Oakland A's Top Prospects: 20-16

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 seventh of the series, we announce prospects 20-16.

20 – Brian Stavisky, OF/1B/DH

Stavisky is the draftee from the "Moneyball" draft that many people forget, but he may optimize the philosophies of that draft more than anyone in the class. At 25, he's a little old and he isn't very athletic. However, the man can hit. After capturing the 2004 California League MVP award with a .343 batting average for Modesto, Stavisky followed up that campaign with a .316 batting average for Midland in 2005. He was arguably the Rockhounds' second-best hitter behind league MVP Andre Ethier and he finished among the top-five in the league in total bases, hits, RBI, doubles and walks.

Stavisky, in a lot of ways, is a big bodied version of Scott Hatteberg. He has an excellent approach at the plate (he's never had an OBP lower than .396 since turning pro) and he is able to make solid contact to all fields. He has good extra-base power, but he has only average homerun power at this point. Stavisky is not very athletic and he isn't a great fit at any position. He has played in the outfield and at first, but he is best suited to be a designated hitter. It is for that reason that Stavisky's stock isn't as high as it could be. Starting major league DH's generally hit with more power then Stavisky does. However, Stavisky is a professional hitter in the truest sense and I get the feeling that he will land on a major league roster at some point in the next two seasons as a bench player, at the very least.

19 – Jason Perry, OF

Perry's 2005 season was, in a lot of ways, a microcosm of his career since he joined the A's organization in 2003. Perry is one of the best power hitting prospects in the A's organization, but he has been plagued with bouts of inconsistency throughout his career. 2005 was no different. He went through a number of torrid hot streaks and ice cold runs that resulted in a season with mixed statistical results. On the plus side, Perry finished third in the league in homers with 22 and also drove in 77 runs. On the down side, Perry struck out a team-leading 126 times, which helped drag down his batting average to .257.

All things considered, Perry's 2005 season has to be qualified as a success after his 2004 performance at AA. The Georgia Tech graduate began the 2004 season at AA, but was sent back down to the California League when he could manage only a .198 BA in 28 games. He starred in the California League and then had a good showing in Arizona Fall League, so he was given another shot at AA in 2005. While his game still needs improvement (he needs to cut down on his strike outs), Perry definitely proved he could hit AA pitching in 2005. He'll probably get his chance at AAA in 2006 and at 25, he still has time to make an impact at the big league level. As one of the A's only power hitting prospects in the higher levels of the minor leagues, Perry will be closely watched next season.

18 – Brant Colamarino, 1B

Colamarino had a mixed season in 2005. He began the year neck and neck with Ethier for honors as the best hitter in the Texas League. He posted a 971 OPS and hit 10 homeruns in only 46 games for the Rockhounds before being promoted to AAA-Sacramento. He drove in 45 runs in that time. Colamarino showed good power at Sacramento, hitting 11 homers for the River Cats in 74 games, good for fifth on the team. However, his batting average dropped from .321 at AA to .243 and he had an ugly 76/19 K/BB ratio for the River Cats.

While Colamarino's AAA performance was disappointing, there is still good reason to think that he could master AAA pitching as soon as next season. In 2004, Colamarino was outstanding in High-A (1051 OPS in 50 games), but then struggled at AA (771 OPS in 77 games). He obviously was able to figure out AA pitching the second time around, so he could very well take off at AAA next season. He has good power and is an above-average fielder at first base. Although the A's seem set at first with Dan Johnson and Nick Swisher in the major leagues and Daric Barton close on their heels, Colamarino could still have a future with Oakland if any of those guys were traded. Otherwise, he could become a good trading chip if he performs well at AAA early in the 2006 season.

17 – Jared Lansford, SP

Lansford was the most familiar name amongst the Oakland A's 2005 draft class. The son of retired A's third baseman Carney Lansford, Lansford came to the A's with a green and gold pedigree and oodles of talent. Although he spent much of his time in high school as a position player, the A's chose to make him a full-time pitcher. He didn't disappoint. In seven games for the A's rookie team, Lansford posted a 1.27 ERA and he struck out 20 against only five walks. He didn't allow a homerun in his 21.1 innings of work. A number of scouts called Lansford the most mature high school pitcher in the Arizona Rookie League.

Lansford currently throws three pitches, a low-to-mid-90s fastball, an above-average breaking ball and a developing change-up. He is very young (he won't turn 20 until after the 2006 season), but the A's will not be shy about moving him up. He clearly has the maturity to compete with older players, and at 6'2'', 190, he is big enough to handle a lot of innings. I wouldn't be surprised to see Lansford begin the year at High-A Stockton and if he can show that he can handle the rigors of the hitter-friendly California League, he could be on a fast-track to the big leagues.

16 – Craig Italiano, SP

Italiano, like Lansford, was drafted directly out of high school this season. Before the draft, he was tabbed by Baseball America as having the best fastball of any of the potential high school draftees. He lived up to that reputation when he arrived at the Arizona Rookie League. The Texas native consistently lit up the radar gun at the upper 90s without breaking much of a sweat.

Much like current A's starter Rich Harden, Italiano has a deceptively easy throwing motion which makes his fastball look even faster. Italiano still has work to do on getting more movement and more consistent control of the pitch, but he has a good base to start with. Italiano also has an excellent curveball. Like with his fastball, Italiano struggled to control his curveball at times, but it was very hard for hitters to get a bead on when he threw it for strikes. Like most A's prospects, Italiano will likely be adding a change-up over the next season or so.

Italiano doesn't have as much composure as Lansford at this point in his career, but his 27 strikeouts in 18.2 innings tell you all you need to know about the quality of his stuff. He still has a tendency to overthrow when he gets in trouble, but, at 19, that is to be expected. He will likely start the 2006 season at low-A Kane County and he could make it up to High-A Stockton by the end of the year.


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