Prospect Mailbag: Talent Evaluation

In this week's mailbag, Todd Morgan answers questions about how two Stockton outfielders stack up; the ceiling of a minor league reliever; the progress of a top pitching prospect; and the future of a AAA infielder.

Who has more upside Richie Robnett or Travis Buck?
Jeff, Concord

Excellent question and very difficult to answer. You'll get a different opinion depending on who you talk to with the A's. In terms of raw talent, I'd go with Robnett. There is something special about the skill set he brings to the table – particularly his bat speed and the explosion that takes place when he connects. I wrote in an earlier column that "if he shows even slight improvement at Stockton – lower K rate, a few more walks and better reads and routes on fly balls – he'll be in Midland by mid-year, and possibly as early as June."

Based on his numbers so far (.250/.299/.306 with 5 walks and 17 strikeouts in 19 games) he is still a lot more raw than he is ready. It's early, but he's 22 and repeating High Class-A; the next jump, to AA, will be even tougher, so he'd better start taking pitches and making contact more consistently, post-haste.

Buck is two months younger than Robnett and enjoying a lot more success at Stockton (.270/.360/.524 with 10 walks and 14 strikeouts in 19 games). He may not have the physical upside that Robnett has, but he is oodles more polished. Yes, I am a grown man and I just used the word "oodles." I sat at a college game a few weeks ago and listened as two baseball ops guys from the A's gushed about Buck's bat, his makeup and the skill set he offers. They seemed to think getting him was a coup, and were much higher on him than they were on any other 2005 draft pick, including Cliff Pennington.

I'll go with Buck. He hasn't shown the power that his 6'2'', 205-pound frame might suggest, but there is little doubt that he will squeeze all the performance he can out of his body. As for Robnett, I'm crossing my fingers and hoping.

When does Marcus McBeth get the call to AA? What is his ceiling? He's been awesome this year!
Susan, Stockton

As of yesterday (April 26th), McBeth had given up zero runs, only one hit and two walks in 8.2 innings this season. He has seven saves and has rung up 14 batters via strikeout. That is filthy. He is 25 years-old and playing against hitters three or four years his junior. Physically that is a factor, because McBeth is well beyond the "filling out" stage and has had plenty of time to get comfortable with his adult body. Okay, I feel like I'm about to turn down Saucy Road to the land of erotica with all this "adult body" talk, so let's get back on track.

What separates McBeth from other players succeeding due to age-relative-to-league issues is that he has only been pitching as a professional for one full season. Last year command was the biggest concern (20 walks in 32 IP split between three different levels), but this year he seems to have taken the next step. Given that he is so new to pitching I think the A's will keep him in Stockton for another month or two at least. A second half in Midland seems plausible as long as he shows that his command is here to stay.

Ceiling? He could be in the show by age 27 or 28, which would mean his first six years would cover his physical prime. It isn't hard to imagine him as a Scot Shields-type short reliever. High K-rate, low hit rate with streaks of minor control problems. Shields played his first full season with the Angels at age 27. If McBeth continues on his current path, he could be incredibly valuable to the A's or another big league team.

Note: After this article was originally published, McBeth was promoted to AAA-Sacramento.

What are your expectations for Dan Meyer this year? He's looked okay in most of his starts so far. Do you think he'll get back to his Atlanta form?
Charlie, Oakland

I'd love to see Meyer show promise with each successive start, culminating in a September call-up. In his last start he threw five innings, giving up three runs on eight hits, with one walk to and two strikeouts. That is solid, but not spectacular, and the hit total is alarming. Still, the command is coming back and the hits he's giving up aren't of the booming variety the way they were last year. When your catcher takes the field in a flame retardant safety suit, you know you're having issues as a pitcher. Meyer's catchers are back to regular gear, so that's encouraging.

Do I think he'll get back to his Atlanta form? In terms of numbers, yes, but I've only seen a little bit of video from his Atlanta days, so physically I have nothing to compare his then and now. I'd be happy if he finishes the 2006 season allowing around a hit an inning, with a walks-per-nine rate around four and a Ks-per-nine rate between seven and eight. If he does that we'll know he's back on track and ready to help full-time in 2007.

I was wondering, what's the future look like for Mark Kiger? Is he ever going to make the A's roster?
Mark, Daytona Beach

In a perfect world Mark Kiger would get to play full-time in AAA this year and show teams that he can handle a major league utility role. Unfortunately, he is stuck behind Mike Rouse's bad haircut and Keith Ginter's big, ugly contract at shortstop and second base, respectively. Okay, Rouse's haircut isn't really bad, but I think I did see him on his worst hair day of the year down in Arizona.

I like Kiger's game. He hustles, which is always great to see, and he has the range to play both positions up the middle. He plays smart in all aspects of the game - takes walks, runs the bases well and makes all the routine plays on defense. If I were the A's, I'd give him time at third base and at the corner outfield positions to see how he adapts. At this point, it's pretty clear that he isn't going to be a regular in the bigs, so the more versatile he is, the better chance he'll have of sticking in the majors for a few years.

That being said, I doubt he'll make the A's roster. If he is going to find a spot on a 25-man roster, it will likely be somewhere other than Oakland. All he needs is an opportunity to showcase the skills he can offer and a bit of luck.

Have questions about Oakland A's prospects? Email them to Be sure to include your first name and city in the email.

Oakland Clubhouse Top Stories