Oakland A's MLN: Preseason Of Our Discontent

2006 was supposed to be a year of healing. After a 2005 campaign that saw the Oakland A's system ravaged by injuries and poor performances from top prospects, we were looking forward to a 2006 season of better health and greater success for the A's top prospects. It hasn't worked out that way so far for a number of the A's prospects. We detail some of the biggest set-backs inside...

Steven Bondurant: Bondurant was one of the Midland Rockhounds' top starters in 2005 and was one of the aces of the Kane County Cougars in 2004. Although he had been inconsistent since arriving at AA, Bondurant was still one of the A's top minor league lefties. The A's had planned to move Bondurant to the AAA bullpen and make him a lefty specialist this season. Those plans will be on hold, at least for the start of the season, as he recovers from off-season shoulder surgery.

Dallas Braden: Braden was the A's Organizational Pitcher of the Year in 2005 after winning 15 games split between high-A Stockton and AA-Midland. Braden ended his season prematurely with what was then proclaimed to be a tired arm. Unfortunately, that tired arm turned out to be a damaged left shoulder, which had to be operated on this off-season. He is expected to miss all or most of the season. With Bondurant and Braden on the shelf, the A's are extremely thin in the minor leagues on left-handed pitching.

Jairo Garcia: Before announcing that he was Santiago Casilla and that he was nearly three years older than previously thought, Garcia was one of the top relief prospects in baseball. Although Casilla/Garcia still has a chance to have a long career as a major league reliever, his value as a prospect dimmed with these revelations.

Hiram Bocachica: Although the 30-year old Bocachica is no longer considered a prospect, he was still expected to give the A's some extra depth at AAA. Bocachica, who broke his wrist last spring, experienced another set-back with that same wrist at the beginning of camp and he had surgery that will keep him out of action for at least six weeks.

Raul Casanova: Like Bocachica, the long-time major league and minor league veteran is not a prospect. However, he was signed to give the A's depth in AAA at the catching position and he has yet to play because of lower back problems.

Alexi Ogando: Ogando was not allowed to play in the US last year and he may not be allowed to play here this season, either. Still, the outfielder was one of the most talented players in the A's system and it was a shame that the A's lost him in the minor league portion of the Rule 5 draft to the Texas Rangers. Although he may never fully realize his potential, even on the off-chance that he did realize it, it was worth it for the A's to have him in the system.

Justin Smoak: The A's drafted Smoak in the 16th round of the 2005 draft and tried to convince the talented first-baseman to sign with the A's rather than attending South Carolina. The A's reportedly missed out on signing Smoak by only $50,000-100,000.

Javier Herrera: Of course, the worst news to date involves Herrera, who will reportedly undergo Tommy John surgery and will miss the season. Herrera is the A's second best prospect and he was expected to play at high-A Stockton with a chance to move to AA-Midland mid-season. Herrera will not turn 22 until April 2007, so he'll still have plenty of time to develop even with the missed season. However, the A's won't be able to count on him knocking on the big league door until 2008, at the earliest. Herrera has had a rough go in the minors. He missed a lot of time in 2003 after ramming into an outfield fence in the Arizona Rookie League. Then last season, Herrera missed time at the beginning of the season due to a steroid suspension and then missed time at the end of the year with a wrist injury.

Minor Hurts: Jeff Baisley and Travis Buck are battling minor injuries. Baisley is suffering from lower back pain and Buck strained his oblique muscle. Both injuries are considered short-term at this point.

On the Bright-Side: It isn't all doom and gloom on the injury front. 2002 first round pick Ben Fritz is back from Tommy John surgery and is throwing well. Dan Meyer appears to have recovered from his shoulder problems from last season, although the A's have moved slowly with him thus far this spring.

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