Oakland A's Top Prospects: 30-26

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 fifth of the series, we announce prospects 30-26.

30 – Vasili Spanos, 3B/1B

It was a tale of two seasons for Vasili Spanos. The Indiana alum began the season red-hot for the High-A Stockton Ports and that earned him a promotion to AA-Midland. Spanos continued to hit well at Midland at first, but then hit a wall. After a two-month struggle with the Rockhounds, he returned to Stockton. For the Ports, Spanos hit .310 with a .509 SLG and a .429 OBP. For the Rockhounds, Spanos managed only a .235 BA with a .396 SLG and a .322 OBP. His plate discipline disappeared at AA and he had trouble driving the ball.

So where does this season leave Spanos? It is a little unclear. On the one hand, he has posted two 900+ OPS seasons in A-ball with a 924 for the Kane County Cougars in 2004 and a 938 OPS for Stockton this season. So it is clear that Spanos has the ability to hit. However, it is troubling that he wasn't able to produce at AA, especially since he is already 24-years-old. The jump from A to AA may be the most difficult jump in the minor leagues, so it isn't that surprising that Spanos hit a bump in the road. He'll get another chance at AA next season, most likely, and if he can open the season strong, he could be in AAA by the end of the year.

Spanos is a big, somewhat clumsy looking corner infielder. However, despite his size and awkwardness, Spanos is actually an above-average fielding third baseman and a good first baseman. He has excellent instincts and soft hands. His arm is only average, but he is accurate with his throws. Spanos makes a number of surprisingly difficult plays at third. He could be a valuable major league bench player and right-handed pinch-hitter if he continues to progress as a hitter. Spanos was a fan-favorite at Stockton this season and he has the kind of "grinder" personality that fans and teammates love. Kane County GM Jeff Sedivy compared Spanos to Kevin Millar and Spanos has a lot of Millar's positive qualities.

29 – Steve Bondurant, SP

Steve Bondurant had an up and down season for the AA-Midland Rockhounds in 2005. He pitched well out of the gate but struggled in the middle of the season, especially with his control. He finished strong, however, and ended up leading the team with 12 wins. The soft-throwing lefty used his outstanding change-up to strike out 128 batters in 165 innings. However, his trademark control, which allowed him to post an eye-popping 0.95 WHIP for A-Kane County in 2004, betrayed him in 2005. His walks per nine innings jumped from 1.93 at Kane County to 3.22 with Midland. He allowed a lot of basehits (171) and too many homeruns (20). At times, however, he looked unhittable.

Bondurant is a typical soft-tossing lefty. He relies on his ability to change speeds and place his pitches in the right location. His fastball sits in the mid-80s, so if he leaves it out over the plate, it will get hit. Bondurant is an intelligent pitcher who is far more likely to get beat because of a lack of execution then a lack of smart pitch selection. At a high-end projection, Bondurant could have a career similar to that of former A's starter Mark Redman. However, Bondurant is much more likely to top out as a middle reliever or lefty specialist in the bullpen.

28 – Michael Rogers, SP

The Oakland A's are still waiting to see the Michael Rogers they thought they were drafting when they made him a second round selection in 2004. Although Rogers has had some flashes of brilliance, he has been otherwise disappointing. He struggled after signing in 2004, although the A's publicly chalked up his struggles to fatigue after a long collegiate season. However, even after a winter of rest, Rogers was unable to equal his NC State pitching form.

Rogers spent the 2005 season with Kane County. He did strike out 7.26 batters per nine innings, but the rest of his stats were not impressive. He struggled with his control (3.33 walks per nine innings) and allowed 9.61 hits per nine innings. The A's will be patient with Rogers, as they invested a high pick and $700,000 on him. Expect him to start the 2006 season in A-Stockton.

27 – Shawn Kohn, RP

In a lot of ways, Shawn Kohn is Chad Bradford part two. Like Bradford, Kohn uses a deceptive delivery to keep hitters off-balance. Although his delivery isn't as dramatic as Bradford's, it is still very unusual and very effective. Despite having a fastball that sits only in the low-80s, Kohn dominated AA hitters throughout the 2005 season. He threw 84 innings out of the bullpen and struck out 92 while walking only 20. His ERA was 2.84 and his WHIP sat at an even 1.00.

Kohn was rewarded for his outstanding performance with a trip to the Arizona Fall League, where his talents were put on display in front of scouts from every organization. Thus far, Kohn hasn't found the same success in the AFL that he had in the Texas League. In 11 outings, he has allowed 13 runs in 14 innings pitched. He has also allowed four homeruns. However, he has struck out ten batters and has walked only one. Kohn is a difficult pitcher to project because his delivery is so unusual. If he can continue to fool hitters with his throwing motion, he could have a career similar to that of Bradford (although he isn't as extreme of a groundball pitcher). AAA will be a good test for his delivery next season.

26 – Brad Knox, SP

After a break-out 2004 season with Kane County, Brad Knox's 2005 season got off to a rough start when he began the season on the DL with a back injury. The A's had some thoughts of starting Knox in AA, but elected to start him in high-A Stockton. He didn't join the Ports until May 17, but he still managed to throw 111 innings. Although Knox's numbers didn't look as good in 2005 as they did in 2004, he did pitch reasonably well considering the small ballparks in the California League.

Knox's walks per nine innings increased and his strike outs fell, but both ratios were still strong. His 1.28 WHIP was still very respectable. Homeruns were Knox's undoing at Stockton, but that could improve as the ballparks become major league-sized. Knox, who despite being drafted in 2002, is still only 23-years-old. He has good command of four pitches – a low-90s/high-80s fastball, a slider, a change-up and a curveball. He has a solid, innings-eater frame, standing at 6'3'', 210. Although Knox's star has dimmed a bit after a somewhat disappointing follow-up to his 2004 campaign, he is still one of the A's best starting pitching prospects.

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