Outfielders/Utilitymen That Just Missed the Top-54
Please note that players are listed in alphabetical - not rank - order.
Anthony Aliotti: A first baseman for most of his professional career, Aliotti appeared in 21 games in the outfield last season. He could continue to see time in the outfield in 2015, as the A’s Triple-A Nashville roster figures to be crowded with first basemen, although Rangel Ravelo’s wrist surgery could open more at-bats for Aliotti at first base in Nashville this year. Aliotti had an up-and-down year in 2014. It began on a down note, as the East Bay native struggled during the first four weeks of the year in Triple-A. He was sent back to Double-A at the end of April, and his season picked up from there. Aliotti appeared in 48 games with the RockHounds and earned a mid-season Texas League All-Star nod with a .277/.392/.465 first-half line. It was Aliotti’s third straight mid-season Texas League nod. Shortly after the midway point in the season, Aliotti returned to Triple-A. He hit much better in his second stint at that level. In 199 post-promotion at-bats, Aliotti hit .281. Overall, he posted a .267/.365/.406 line between Double-A and Triple-A.
Since being selected out of St. Mary’s College in 2009, Aliotti has always hit for average and reached base at a solid clip. He has also played an excellent first base. The thing that has held him back is his lack of homerun power. His career slugging percentage is .406, too low for a pure first baseman. By adding the outfield to his defensive resume, Aliotti has increased his chances of making the big leagues in a reserve role. He isn’t fast, but he runs the bases well and covered a decent amount of ground in right and left last season. Aliotti will be a minor league free agent after this season. It may be a long shot for him to make the A’s roster at any point this year, but with the early camp injuries, it is a possibility.
Joe Bennie: A hand injury cut short a solid second pro season for Bennie, who earned a mid-season All-Star nod with the Vermont Lake Monsters. Bennie appeared in 45 games with Vermont last season, and he batted .288/.369/.378 with nine doubles, a triple and a homer. Bennie appeared in just one game in the outfield last year, spending the rest of his time defensively at second base. However, he worked out a lot in the outfield during the A’s extended spring training and he would have likely played more games out there during the regular season had he not been hurt. Bennie was the A’s 28th-round pick in 2013. He is a grinder who works hard to maximize his natural talents. Bennie has a solid approach at the plate and profiles as a lead-off or number two hitter. He has above-average speed, although he hasn’t had a chance to run much as of yet in games. Bennie will turn 24 in May, so he is old for a player just reaching full-season ball for the first time. However, his ability to get on-base, run and play several positions gives him a chance to make it.
Alden Carrithers: Carrithers returns to the A’s for a second season after signing minor league contracts with the team each of the past two years. The UCLA alum turned 30 in November, so he doesn’t have a classic prospect profile. However, he has consistently had one of the best batter’s eyes in minor league baseball since turning pro. It wouldn’t be surprising to see him get a shot in the big leagues this year or next. Carrithers has nine years of minor league experience and carries a career OBP of .399. He is also a career .295 hitter. Like Aliotti, Carrithers has been hurt by the fact that he doesn’t hit for power. Carrithers has just nine career homeruns and has a .363 SLG. Injuries have also held him back, as he has yet to play more than 120 games in any one season. The left-handed hitting utilityman hit .284 with a .381 OBP in Triple-A for the A’s last year. He played the majority of his games at third base, but Carrithers also logged significant time in left field and right field. He even pitched one inning and had four games at second base. Carrithers is likely to move around a lot again in 2015. He has a skill-set that translates well to a big league bench because he is versatile defensively, he is a tough out at the plate and he runs well.
Conner Crumbliss: In some ways, Crumbliss is very similar to Carrithers, although Crumbliss has hit for significantly more power than Carrithers during his career. Crumbliss has yet to find success in limited opportunities in Triple-A, however. The left-handed hitting utilityman has a career .402 OBP in six minor league seasons. He has drawn 80 walks or more in four of those seasons and has nearly 100 more walks than strike-outs during his career. Unfortunately for Crumbliss, he has had only one shot at Triple-A to date, and he struggled in a reserve role, batting just .136 in 59 at-bats. Last season, Crumbliss broke camp with the Triple-A squad, only to be sent down to Double-A before the first game of the season. Crumbliss spent the entire year with Midland. He struggled badly during the first half of the season, but he recovered to hit .281/.379/.452 during the second half.
Crumbliss can play the outfield and second base. He had primarily been in the outfield for the past few years, but last season he saw the majority of his playing time at second base. Although not big, Crumbliss has shown some power, reaching double-digits in homeruns each of the past three seasons. He is a good base-runner and has 111 career stolen bases in 143 chances. Like Aliotti, Crumbliss is entering the final year of his original minor league contract. Crumbliss will turn 28 in mid-April. He is competing for a spot on the A’s Triple-A roster this spring.
Bobby Crocker: One of the biggest surprises last season was that the talented Crocker repeated at the High-A level after a solid season with the Ports in 2013. A slow starter throughout his professional career to date, Crocker hit only .257 with a 694 OPS during the first half of the 2014 season with Stockton. He turned it around during the second half, batting .283/.362/.451. Crocker has a lot of tools. He can hit for power, has above-average speed and a strong throwing arm. His swing gets long at times, however, and he can be exploited inside. Crocker sees a lot of pitches, but he doesn’t always put himself in a good position to attack hittable pitches early in the count. He improved in that area as the season went on last year. Crocker also increased his walk rate considerably during the second half, although the strike-out rate was still high. He finished the year with a .271/.336/.421 line. He homered 11 times and stole 31 bases for Stockton.
Crocker should get an opportunity in Double-A in 2015. He will need to continue to improve his approach in the upper-levels to try to get into more hitter’s counts. He has the tools to be a big leaguer, but his contact rate will need to improve considerably for him to get close to the big leagues.
Kent Matthes: The A’s acquired Matthes on a waiver claim from the Colorado Rockies during the final weeks of spring training last year. He began his tenure with the A’s in Triple-A, but got off to a slow start and was eventually designated for assignment. He cleared waivers and remained with the A’s. In early May, Matthes was sent down to Double-A Midland, and he would spend the rest of the year with the RockHounds. Matthes hit only .208/.279/.287 in Triple-A, but he was a big part of the RockHounds’ drive to the Texas League title. He hit just .241 with a .295 OBP, but Matthes hit 15 homers and drove-in 60 in 78 games. Plate discipline has been an issue for the Alabama alum throughout his professional career, but the right-handed hitter has a power bat. He has hit double-digit homeruns in each of his four full professional seasons and has 82 in 490 career games. Matthes should get another crack in Triple-A with the A’s this season. He recently finished up a stint at the A’s spring mini-camp and collected a walk-off hit in the A’s big league spring win over Seattle on Thursday.
Colin Walsh: When Addison Russell tore his hamstring during the second game of the Texas League season last year, the A’s went out and signed minor league free agent Walsh to play second base for the RockHounds. The Stanford alum didn’t stay with Midland for long, however, as injuries in Triple-A continued to shake up the A’s infield depth chart. He wound up playing at three different levels for the A’s last season, with the majority of his games coming at the Triple-A level. A former St. Louis Cardinals’ draft pick, Walsh opened a lot of eyes in 2012 when he posted a 949 OPS in the pitcher-friendly Midwest League. Walsh has yet to repeat that level of success, but he did hit .272 with a .363 OBP in 147 at-bats in Triple-A last year. Walsh hit 16 homers in 2012, but he hasn’t shown much power since that season. If he can regain that power stroke, he could be an intriguing utilityman prospect. Walsh has a good eye at the plate and carries a .377 OBP for his career. He can play all over the field. Last season, Walsh logged time at second base, third base, left field and right field. He also tossed three innings as an emergency pitcher. Depending on what the A’s need, Walsh will slot either in Triple-A or Double-A this year.