Oakland A's Minor League Depth Chart: Relievers

In the last of our series of articles examining the Oakland A's prospects by position, OaklandClubhouse takes a look at the A's relief prospects. Oakland has not had much success in recent years with their relief prospects. Former relief prospects Franklyn German, Bert Snow and Jesus Colome were either traded or waylaid by injuries before they could make an impact with Oakland. However, with guys like Huston Street and Jairo Garcia coming through the system, that trend may be about to change.

Editor's Note: This list is intended to demonstrate the player's status as a prospect in the A's system and is not reflective of how close the player is to appearing in the major leagues.

From 2000-2003, the Oakland A's went to the playoffs in large part through the strength of their stalwart bullpens. Although Oakland rarely had big-name relievers, the A's bullpens were often among the league's best. So it was no surprise that the A's came up short in their quest for their fifth straight playoff appearance when their bullpen collapsed.

The 2004 bullpen collapse came, in part, because Oakland had built their bullpen through the acquisitions of veteran relievers who ran into a myriad of physical problems in 2004. In fact, the A's best reliever in 2004 was rookie Justin Duchscherer. During the off-season, Oakland added young relievers Kiko Calero and Juan Cruz to a much more youthful bullpen that will be anchored by 32 year-old Octavio Dotel. However, the real youth movement in A's bullpen should take place in 2006 when a number of Oakland's most promising relief prospects figure to be firmly ensconced in the A's bullpen. Here is a look at some of the A's best relief prospects.

1) Huston Street, 6'0'', RHP

The A's best relief prospect may not have to wait until 2006 to claim his permanent spot in the Oakland bullpen. Street has climbed through the A's system at a dizzying speed since being drafted 40th overall in the June 2004 draft. The University of Texas alum began his professional career at low-A Kane County and spent time in AA-Midland and AAA-Sacramento in 2004. He appeared to get better at every level he advanced to and finished off his heady 2004 campaign with an outstanding performance in the Arizona Fall League. Street dominated some of the game's best prospects at the AFL, posting a 0.98 ERA and being named one of the top AFL prospects.

Street entered spring training as somewhat of a long-shot to make the A's 25-man roster. However, when submariner Chad Bradford went down with a back injury, Street suddenly had an opportunity to make the team. He has impressed everyone this spring and is now the favorite to take Bradford's spot.

Although Street is only 21 years old, scouts have been impressed with his poise and composure on the mound. He is a tough competitor and has a long-track record of success in high-pressure situations, including the College World Series and the Pan-American games. The diminutive right-hander uses a three-quarters delivery and features a sinking fastball that sits between 90-94, a sharp breaking slider and a developing change-up.

Street may break the A's camp on the roster in 2005 as a middle reliever, but his future is at the back-end of the bullpen. Although he doesn't throw in the high-90s like many relievers, he has all of the other intangibles that are generally found among the game's great closers.

2) Jairo Garcia, 6'0'', 165

If Huston Street is the A's biggest spring training story, Jairo Garcia was arguably the A's biggest regular season prospect story in 2004. A former starter, Garcia was converted to relief in 2004 with tremendous results. Garcia, a product of the A's Dominican program, had struggled with injuries as a starter. As a reliever, the hard-throwing righty was able to stay healthy and dominate minor league hitters. Garcia began the year in low-A Kane County and he posted a 0.30 ERA in 25 appearances before being promoted to AA-Midland. After 13 dominating appearances for the RockHounds, Garcia stopped briefly in AAA-Sacramento before earning a promotion to the major leagues.

Garcia made a strong debut with Oakland, tossing two shut-out innings against the Twins in an A's 8-2 victory, but his major league experience went downhill from there. He struggled with his command and appeared to get frustrated on the mound when runners reached base against him. Garcia was eventually demoted after four major league appearances where he allowed eight runs in six innings pitched. Garcia continued to struggle with his command in the Dominican Winter League season and in major league spring training camp.

Despite his more recent struggles, Garcia has a bright future. He needs to work on his mental approach on the mound, but he has all of the stuff to be a big-time major league closer. Garcia has a similar pitching arsenal to current A's closer Dotel. He slings the ball from a three-quarters arm slot and features a high-90s fastball that is complemented by a sharp-breaking slider. He will begin the season in AAA-Sacramento and could make a late-season appearance in Oakland if he shows better command early in the season. Otherwise, he should have a spot as part of a hard-throwing A's bullpen as soon as 2006. He and Street could combine to form a dominate late-inning relief combination similar to that of the Houston Astros' 2004 combination of Dotel and Brad Lidge.

3) Chris Mabeus, 6'3'', 215

Right-hander Chris Mabeus entered last spring training as a Rule V draft selection of the Texas Rangers. He failed to win a spot on the Rangers' roster out of the spring and was returned to the A's. Mabeus responded to the disappointment of not making the Rangers' roster by posting an excellent season in 2004. He was named to the AA-All Star team for his work with the AA-Midland RockHounds. In little over a month and a half of work, Mabeus made 20 AA appearances and posted a 1.99 ERA and 11 saves. He also struck out 27 batters while walking only two.

Mabeus earned a promotion to AAA-Sacramento, where he did a good job as a late-inning reliever for the River Cats. Mabeus held the PCL hitters to a .227 BAA and struck out 61 in 51 innings pitched. He won seven games and recorded four saves. Mabeus appeared briefly for Hermosillo in the Mexican Winter League and entered this spring training with an outside chance to win a spot in the A's bullpen.

Unlike Street, however, Mabeus was unable to take advantage of the injury to Chad Bradford and win a spot in the A's bullpen. He struggled during his early spring appearances and was among the A's first cuts this spring. Despite that set-back, Mabeus is still highly regarded in the A's organization and he will be watched closely in AAA this season. The sinkerball specialist will likely be a set-up man for Garcia in the River Cats bullpen and he could earn a promotion to the majors this season if injuries strike the A's bullpen. He could also be trade-bait for a team looking for young middle relief.

4) Jose Corchado, 6'0'', 195

Jose Corchado follows in the A's tradition of hard-throwing Latin relievers that includes Jairo Garcia, Franklyn German, Jesus Colome and Edwardo Sierra. Corchado, who turns 21 at the beginning of April, has been brought along slowly by the A's since being signed in the 18th round of the 2002 draft. He spent 2002 in the Arizona Rookie League and 2003 in short-season-A Vancouver. Corchado finally got a full season in at the professional level in 2004 with the low-A Kane County Cougars.

Corchado used a mid-90s fastball and an excellent slider to strike out 73 batters in only 61 innings pitched for the Cougars in 2004. He held the Midwest League batters to a .205 BAA and he recorded three saves. Corchado did make six starts for the Cougars, but his future is likely to be in the bullpen as a late-inning reliever. The Puerto Rican native will probably begin the season in high-A Stockton. He is still a bit raw, but, at 21, he has plenty of time to develop into a front-line relief prospect.

5) Shawn Kohn, 6'2'', 200

Wisconsin-native Shawn Kohn shuttled between high-A Modesto and AAA-Sacramento during 2004. Despite never having pitched above A-ball before the 2004 season, Kohn held his own in the hitter-friendly PCL, posting a 37:7 K:BB ratio in 43 innings pitched for the River Cats. Kohn was sparkling at high-A Modesto, striking out 68 batters in 43 innings pitched and walking only four. He also limited the Cal League hitters to a .199 BAA and gave up only one homerun.

Kohn uses an unusual, almost underhand delivery to keep hitters off-balance. He is a classic off-speed pitcher, as his fastball sits in the mid-80s. However, he gets a lot of late life on his fastball and he has excellent control with it. He also features an outstanding frisbee slider and an average change-up. Kohn is effective against both right-handers and left-handers and he induces a lot of groundballs. He could have a similar career to that of A's submariner Chad Bradford. Kohn will begin the season either in AA or AAA.

Others to Watch:

Scot Drucker: A 13th round draft pick in the 2004 draft, Drucker spent his first professional season in the back-end of the Vancouver bullpen. Drucker recorded six saves and struck out 18 in 21 innings pitched. He will likely begin the season in low-A Kane County.

Connor Robertson: Robertson opened a few eyes in the Arizona Rookie League in 2004. After being drafted in the 31st round, Robertson dominated AZL hitters from the back of the Arizona A's bullpen. He struck out 46 batters in 29 inning pitched and recorded 13 saves. He earned a promotion to short-season Vancouver and struck out five in five innings pitched. Robertson could be a sleeper from the 2004 draft.

Ron Flores: The A's are thin in the left-handed reliever department and Flores is the most advanced of the A's lefty relief prospects. He was named to the AAA All-Star team in 2004 as a member of the River Cats. He struck out 55 batters in 55 innings pitched and posted a 3.83 ERA. He should return to Sacramento in 2005.

Danielin Acevedo: Acevedo split his time between starting and relieving last season. The 22 year old has electric stuff but he has struggled with his control at times. Last season, Acevedo dominated the Arizona Rookie League, but had control problems at short-season Vancouver. His future is likely as a reliever, although the A's may continue to have him start some more this season.

Leonard Landeros: Landeros backed up a strong 2003 campaign with low-A Kane County with another solid season for high-A Modesto. Landeros limited Cal League hitters to a .230 BAA and struck out 63 in 63 innings pitched. He also recorded seven saves. He could have a career as a left-handed specialist.

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