In an attempt to define trends associated with the A's top position prospects I have been tracking the MjEQA's of those ranked in the Top 20. The last month has included several transitions in the A's minor league system including the exit of two prospects (Mark Teahen and Mike Wood) and the promotion of four (Mark Teahen, Freddie Bynum, Brant Colamarino, and Jairo Garcia). The four promotions showed just how difficult it is to adjust to a new, higher level of pitching (even when the measurement, MjEQA, takes into account the varying difficulty levels). On the injury front outfielder Matt Allegra was once again disabled after a promising start to his season.
The past month has been a roller coaster for Morrissey in terms of production. He began the month on a huge hot streak that drove his batting average to a lofty .361 and more importantly his MjEQA to a peak of .277 (the major league composite for all secondbaseman is .260). His remarkable peak in productivity was largely driven by batting average and less by power as his isolated power (ISO) stands at a decent but not outstanding .169. Morrissey's production has been something of a surprise this season as he hadn't exceeded a .225 MjEQA over a full season. Morrissey still has time to develop as he recently turned 23. If he can sustain his development as a hitter he'll make the majors as a utility player, if he can develop range as a secondbaseman he has a chance at a significant major league career.
Johnson has been remarkably consistent at the plate, though his June peak mirrors that of Adam Morrissey. Currently Johnson is treading in an area well below that of the composite major league EQA of all firstbasemen (.283) He is 24 years old, and his pre-season PECOTA forecast had him peaking as a slightly below average hitting firstbaseman. His current above projection performance in AAA probably raises his peak projection to average or better.
Ok, so Teahen is no longer the A's problem but since he was in the A's system for most of June he's included. Teahen had found some consistency in AA at around the .255 MjEQA mark before being promoted to AAA which proved to be a challenge for him (and still does as his MjEQA with Omaha is .127). He found some power hitting in Midland, but since being promoted is resembling something closer to the Teahen of Modesto (albeit at a much higher level of competition). Still, Teahen doesn't turn 23 until September so he'll likely spend next season in Omaha solidifying his batting skills.
Swisher looks to be the best hitter the A's have in the minors. After a brief slump toward the beginning of June, Swisher has bounced back showing good power and great plate discipline. His 3.17 AB/BB ratio is insane and is backed by a very good 16.8 AB/HR ratio, better than that of his power –hitting teammate Dan Johnson's 17.6. His ability to hit the long ball should help keep hitters honest at the next level.
Colamarino went from being one of the best hitters in the California League to struggling in the Texas League. Until a couple good games recently, he appeared to be in a free fall that is shocking considering his great numbers in a tough Modesto ballpark. The most striking difference for Colamarino in AA has been a poor walk rate (4 in 83 AB) indicating that he is not yet controlling the strike zone. The rest of the season will be critical for Colamarino as he must show ability against more advanced pitching to be considered a good prospect.
Baker began the year very hot but has cooled off in June seeing his MjEQA slide 20 points from .244 down to .224. As the best hitting catching prospect in the A's system the future is wide open for Baker if he can show that his early season hitting is more indicative of his ability than the past month. With a .194 ISO Baker's power looks good but his walk rate has slid to a mediocre 1 per 13 AB. This will have to improve significantly for him to see AAA this year.
Snyder was drafted in part for his robust OBP in college and he has not disappointed in that regard (team leading .431). The key for Snyder is showing the power necessary to be a corner infielder in the majors. His ISO of .178 and team leading 10 HR show that he is progressing though not dominating the low-A Midwest League. Of the position players in Kane County he seems the most likely to receive a promotion at some point this season.
At 5'8" Castillo doesn't evoke images of a major league catcher but his early season hitting garnered him enough attention to edge on to the A's top 20 prospects list. Since, Castillo has fallen off into a range closer to expectations. Unless he again steps up his hitting, Castillo will fall off the charts and be replaced by one of A's recent draftees, Kurt Suzuki or Landon Powell.
Majewski is another one of the A's prospects to fall off the horse after a hot start to the season. After some promising early season results he hasn't been able to show much power (ISO .147) though his walk rate isn't bad (1 per 9.5 AB). Increasing his power numbers back to his early season rates is key in order for Makewski to remain on the prospect radar.
Ethier has been very steady throughout the season, his MjEQA not straying too far from the .190-.200 range. He walks at a sufficient rate (1 per 9.3 AB) but has shown very little power in Modesto (ISO .119), something that needs to change for him to advance. Perhaps an off-season of weight work and batting practice will enable him to drive the ball more a la Mark Teahen.
Quintanilla has had a similar level of production at the plate as compared to his teammate Ethier, but his day to day performance fluctuated more during the month of June which was marked by an early slump and a mid-month hot streak. As is the case with Ethier, the second half of the season will be key to establishing himself as a top level prospect in the A's system. Quintanilla has shown decent power for a shortstop (ISO .160) and will rise to the next level by improving his eye at the plate (walk rate is a sub-par 1 per 11.7 AB).
Brown had been recovering from an early season injury but really slumped over the last month dropping from a mediocre .190 MjEQA down to a poor .174. Unless he really turns it around during the 2nd half his prospect status is in serious jeopardy.
Bynum was promoted to AAA due to the call-up of Ramon Castro to the A's and after struggling initially is moving toward respectability. Bynum is still on the fringes of prospect-land and his upside is probably in the utility player mode.
Prospect Tracker: Mid-Season Report
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