In-Season Report: A's Top 25 Prospects (11-15)

Our pre-season 11-15 prospects are not experiencing near the level of success that the top ten prospects are. Injuries have had a lot to do with the struggles of some of these players. Here's a look at the 11-15 group, which consists of two catchers, a starting pitcher and an outfielder.

11 - John Baker, C, AAA-Sacramento River Cats

After a break-out season in 2004, Baker entered the season at the top of the A's minor league catching depth chart. Baker was seen as a good hitting catcher with above-average game-calling skills and average receiving ability. He also had the reputation of being one of the hardest workers in the A's system.

All that hard work couldn't prevent Baker from getting off to a nightmare of a start to his 2005 season. The Cal alum and Walnut Creek native hit roughly .150 for April and had no homeruns. This production was extremely uncharacteristic for a player who had a career .281 batting average and a .422 slugging percentage coming into this season. Baker's play has improved since that nightmarish April. He has seen his batting average rise nearly 100 points to .240 and he has hit four homers. However, his 683 OPS is still well below his normal levels.

Luckily for Baker, fellow 2002 draftee and Midland starting catcher Jeremy Brown has not lit the world on fire with his hitting this season either. And with Jason Kendall firmly ensconced as the A's starting catcher at least through next season, Oakland isn't looking for a starting catcher coming into next year. Instead, they will likely be looking for a back-up who will work with the pitchers well in the bullpen and play every other week or so. Baker will still be a strong candidate for that duty and could make his major league debut in September as a September call-up. If he can shake the effects of this disappointing season at the plate, Baker could still have a chance to a solid major league receiver.

12 - Brad Knox, SP, A-Stockton Ports

Knox finished the 2004 campaign as one of the A's top pitching prospects after dominating the Midwest League. However, his 2005 campaign got off to a slow start as he recovered from a back injury. Knox joined the Stockton Ports in mid-May and has been a part of their starting rotation ever since.

Although Knox's numbers are not as impressive as they were last year, he has still put together a decent season. Knox has gone 6-5 with a 4.13 ERA in 15 starts for Stockton. He has a good K:BB ratio (66:23), but it is nowhere near as good as his 174:24 ratio from 2004. And his WHIP is up from 1.06 to 1.21. Knox is old for the California League (23) and doesn't have over-powering stuff, but his ability to pound the strike zone and his excellent off-speed stuff still make him a possible back of the rotation candidate. Knox will probably finish this season in Stockton, but should get a crack at AA-Midland next year. With a fully healthy campaign in 2006, Knox could be in-line to debut in Oakland by 2007.

13 - Brian Snyder, 3B, No Team

Snyder has had arguably the most disappointing season of any of the players on our top-25 prospects, but it isn't because he has played badly – it's because he hasn't played at all. Snyder was one of the best hitters in the Midwest League last season and appeared to be headed toward a Mark Teahen-type 2005 season. While his path to Oakland was blocked by Eric Chavez, Snyder could have positioned himself as a top third base prospect for another team with a strong 2005 showing. Instead, Snyder was felled by injury in spring training and he hasn't gotten back into the regular line-up since. The A's are thin at third base within their organization, but Snyder will probably be behind Vasili Spanos as the A's number two third base prospect at the start of next season.

14 - Danny Putnam, OF, A-Stockton Ports

When Putnam was drafted, a number of scouts tabbed him as the most "professional-ready" member of the A's 2004 draft class. Putnam's performance in 2005 has done nothing to negate that opinion. The Stanford alum has been the steadiest Ports hitter this season. He was the only Port to be named to the Cal League All-Star team and he has kept his batting average above .300 for most of the season.

Putnam is a patient, line-drive hitter with decent power. He doesn't have much foot-speed and is only an average corner outfielder, but he makes up for those deficiencies with his hitting work. Putnam has a good 60:75 BB:K ratio and a solid 866 OPS. His 77 RBIs are tops on the team. Putnam still doesn't hit for as much power as the A's hope he will later in his career, but he has all of the makings of being a solid major league hitter. Right now, he projects to be a Scott Hatteberg-type hitter, but he could have a career similar to Brian Giles if he adds some homerun power.

15 - Kurt Suzuki, C, A-Stockton Ports

Suzuki was one of two highly regarded catchers that the A's selected in the 2004 draft. After fellow 2004 draftee Landon Powell was sidelined for the season with an ACL tear, Suzuki became the A's brightest young catching prospect. He opened a lot of eyes in major league spring training with his flashy throws to nail runners at second and his production at the plate. He was sent to A-Stockton to start the season and, at age 21, he was one of the youngest members of the Ports.

Considering his young age, Suzuki has comported himself well this season. He has a .271/.388/.428 line so far this season. He has been streaky at the plate, but that is to be expected for a hitter as young as Suzuki. He has shown a veteran's understanding of the strike zone, walking more times than he has struck out (58:53) and has even stolen four bases. Suzuki has struggled a bit defensively, but he has still shown himself to be a fierce competitor and he should improve his defense as gets older.

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