Oakland A's Top Prospects: 40-36

It's that time of the year when we take stock of the Oakland A's organization and analyze the top prospects. For the next few weeks, every Monday and Wednesday will be "Top Prospect List Day", as we will release our top 50 list in groups of five. Today, in the third of the series, we announce prospects 40-36.

40. Scott Deal, RHP

Scott Deal was considered one of the Northwest's best prep pitching prospects in 2005, and despite a commitment to play for Washington State, the A's took him with the 21st pick in the 5th round. He signed quickly and went to the Arizona League to begin his pro career. There he put up a 1-2 record in nine games (seven starts), with 34 hits allowed, 19/12 K/BB and a 4.97 ERA in 25 1/3 innings.

Those numbers are not spectacular, but he still has a nice ceiling to work toward thanks to his 6'4, 190 lb. frame and 93 MPH fastball. He will need to refine his breaking stuff and gain consistency, but there is time for that considering he is still just 18 years-old. That gives him several years of lower minors development, during which his career path should become clear. Right now the best bet is that he will remain a starter if he can gain consistency from one appearance to the next. He will be in Rookie Ball somewhere next year, most likely Vancouver.

39. Jimmy Shull, RHP

This Cal Poly righty worked most of his college career with an 89-92 MPH fastball and a good slider. Near the end of his final season with the Mustangs he was lights out and began hitting 94 MPH consistently. The A's sent him to Vancouver after taking him in the 4th round of the 2005 draft. In 14 games (13 starts) he was dominant, posting an eye-opening 81/10 K/BB and 2.47 ERA in 73 IP while allowing 65 hits. The pessimist might say that as a 22 year-old in Rookie Ball he should be dominant, but nevertheless it is a fine start to his pro career.

Shull's fastball has good sink and induces a lot of groundballs, while his control is off the charts so far. At 6'2, 185, he has the size to be a durable starter throughout his career if he can continue to throw strikes at higher levels. He will be tested next year with the jump to A-ball, though it remains to be seen whether he will start the season in Kane County or Stockton. Based on his age and advanced mechanics it will probably be Stockton.

38. Brad Davis, LHP

Taken in the 14th round of the 2005 draft out of Lewis & Clark College in Idaho, Brad Davis is a lefty who works in the mid-to-high 80s with excellent breaking pitches. Reports on his velocity vary, with an average of 85-86 at his old school and 91-92 after he transferred to L&C. I usually would lean more toward the former, but I've actually seen him hit 88-90 MPH, so we'll go with that.

The reason I'm spending so much time on velocity is that Davis is, in essence, a soft-tossing lefty. He gets hitters out with advanced command and good breaking stuff. His velocity will determine how well he performs at higher levels. In that regard, he is very similar to A's farmhand Mario Ramos, who is the rule to which Jamie Moyer is the exception.

Currently, Davis is lights-out. His ERA at Vancouver was difficult to track down because it was an almost invisible 0.52 in 34 2/3 IP over 23 relief appearances. He struck out 44 against nine walks and surrendered 26 hits. He doesn't have anything left to prove in Rookie Ball, so he should open 2005 in Stockton's bullpen.

37. Chad Boyd, OF

A prep outfielder out of El Camino Real High School in West Hills, California, Chad Boyd was taken by the A's in the 9th round of the 2004 draft. The left-handed Boyd was not good in his first go-around as a professional, posting a near-terminal .595 OPS in 35 Arizona League games. He improved in 2005, playing 56 games in Vancouver and posting a .283/.350/.368 line with 15 doubles, one homer and 22 walks in 212 ABs. He has a bit of speed but hasn't translated it into success on the basepaths, as evidenced by his nine steals in 14 attempts.

At 5'10, 180 Boyd is not an impressive physical specimen. He is athletic for sure, but his size dictates a need for speed in the field and on the bases. He has it in the field, playing excellent defense in left with a strong arm and a tendency to risk his body to make a play. Think Eric Byrnes with better routes, a better arm, and a gait that doesn't include a toe dance. Boyd is a long way from the majors, and doesn't project as more than a fourth outfielder at best. He is a good candidate for Kane County next year.

36. Kevin Bunch, RHP

Big things are expected of Kevin Bunch. Maybe that is because Bunch is big. Only 18, he is 6'5, 215 with a good chance to get even bigger as he fills out. He didn't start pitching until late in his junior year, so the fact that he is already throwing 90 MPH with a free and easy release had scouts excited about him entering the 2005 draft. The A's took him in the 7th round and sent him to Arizona to make his pro debut. There he put together a solid campaign, posting a 2-0 record in five relief appearances, with a 2.70 ERA and 11/3 K/BB in ten innings.

I'm not sure what the A's plan is for Bunch, who has the physical frame to start but whose experience might make him more suited to a relief role. The fact that he was used sparingly tells me that he is getting a lot of instruction to help him refine his delivery, as well as his ability to repeat it. If he can add velocity as he matures he could turn into a Lee Smith-like relief prospect. Look for him in Vancouver next season.

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