Mid-Season Review: Top 10 Prospects

During the off-season, we named our top-50 prospects in the Oakland A's system. As we hit the midway point of the season, we thought it would be a good time to check the progress of those players. In the first in our series, we take a look at the progress of prospects 1-10 from our off-season list.

1. Daric Barton:
Barton began the season as one of the youngest position players in the Pacific Coast League. He started off the year red-hot for the Sacramento River Cats, batting .329 with two homers and 11 RBI in 77 at-bats during the month of April, his first month of AAA baseball. However, Barton slipped into a big slump in the month of May, hitting .171 in 70 at-bats, and was never able to work his way out of it, as a collision with Tony Womack knocked him on the disabled list on May 23 with a broken elbow. He was expected to miss six to eight weeks when the injury occurred, so he should be on the field again in a few weeks. Despite his slump in May, Barton was still drawing walks at a high rate and limiting his strikeouts, both good signs for his future development as a hitter. If Barton swings the bat well upon his return, he could still receive a call-up to Oakland in September.

2. Javier Herrera:
Herrera's season was over before it began, as the five-tool prospect went down with a torn elbow ligament after an impressive stint in major league camp this spring. Herrera underwent Tommy John surgery and should be ready to play at the start of next season. The injury is a significant set-back for Herrera, however, who will now enter next season as a 22 year-old who has never had any significant playing time above Low-A ball. Herrera showed that he could play well against advanced competition this winter when he put together a solid Winter League campaign in his native Venezuela. Despite never playing in High-A, Herrera could start next season in AA if the A's feel that he is ready for the challenge.

3. Andre Ethier:
Ethier has been spectacular during his first go-around in major league baseball, hitting .344 with five homers and 28 RBI in his first 151 major league at-bats. He is a sleeper candidate for the Rookie of the Year award if he gets enough at-bats this season. Unfortunately for the A's, Ethier is making his splash with the Los Angeles Dodgers. Oakland dealt the talented left-fielder during the off-season for Milton Bradley and Antonio Perez. Thus far, the Dodgers have come out way ahead on that deal and Ethier is fulfilling all of the promise he showed last season when he won the Texas League MVP award while playing with the Midland Rockhounds.

4. Dan Meyer:
Coming off of an injury-plagued 2005 season, Meyer came into 2006 looking to prove that he was healthy and still the same pitcher who wowed everyone when he was in the Atlanta Braves organization. His season got off to a great start, as he threw well in spring training and had a stretch of 28 innings in April and early May where he allowed only eight runs. However, the soreness in his left shoulder returned in mid-May and he quickly lost his effectiveness. The A's shut Meyer down on May 29 and it now appears that his season is over and he will be spending another long off-season rehabbing his shoulder. Meyer will turn 26 during the season next year, so 2007 may be his last chance to stick with the A's.

5. Kurt Suzuki:
While the A's top three prospects have had significant injury set-backs in 2006, Suzuki has been playing up to or exceeding expectations at AA-Midland thus far this season. The catcher is hitting .307 with six homers and 44 RBI in 73 games thus far this season. He has walked more than he has struck out (44 walks to 37 strikeouts) and he has 20 doubles. Suzuki has also improved his footwork and throwing behind the plate and looks right on-track for a 2008 debut in the big leagues. He was recently named as one of the A's two representatives in the annual Futures Game.

6. Santiago Casilla:
We put Casilla (nee Jairo Garcia) on this list at number six when we thought he was only 22 years old. As it turns out Casilla/Garcia is really 25. He has made two major league appearances this season, allowing three runs in 2.1 innings of work. In AAA, Casilla has put together a fine season, posting a 3.27 ERA in 33 innings for Sacramento. He has improved his control, walking only 10 in 33 innings, while maintaining his excellent K/9 ratio. However, Casilla is currently on the DL with shoulder tendonitis and even before his stint on the DL, it was becoming clear that he had been passed by other relievers in AAA on the A's depth chart. If Casilla can get healthy before the trading deadline, he could still be a commodity in a trade with a team needing bullpen help. However, it doesn't appear that the A's are going to give him a chance to stick at the big league level in Oakland any time soon.

7. Richie Robnett:
The A's surprised a number of people at the start of the year by having Robnett repeat at High-A Stockton after the slugging outfielder broke the 20-homer mark for the Ports in 2005. The A's wanted Robnett to continue to work with the Stockton coaching staff on his approach at the plate and his defense in centerfield. Both areas of his game appear to be improved this season and that improvement has already earned him a promotion to AA-Midland. In 69 games with Stockton this season, Robnett had a team-leading 11 homers and he drove in 38 runs. He struggled badly at home, hitting only .219 with 45 strikeouts and only 15 walks at Banner Island Ballpark. However, he was terrific on the road, batting .315 with 20 walks and 35 strikeouts. Robnett had a brief one-week stint for AAA-Sacramento when they were short on outfielders and then joined AA-Midland last week. He was off to a good start with Midland (5-13 with four walks) before he was shelved with a mild hamstring strain. He should see plenty of playing time for the Rockhounds once he is healthy. Robnett won't turn 24 until September 2007, so he still has some time to develop as a hitter.

8. Kevin Melillo:
After leading the A's minor leaguers in homeruns last season and moving up three levels, a lot was expected of Melillo in 2006. Despite having off-season knee surgery, Melillo got off to a good start average-wise in April (.319), but didn't hit his first homerun until May. He has picked up the power pace since then, hitting seven homeruns over the last two months. Melillo slumped in May to the tune of a .219 batting average, but he had a solid June, hitting .269 with 12 extra-base hits in 93 at-bats. Melillo didn't really heat up at the plate until July last season either, so he could be in-line for a big second half of the year. He has improved his defense at second notably and is leading the Texas League in fielding percentage at second base.

9. Danny Putnam:
Putnam had an outstanding 2005 campaign and a strong performance at major league camp this spring, so a lot was expected of the former Stanford outfielder in 2006, as well. Unfortunately, Putnam got off to a slow start and never had the chance to work out of it, as a knee injury sidelined him on May 22 and he hasn't been on the field since. Putnam is rehabbing the injury, although he is not expected back on the field anytime soon. He was hitting .217 with two homers and 22 RBI in 43 games before getting hurt.

10. Cliff Pennington:
Like Putnam, Pennington came into the 2006 season with high expectations surrounding him thanks to a strong 2005 season and a good showing at major league camp. However, he got off to a horrific start, batting only .103 in April. He heated up a little in May, hitting .231. Pennington hit .340 in June, but only got 43 at-bats thanks to a troublesome hamstring injury that seemed to sideline him every time he got hot. Pennington is on the DL now, although he should be back by mid-July, if all goes well with his rehab. The A's are still high on their top pick from the 2005 draft and they will be looking for him to get healthy in the second half and to carryover his success in June for the rest of the season.

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