Note: this is not a re-ranking of current prospects. A new top-50 prospects list will be released this off-season.
20. Blake Hassebrock
After spending the final month of the 2013 season in the Midland bullpen, Hassebrock returned to the RockHounds’ bullpen this season. The hard-throwing right-hander has had a difficult time missing bats in the Texas League this season. In 32.1 innings, he has a 7.24 ERA and a .391 BAA. Hassebrock has struck-out 20 and walked 10, and he has allowed five homeruns.
Hassebrock has outstanding stuff but he has been unable to use it to miss bats as frequently as one would expect based on the quality of his stuff. Last season, his K-rate ticked up when he was moved from the rotation to the bullpen, but it has fallen again this season. Hassebrock is a groundball pitcher, but he has allowed too many line-drives this season (more than 20% LD rate). There is still time for him to turn around his season, but he will need to show significant improvement to maintain his spot on the A’s minor league hierarchy going into next season.
Status: Struggling to miss bats
19. Arnold Leon
While a few members of the A’s 40-man roster have floated through the River Cats’ rotation, only 40-man roster member Leon has remained on the Sacramento roster all season (save one day when he was called up to Oakland to serve as an emergency reliever in a double-header; he wasn’t used in the game). Leon hasn’t put up spectacular numbers, but he has been a reliable arm for Sacramento, averaging close to six innings per start. His ERA is 4.62, but his FIP is 3.66 and he has generally pitched well away from the bandbox stadiums of the PCL (such as the stadium in Colorado Springs and Albuquerque). He has been league-average or better in nearly every pitching category, although his BABIP is higher than league-average.
Leon has a lot of experience both as a starter and as a reliever, and it is still likely that his major-league future will be out of the bullpen. However, he continues to gain experience as a starter and has the pitch mix to make that work. The A’s have a lot of pitching depth right now, but there is an outside chance he could receive a September call-up this season.
Status: Grinding away in Sacramento
18. Drew Granier
Granier, a 2011 32nd-round pick, opened a lot of eyes by striking out more than a batter an inning at the Low-A and High-A levels in 2012 and 2013. He jumped to Double-A midway through the 2013 season, but struggled with the transition. In 72.1 innings with the RockHounds, Granier struck-out just 56 and he walked 42 en route to a 5.23 ERA. This season, Granier’s ERA has fallen to 3.33, but he has seen his K-rates dip while his BB-rate has remained high. Granier’s FIP is 4.85.
Granier has good stuff, a fastball with sink that sits in the low-90s and two good breaking balls. His change-up is still a work-in-progress. Granier’s command can get away from him at times. The key for Granier moving forward will be his ability to spot his pitches in the strike-zone.
Status: Walking a fine line in Midland
17. Billy Burns
The A’s acquired Burns from the Nationals over the off-season in exchange for Jerry Blevins. Burns was a non-roster invitee to spring training and he was the talk of A’s camp, hitting .306 with a .370 OBP and 10 stolen bases during big league camp. He was assigned to Double-A Midland. A few weeks into the season, Burns injured his oblique. Although he didn’t miss much playing time, the injury did impact him and he got off to a slow start. He hit only .237 in April. Burns hit better in May, struggled again in June, but he has been swinging the bat well in July thus far. In total, he has a .254/.332/.336 line with 45 stolen bases in 50 opportunities.
Burns will never have power, so his value will come from getting on-base and turning walks and singles into doubles and triples by stealing bases. His OBP is much lower this season than it has been throughout his career, but that is in large part due to his struggles swinging from the left side (624 OPS). He has a .380 OBP and a 784 OPS from his natural right side. Burns is relatively new to switch-hitting, so his struggles from the left side are to be expected. A strong finish should secure Burns another non-roster invite to spring training. His speed makes him an intriguing prospect despite the early season struggles with the bat and he could take over as the A’s fourth outfielder in 2016.
Status: Blazing trails in Double-A
16. Dillon Overton
The A’s took Overton with their second overall pick last season, but they didn’t get an opportunity to see him on the mound until this year. Overton’s post-draft physical turned up a torn UCL and he had Tommy John surgery shortly after signing with the A’s. Overton has recently returned to the mound with the A’s Rookie League team and he is off to a strong start. In 16 innings, he has a 1.69 ERA and a 24:2 K:BB.
The A’s are taking it slow with Overton, but he may see some time at a full-season affiliate before the end of this season. When healthy, Overton has the potential to be a significant starting pitching prospect as a left-hander with a low-90s fastball and two plus off-speed pitches. He should rise in these rankings going into next year and could be one of the A’s top prospects going into 2016 if he remains healthy.
Status: On the right track
15. Miles Head
Head hasn’t been the same since he dislocated his shoulder when swinging at a pitch during the Arizona Fall League in 2012. Before that, Head had posted OPSs of 887 and 968 in the 2011 and 2012 regular seasons. Head was the A’s Organizational Player of the Year in 2012 and he looked poised to be part of the A’s first-base/DH equation in a year or two. The shoulder injury changed everything, however. Head missed the entire AFL season and came into the following spring training out of shape and still hurting. He hit .196 in 40 games with the RockHounds before being sent back to Arizona and eventually undergoing surgery on the injured shoulder.
The hope had been that Head would be healthy this season and get back to the player he was in 2012. He was still over-weight at the start of this season, but seemed in better shape than the previous year. Unfortunately, the results with Midland haven’t improved much over his 2013 season. In 56 games, Head hit .216/.264/.362 with seven homers before he was placed on the disabled list. He is rehabbing in Arozona and will get some rehab at-bats, once healthy, in Arizona before returning to a full-season affiliate.
Status: On the DL
14. Bruce Maxwell
Maxwell was the A’s fourth overall pick in what is turning out to be one of their most successful draft classes in recent memory (2012). While the A’s top-three picks that season have gotten the majority of the press attention, Maxwell has quietly made himself a promising prospect in his own right. The left-handed hitting catcher came to pro ball as a hitter first and a catcher second, but he has worked diligently to improve his defense behind the plate. He has thrown out 40% of potential base-stealers this season and he has improved his pitch calling and his footwork behind the plate.
At the plate, Maxwell has continued to show the ability to hit for average and get on-base. His current line for Stockton is a solid .273/.365/.381 with six homeruns in 79 games. Those numbers and his improvement on defense earned Maxwell a promotion to Double-A Midland on Tuesday. Maxwell has prodigious power in batting practice and it is likely only a matter of time and gaining experience before his slugging percentage finds its way into the mid-.400s. The A’s are in good shape at the catcher position at the big-league level, but Maxwell gives Oakland a legitimate catcher prospect to consider for a role in the big leagues in a couple of years.
Status: Ready to tackle Double-A
13. Max Muncy
Muncy has quietly put together a strong first full season at the Double-A level. Despite missing time after being beaned by an errant throw to second base, Muncy has a solid .278/.400/.430 line in 82 games with the RockHounds. Muncy hasn’t matched the power numbers that he posted with High-A Stockton last season, but he has impressed in the other aspects of his game – getting on-base, hitting to all fields, fielding his position well. Muncy’s power numbers are starting to spike, as well. He has connected on three of his six homeruns in the past week.
In many ways, Muncy is similar to current River Cats’ first baseman Daric Barton. Like Barton, Muncy controls the strike-zone well and gets on-base at a well above-average rate. He also is an above-average defensive first baseman despite being on the smaller side for a first baseman. Also like Barton, Muncy doesn’t hit for as much power as a typical first baseman, something that could hold him back as he reaches the Triple-A and big league levels. The Texas League can be tough on power hitters, however, and Muncy did hit for more power in the Cal League, so he could see a jump in power when he reaches the Pacific Coast League.
Status: Playing well in Double-A
12. Dylan Covey
Covey, the A’s fourth-round pick last season, opened a lot of eyes during his pro debut season, drawing comparisons to Roger Clemens for his delivery and power approach to pitching. Covey has had an uneven season, in many ways, with Low-A Beloit. His ERA is 4.81 and he has only 70 strike-outs in 101 innings, and he’s had two stints on the DL, but those facts don’t tell the whole tale of Covey’s season. The right-hander has a 2.09 GO/AO and a FIP of 3.23. He has also walked just 26 for a 6.4% BB rate.
Covey is a power pitcher with a hard sinker that sits in the 91-94 MPH range. He also features a power curveball of the 12-6 variety that he can throw for strikes and waste to get hitters to chase. His change-up is more inconsistent. The A’s recognized that Covey was out-pitching his ERA and promoted him to High-A Stockton on Tuesday. He will try to help guide the Ports to the Cal League post-season and could be in good position to spend a significant portion of the 2015 season in Double-A.
Status: Ready for High-A
11. Chris Kohler
Expectations were high for Kohler coming into the 2014 season after he posted a 2.78 ERA and struck-out 32 in 22.2 innings for the A’s AZL Rookie League club last year. The left-hander was the A’s third-round pick in 2013 and he signed an above-slot deal to turn pro rather than attend college. Kohler impressed the A’s coaching staff with his ability to mix his pitches, throw his off-speed stuff and locate his fastball. He even drew comparisons to Andy Pettitte for his delivery.
Going into spring training, the plan was to have Kohler spend much of his age-19 season in the Low-A Midwest League. Arm troubles scuttled that plan, but there was still hope that he would be healthy enough to pitch in the New York-Penn League this season. Kohler continues to be sidelined, however, and it isn’t clear whether he will be able to get out of Arizona this season. It is a disappointing development, but Kohler won’t turn 20 until next May and still has plenty of time to make up ground from what looks like a mostly lost season. He will still be one of the A’s top prospects heading into next year.