Organizational Review: Top 25 Prospects

It was a great season for the A's farm system, as it may have emerged as one of baseball's best farm systems. In addition to producing top prospects, every level except for Midland made the postseason along with having two title winning teams. <br><br>Here are how the top prospects break down by an equation of potential + performance...

(Note that all 'projections' are peak and are not viewed as probable outcomes.)

1 - Nick Swisher, OF

After a very disappointing second half last season in Midland, Swisher was left with nothing to do but dispel many doubts about his ability -- and that's exactly what he did this season after a promotion to Sacramento. He's never going to be someone that hits for a high batting average. His average actually peaked in his last game in Sacramento, as he ended at a season high .269. Swisher will hit for a ton of power, though. Being a switch hitter, he may have comparable power numbers to Lance Berkman. With such a balance of power and patience, Swisher may post a .900 OPS as soon as 2005 with the A's. Projected Location to start 2005 – Oakland A's

2 - Joe Blanton, SP

Blanton has sort of a let-down season if you focus on his 4.10+ ERA, but his walks were still down and his K's were still up -- very telling for a young pitcher. He did allow hitters to get hits at an alarming .282 rate, but much of that was due to a very poor Sacramento defense. Due to his size and arm strength, a Brad Penny comparison isn't too far fetched, though Penny does have a little harder fastball. Projected Location to start 2005 – Oakland A's

3 - Dan Johnson, 1B

A great season from Johnson was not over-shadowed by Swisher, as Johnson was named the PCL MVP. Johnson must hit to be a major league regular, as he's limited to first base, and he isn't a great one. He has played a few games in the OF, but so did Durazo with Arizona, and you can imagine how horrible he was out there. Johnson has improved every season as a professional, this season to a .940 OPS and 63 XBH's in just 536 AB's. Johnson may have a Lyle Overbay-type future. Projected Location to start 2005 – Oakland A's

4 - Javier Herrera, OF

Herrera likely has the highest ceiling of anybody in the system. No doubt a five-tool talent, the 19-year old Herrera was the Northwest League's MVP. Herrera has burning speed and a cannon of an arm. He does need to improve his K:BB ratio which was 59:24, but his patience should increase with age. Herrera has the potential of a non switch-hitting Carlos Beltran, but like I stated, his patience needs to improve. Projected Location to start 2005 - Advanced A, Stockton

5 - Huston Street, RP

Street will -- without a doubt -- be the first 2004 draft pick to play in an Oakland A's uniform, and it may be to start the 2005 season. Street was born a winner and has a major league-ready attitude -- something the A's lacked from almost everyone in the bullpen this season. Street was great in Low A-Kane County this season, better after a promotion to AA-Midland, and even better when he arrived in AAA-Sacramento. Street was even closing in the playoffs for the PCL champion Rivercats. Scot Shields may be a good comparison with a low 90's fastball and wicked slider, but Street, with the closing attitude, may be a better pitcher in the closer role. Projected Location to start 2005 – Oakland A's

6 - Omar Quintanilla, SS/2B

Quintanilla had a slow start the season, but hit over .340 in the final couple months of the season. After being promoted to AA-Midland, Quintanilla was great with a .350 BA and .940 OPS in 94 AB's. He did make 32 errors in 127 games at SS, but with a weak arm, a probable change to second base should correct quite a few of those errors. As an offensive minded second baseman, Quintanilla may peak with Marcus Giles type numbers -- not bad for someone scouts thought of as a fringe prospect entering the 2003 draft before the A's took him in the supplemental first round. Projected Location to start 2005 – AAA-Sacramento

7 - Jairo Garcia, RP

Coming out of nowhere, Garcia at one point in the year may have been the best relief prospect in baseball. That changed though once he was shelled in a brief stint in Oakland and also did not put the same numbers up in AAA that he had in the lower levels. Some of that, though, may be due to fatigue, as Garcia has had a history of arm tweaks and hasn't pitched a full five month season before. With a mid-90's fastball and a slider that's near 12-6, Francisco Rodriguez seems to be the comparison, but with less control, Garcia will probably be closer to Octavio Dotel. Projected Location to start 2005 – AAA-Sacramento

8 - Richie Robnett, OF

Another five-tool'er with loads of potential, Robnett was seen as having some of the best potential in the 2004 draft. If Robnett had stayed in school for his senior season, he was said to be a potential top 5 pick. According to A's beat writer Susan Slausser, when Robnett took his first batting practice at the Net, he was putting balls into Mt. Davis, something that hasn't been done by anyone else. With power, speed, and patience, Robnett can peak at a Bobby Abreu level, though with the A's, it'll be hard to get as many stolen bases. Projected Location to start 2005 - Advanced A - Stockton

9 - John Baker, C

Baker had a solid season behind the plate after a discouraging promotion to Midland last season. Not great defensively, Baker has to hit to play, and that's just what he did this season. Baker had a very consistent season in Midland posting a .920 OPS. After being promoted to Sacramento, though, Baker didn't quite have the OPS, but did hit .347 in 49 AB's, although in Sacramento, he had 23 strikeouts. Baker may just put up similar numbers to current A's catcher Damien Miller, though he'll do it left-handed while playing lesser defense. Projected Location to start 2005 - AAA Sacramento

10 - Brad Knox, SP

On a few sleeper lists entering the season, Knox showed why with his outstanding 2004 season. At 22, he wasn't exactly young for the Midwest league, but his numbers were unmatched. He actually posted similar numbers to the ones Joe Blanton put up last season though he has lesser 'stuff'. Knox will never be an ace, but standing 6-foot-2, he can end up eating innings from the back-end of the rotation, which is a skill that is valued pretty highly in the majors. Brad Radke is a nice peak to hope for with his ability to change speeds, but Rodrigo Lopez is more likely. Projected Location to start 2005 - AA Midland

11 - Jason Windsor, SP

After the A's took Windsor in the 3rd round of the 2004 draft, he had one of the best College World Series ever for a starting pitcher, something that probably would have made him go at least a round higher. Windsor may actually be more likely to be a Brad Radke type then Knox will. Windsor was great in relief this season after a heavy workload in college. Projected Location to start 2005 - Advanced A: Stockton

12 - Brian Snyder, 3B

After struggling in his debut season, Snyder adjusted to wood bats nicely this season and posted an OPS over .900. He was a little old for the Midwest League at 22, and he missed some time with a torn hip flexor. Snyder, though, is a very good opposite field hitter, and it should be easier to teach him to pull the ball then it would be to teach him to go opposite field. If he's able to pull the ball next season, he should see a marked improvement in power. Snyder could put up Joe Randa numbers with more walks, or if he can add power like the A's think he will, he may be similar to Mike Lowell. Projected Location to start 2005 - AA Midland

13 - Danny Putnam, OF

While Putnam had a great career at Stanford and was seen as a top 30 pick, the A's were able to get him in the supplemental first round. He has loads of power, but his defense is a question mark along with his ability to hit for average. He faced a tough challenge quickly this season, being sent to Kane County after a brief stint with Vancouver. He lacked average, but had very respectable power numbers. Putnam can post Craig Wilson numbers with Craig Wilson type (poor) defense, but he may be able to hit for a little more average. Projected Location to start 2005 - Advanced A – Stockton

14 - Kurt Suzuki, C

Suzuki had a great college career, catching Jason Windsor at Cal-State Fullerton, but he's an offensive minded catcher. He posted solid but unspectacular numbers during his time at Vancouver this season, but when you consider he was adjusting to wood bats, the numbers look even better. Jason Kendall with slightly more power and slightly less average may be Suzuki's peak. Projected Location to start 2005 - Advanced A – Stockton

15 - Nelson Cruz, OF

Cruz somewhat came out of nowhere this season to post outstanding numbers at each level he played at -- Modesto, Midland, and Sacramento. Cruz is toolsy, but isn't a great defender and doesn't have much patience. Cruz can post Milton Bradley numbers if he can cut down on the K's. Projected Location to start 2005 - AAA Sacramento

16 - Landon Powell, C

Powell didn't hit for much average at South Carolina, but he did hit for a ton of power -- rare to see from a switch-hitting catcher. Powell struggled to start at Vancouver, got hot, and then struggled again to end the season. With his power, he may be like Jason Varitek with slightly less average. Projected Location to start 2005 - Advanced A: Stockton

17 - Matt Allegra, OF

Allegra has always had tools, but he's never been able to display them on the field. This season, after missing the start of the year, he was finally putting together great numbers, then he got hurt again. Once he came back he didn't miss a beat, then got hurt again and this time didn't return. Allegra can post Shannon Stewart numbers if he can stay healthy and reach his potential. Projected Location to start 2005 - AA Midland

18 - Kevin Melillo, 2B

Mellilo didn't put up great numbers in college, but sure did in Vancouver in limited time before pulling a muscle in his ribcage. Melillo is never going to hit for a ton of power, but not a lot of second basemen do. His .340 BA in 94 AB's was surprising from the 5th rounder, but it may be even more surprising if he can come close to that at higher levels. Melillo may be able to post Ray Durham numbers post-prime, but it's hard to judge on such a small size. Projected Location to start 2005 - Advanced A – Stockton

19 - Bradley Sullivan, SP

Sullivan was the biggest let-down of the A's system this season. Sullivan struggled all season outside of a two-three week stretch. He didn't K many people, he walked a ton of people, and he gave up a ton of hits -- poor from a college veteran in A ball who was quoted as saying he thought he'd be with Oakland some time in 2005. Sullivan did see a few MPH's back on his fastball to end the season, however, and next year he should be allowed to throw his slider more often. Out of anybody on this list, Sullivan has the most room to rise as he is still capable of being one of the A's top 3 prospects. Brian Lawrence is a good comparison, but Sullivan may very well end up better than Lawrence. Projected Location to start 2005 - AA Midland

20 - Andre Ethier, OF

Ethier was supposed to hit for a lot more power this season, but his 7 HR's in 419 AB's wasn't too great. He did, though, hit over .300. There is still a lot of time for Ethier to gain power, but missing the last 1-2 months of the season with a fractured back didn't help. Ethier may be able to post Eric Byrnes numbers from the left side of the plate, but his power is a question mark. Projected Location to start 2005 - AA Midland

Prospects 21-25

21 - Mike Rouse, Utility
22 - Brant Colamarino, 1B
23 - Freddie Bynum, Utility
24 - Ryan Webb, SP
25 - John Rheinecker, SP

Comments

Keep your eye on -- Ryan Webb -- Loads of potential. Stands at 6-foot-6 at the young age of 18. Already throwing high 80's, as he fills out, low 90's is not out of the question. From the tall frame, low 90's will look like a mid-90's fastball from someone like Tim Hudson or Rich Harden.

Don't forget -- Jon Weber has put up very good numbers in his two years in the A's organization after being signed from an Independent league. Weber is already late 20's, but he may end up as a solid reserve OF'er at the major league level.

Sorry to Steve Obenchain. He has been bad for two years now since the A's made him a Moneyball first rounder. Ben Fritz was a great sleeper entering the season, but pitched poorly before going down with Tommy John Surgery -- but with a great fastball/changeup combo, Fritz can become a very solid reliever if he can remain healthy.

Questions or comments? You can contact Bobby Lee at bobby1134@yahoo.com.


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