Mid-Season Review: Prospects 21-30

In the third of our continuing series, we take a look at the mid-season results for our pre-season top-50 prospects in the Oakland A's system. In this article, we take a look at prospects 21-30, which is a very pitching-heavy list.

21. Vince Mazzaro:
Of the three high school pitchers taken in a row by the A's in rounds two and three of the 2005 draft (Jared Lansford and Craig Italiano were the other two), Mazzaro was the biggest mystery coming into the 2006 season because he didn't see any action in Rookie League ball, as he signed too late in the 2005 season to participate. He had a strong showing at the A's Fall Instructional League, which led to him skipping short-season ball all together. He began the year in low-A Kane County and has made all 18 of his starts on-turn thus far this season. Mazzaro has had an up-and-down season. He has put together strings of solid starts, only to follow them with one or two terrible outings. Inconsistencies are to be expected with 19-year-old pitchers, however, so his struggles are not a cause for great alarm yet. The fact that he is the only one of the high school trio not to miss a start this season is impressive in and of itself.

22. Shane Komine:
Komine came into the season on a wave of momentum. After missing the last half of the 2004 campaign and the first half of the 2005 season recovering from Tommy John surgery, Komine put together a solid last part of the 2005 campaign with A-Stockton and AA-Midland. He then followed that up with an outstanding showing at the Arizona Fall League. Komine got off to a solid start to the 2006 season, but he struggled badly in the month of May. He began to turn it around in June and has pitched great in his last three starts, flashing his low-90s fastball and power curveball. Komine has a decent K:BB ratio this season (83:29) and has remained healthy, a big accomplishment for a pitcher who has struggled with injuries during his career. Although he isn't blowing away the competition at AAA yet this season, Komine looks poised for a strong second half and should still be in-line to compete for a long reliever role in the Oakland bullpen next season.

23. Alexi Ogando:
Ogando was like the Sidd Finch of the A's system for the last few seasons. Few had seen the five-tool outfielder play and those who had couldn't contain themselves when talking about his talent. Unfortunately, Ogando hasn't played in the US since 2004 and the A's left him exposed in the Minor League Rule 5 draft this off-season as a result. The Texas Rangers scooped him up in the draft. However, whatever visa problems that plagued Ogando in 2005 with Oakland appear to have continued with Texas. Ogando is playing for the Rangers Dominican Summer League affiliate right now, and, surprisingly, has been converted to a pitcher. It isn't clear when, if ever, he will be allowed to compete back in the US. He still won't turn 23 until October.

24. Jeremy Brown:
Brown got off to a red-hot start in AAA this season. In his first month of his career at that level, Brown hit .357 with three homers in 56 at-bats. He was hitting .333 for the River Cats on May 7 when he was recalled to Oakland to serve as the A's back-up catcher while Jason Kendall was suspended. He remained in the big leagues for the next nine days and saw nary an at-bat nor an inning behind the plate. That inactivity seemed to have a dramatic effect on Brown, who saw his average drop from .333 to .290 by the end of May. He hit only .188 in June and is now batting only .247 on the season with six homeruns. Brown was recalled to Oakland again briefly in early June, but again failed to be given an at-bat. He has now begun to lose playing time at AAA to John Baker, who was named to the PCL All-Star team this week. Never a strong defensive catcher, Brown will need to get his bat back on-track by the end of the year or he could be in-danger of losing his 40-man roster spot in the off-season.

25. John Rheinecker:
The A's waited for three years for Rheinecker to be ready for the big leagues. The big left-hander was one of the A's top pitching prospects from 2002 through last season, and seemed on the verge of a big league promotion in 2005 when he began the year 4-0 with a 1.77 ERA for Sacramento. However, he was shelved for the rest of the season with a finger injury and despite a good spring training with the A's this year, the Oakland front office gave up on their once prized pitching prospect and sent him to the Texas Rangers in the Juan Dominguez/Freddie Bynum trade. Rheinecker got off to a solid start for the Rangers' AAA affiliate and then was recalled to the big leagues on April 22 for one start. He was brought back on May 29 and pitched exceptionally well in that start, and has remained in the Rangers' rotation ever since. Although he hasn't put up great peripheral numbers (he is allowing a .329 BAA and has struck out only 21 in 52.1 innings), Rheinecker has still managed to post a 4-3 record with a 3.96 ERA and he is a big reason why the Rangers have survived the first half without the services of Adam Eaton. He could have a future as a lefty-specialist in the big leagues long-term, as he is holding lefties to a .163 BAA this season, something he didn't do all that well for the A's in the minor leagues.

26. Brad Knox:
Knox, like Komine and Mazzaro, has had an up-and-down season to date. He had a very rough start to the season, posting an 8.84 ERA in the month of April. At one point, he was skipped in the rotation and made a relief appearance to get his mechanics back on track. Knox pitched better in May (3.60 ERA), but then reverted in June (5.47 ERA). He has had three very solid starts in a row, however, in which he has allowed only five runs in 22 innings. Coming into last season, the A's were concerned that Knox would never pitch a full season again because of an extremely sore back. However, Knox didn't miss a start for the Stockton Ports after joining them mid-season last year and he has already thrown 94 innings for the Rockhounds this season. Knox isn't striking out people at a high rate like he did when he starred for the Kane County Cougars in 2004, but he – like Komine – looks poised for a solid second half of the season (he has four quality starts in his last five outings) and he could improve his prospect status dramatically with a strong showing the rest of the way.

27. Shawn Kohn:
After dominating AA out of the bullpen last season, Kohn began the 2006 campaign back in Midland, where he once again embarrassed Texas League hitters by striking out 20 and walking only two in 15.1 innings pitched. He was promoted to AAA-Sacramento on May 9, where he has put together a solid season for the River Cats. He was roughed up in his first outing with Sacramento (five runs in two innings) and in his most recent outing (two runs in 0.1 innings), but has otherwise allowed only six runs in 29 innings for the River Cats. He has maintained his excellent strikeout totals, whiffing 29 in 31.1 AAA innings. However, his walks have increased a bit (10 in AAA). Kohn can only reach the low-80s with his fastball, but he uses a very deceptive delivery to keep hitters off-balance. He could be in the picture for the A's this season as a September call-up or as someone to compete for a spot in the bullpen next spring.

28. Michael Rogers:
Rogers, a high draft choice in 2004, got off to a horrific start to his season, allowing 12 runs in his first 9 innings of work. However, he got on a roll in late April and, at one point, won six straight decisions for the Stockton Ports. However, he struggled badly from mid-June until his last start for the Ports on July 9, when he allowed only two runs in seven innings. Rogers has struck out 85 in 94.2 innings this season, but he has allowed 16 homeruns, way too many, even in the hitter-friendly California League. He'll need to cut-down on the homeruns big-time before he can be promoted to AA.

29. Steven Bondurant:
Bondurant was expected to make the transition from the starting rotation to a lefty-specialist in the bullpen for AAA-Sacramento this season, but was derailed by off-season shoulder surgery. The South Carolina alum has been rehabbing the injury all season and he finally made his season debut this past week for the A's Rookie League squad. He didn't allow a run in two innings of work. Bondurant will need to throw a few more games before he can get that chance at AAA that he was expecting at the start of the year.

30. Vasili Spanos:
Spanos is in the midst of an outstanding season for the AA-Midland Rockhounds after struggling in his initial AA experience last season. Spanos was named to the Texas League All-Star team this season and finished second in the game's MVP voting. The corner infielder is hitting .309 on the year with eight homers and 50 RBI in 304 at-bats. He has shown good patience at the plate and has seen time both at third and at first and as the team's designated hitter. Spanos is probably ready for a shot at AAA and promoting him a level would help the A's alleviate a long-jam at third base in the lower levels, where Jeff Baisley and Brian Snyder should each be playing a level higher than they currently are (another third baseman in the long-jam, Myron Leslie, has been seeing some time in right-field, which could be his position long-term). Spanos is very much a Kevin Millar-type of player who could be very valuable in a part-time role in the big leagues (ala Millar or Olmedo Saenz). The second-half of the season could be huge for Spanos, especially if he finally gets a chance to play at AAA.


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