Oakland A's Top-50 Prospects: 25-21

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 25-21.

25. Toddric Johnson, OF

Johnson is a toolsy outfielder whom the A's took in the 14th round of this year's draft out of Southern Miss. He was the first 2006 draft pick to be promoted past Vancouver to low-A Kane County. He struggled initially at the plate with the Cougars, but went on a tear after returning from an injury late in the season to finish his Kane County stint with a .286 batting average. He hit .333 for the Canadians during his brief stint in Vancouver.

Johnson is one of the fastest players in the A's organization. He hit for some power in college, but he doesn't project to be a homerun hitter with wooden bats. Instead, he looks to be a classic top-of-the-order hitter. Johnson, a left-handed hitter, has a good understanding of the strike zone, makes consistent contact and has some gap power that should translate in a good number of doubles as he gets older. He is also an excellent defensive centerfielder. Johnson turns 22 in December. Despite playing in only 28 games for Kane County, Johnson could be pushed up to Stockton at the start of the 2007 season if he has a good spring training.

24. Dan Meyer, SP

Meyer's career with the A's has been plagued by an ailing left shoulder since he arrived from the Atlanta Braves organization before the 2005 season. The talented southpaw diligently attempted a rehabilitation of his sore shoulder both in 2005 and at the start of the 2006 season. Things looked promising for Meyer in spring training when he had a few strong appearances in major league camp. However, he began to experience pain in his shoulder early in the season with Sacramento. After 10 starts and a 5.07 ERA, Meyer was shut-down for further evaluation. Eventually, it was determined that Meyer needed shoulder surgery, which was performed in July.

Meyer's ultimate prognosis won't be known until he fully recovers from his surgery and gets back onto the pitching mound. One thing is for certain, Meyer has the talent to be a major league starter. When the A's acquired him, he was one of the top starting pitching prospects in all of baseball. He possessed a low-90s fastball, good secondary pitches and great control. Unfortunately, he hasn't been able to display any of those talents since joining the A's because of his shoulder. If Meyer can make a full recovery, he could be a wild card for the A's starting rotation. However, shoulder problems are always tricky, so Meyer certainly won't be someone that the A's are counting on in the near future. He'll turn 26 in July, so the clock is ticking on his career a bit. Still, with all that the A's have invested in Meyer and with his natural talents, Oakland is likely to give him more time to get back on track.

23. Jeff Baisley, 3B

Baisley had a storybook season for the Kane County Cougars, winning the Midwest League MVP award and guiding the Cougars deep into the Midwest League playoffs. The 2005 draft pick started the season three-for-his-first-24. However, he quickly turned his year around and ended up posting one of the top offensive seasons in Cougar history. The right-hander was the A's organizational leader in RBIs with 110. He finished the year with a .298 batting average and 22 homeruns. He also was the Midwest League leader in fielding percentage at third base. He was named OaklandClubhouse's "Player of the Year" for his efforts.

In terms of skills, Baisley has pretty much everything you would look for in a third baseman. He hits for power, drives-in a lot of runs, and he has soft hands, quick feet and a good throwing arm. He has good strike zone judgment, although that judgment broke down at times towards the end of the year when Baisley was pressing after being pitched around for much of the season. Baisley's biggest flaw as a prospect is really something that he can't control: his age. He was a four-year collegiate player and he will turn 24 in December. Consequently, he was older than most of his competition in the Midwest League this season. The A's chose to keep Baisley in the Midwest League all year rather than challenging him in the California League. Myron Leslie and Brian Snyder stood in Baisley's way at Stockton at third base in 2006. Leslie has now been moved to the outfield, so Baisley will have less competition stacked in front of him next season. If Baisley makes the jump to AA-Midland at some point in 2007 and continues to perform at the level he performed at this season, he could quickly move into the top-15 for A's prospects. As it stands, Baisley will be an intriguing prospect to watch next season.

22. Chad Lee, P

Lee was the third player chosen by the A's in the 2006 draft. A fourth round selection out of Barton Community College, Lee came to Oakland armed with a mid-90s fastball and a long injury track record. While at Barton, Lee was limited by injuries to his knee (a torn ACL) and some soreness in his elbow. However, the liveliness of his fastball was too much for the A's to resist, so they put aside their injury concerns and took him with the 128th overall pick. Lee was assigned to Vancouver, where he worked primarily as a starting pitcher despite acting as a closer for much of his junior college career. He was inconsistent for the Canadians, going 3-2 with a 4.29 ERA in 50.1 innings. He did have two starts in which he didn't allow a hit. One start he went six innings, allowing only two walks and striking out three. In the other "no-hit" start, Lee lasted five innings, walking two and striking out five.

Overall, Lee didn't strikeout nearly as many batters (31 in 50 innings) as one would have expected based on his junior college career and his stuff. However, he did show good control (15 walks) and he had a very respectable WHIP (1.29). He doesn't turn 21 until December, so he still has a lot of growing to do as a pitcher, especially when you consider the time he missed in junior college due to injury. It is unclear whether the A's will keep Lee in the rotation or move him into the bullpen long-term. The decision may come down to Lee's health. Lee has the build (6'4'', 200) to be a starting pitcher. He pitched without injury for Vancouver and he lasted more than five innings in all but one of his final seven starts, so he demonstrated the stamina to be a starting pitcher. He will likely begin next season in Kane County.

21. Shane Komine, SP

Komine made his recovery from Tommy John surgery in 2004 complete in 2006 when he made his major league debut in late July. He ended up making two starts for Oakland, pitching well in one and struggling in the other. During the rest of the season, Komine was arguably the Sacramento River Cats' best starting pitcher. The Hawaii native threw 140 innings for the River Cats, going 11-8 with a 4.05 ERA. He walked only 38 while striking out 116. He was particularly effective in July and August, when he held opposing batters to a .190 batting average against and rattled off six straight wins (he had a streak of eight straight wins in total). At the major league level, Komine was uncharacteristically wild, walking eight and striking out only one in nine major league innings.

Komine looks to be fully recovered from the elbow surgery that sidelined him for half of the 2004 and 2005 seasons. His fastball velocity is back in the low-90s and his power curveball is as effective as ever. He didn't miss a turn in the rotation this season and he averaged more than six innings a start. Komine has great command and induces a lot of groundballs, two assets that are very desirable for major league starting pitchers. His curveball is one of the best in the A's system and a major league-caliber out-pitch. The biggest knock on Komine has always been his size (5'9'', 170) and many scouts have wondered if Komine can withstand the rigors of starting. However, with the exception of the elbow injury in 2004, Komine has been very durable throughout his professional career. He showed some nerves at the major league level this season (indicated in his high walk total), but if he can get past those butterflies, he should be a strong competitor for the A's rotation in spring training this season.

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