Mid-Season Review: A's Prospects 54-41

During the off-season, we named our top-54 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 first of our series, we take a look at the progress of prospects 54-41 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. Click here for the pre-season Oakland A’s top prospect list.

Note: Stats as of Wednesday, June 24

54. Max Kuhn

The A’s 2014 13th-round pick spent much of the A’s fall Instructional League working on learning how to play the catcher position. Going into 2015, Kuhn was expected to see some time behind the plate, as well as in the corner infield and outfield spots. Instead, Kuhn has played exclusively in the corner outfield and at first base for the Low-A Beloit Snappers. Offensively, it has been a struggle for Kuhn with Beloit thus far. Through 67 games, he has an uncharacteristic .199/.286/.290 line. He has walked 30 times, but he has struck-out 59 times and has homered just three times.

Kuhn had a solid pro debut at the plate and a good track record with the bat at Kentucky. To see him struggle with the bat this badly with Beloit is a surprise. It would not be a surprise to see Kuhn turn it around at the plate during the second half of the season.

Status: Trying to get going with the bat

53. Ryan Doolittle

After a solid 2014 season that saw Doolittle reach the Double-A level for the first time, the right-handed reliever re-signed with the A’s as a minor league free agent during the off-season. He had a solid spring training, making a handful of appearances in big league spring games and even traveling with the A’s for the Bay Bridge Series. Doolittle got off to a rough start in April, allowing nine runs in nine innings. Since then, he has been solid for Double-A Midland. He had a 1.46 ERA in May and a 2.25 ERA thus far in June.

Doolittle’s stuff was good even when he was struggling in April, with his fastball hitting the 94 MPH range. His command has improved as the season has gone on. Thus far in June, he has 15 strike-outs against only four walks in 12 innings. If he continues to pitch as he has the past two months, Doolittle should get a shot in Triple-A at some point this year.

Status: On track in Double-A

52. Joel Seddon

Very quietly, Seddon is turning into one of the A’s most under-appreciated prospects. The right-hander from South Carolina came into pro ball with a reliever’s resume. However, he had a starting pitcher’s repertoire and the A’s toyed with the idea of moving him into the starting rotation last fall during Instructs. He began the year in the High-A Stockton bullpen, but after promotions created an opening in the Stockton rotation, Seddon moved into that role. He has made 10 starts for Stockton thus far and is looking increasingly comfortable as a starter.

Although Seddon’s starter ERA is 4.36, he has pitched much better than that number would indicate. In 10 starts, he has allowed three runs or less in all but two of them. Over 53.2 innings as a starter, he has a 42:10 K:BB and he has a 1.19 WHIP. Seddon has gone six innings in each of his last three starts and he has allowed just four runs and one walk over those 18 innings. He has 13 strike-outs during that stretch. Overall, Seddon has a 3.90 ERA and a 51:11 K:BB in 67 innings in the hitter-friendly California League.

Status: Settling into the rotation

51. J.P. Sportman

Sportman was the talk of spring training when he came up from minor league camp and hit two homers and a double in five big league spring at-bats. He parlayed his hot spring into an Opening Day roster assignment with High-A Stockton. Sportman, the A’s 27th-round pick last season, got off to a fast start with the Ports. Unfortunately, a hand injury landed him on the DL for nearly a month starting in early May. He returned in early June, only to land back on the DL on June 14.

Sportman currently has a .295/.333/.453 line with seven stolen bases in eight chances and 13 extra-base hits. He has been using an aggressive playing style at the plate and in the field and it is working well for him. Now he just needs to get healthy again.

Status: On the DL

50. Koby Gauna

Gauna had a terrific pro debut season with the short-season Vermont Lake Monsters in 2014. The 2014 20th-round pick saved 12 games and posted a 2.08 ERA in 17.1 innings. He was a groundball machine and had an 0.93 WHIP. Gauna’s first full pro season got off to a poor start when he was suspended for 50 games just before the start of spring training for testing positive for a drug of abuse. Gauna served that suspension and was assigned to Low-A Beloit in early June.

Since returning from the suspension, Gauna has picked up right where he left off last year. In 13.2 innings, he has an 0.80 WHIP and a 2.40 GO/AO. He has also struck-out seven and walked just one. Gauna has a similar repertoire to the A’s Dan Otero, with a devastating sinker that sits in the 88-91 MPH range and a decent slider. Gauna also has a split-fingered fastball that he uses in the bottom half of the strike-zone.

Status: Getting grounders in Beloit

49. Jesus Lopez

One of the A’s highest profile international free agent signings in 2013, Lopez spent his age-17 season playing in the Arizona Rookie League. Although the AZL numbers weren’t eye-opening, Lopez impressed scouts and coaches with his maturity and he flashed some promising tools. Lopez put together a solid spring training and then landed on the Opening Day roster for the short-season Vermont Lake Monsters earlier this month.

Lopez, who won’t turn 19 until October, has six hits in his first 18 at-bats through Wednesday. He has also walked twice for Vermont. It isn’t clear whether the middle infielder will stay on the Vermont roster once the A’s sign their 2015 number one pick Richie Martin. The Vermont roster currently features several middle infielders, including 2015 second-round pick Mikey White, Lopez, 2014 sixth-round pick Trace Loehr and 2015 15th-round pick Ryan Howell. Either Loehr or Lopez is likely to go back to Arizona when Martin joins the Lake Monsters, barring an injury, of course. Whether it is with the AZL A’s or the Lake Monsters, Lopez will look to continue to develop the rest of this season.

Status: Off to a nice start

48. Josh Whitaker

Off-season surgery kept Whitaker from starting the season on an active roster, but he has been his typical productive self for Double-A Midland since joining the team in late April. Whitaker has a .500 SLG in 41 games, which would be good for fourth-best in the Texas League if he had enough at-bats to qualify. His seven homeruns are tied for fourth-most on Midland and his 16 doubles are tied for second-most on Midland (and fourth most in the league).

Whitaker could stand to work a few more walks (his K:BB is currently 37:10), but given how little punch the Triple-A Nashville line-up has had this season, it would be nice to see Whitaker get another shot at that level during the second half of the season.

Status: Powering his way through the Texas League

47. Paul Smyth

Smyth had an outstanding 2014 season with Triple-A Sacramento. He struck-out 56 and walked 14 in 59 innings and posted an 0.96 WHIP. He looked to be on the verge of a big league opportunity coming into this season, but things did not go his way during spring training. The A’s signed several veteran minor league relievers and those signings pushed many of their “in-house” relief prospects back down to Double-A. He was set to be assigned to Midland when he asked for his release and was granted it.

Smyth is currently pitching in the independent Atlantic League for former A’s prospect Jon Hunton’s Somerset Patriots. Smyth is one of several ex-A’s prospects to have suited up for the Patriots this year. Others include Andrew Carignan, Kyler Newby and Mickey Storey. In 16.2 innings for the Patriots, Smyth has a 2.16 ERA and 12 strike-outs.

Status: Independence Day

46. Robert Martinez

The A’s 19th-round pick in the 2012 draft, Martinez made his US affiliate debut in 2014 after spending two seasons in the Dominican Summer League. The native of Puerto Rico had a 749 OPS for the AZL A’s last season and showed some power potential. He had an outstanding spring training and earned a challenge assignment to Low-A Beloit. Martinez was a regular for the Snappers for much of the first half of the season, but he was sent to short-season Vermont right before the start of the New York-Penn League season.

Martinez struggled during his first taste of full-season ball. He hit just .191/.258/.305 in 43 games. He homered three times but had a 61:12 K:BB. He is currently 0-for-11 with three walks for Vermont through three games. Martinez is still very young. He won’t turn 22 until next spring. If he can show some development during the second-half of the year with Vermont, he’ll be in a good position to return to Low-A at the start of 2016.

Status: Seeking a strong second half

45. Tyler Ladendorf

One of the best, if not the best, story to come out of A’s big league camp this spring was the emergence of Ladendorf. A longtime A’s farmhand, Ladendorf was headed for minor league free agency when the A’s added him to their 40-man roster this off-season. In his first big league spring training, Ladendorf hit .318 with a .455 SLG during camp and earned a spot on the big league Opening Day roster. He had two hits and a walk in 10 at-bats before being sent down to Triple-A when Josh Reddick was activated off of the disabled list.

Unfortunately, Ladendorf would appear in just six games with Nashville before he badly injured his ankle sliding into second base. He had surgery and is currently on the A’s 60-day disabled list. It isn’t clear whether he will be able to return to the active roster this season. The injury is definitely a disappointing set-back for Ladendorf, who likely would have found his way back to the big leagues already this year given the A’s injury and defensive woes early in the year. However, he has established himself as a legitimate big league option and hopefully he will get another major league shot this year or next.

Status: Rehabbing

44. Taylor Thompson

Thompson was claimed on waivers by the A’s this off-season. Going into spring training, he had an outside chance of making the A’s Opening Day roster, but his spring training ended before it began, as he was sidelined with arm trouble. He is just now starting to throw and is still likely several weeks away from pitching in Triple-A games.

Given the turbulent A’s bullpen this season, Thompson could work his way into a role for Oakland by the end of the year if he is able to get back to 100 percent soon.

Status: Rehabbing

43. Chad Smith

Like Thompson, Smith was an pre-season waiver claim. Smith came to the A’s via the Detroit Tigers. A hard-throwing right-hander, he began the year with Nashville and made his way to the big leagues with the A’s briefly in April. He allowed five runs in two appearances before being sent back to Nashville. Smith was eventually designated for assignment and claimed by the Angels.

Smith made six appearances with the Angels before being released. He was claimed by the Miami Marlins on May 29 and optioned to Triple-A New Orleans. Smith has yet to record an outing with the Zephyrs since being claimed, however.

Status: With Miami

42. B.J. Boyd

After two strong seasons to start his career, Boyd hit his first roadblock in 2014 with Beloit. Rather than have Boyd return to Beloit, the A’s decided to give him a change of scenery with High-A Stockton. Thus far, that looks like a wise decision. Through Wednesday, Boyd had a .283/.347/.411 line with four homers and a 21:39 BB:K in 64 games.

Boyd still isn’t creating as many opportunities on the bases as one would expect him to based on his pure speed, but he has shown an ability to hit for average and work a walk. A second half like his first one should earn the soon-to-be 22-year-old a shot in Double-A next year.

Status: Making progress with Stockton

41. Edwin Diaz

Edwin Diaz was the A’s 15th-round pick in 2013 out of Puerto Rico. The middle infielder is blessed with one of the strongest throwing arms in the A’s system. Diaz hit .241 with a 702 OPS in 2014 with the AZL A’s and a strong spring earned him a spot with Low-A Beloit. The 19-year-old struggled at that advanced level, however, batting just .100/.158/.157 in 140 at-bats. He was sent back to the Arizona Rookie League on Thursday.

Diaz is still very young and he has plenty of intriguing tools, especially defensively. Offensively, he profiles as a hitter who can potentially bat for average and get on-base at a decent clip. He still has plenty of time to recover from one poor half season.

Status: Back in Arizona

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