Note: this is not a re-ranking of current prospects. A new top-50 prospects list will be released this off-season.
30. Tanner Peters
Injuries hit the Midland pitching staff hard in April and one of the victims of that injury bug was Peters, who went down with a shoulder injury after just three starts. It was a disappointing development, as Peters put together a promising season with High-A Stockton in 2013 and looked poised for a big year with the RockHounds. Before the injury, Peters had a 3.63 ERA and a 7:5 K:BB in 17.1 innings.
Peters has been rehabbing in Arizona since April and there is still a chance he will be able to return to Midland at some point this year. The right-hander has had injury trouble before – he missed the first half of the 2012 season. When healthy, Peters has outstanding secondary stuff and the fastball command to be an effective starter. However, given his injury history, there may be some consideration given to moving him to the bullpen in 2015.
29. Tucker Healy
The Tucker Healy show has made three stops already this season. There is a chance it could make one more stop in Oakland by the end of the year. Even if Healy doesn’t reach the big leagues this season, the right-hander has put himself in consideration for a spot in 2015 with an outstanding second full professional season.
The 2012 23rd-round pick has dominated professional hitters since he turned pro, but there was concern about his health at the end of the 2013 season when he missed the final month with a right shoulder/upper back strain. Healy has been healthy thus far this season and has moved from High-A Stockton to Triple-A Sacramento with a productive stop in Double-A in between. In total, Healy has a 2.38 ERA in 45.1 innings. His K:BB is a remarkable 74:14 and he has allowed just three homeruns. Healy has 16 strike-outs in his first 8.2 innings in Triple-A. The A’s have several veteran relievers on the 40-man roster in Sacramento already, but if Healy continues to rack up numbers at this pace, he could get consideration for a promotion in September.
Status: Posting eye-opening numbers
28. Murphy Smith
Smith has been stuck at the Double-A level since 2012, but a shift in his role from starter to reliever could pave his path to Triple-A either later this year or next season. A starter throughout his career, Smith moved into a long relief role in his third season with the RockHounds. That move has been successful, as Smith has posted the best numbers of his Double-A career this season. In 56 innings, Smith has a 3.21 ERA and a 45:17 K:BB. He has a 2.56 FIP, has yet to allow a homerun, and has seen his groundball rate rise nearly 5% over last season.
Smith has a sinking fastball that sat in the high-80s, low-90s as a starter but has bumped up to 93-95 in a relief role. His curveball has improved out of the bullpen because he doesn’t have to show it as much, and he has a decent change-up. Smith has always thrown a lot of strikes, and he is getting more swings-and-misses in his shorter outings. The A’s have a lot of solid relief prospects in the Double-A/Triple-A levels, but Smith should be in-line for a promotion to Triple-A if there is another opening this season.
Status: Thriving in a new role
27. Chris Jensen
Jensen was acquired by the A’s from Colorado along with Drew Pomeranz in the Brett Anderson deal this off-season. The right-hander has been in the Midland rotation all season and he is having a solid first year at the Double-A level. In 110 innings, Jensen has a 3.52 ERA. He has allowed just two homeruns and he sports a 1.10 GO/AO.
Jensen is another strike-thrower who doesn’t strike-out a lot of batters, but he works the bottom of the strike-zone well and he keeps hitters off-balance by mixing his pitches well. His fastball sits in the low-90s and gets heavy sink. He also has a solid change-up that he uses to keep left-handers off of his fastball. Jensen has struggled with his breaking ball at times this season, but when that pitch comes together for him, he could make a big leap forward. He has been very consistent for Midland, posting ERAs of 2.70 or less in every month so far except for the month of May. Jensen should finish the year with Midland and could compete for a spot in Triple-A next spring.
Status: Pitching well in Double-A
26. Chad Pinder
Pinder had an injury-shortened pro debut and posted disappointing numbers with short-season Vermont (579 OPS in 140 at-bats). That didn’t stop the A’s from pushing Pinder up to High-A Stockton at the start of the 2014 season. Pinder has responded with a solid season, posting a .296/.340/.526 line in 247 at-bats. He has also shown his defensive versatility, playing a lot of second base after playing mostly shortstop and third base in college and with Vermont.
Pinder, the A’s third overall pick last season, has above-average power for a middle infielder and the ability to hit to all fields. He has a tendency to be a free-swinger and that could hurt him as he climbs the ladder if he doesn’t tighten up his strike-zone. His K:BB thus far this year is 57:13. Pinder has had two stints on the DL after missing time last year, and he will need to find a way to stay healthy over the course of a long season as he progresses. Still, all things considered, the A’s have to be very pleased with what they have seen from Pinder thus far this year. He should be in Double-A next season and will move up the A’s prospect ranks.
Status: Putting together a strong first season
25. Ryan Dull
Dull dominated last season, moving from Low-A to Double-A during his first full professional campaign. Along the way, he posted a 2.40 ERA, saved 19 games and had a 78:9 K:BB in 60 innings. He later pitched in the Arizona Fall League. Back in Double-A this season, Dull got off to a slow start, posting an ERA of 5.14 through the end of May. He had a decent K:BB (22:5 in 21 innings), but he allowed an uncharacteristic four homeruns. Since then, Dull has allowed just one earned run in 16.1 innings and he hasn’t allowed a homerun. His ERA is 3.13 on the season and he has a 39:12 K:BB in 37.1 innings. Dull recently moved into a closer’s role for Midland.
Dull hasn’t breezed through the Texas League as easily as he cut through the New York-Penn, Midwest and California Leagues, but he is still having a very solid season at the Double-A level. He has struggled some against left-handed hitters, but righties are batting only .200 against him. A strong finish should give Dull a shot at Triple-A coming out of spring training next year.
Status: Closing for Midland
24. Anthony Aliotti
Aliotti had a big 2013 season, batting .350 in 91 games for Double-A Midland before receiving his first promotion to the Triple-A level. He got off to a slow start with Sacramento, but he was swinging well by the end of the season and looked poised to pick up where he left off at the start of 2014. Unfortunately, Aliotti struggled out of the gate with the River Cats and was sent to Midland after batting .159 in 44 April at-bats. He earned his ticket back to Sacramento by hitting .277/.388/.482 in 48 games with the RockHounds. Since returning to Sacramento, Aliotti is batting .278 in 72 at-bats.
Aliotti has seen regular playing time at first base since Nate Freiman was promoted to Oakland, but that playing time could be cut into if Freiman returns to Sacramento when Josh Reddick is activated off of Oakland’s DL. Regardless of how much he plays, Aliotti will need to show that he can put up numbers similar to those he has posted in Double-A to ensure he returns to Triple-A at the start of 2015.
Status: Trying to conquer Triple-A
23. Dustin Driver
Driver was the A’s seventh-round pick last season. Oakland went over slot to sign him away from his college commitment. The Washington state product only got a few innings in during the Rookie League season, but he got plenty of time on the mound during the A’s fall instructional league and extended spring training. The hope had been to send him out to the New York-Penn League at the start of that season, but a back injury has kept him sidelined thus far.
Driver is a big, hard-throwing right-hander who can hit the mid-90s with his fastball. He will be a project, but, at 19, he has plenty of time to develop. If he can rehab his back in time to get some innings in before the end of the season, that will be a success, all things considered.
22. Bobby Crocker
Although he struggled with his plate discipline, Crocker ultimately had a solid season for High-A Stockton in 2013. He posted a 797 OPS and homered 11 times while swiping 22 bases. It was a surprise when Crocker returned to Stockton at the start of the 2014 season, but it seemed likely that he would move up to Midland when there was an opening. Unfortunately, Crocker’s play has taken a step back in 2014. In 81 games with the Ports, he has a .251/.307/.385 line. His power numbers have dipped considerably and his K:BB continues to be an issue (101:19). Crocker has used his speed well, however, swiping 20 bases in 25 chances.
Crocker has as much physical ability as any player on the Stockton roster, but his approach at the plate will need to improve for him to realize his full potential. That could be difficult for him to fix at this stage in his career, but if he isn’t able to fix it, he could find himself stuck in Stockton for the foreseeable future, much like Jermaine Mitchell was a few years back.
Status: In need of a strong finish
21. Ronald Herrera
Despite being just 19, Herrera began the 2014 campaign in full-season ball with the Low-A Beloit Snappers. He was the youngest pitcher on that Beloit squad, but he was arguably the team’s most consistent starter at the beginning of the year. In nine outings, Herrera had a 3.38 ERA and a 35:10 K:BB in 50.2 innings. He was traded to the San Diego Padres in late May as the player-to-be-named-later in the Kyle Blanks trade. Since then, Herrera has posted a 4.57 ERA and a 25:9 K:BB in 41.1 innings for the Low-A Fort Wayne Tin Caps.
A’s minor league pitching coordinator Scott Emerson raved about Herrera’s pitching mechanics. Although Herrera isn’t yet a hard thrower, there is a belief that he will add velocity as he continues to grow. He already has a decent set of off-speed pitches and he has shown the ability to keep hitters guessing. He won’t turn 20 until early next season and should be in High-A at that time.
Status: Right on schedule with the Padres