In-Season Report: A's Top 25 Prospects (20-25)

In the last article of our series, we look at the progress of the final five players on our pre-season top-25 prospect list. In this group, we find a pair of Midland outfielders, an advanced middle infield prospect, a promising young pitcher and a young five-tool talent.

21 - Andre Ethier , OF, AA-Midland Rockhounds

Ethier was on his way to a stellar 2004 season when he went down with a season-ending back injury. He spent the off-season rehabbing and arrived in spring training in good health. The line-drive hitting outfielder got off to a red-hot start for the Rockhounds and hasn't looked back since.

For the first two months of the season, Ethier was in the top two in almost all of the Texas League's offensive categories. He has slipped a little since that time, but Ethier is still one of the Texas League's best hitters. Through Sunday, Ethier was hitting .323/.387/.515 with 18 homeruns and 76 runs batted in. He was also named the All-Star Game Most Valuable Player and he won the Game's Home Run Derby.

Like Kevin Melillo, Ethier has parlayed his strong season into a move up the A's minor league depth chart. He will enter the 2006 season as one of the A's top outfield prospects and could have an outside chance to compete for a roster spot in Oakland next spring. He is more likely to start in Sacramento then Oakland, but an appearance in the major leagues during the 2006 season is a possibility.

Ethier is a line-drive hitter who isn't afraid to go the other way. He has decent power and could develop more homerun power if he learns to pull the ball more. Ethier isn't fast, but he has good outfield instincts and a strong throwing arm. He has played centerfield in the past, but he is more likely to end up a corner outfielder. Ethier projects to be a Shannon Stewart-type hitter with less speed.

22 - Mike Rouse, 2B/SS, AAA-Sacramento

Since his acquisition from the Toronto Blue Jays' organization, Rouse has had the misfortune of falling behind Bobby Crosby and Mark Ellis on the A's depth chart. He had a chance at the end of spring training last season to latch onto a major league roster spot when injuries struck Ellis and Frank Menechino, but Rouse's own injuries derailed that chance. Since then, he has been treading water at AAA-Sacramento.

Rouse has had a decent, but not spectacular season at Sacramento. He sports a .271/.361/.397 line. Those numbers are mostly in-line with past performances, although his power numbers are down this year. Rouse is a smooth athlete and he can play both second base and shortstop. He has always been an above-average hitter for a middle infielder and he has decent speed.

Rouse is certainly capable of being a back-up player on many major league rosters right now. However, with Ellis, Marco Scutaro and Keith Ginter ahead of him at second and Crosby ensconced at short, Rouse's future may not be with Oakland. The A's may keep him one more year for depth, but they may also deal him in the off-season to a team looking for young depth in their infield.

23 - Jason Perry, OF, AA-Midland Rockhounds

Perry entered the 2005 season as somewhat of an enigma. He began the 2004 campaign in Midland, but struggled badly and was sent back to the California League. Once he arrived in A-Modesto, however, Perry was arguably the best hitter in the league. After a decent showing in the Arizona Fall League last October, the A's decided that the Modesto version of Perry was the more accurate projection of Perry's talent. The A's added Perry to the 40-man roster and he has rewarded their faith with a nice season in Midland.

With 21 homeruns, Perry is second in the Texas League and first on the Rockhounds in homeruns. He has also driven in 71 runs. Perry has struggled with strikeouts (102 in 372 at-bats), but his raw power is intriguing, as the A's don't have very many high level power prospects. His strikeouts may prevent him from being an everyday player at the major league level, but he could be a good power-hitting fourth outfielder/part-time DH on an American League club.

24 - Ryan Webb, SP, A-Kane County

Webb was a high-round high school draft pick in 2004 and, at the time, was the highest high school pitcher drafted by the A's since Jeremy Bonderman was taken in the first round in 2001. Webb isn't a fireballer, but he has good control and a solid approach to pitching. Despite being only 19, Webb has held his own against older competition in the Midwest League.

Webb has been in the starting rotation for the entire season (barring one early relief appearance) and has made 20 starts. He has given up a lot of hits (123 in 114 innings), but he has only walked 34 batters while striking out 74. Webb has struggled with consistency at times, but that is to be expected for a pitcher as young as he is.

Webb probably won't be rushed through the A's system. He stated in an interview with OaklandClubhouse in June that he was looking to move one level a season and he seems on track to make the jump to the California League next year. Whether he develops into a starter or a reliever long-term will depend on the development of his secondary pitches. For now, Webb will stay in the starting rotation and will be watched carefully as he moves through the system, as the A's don't have a lot of starting pitching depth in the minor leagues.

25 - Alexi Ogando, OF, Dominican Summer League

Ogando burst on the scene as a 20-year-old in 2003 as a member of the A's Arizona Rookie League team. After posting a 911 OPS in 2003, many were expecting big things from Ogando in 2004. He didn't have a strong follow-up campaign, however, as he struggled during a short stay at Vancouver and then posted mediocre numbers in the Rookie League.

Despite Ogando's immense talents, the A's decided that he needed more seasoning back in the Dominican Summer League. Ogando struggled with his understanding of the strike zone state-side, but he has improved his patience tremendously in the Dominican. Thus far this season, Ogando is hitting only .237, but he has a .382 on-base percentage. He has a 1:1 walk to strike out ratio and has flashed his speed and power. Ogando has a team-leading six homeruns and has swiped 17 bases in only 53 games.

Ogando has arguably the most raw talent of any player in the A's organization, but he'll need to prove that that talent can translate to production next season. He will be 23 at the start of next season and he'll probably get a chance to ply his wares either at A-Kane County or A-Stockton. If he can translate his talents to production on the field, Ogando could soar up the prospect charts next year.

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