Mid-Season Review: A's Prospects 40-31

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 second of our series, we take a look at the progress of prospects 40-31 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 Tuesday, June 30

40. Jesus Zambrano

Despite having two full seasons of minor league baseball under his belt, Zambrano is the youngest pitcher currently on a roster for an A’s US-based affiliate. The native of Venezuela is repeating at the Arizona Rookie League level after posting a 4.33 ERA with a 63:18 K:BB in 70.2 innings for the AZL A’s last season. He has made two appearances for the AZL A’s thus far this year. One went well (4 IP, 6 H, 2 R, 1 BB, 2 K) and one not so well (3.1 IP, 10 H, 5 R, 0 BB, 3 K).

Zambrano has a clean, repeatable delivery that gives him a chance to be a strike-thrower as he moves up the system. He is starting to mature physically and his velocity is creeping into the low-90s this year, although he generally sits 87-89 in the middle of his outings. Zambrano has a solid curveball and the change-up has the potential to be an out-pitch down-the-road. The A’s won’t rush the 18-year-old and he is likely to spend the rest of the season in Arizona.

Status: Getting started with the AZL A’s

39. Chris Lamb

After injuries slowed him down early in his career, Lamb parlayed good health and a tweak with his pitching mechanics into a breakout season in 2014. Pitching for Low-A Beloit and High-A Stockton (as well as one outing in Triple-A), Lamb had a 3.25 ERA and a 134:45 K:BB in 130 innings. The left-hander flashed a lively fastball that sat in the low-90s while touch 94 and a solid secondary arsenal that includes a split-finger, a breaking ball and a change-up. Lamb earned a spot in the Double-A Midland rotation at the start of this season looking to repeat his 2014 success. Unfortunately, it has been an uphill battle for Lamb all season.

Command has been an issue throughout the year for Lamb, who recently moved into the Midland bullpen after posting a 14.63 ERA in 24 innings as a starter. He walked 20 and struck-out 21 during that stretch. Lamb spent some time during the first half of the season back in Arizona at extended spring training, working with the coaching staff there to get back to his 2014 form. He made four starts after returning from Arizona before being moved to the bullpen. As a reliever, Lamb has allowed just one run on two hits in 6.1 innings. He has walked seven, however, although two were intentional. A bullpen role could be beneficial for Lamb if he can get his command back on-track. His fastball will play up better in shorter outings and he will be able to focus on just one or two secondary pitches instead of all three.

Status: Finding his way as a reliever

38. Chris Jensen

After an All-Star season that saw Jensen post a 3.14 ERA in 160.1 innings for the Texas League champion Midland RockHounds, the right-hander was forced to return to Midland thanks to a backlog of veteran starting pitching in the A’s system at the Triple-A level. As often happens when a player repeats a level after finding success at that level the year before, Jensen’s second season in Double-A hasn’t gone as well as his first. In 16 starts, his ERA is 5.46 and he has a 47:34 K:BB in 92.1 innings.

Jensen hasn’t been getting nearly as much sink on his pitches as he did in 2014. His GO/AO went from 1.16 in 2014 to 0.89 in 2015. More telling is his homer rate, which went from three allowed in 160.1 innings last year to 13 in 92.1 innings this year. Jensen has a track-record of success and is still working deep into games despite his struggles, so there is hope that he can put together a better second half than he did the first half.

Status: Trying to find his way in Midland

37. Arnold Leon

It has been a momentous year for Leon, who made his major-league debut in April. The right-hander has been shuffling back-and-forth between Triple-A and the big leagues all season. After serving as a starter in Triple-A and a reliever in the big leagues, Leon appears to have finally settled into a permanent role as a reliever at both levels. That should be the role that helps him stick in the big leagues long-term.

After a strong spring, Leon has put together a good 2015 season. In Triple-A, he has a 3.62 ERA and a 37:12 K:BB in 37.1 innings. With the A’s, Leon has allowed three runs on nine hits in 6.1 innings – all in relief. He has eight strike-outs and one walk. Since returning from his latest stint in the big leagues in early June, Leon has appeared in three games for Nashville as a reliever. He has yet to allow a run in 5.1 innings in those outings. As a reliever, Leon’s fastball sits 91-94. He has an effective breaking ball and change-up and both pitches have worked well for Leon in the big leagues this season. Look for him to get another opportunity or two with the A’s during the second half of the year.

Status: Establishing himself in the Sounds’ bullpen

36. Aaron Shipman

Injuries will prevent us from knowing what kind of career A’s 2010 third-round pick Aaron Shipman could have had. The outfielder never played in more than 108 games in any one season during his five-year minor league career. Despite putting together the best season of his career in 2014, Shipman decided this spring that it was time to move on to other pursuits and he retired.

Of the A’s top-10 round picks in 2010, only Blake Hassebrock remains a part of the A’s organization. Oakland found more success in the later rounds of that draft, selecting A.J. Griffin in the 13th round and current prospects Josh Whitaker (25), Seth Frankoff (27) and Jeff Urlaub (30) later on. Only top pick Michael Choice and Griffin have made their major-league debuts from that class thus far.

Status: Retired

35. Justin Higley

Higley is a boom-or-bust kind of player. He has tantalizing physical tools, but his approach at the plate is still rough. The A’s took a chance that his talent carry him at the start of the 2015 season, pushing him to High-A Stockton to start the year. Higley showed flashes of all of those tools with the Ports, but he struggled to maintain any kind of consistency, as pitchers exploited his free-swinging ways. In 37 games, he hit .221/.271/.389 with four homers and four stolen bases before being sent back to Low-A Beloit. Since arriving in the Midwest League, Higley’s walk-rate has improved some, and his overall line is .207/.313/.397 with two homers and seven stolen bases in 18 games.

The A’s have always known that Higley would be a project, so they will be patient with the Sacramento-area native. His approach at the plate will be key for his success or failure with Beloit during the second half of the year. If he can continue to improve his walk-rate, his overall line should continue to improve along with it. He has the power to hit the ball out anywhere and he is a plus base-runner, as evidences by his 31 career stolen bases in 35 chances. He should get plenty of regular at-bats with the Snappers during the final two months of the season.

Status: Looking to improve in Low-A

34. Seth Frankoff

After a standout year split between Double-A and Triple-A in 2014, Frankoff returned to Double-A to start the 2015 season thanks to a backlog of veteran relievers at the Triple-A level of the A’s system. He pitched his way to Triple-A midway through the first half, but returned to Double-A after allowing seven runs and nine walks in 10.2 innings with Nashville. With Midland, Frankoff has been outstanding. In 20.2 innings, he has a 1.76 ERA and a 26:6 K:BB. Opponents are hitting .213 against him in the Texas League.

Frankoff has the stuff to be a major-league reliever with a fastball that has good movement and can touch 93. The command issues he experienced with Nashville were not the norm for him. He got off to a slow start in Triple-A last season, as well, before settling into a strong final month of the year. If he gets an extended look in Nashville later this year, chances are he will fare better than his first stretch with the Sounds.

Status: Pitching well for Midland

33. Trace Loehr

The A’s went over-slot last year to sign Loehr, who was a standout performer at a Portland, Oregon, area high school. Loehr suited up for the AZL A’s during his pro debut season, but he is currently getting an opportunity with the A’s short-season club in Vermont in 2015. Through nine games, he has five hits and five walks in 30 official at-bats.

Loehr is a high-energy player with the ability to be an above-average offensive second baseman or a utility player who can cover second, third and shortstop. He has a good feel for the barrel of the bat and the ability to work a walk. Loehr also has some speed and developing gap power. He probably doesn’t have the range for shortstop, but his arm and athleticism should let him fill in at that spot from time-to-time. He should continue to move around the infield the rest of this season.

Status: Starting season with Vermont

32. Brendan McCurry

McCurry was “Mr. Nearly Perfect” last season during his pro debut when he allowed just one run and 14 hits in 28.2 innings split between three A’s affiliates. This season, McCurry hasn’t been quite that dominant, but he has still been plenty good. Serving as the closer for the Stockton Ports all season, McCurry has a 2.62 ERA and 14 saves in 15 chances. His K:BB is 41:9 in 34.1 innings and he has a 1.73 GO/AO. Opponents are hitting .213 against him.

McCurry doesn’t have traditional closer stuff in that his fastball sits 88-90, but he gets a lot of movement and plenty of deception from his delivery. He uses a couple of different arm slots to change the eye level of the hitter and mixes in a well-developed arsenal of pitches. McCurry is clearly better than the A-ball level. Double-A will be a big testing spot for McCurry to see if his stuff can translate in a league where hitters are more advanced and more able to recognize pitches from different release points. He is likely to get a shot at that level at some point this year.

Status: Closing out the Cal League

31. Tucker Healy

Like Frankoff, Healy spent a good portion of the 2014 season split between Double-A and Triple-A. Healy struggled in Triple-A last season, but he figured to get another shot at that level thanks to his dominance in Double-A. However, he, too, was a victim of the A’s backlog of veteran relievers in Triple-A. Healy has been with Midland all season, serving a variety of roles in the late innings of Midland games.

In 32.2 innings, Healy has a 2.20 ERA for Midland. He has allowed just 17 hits (a .153 BAA) and no homeruns. Healy’s command has been a little off compared to previous seasons, as he has walked 15. He walked 24 in 61 innings last year. Healy’s strike-out numbers are still excellent, with more than a strike-out an inning (38 in total). Healy has a disappearing sinking fastball that can touch 95. He is continuing to refine his secondary stuff and will be a reliever to watch in the A’s system the rest of this year into next.

Status: Stifling the Texas League

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