In-Season Report: A's Top 25 Prospects (6-10)

In the second of our series, we check the progress of players 6-10 on our pre-season list of the Oakland A's top-25 prospects. In the first group, we had two players who were major league regulars. In this group, we have three major league players and another who was briefly up in Oakland.

6 - Dan Johnson, 1B, AAA-Sacramento River Cats/Oakland A's

Johnson had one of the best seasons of any minor league first baseman in 2004, but all he got for his good work was a ticket back to AAA-Sacramento to start the season. The reigning PCL MVP could have let that get him down and off of his game, but Johnson was a true professional about the situation. He resumed his great play in Sacramento and waited for his chance to prove himself at the big league level. Johnson got that chance after 47 games with the River Cats. Over those 47 games, Johnson was a top run producer. He hit eight homers and drove in 41 runs while posting a 973 OPS.

Johnson was promoted on May 27 when A's DH Erubiel Durazo was sidelined with what would later be a season-ending elbow injury. Johnson got off to a bit of a slow start, but since his third week in the big leagues, Johnson has been one of the A's best offensive players. In 55 big league games, Johnson is hitting .319 with eight homers and 28 RBI. He has shown great patience at the plate, drawing 27 walks against 22 strikeouts. His combination of patience and power has led to an impressive 920 OPS. Johnson has also been an excellent situational hitter. He has been the most efficient A's hitter scoring a runner from third with less than two outs and he has done a good job moving up runners when the situation calls for it.

Although he isn't a Gold Glover at first base, Johnson has shown some good "baseball smarts" at first base and a knack for digging balls out of the dirt. Johnson still needs to improve his footwork, but he has shown that he is a hard worker, so it is likely that he will be improved next year after an off-season of hard work. And it seems that he will be able to tackle this off-season with the peace of mind that comes with knowing he has a starting spot at the major league level secured.

7 - Huston Street, RP, Oakland A's

Unlike Johnson, who had to toil in the minor leagues two months longer then perhaps he deserved to, Street arrived in Oakland ahead of schedule. The 2004 supplemental first round draft pick became the first member of his draft class to make the major leagues when he was on the A's Opening Day roster. He began the season as a low-pressure middle reliever but was quickly moved into the more high-pressure spots when Kiko Calero and Octavio Dotel were hit with injuries. Once Dotel was placed on the disabled list in mid-May, Street was moved into the closer role. Since that time, the Texas alum has been one of the best closers in baseball. He has converted all but two of his save chances since being named closer and the A's won both of his blown saves. Street is only one save away from the A's rookie record, which he currently shares with Hall of Famer Rollie Fingers.

Street's numbers this season are simply mind-blowing. He has appeared in 45 games, throwing 54 innings over that span. He has 50 strikeouts and only 17 walks, a Dennis Eckersley-like ratio. In fact, Street's control has gotten better as the season has gone on. Since May 30, he has walked only two batters. Street has been efficient with his pitches, averaging only 3.85 pitches per plate appearance. He has limited opposing batters to a .184 batting average and a 507 OPS. Oh, and the great Mariano Rivera is the only reliever in the American League with a lower ERA then Street's 1.33.

Street is already everything that the A's could have possibly hoped for when drafted him last June. He has a veteran's demeanor on the mound and nasty stuff. Already Street has drawn comparison to the Hall of Famer Eckersley. Relievers rarely win the Rookie of the Year award and Street has some stiff competition (some of which is from his own team), but he is making a strong push for the award already.

8 - Omar Quintanilla, SS, AA-Midland Rockhounds/AAA-Colorado Springs Sky Sox/Colorado Rockies

Quintanilla began the season as the A's best middle infield prospect and many had penciled him into the A's 2006 line-up as the team's starting second baseman. However, after a somewhat disappointing first two and a half months at AA-Midland, Quintanilla was erased from the A's future line-up card when he was shipped to the Colorado Rockies. Quintanilla appeared in 78 games for Midland and hit for a decent .293 batting average. However, he had trouble drawing walks, getting on-base at a .347 clip. He also displayed little power, posting a .395 SLG.

During the off-season it was rumored that Quintanilla was going to be moved from shortstop to second base, as the A's had Bobby Crosby firmly ensconced at short. Perhaps in an early indication of the A's plans to trade Quintanilla, the former Texas Longhorn stayed at short while in Midland. He was dealt as part of the Jay Witasick/Joe Kennedy/Eric Byrnes deal on July 13 to the Colorado Rockies. Upon being traded, Quintanilla was dealt to AAA-Colorado Springs. He performed well for the Sky Sox, hitting .346 with a homer and seven RBI in 13 games. He was promoted to the major leagues on July 31 and has been playing at short for the Rockies ever since.

Although Quintanilla didn't play as well for Midland as the A's had hoped, he still has a good chance to be an above-average major league regular. He will likely move to second base this off-season, as the Rockies will have shortstop Clint Barmes returning from injury next year. The move to second should help his defense, as many of Quintanilla's errors have come on throws from deep in the hole. He should be an effective top of the order hitter, as he sprays line-drives all over the outfield and has decent speed. Quintanilla will team with Garrett Atkins, Barmes and Todd Helton in what should be a talented Rockies infield in 2006.

9 - Jairo Garcia, RP, AA-Midland Rockhounds/AAA-Sacramento River Cats/Oakland A's

Before Street emerged late in 2004 as the A's top relief prospect, Jairo Garcia was the A's closer of the future. Garcia has yet to make the permanent jump to the major leagues, but he still is a very high quality relief prospect. The hard-throwing righty began the season in AA-Midland despite pitching in AAA and the major leagues to end the 2004 season. The A's sent him down to AA to work on his command and to build up his confidence and his stint with the Rockhounds accomplished both tasks. Garcia appeared in 16.2 innings for Midland and he struck out 30 while walking nine. He allowed only two earned runs over that span and was promoted to AAA on May 9.

Since arriving at AAA, Garcia has seen his ERA rise sharply, but he is still showing signs of being a very good pitcher. Garcia has struck out an incredible 57 batters in 34.2 innings and has walked 15. He has allowed more hits and homeruns then the A's would like (32 hits and 5 homeruns), but he has otherwise been stellar. Garcia was briefly called up to the A's in June and made one appearance, throwing a scoreless inning. He will almost certainly be a September call-up to help bolster the A's bullpen and he could be a factor down the stretch if he is pitching with good command.

10 - Richie Robnett, OF, A-Stockton Ports

Robnett, who was one of the A's first round draft choices last season, has had an up and down season for A-Stockton. His power numbers have been excellent (14 homeruns and 27 doubles in 87 games played), but he has struggled with strikeouts (110 in 353 at-bats). Some of his struggles could be blamed on a series of nagging leg injuries which have bothered him on and off for much of the season.

Robnett's defense has been similarly schizophrenic. He has made a number of spectacular plays in the field, but he has also committed seven errors. Robnett's leg injuries has limited his running ability this season, and he only has six stolen bases in ten chances. It is clear that Robnett has the tools to be a top-flight slugging outfielder, but he has some refinement to do on his game. Robnett turns 22 in mid-September, so he still has plenty of time to make improvements. As it is, he is still on track to start next season in AA and perhaps join the A's roster as soon as 2007.


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