Oakland A's Top Prospects: 15-11

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 eighth of the series, we announce prospects 15-11.

15. Jason Windsor, RHP

Jason Windsor's experience at Midland in 2005 illustrates perfectly why the transition from Single-A to Double-A is the most difficult transition for prospects to make in the minors. Relying on pinpoint control and an 87-91 MPH fastball, Windsor performed well in ten starts at Stockton, posting a 3.58 ERA in 55 1/3 innings while allowing 52 hits. His K/BB was an incredible 64/8.

Midland proved to be a tougher nut to crack for him. In 11 starts, Windsor pitched 56 2/3 innings with a 5.72 ERA and 69 hits allowed. The hit rate was disappointing, as was an increased walk rate (23) and decreased strikeout rate (39). His decline in performance was probably exacerbated by fatigue, and the fact that he will start the 2006 season as a 23 year-old still gives him a chance to stay on track as a solid prospect if he can figure out Double-A. My feeling is that Windsor will wind up in the bullpen, where his limited stuff won't be exposed. There are plenty of pitchers who get by with an average fastball and excellent control. Working one to three innings per appearance will help him out in that respect.

14. Ryan Webb, RHP

The first early-round prep pitching experiment for the A's in many years, Webb has so far been a disappointment as a professional. His pro debut in the Arizona League wasn't bad thanks to a sterling 23/1 K/BB and solid 18/20 H/IP, but his 4.87 ERA wasn't anything special. He moved on to Single-A Kane County in 2005 and struggled most of the season, going 5-11 in 23 starts with a 4.76 ERA, while allowing 139 hits in 128 2/3 innings to go with an 84/41 K/BB. All are mediocre numbers at best.

With a big 6'6'' frame the A's hoped Webb would add velocity as he matured physically and refined his mechanics, but so far he is still working in the 86-88 MPH range that he was hitting when they drafted him. He will play the 2006 season at age 20, so he has another year or two to fill out and add that velocity, but he will also need to improve his control and find a consistent out pitch.

13. Landon Powell, C

Powell lost the entire 2005 season to a knee injury suffered during spring training. That means we only have 128 Rookie League ABs to evaluate him by, which, for a guy who will turn 24 before next season, isn't much. In those ABs, he posted a .250/.374/.383 line, with six doubles, one triple and three homers. Nothing to get excited about, so let's look at what we might see from a healthy Landon Powell.

A switch-hitting catcher, Powell is 6'3'', 230 pounds. He has a good eye at the plate and a swing that achieved good loft. Well, it did in college, at least. He could turn into an above-average starting catcher in the big leagues, but the lost season was nothing short of a disaster for him. He was already old for a prospect, and playing in Single-A at age 24 won't make it easy for the A's to gauge his talent level. He's going to have to rake right off the bat, get to Midland and continue hitting through the end of the season.

With the right breaks he could wind up in Triple-A by September should Sacramento make the playoffs. I will pay close attention to reports on his mobility, as a knee injury is the worst kind of injury possible for a catcher. If he winds up having to move to 1B, he'll have to RAKE rather than just rake to stay on track as an impact prospect.

12. Dallas Braden, LHP

Like Jason Windsor, Braden hit a wall when he reached Double-A in 2005. His struggles weren't as extreme as Windsor's, but then he was shut down due to a tired arm earlier, which might be the difference in their respective performances at Midland. Also like Windsor, Braden was lights-out at Stockton: 6-0 in seven starts, 2.68 ERA, 64/11 K/BB with 31 hits allowed in 43 2/3 IP. He went on to make 16 starts for Midland, posting a respectable 3.90 ERA, but sub-par peripherals with 104 hits allowed and a 71/32 K/BB in 97 IP.

Braden is a soft-tossing lefty whose signature pitch is a strong screwball. He didn't have to use it much at all last season, but it is still there if he needs to give hitters a different look. If he can maintain a fastball in the high-80s, he has a shot at sticking as a starter at the big league level. Even then it might be difficult, and my guess is that he will turn into an effective reliever at the very least.

11. Travis Buck, OF

Buck started his professional career at Vancouver, hitting .361/.439/.556 in 36 ABs over nine games. The A's promoted him to Kane County where he continued to hit. In 115 ABs over 30 games, Buck posted a .357/.444/.496 line that included 13 doubles and one homerun. He has a quick, line drive stroke that results in a lot of low lasers through the infield. He is also skilled at using the entire field, which is something the A's hope will remain as he tries to improve his power.

Yes, the knock on Buck is that, for a big guy (6'3'', 210), he hasn't shown an ability to hit the longball. Though his power hasn't resulted in a strong homerun total, his doubles figure is a good indication that the homers will come in time. He figures to start 2006 at Stockton, where he's going to need to adjust to a new level and improve his power numbers. He just turned 22, so it won't be a disaster if he has to repeat Single-A, but his 2006 production could indicate whether he is a blue chip prospect or something below that.

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