to be productive at higher levels. Defensively, he is still a work-in-progress, although he has the raw athleticism and arm strength to stick at third if he can learn the finer points of footwork. Nunez may be starting to tire midway through his first full professional season, but it has been a successful full-season debut thus far.

Status: Swinging for the fences

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