Minor League Player Notebook - August 9, 2004

<b>This is a free preview of premium content.</b><br> In this week's edition of <i>Minor League Player Notebook</i>, Brian Durack reports that Dan Johnson may be ready to fill some big shoes, Matt Allegra has been struggling with his health, and the A's may have found another late-round pitching gem...

Sacramento – Dan Johnson is the heir apparent to the first base/DH slot for Oakland. It will be hard not to re-sign Erubiel Durazo for next year, but having DJ a step behind him makes it a lot easier. Durazo will be 31 next year, a few years past his peak, while Dan Johnson will be 25, just beginning his. It would be difficult to deny him a real look next spring.

Johnson had an impressive 2003 season in Midland, and is having an even more impressive season this year in Sacramento. Against advanced competition he has increased his slugging percentage 50 points and his on-base by 40 points. This year he's walking every 7.2 PA's against 8.9 last year. His ISO Power is well up, as are virtually every other offensive statistic.

It's hard to find a downside to Durazo's great 2004 season, but one may be that the A's can no longer afford him. He's making $2.10 million this year, and it isn't unreasonable to expect his salary to double or even triple next year. Will Oakland really spend $5+ million on a DH who has a decent replacement right behind him? Dan Johnson is even a reportedly decent defender. Let's not forget that behind Johnson are Graham Koonce, Brant Colamarino, Brian Stavisky and Eddie Kim. The first base prospects in the system are becoming a bit backed up, so both Dan Johnson and Graham Koonce will likely need to be moved or promoted fairly soon.

Midland – Matt Allegra has been an absolute force in Midland this year. Well… at least in the 17 games that he wasn't injured. His .448 OBP and his .609 SLG don't mean a while lot when they are over 64 at-bats. He started the season in Midland, but hyper-extended his right knee running to first on June 6th and missed a month and a half. Allegra finally returned July 25th, but tweaked his hamstring a week later and has been out ever since.

Matt Allegra was a "tools" high school draft pick in 1999. He has one of the best arms in the system to go with good power and decent speed. The one obvious knock on him are his strikeouts; more than 300 over the past 2 seasons. The 23 year-old has time on his side, but needs to show better strike zone judgment. This season has surely been very frustrating for him, but he should be back within the next week, and will do his best to make the most of it. Many people had thought Allegra would be a break-out player this season, but it looks like he may have to wait until next.

Arizona – Connor Robertson is blowing away the competition in Arizona. He certainly is old for his competition, as he was drafted as a college senior. He has struck out 35 batters in 20 innings and has allowed just 15 base runners as a pro. What makes it so surprising, is that Robertson finished his college career in the top 10 in nearly every category at Birmingham-Southern College – every hitting category. Second in career home runs, third in slugging and fourth in hits.

He was expected to be drafted in the later rounds and was (31st round, 937th overall). He was also expected to have a future as a corner infielder. In his senior season, he hit a team leading 21 home runs and slugged .576. The A's were more impressed with his 47 strikeouts in 30 1/3 innings, however. He acted as closer for the team, which played in played in its first year of Division I-A baseball.

He really needs to see more advanced competition at this point. A plane ticket to Vancouver or even Kane County could be in his future. It will also be interesting to see if he is converted to a hitter if he does not perform well as a pitcher.

Brian Durack is the owner and writer of A's Y'all, a blog on the A's minor league system. The blog can be found at http://as-yall.blogspot.com. Brian can be reached at brian_durack@hotmail.com.

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