Organization Review: Top 20 A's Prospects

<i>This is a free preview of premium content.</i><br> Joshua Shinoff takes a close look at the A's minor league system and highlights the best prospects in the A's system. We will continue to monitor these prospects as the season progresses.

Prospects 1-10

1. Joe Blanton, RHP, AAA, Age 23, 6'3" 225 lb

The A's made Blanton the 24th pick in the first round of the 2002 "Moneyball" draft. The A's clearly overlooked his ERA when making Blanton their choice (lowest ERA in three seasons at the University of Kentucky was 4.59) for his excellent K/IP and K/BB ratios, 1.33 and 3.59 respectively. Blanton has a plus fastball, hitting 92-94 mph regularly and 96 occasionally. He also has a plus curveball and slider (rated best breaking ball in the MDWL). His changeup is still developing. Blanton started 2003 in the low-A Midwest League where he dominated his mostly younger competition (2.59 ERA, 144 K/133IP) and was rumored trade bait until the deadline passed, after which he was promoted to the AA Texas League where he had continued success though his K/IP ratio dropped a little (30 K/35.2 IP, 0.84). After impressing in spring training Blanton was sent to AAA Sacramento to start 2004. So far he has succeeded despite a somewhat lower K/IP ratio (42 K/64 IP, 0.66) by being very stingy with walks (13) and HRs (2).

The A's are counting on Blanton as another cog in the rotation in the next year or two as free agency is looming for Tim Hudson following 2005 and Mark Mulder and Barry Zito following 2006. Its likely that Blanton will stay in AAA for the time being (barring injury to one of the A's starters) as the A's have the luxury of letting him develop against higher level competition and do not want to prematurely start his major league service and march toward arbitration eligibility and free agency.

2. Dan Johnson, 1B, AAA, Age 24, 6'2" 220lb

Drafted by the A's in the 7th round of the 2001 draft out the University of Nebraska where he set the school record for HRs in a season (25). He has shown steady improvement each year of his professional career earning a promotion following each stop along the minor league circuit. Johnson has retained or improved his HR/PA (0.043-A, 0.044-AA, 0.048) and BB/AB (0.13-A, 0.12-AA, 0.19-AAA) ratio at each level. Following a great season in AA (named All Texas League) the A's sent him to the Arizona Fall League where he tore up the mix of AA and AAA pitching (1105 OPS).

Johnson is a selective hitter (33BB/18K this season) in the traditional A's mold with a short powerful stroke. Currently he is hitting well enough to warrant a spot on many a major league roster (his .273 MjEQA places him ahead of 10 current major league starters) but with two lefty hitting firstbaseman/DHs blocking his path in Oakland it seem unlikely that he'll be promoted until September.

Johnson's developmental curve is very encouraging and he looks likely to peak as an average major league firstbaseman or better but whether he'll have that opportunity with the A's is an open question.

3. Nick Swisher, OF, AAA, Age 23, 6'0" 190 lb

The 16th pick of the 2002 draft out of Ohio State where he split time between CF and firstbase as a junior and led the Buckeyes in slugging at 0.662. His father, Steve Swisher, was an All Star catcher for the Chicago Cubs in 1976 and much was made by the A's front office of "knowing" what it takes to make the big leagues. Swisher has had more of an up and down professional career than Dan Johnson as he has initially struggled following promotion until this season. He tore up the California League in 2002 with a 977 OPS is less than half a season, but then struggled with a 710 OPS following promotion to the Texas League where his walk and power numbers took a big hit and his strikeout rate escalated.

Despite this the A's sent Swisher to the Arizona Fall League to work on his swing and he responded with an 804 OPS though he still K'd 24 times in 80 Abs. After a strong showing in spring training the A's sent Swisher to Sacramento where he has responded with an 824 OPS showing good power (6 HR) but is still striking out at a good clip (34 K in 140 AB).

There is a question whether Swisher will be able to play centerfield in the majors as scouts project him to a corner outfield spot and Baseball Prospectus defensive stats have him solidly below average for that position. This season is by far the best Swisher has done following promotion which portends well for him if he can adjust to the more advanced pitching in AAA and cut his strikeout rate.

4. Mark Teahen, 3B, AA, Age 22, 6'3" 210lb(traded to Kansas City on 6/24/04)

The 37th player taken in the 2002 draft from St. Mary's College in Moraga. Initially thought of as a good contact hitter with a good eye at the plate but A's scouts thought he could add power due to a large frame.

He posted incredible numbers his junior year (.412/.493/.612) as a unanimous all WCC selection and showed steady improvement through his college career though with limited power numbers (6 HR in junior season was career high).

Teahen's professional career started slowly with a 606 OPS in Modesto in 2002 followed by a 757 OPS in 2003. He showed little HR power in 2003 but had 27 doubles and 4 triples, a marked improvement over 2002. He also improved his BB rate with 66BB/453AB easily clearing the A's organizational hurdle of 1 per 10 AB.

Teahen made marked improvements in the off season instructional league and it has paid off this season in his promotion to AA. He already has 5 HR in 188 AB, exceeding his minor league total of 4 in the previous 744 AB. His newfound power has not affected his contact hitting (.330 BA) or his good eye at the plate (24 BB).

Teahen is a solid defensive player but not nearly the fielder the A's have in Eric Chavez who is going nowhere soon so Teahen's opportunity in the majors may come with another team.

5. Adam Morrissey, 2B/3B, AAA, Age 23

Acquired in the Mark Bellhorn trade with the Cubs who signed him at age 18 from Australia. He caught the eye of the A's with a stellar performance in the Midwest League at age 20 in which he displayed good power (14 HR, 51 extrabase hits) and a great eye at the plate (80BB in 418AB). The A's sent him to the Cal League to start 2002 where he put up a good performance (801 OPS) in 36 games before being promoted to AA where he struggled at the plate showing little power and a high strikeout rate. The A's sent him to the AFL following the season where he excelled (.371 BA, 4 HR). He repeated AA in 2003 and showed some improvement but still wasn't the player the A's had hoped for when acquired. Morrissey was promoted to AAA for 2004 where he has surprised by posting a .314/.381/.466 line through 33 games, his best line since the Midwest League.

Morrissey has been a player without a clear position and has been splitting time between 2B and 3B for the last three seasons. He has spent most of his time at 2B this season and if he can field adequately there his bat would be more valuable than if he is forced to a position demanding more offensive punch such as 3B or OF.

6. Mike Wood, RHP, AAA, Age 24(traded to Kansas City on 6/24/04)

Wood joined the A's as a 10th round draft choice in 2001 from the University of North Florida. Wood throws 88-92 mph with good sinking action on his fastball that is reminiscent of Tim Hudson. He also throws a nice splitter with excellent downward action, plus a changeup that is still a work in progress.

Wood was a closer in college posting 16 saves in 2001 for UNF. The A's converted him to a starter and he responded well, moving quickly through the A's system making his major league debut in late 2003. In his brief time with the A's Wood suffered from control problems and appeared to be overthrowing.

Wood was returned to AAA to start 2004 where he has been the Rivercats most reliable starter posting a 2.35 ERA over 11 starts.

Some believe that Wood's major league future lies in the bullpen as he currently throws two major league quality pitches (fastball, splitter) and would need at least a third (preferably a changeup) to keep hitters honest.

7. John Baker, C, AA, Age 23, 6'1" 220lb

John Baker was selected in the 4th round of the 2002 draft, the 128th player taken, and as a lifelong A's fan from Alameda was very happy about it. Baker made great progress during his college career culminating with a 1093 OPS his junior year including a .516 OBP that drew the attention of the A's. He began his career in the short-season Northwest League in a very pitcher-friendly park but still managed to post a .389 OBP in 39 games though his power numbers were a bit sapped.

The A's sent him to the Midwest League to start 2003 and he tore it up for half a season (871 OPS) before skipping high-A and taking on the challenge of the Texas League. The difference between A-ball (especially low-A) and AA is probably the largest of the various levels of the minors and it showed as Baker struggled to post a 596 OPS the rest of the way.

Baker was sent to AA again to start 2003 and has excelled as the Rockhounds' primary catcher posting a .320/.379/.505 line through 52 games, outhitting the A's more famous catching prospect Jeremy Brown.

Right now Baker stands as the A's best catching prospect, blessed with more athleticism than Jeremy Brown and possibly a better bat. The door looks open for him now with Damian Miller unlikely to stick around very long and Adam Melhuse unlikely to ever be an everyday catcher. Look for Baker to get a promotion to AAA this season and should that go well a shot with the A's sometime in 2005.

8. Andre Ethier, OF, high-A, Age 22, 6'3" 200lb

The A's 2nd round pick of the 2003 draft out of Arizona State University for the 2nd time (the A's originally drafted him in the 37th round from junior college in 2001). Ethier showed good power and patience as a junior (10 HR, 52 BB, 260 AB). He was sent to the short season Northwest League where he crushed the ball (1054 OPS) in a tough hitters park. He was quickly promoted to the Midwest League where he found the going tougher (688 OPS).

Ethier was sent to the Cal League to start 2004 and has been hitting well lately after a slow start. Ethier was a little skinny coming out of college but has filled in his frame which he'll need to do more of to add the power required of a corner outfielder.

9. Brad Sullivan, RHP, high-A, Age 22, 6'1" 190lb

The A's 1st round draft pick in 2003 Sullivan signed late and saw very little time in the Midwest League last season. After a heavy workload in college the A's aimed to rest his arm. Sullivan throws a sinking fastball up to 93 mph and a hard slider in the 85 mph range. A tremendous strikeout pitcher in college (led the nation in 2002), Sullivan has struggled with inconsistency in his short professional career. His strikeout rate has fallen 36K/50.2IP and this may be due to lost arm strength from the pitching layoff. He did have an 11K performance recently and hopefully this is the start of a turnaround for him.

10. Matt Allegra, OF, AA, Age 22, 6'3" 195lb

Matt Allegra is a rare A's prospect that never attended collage and might be considered a 5-tool player. He began his professional career at age 19 after being drafted in the 16th round in 1999.

He showed little but physical tools in the Arizona Rookie League failing to hit even a single HR despite favorable hitting conditions and striking out 44 times in 141 AB. His tendency to strikeout followed him to the Cal League and Northwest League where he combined for 165 K's but began to show some power hitting 13 HR. Allegra was returned to the Cal League in 2002 where he began to translate hitting batting cage prowess (known for his longball displays) to the game by hitting 20 HR and 35 2B for Visalia though his 160 K's still marred his game. Showing confidence in him, the A's promoted Allegra to AA for 2003 where he showed some power (14 HR, 22 2B) but carried a low batting average (.239) due to continued strikeout problems.

Allegra had a late start in 2004 due to be sidelined with a injury but has come on strong to start his season.

Prospects 11-20

11. Brant Colamarino, 1B, AA, 5'11" 200lb, Age 23

The lesser known of the soft body Moneyball picks, Colamarino has done little to inspire faith in his abilities until this season. Sent to the Cal League to start 2003 he has mashed the ball well enough to be the first promotion (non-major league) of the year. He is 23 so he'll need continued success (including good power numbers) this season to stay in the prospect spotlight.

12. Omar Quintanilla, SS, high-A, 5'9" 185lb, Age 22

Thought of as a fringe prospect by some, the A's made him the 33rd pick of the 2003 draft from the University of Texas. He fared well in limited time last season between the NWL and the Cal League. This season he has shown some ability with the bat (18 extra-base hits) but has a surprising number of errors (14 in 49 games).

13. Brian Snyder, 3B, low-A, 5'11" 195lb, Age 22

The A's second 1st round pick of 2003 (26th overall) from Stetson University where he put up Bonds-like numbers (1195 OPS, 50BB/195AB) in one season of college ball. As a professional Snyder was able to maintain a good OBP in his first (partial) season in the Northwest League posting a .409 OBP but lost his power stroke.

In 2004 Snyder has posted a nice line in the Midwest League (.305/.412/.465) with improved his power numbers. As a thirdbase prospect Snyder will have to continue developing his power. He was tried at second during college but didn't prove a good fit defensively.

14. Brad Knox, low-A, RHP, 6'3" 210lb, Age 22

The A's drafted Brad Knox in the 14th round of the 2002 draft from Central Arizona College. He isn't one of the better known A's pitching prospects but he has struck out more than a batter per inning during his professional career (181K/170IP) and walked only 37 (4.9 K/BB ratio). He should get a promotion to AA in the near future after which his ability will be tested against more advanced hitters.

15. Jeremy Brown, AA, C, 5'10" 210lb, Age 24

Known to most A's fans as the poster boy for "Moneyball", Brown has had more public scrutiny than he ever expected. He silenced the critics of his first round (supplemental) selection with a quick start in the Cal League (989 OPS). He spent 2003 in AA where he was competent but not impressive until a thumb injury ended his season.

Returned to the Rockhounds for 2004, Brown had a horrible start to his season and it took him several weeks to raise his batting average over the Mendoza line. He has been hitting much better lately but as a marginal defensive catcher he needs to mash to have a shot at the majors.

16. Dustin Majewski, low-A, OF, 5'11" 190lb, Age 22

The A's made Majewski their 3rd round draft pick of 2003 and their 2nd choice from the University of Texas following two stellar seasons for the Longhorns (1102, 1109 OPS). He has hit well in his professional career, (830 OPS in the Northwest League and 826 OPS in Kane County this season). The major question for him is if he'll hit enough to make it as a corner outfielder.

17. Shane Komine, AA, RHP, 5'8" 160lb, Age 23

His ability doubted due to his lack of size, Komine (pronounced Ko-min-ay) has succeeded at every level. The 9th round draft pick of the A's in 2002 from the University of Nebraska where he was a four year starter. He doesn't have dominating stuff but pitches with great control of three pitches (fastball, curve, changeup) and allows few walks.

18. Freddie Bynum, AA, 6'1" 180lb, Age 24 The 2nd round draft pick of the A's in 2000 from Pitt Community College, Bynum has always had "tools" but hasn't put it together at the plate yet. He is currently hitting over .300 but with limited power. He is blocked by Esteban German at AAA, a prospect with similar skills.

19. John Rheinecker, AAA, LHP, 6'2" 215lb, Age 25

The A's 1st round draft pick in 2001 from Southwest Missouri State University, Rheinecker has progressed slowly but surely through the A's system. Throwing lefthanded is always an advantage but Rheinecker hasn't shown the ability to miss bats at a high rate in the upper levels of the minors. Right now his upside is as a lefty reliever in the majors.

20. David Castillo, low-A, C, 5'9" 180lb, Age 22

Diminutive catcher David Castillo was taken in the 7th round of the 2003 draft of known powerhouse Oral Roberts University after posting a 1161 OPS in his only year of college ball. Sent to the Northwest League, Castillo served as the Canadiens primary catcher but did little to stand out. Things are looking much better for Castillo in 2004 as he leads the Kane County Cougars in two categories sure to get the A's attention, extra-base hits (22) and OBP (.417).

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