35. Ryan Webb, SP
When the A's selected Webb in the fourth round of the 2004 draft, he was considered a bit of a project. Webb was a high school draft pick with a lot of upside who was considered a work-in-progress. That work continued in 2006, with mixed results. Webb spent the entire season at high-A Stockton, where he went 8-9 with a 5.28 ERA in 23 starts. Webb had some good peripheral numbers. He allowed only nine homeruns in 117.2 innings (a 0.69 per nine innings ratio) and he walked only 37 batters (2.83 in nine innings). His strikeout rate also rose in 2006 from 5.88 per nine innings in 2005 to 7.34 per nine innings in 2006. So why was Webb's ERA so high? He allowed a whopping 160 hits and a .332 batting average against. He also struggled a lot on the road, posting a 7.74 ERA away from Banner Island Ballpark.
Webb's greatest asset might be his biggest challenge as he makes his way through the minor leagues: he throws a lot of strikes. Right now, Webb tends to be inconsistent with his velocity from start-to-start and, at times, even from inning-to-inning. Because he throws so many strikes, if his velocity falls, he can become very hittable. At 6'6'', Webb, like many tall pitchers, can see his mechanics go out of whack in a hurry. To succeed, Webb will need to develop a consistency with his throwing motion that allows him to throw his fastball in the low-90s consistently. He will also need to add an out-pitch, such as a splitter or a cut-fastball that he can use to finish off batters. If Webb can develop an out-pitch and a consistent throwing motion, he could become an excellent starting pitching prospect. If he doesn't, Webb will likely continue to suffer from a high batting average against and, consequently, a high ERA.
34. Anthony Recker, C
Recker jumped out of nowhere to prospect status with an excellent 2006 campaign for low-A Kane County. He began the season as the Cougars back-up catcher and quickly wrested the majority of the Cougars playing time behind the plate with a solid April where he hit .286. He followed up with a monster May, where he hit .316 and his season continued on well from there. He was named to the Midwest League All-Star team and he finished the year with a .287 batting average with 14 homers.
Recker is a very powerfully built catcher who absolutely murders left-handed pitching (.363 batting average with five homers in 102 at-bats). He also hits well with runners in scoring position. His swing has a tendency to get a little long at times, resulting in a lot of strikeouts (115). Right now, his defense is only average, but he is a hard-worker and he should improve over time. Stockton has had solid back-stops in each of the past two seasons (Kurt Suzuki in 2005 and Landon Powell in 2006). Recker should continue that tradition in 2007.
33. Gregorio Petit, 2B/SS
We predicted a break-out season at the plate for Petit at the start of the year, but it never materialized, as the Venezuelan native struggled to find consistency at the plate. On the year, Petit hit .256 with eight homers and a team-leading seven triples. He also stole 22 bases, although he was caught 13 times. Petit alternated his good months with his bad ones, hitting .269 in April, .229 in May, 264 in June, .212 in July and .304 in August. Despite his rollercoaster at the plate, Petit was solid as ever in the field. He played at both second and short and he handled both positions well.
When Petit is at his best at the plate, he is playing inside himself, looking just to get on-base. When he struggles, he tends to be playing for the three-run homer. Petit is a good enough fielder that he could probably make the major leagues as a bench player even with his deficiencies at the plate. However, he has a chance to be better than that if he can hone his plate discipline. He has an above-average arm, good range both at second and short, some power and above-average speed. With a little polish, Petit, who turns 22 in December, could become an intriguing prospect.
32. Brad Kilby, RP
Kilby might be the steal of the 2005 draft for the A's. Oakland selected Kilby in the 29th round out of San Jose State and he has been light's-out for the A's ever since. He posted a 1.95 ERA in 23 appearances for the Vancouver Canadians in 2005, striking out 38 in 27.2 innings and saving 14 games. Kilby pitched for low-A Kane County in 2006, starting the year as the Cougars' set-up man and ending the season as the team's closer. He posted a 1.63 ERA in 60.2 innings, striking out 73 and walking 23. He didn't allow a homerun all season.
Kilby features a low-90s fastball and a good change-up, which he throws primarily to right-handed hitters. He is a left-handed pitcher, but he pitches well against both righties and lefties (.177 batting average against righties and a .183 batting average against lefties in 2006). He has a tendency to walk his share of batters, although he significantly reduced his walk totals in August and in the playoffs in September. Left-handed pitchers are tough to come by these days and good left-handed relievers are even tougher to find, so the A's could have a real find in Kilby.
31. Connor Robertson, RP
Like Kilby, Robertson was a late-round selection for the A's who has jumped up from obscurity to a legitimate position as a potential set-up man in the major leagues. Robertson was outstanding in that role for AA-Midland in 2006, posting a 2.80 ERA in 83.2 innings. He has always struck out a lot of batters during his minor league career (a career 12.50 strikeout per nine innings ratio) and that continued in 2006. as he whiffed 97 against only 22 walks. Robertson was selected to pitch in the Arizona Fall League and after a rough start in the desert, he is back to pitching the way that he did for Midland. He hasn't given up a run in his last six innings and he has struck out 13 in 10.2 innings so far in the AFL.
Robertson has a low-90s fastball and a good slider and a developing change-up. He hides the ball well with a three-quarters throwing motion that makes the ball appear like it is jumping on the hitters. When he has struggled during his career, it has been when his control has betrayed him. His control was inconsistent at times in Stockton in 2005 and he struggled with his control early in the AFL season, as well. However, he had much better control with Midland this season and, not surprisingly, had his best full season as a pro. Robertson turned 25 in September. He should start next season in AAA-Sacramento and depending on how he fares and the health of the A's bullpen, he could be considered for a spot in the A's bullpen as soon as 2007 and almost certainly in 2008.