Oakland A's Top-50 Prospects: 40-36

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, we continue the series with a review of prospects 40-36.

40. Tom Everidge, 1B

Everidge is one of those players who probably doesn't get the credit he deserves for being a solid run producer. The Sonoma State alum established career-highs in homeruns (20) and runs batted-in (83) while playing 133 games for the Stockton Ports this season. His batting average dipped down to .252 and he struck-out 116 times against only 44 walks. However, Everidge had an outstanding month of August, hitting .283 with five homeruns and driving-in 20, something he could build on next season.

Everidge should get a chance to move-up to AA next season, as the A's don't have any first basemen at low-A who will jump over him in the system and Midland's 2006 first baseman, Brant Colamarino, should move up to AAA next year. He will need to improve his strike zone judgment and his footwork around first base. However, he has a lot of power in his bat, something that the A's lack throughout their system. He is solidly built and when he connects with the ball correctly, it flies out to left-center. He is a hard worker and has shown the ability to make adjustments when pitchers find a hole in his swing. Every poor month he had in 2006 was followed by a good one. Next year will probably be a make-or-break season for Everidge. He could dramatically improve his status as a prospect with a strong showing against AA pitching.

39. Christian Vitters, SS

Vitters was the WAC Player of the Year in 2006 after an outstanding season for Fresno State. However, his season was ended early when an errant pitch broke his thumb late in the collegiate season. He appeared in only 12 games for short-season Vancouver, collecting only 11 hits in 45 at-bats. Vitters is a big bodied shortstop, similar to Bobby Crosby at 6'1'', 215. He has a lot of power and a strong throwing arm and he displayed good plate discipline in college. Vitters is athletic and wiry and he could develop plus-power as he develops as a player.

Because of the broken thumb, Vitters didn't get much of an opportunity to show what he can do at the professional level in 2006. He played some third base in college in addition to shortstop and he spent time in leftfield for the Canadians in addition to shortstop, so it remains to be seen what position he will play next season. If Vitters is moved to the outfield or to third, he could jump to high-A Stockton based on his collegiate experience. However, if he remains at shortstop, he may start the year at low-A Kane County, as 2006 Cougars shortstop Justin Sellers is likely to start the 2007 season at high-A Stockton. The A's considered themselves lucky to get Vitters as late as the 10th round of this year's draft, and they are high on his talent. If he is 100% healthy next season, Vitters will be a player to watch.

38. Brad Ziegler, P

Ziegler has done nothing but win since joining the A's organization in 2004. The right-hander has gone 29-17 in three and a half minor league seasons for Oakland, during which time he has led the California League in strikeouts (2005) and finished second in the Texas League in ERA (2006). He went 9-6 with a 3.37 ERA in 22 starts and one relief appearance for Midland this season, throwing 141.2 innings for the Rockhounds. He spent roughly three weeks at AAA-Sacramento, going 0-1 with a 6.00 ERA in four starts. It was Ziegler's first stint in AAA. Ziegler got off to a slow start to his professional career, so he is already 27, however, he didn't throw a lot of innings early in his professional career, so he should have a number of good years left in his arm.

The right-hander was effective this season, however, his strikeout rate fell and his walk total rose (although it was still a very respectable 2.23 per nine innings). The A's asked Ziegler to change his throwing motion from a three-quarters motion to a submarine motion this off-season, and he may be moved into the bullpen to work as a right-handed specialist next season. Ziegler was a minor league free agent this winter, but the A's re-signed him, a sign that they see him as part of the team's future. He should get a crack at AAA at the start of next season and he could compete for a spot in the A's bullpen before the 2008 season if he takes well to his new throwing motion. Ziegler doesn't throw hard (he tops out in the high 80s), but he is a smart pitcher who mixes his pitches well. He has always gotten high marks for his leadership skills and his durability, his ability to throw strikes and strike out a lot of batters bares well for Ziegler's future as a reliever.

37. Shane Keough, OF

Keough is perhaps one of the A's most well-known minor league players, even though he has never played in a professional game. He is probably most well-known for his appearance in the show "The Real Housewives of Orange County," which starred his mother, a former Playboy model. His father, of course, is A's scout and former pitcher Matt Keough. The athletic centerfielder was a draft-and-follow selection in 2005 and he was signed just before the 2006 draft after a solid season at Yavapai Junior College. Unfortunately, he hurt his back after signing and he never got into a regular season game for the A's Rookie League club.

Shane has all of the tools to be an exciting player. He has above-average speed, good gap power, a strong throwing arm and the ability to hit for a high average. Keough is built a lot like Jim Edmonds and he has room to add muscle as he gets older. He is a switch-hitter and he covered a lot of ground in centerfield while in junior college. He is very raw, however, as he missed two seasons of high school baseball and then went on to miss the Rookie League season this year. Keough will not turn 21 until the end of the 2007 season, so the A's are likely to move slowly with the toolsy centerfielder. Look for him to play for short-season Vancouver next season.

36. Myron Leslie, 3B/RF

Leslie quietly had an outstanding season for High-A Stockton, driving in 100 runs and walking 71 times in 513 at-bats. He also made the transition from third base to right-field, showing a lot of promise in the outfield after spending his entire career at the hot corner. Leslie had very soft hands at third, but he sometimes struggled with his throws across the diamond. With former South Florida University teammate Jeff Baisley following close behind Leslie at third base in the A's system, Oakland decided to move Leslie to the outfield and that move could be a boon for Leslie's career, as the A's have less competition at the corner outfield positions than at the corner infield positions right now. Leslie has been a consistent run producer since being drafted by the A's in 2004. He has also shown the ability to draw a lot of walks and to hit for decent power.

Leslie is a tall switch-hitter who has hit much better from the left-side than the right-side during his professional career. He has a long, powerful swing that generates good gap power. He hit 17 homeruns in the hitter-friendly California League this season and he will likely need to up that number into the 20s to become a top-flight outfield prospect. However, with his solid approach at the plate and his size and athleticism, he should add more homerun power as he develops through the system. He is a hard-worker and is very driven to succeed, so he should get the most out of his abilities. Leslie should start next year in AA-Midland.

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