Oakland A's Top-50 Prospects: 20-16

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 20-16.

20. Danny Putnam, OF

Like so many of the A's top prospects this season, Putnam lost a lot of development time in 2006 due to injury. He was in the midst of a horrible month of May when he hurt his knee and missed the rest of the month, all of June, all of July and half of August. Putnam struggled in April (744 OPS) and May (513 OPS), but he re-established himself a bit in August with a 1089 OPS performance with Midland in August after a 957 performance in a short stint in Stockton. All told, Putnam hit .265 with nine homers and 48 RBI and a 779 OPS in 76 games over three levels. Six of those homers came in that red-hot August.

It's hard to judge Putnam's season because so much of it was lost to injury. Had he not played in August, there would have been some serious concerns about his ability to hit at the AA level based on his performance in April and May. However, his 13 game, 1089 OPS performance in August quelled some of those concerns about his ability to hit at AA. Putnam is the kind of hitter the A's have a lot of; good plate discipline, good ability to hit for average; average to below-average power for his position in the field. As a corner outfielder, Putnam will probably need to get to the 25+ homer power level to be a regular at the major league level. He is a decent fielder in left, but he doesn't have enough speed to play center or a strong enough arm to play right. He hit 15 homers in 131 games for Stockton in 2005 and he was on-pace for 20 in 2006. If he can grow those numbers and continue to hit for average, he could challenge for a spot in the A's outfield in 2008 or 2009.

19. Andrew Bailey, SP

Bailey, the A's sixth round selection in 2006, was the Vancouver Canadians' best pitcher this season. The Wagner College alum had only a 2-5 record, but he had a 2.02 ERA and allowed only 39 hits in 58 innings. Bailey struck out 53 and walked 20 over those 58 innings. He was dominant in July, striking out 23 and walking only two in 23 innings, but came back to earth a bit in August, striking out 26 and walking 16.

Bailey's fastball was touted as his best pitch when he was drafted and it didn't disappoint. He consistently threw his fastball in the low- to mid-90s with good sink. He also showed a good curveball and a developing slider. Bailey had Tommy John surgery in 2005 while in college, but he was fully recovered by the time he joined the A's organization in July. He showed decent command and that control should only get better as he moves further away from his surgery. Bailey has a starter's body at 6'3'', 220. He still has some work to do to smooth out his throwing motion to establish a consistent release point. At 22, Bailey was a little old for the Northwest League. He could get a chance to compete against his own age next season at High-A Stockton.

18. Chad Boyd, OF

Boyd missed the first half of the season with a knee injury he sustained during spring training. However, he made up for lost time in a big way with his performance in the second half. Boyd spent a week with Vancouver to start the year, hitting .389 in five games. He then was promoted to low-A Kane County, where Boyd batted .346 in 64 games for the Cougars. He didn't hit for a lot of homerun power (two in 275 at-bats), but he did collect 27 doubles and posted a decent .469 slugging percentage. He also did a good job getting on-base walking 27 times against only 29 strikeouts and posting a .405 on-base percentage.

Like Putnam, Boyd will need to develop more homerun power to be a regular at the major league level. However, Boyd is only 21 years old and he has some growing left to do. Eventually, some of those doubles should turn into homeruns. He isn't particularly athletic, but he is a 100% effort player who makes the most out of his natural abilities. His lack of foot-speed will limit him to the corner outfield positions, but he should be able to handle the corner outfield defensively just fine. Boyd was drafted out of high school by the A's in 2004, so he is one of the rare players in the A's system who is playing at the level appropriate for his age at the low levels. He should be the Stockton Ports starting left-fielder at the start of next season.

17. Vince Mazzaro, SP

Mazzaro was one of three teenage starters in the Kane County rotation at the start of the season. At the end of the year, Mazzaro was the only one of the three who made it through the entire season healthy. He made 24 starts for the Cougars, throwing 119.1 innings and collecting nine wins. His ERA was high (5.05) and his hit total was even higher (11.01 per nine innings). However, he did a good job keeping the ball in the ballpark (seven homers in 119.1 innings) and he struck out 6.11 batters per nine innings.

Mazzaro didn't turn 20 until after the season was over, so he was younger than most of the hitters he was facing in the Midwest League in 2006. He showed a very lively fastball for the Cougars that sat in the low-90s and occasionally hit the mid-90s. He also made progress on his secondary pitches, with his change-up and curveball both making improvements. Mazzaro showed the ability to pitch on-turn throughout a long season. He has good control and that good control sometimes causes him to catch too much of the strikezone, which results in a lot of base-hits against him. As Mazzaro develops as a pitcher, he should be able to hit his spots better and avoid the middle of the strikezone. He should head to High-A Stockton next season.

16. Craig Italiano, SP

Of all of the injuries sustained by Oakland A's prospects in 2006, Craig Italiano's shoulder injury might have been one of the most disappointing. Italiano was selected in the second round of the 2005 draft out of high school in Flower Mound, Texas. He arrived at the A's organization armed with one of the hardest fastballs in the A's system. He had a good debut season for the A's Rookie League team in 2005 and was promoted to low-A Kane County to start the 2006 season. Italiano got off to a good start to the season, posting a 3.50 ERA in his first four starts and striking out 23 in only 18 innings. However, shoulder pain sidelined Italiano in late April and he eventually had to go under the knife, forcing him to miss the rest of the season.

The biggest concern surrounding Italiano on draft day was his throwing motion, which caused him to be considered a high injury risk. Unfortunately, those predictions rang true this season when Italiano injured his throwing shoulder. Shoulder injuries are always tricky, so there is no guarantee how long it will be before Italiano will be fully recovered. He is one of the most talented pitchers in the A's system, so if he can make a full recovery, he will be a prospect to watch. When he is back on the mound, Italiano will likely have to make some adjustments to his throwing motion to guard against future injuries.

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