Oakland A's Top-50 Prospects: 10-6

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 10-6.

10. Jared Lansford, SP

Lansford had a very eventful first full season as a professional pitcher. He missed the first few weeks of the season with some slight shoulder irritation, and then he fired a seven-inning no-hitter a few weeks after making his season debut. Lansford was later named to the Midwest League All-Star team and he finished his time with the Kane County Cougars with an 11-6 record and a 2.86 ERA. He was sent up to High-A Stockton for the last few weeks of the season, but he struggled in his three starts with the Ports, He went 0-1 with a 12.71 ERA and he allowed four homers in only 11 innings.

Lansford's progress as a pitcher is somewhat difficult to assess. On the one hand, he was incredibly proficient at retiring hitters, limiting Midwest League batters to a .234 batting average against. He also only allowed one homerun in 104 innings for Kane County. On the other hand, Lansford didn't strikeout many batters (only 59 Ks in 115.1 innings) and he walked his fair share (47). He impressed his pitching coaches with his poise on the mound and he had good life on his fastball. Lansford was only a part-time pitcher in high school, so he still has a lot to learn as a pitcher. He was also limited in terms of how many curveballs he was allowed to throw this season, and his curveball is one of his better pitches. Lansford will have to improve his control and miss more bats to succeed at the High-A level, but he has the talent and the moxie to be an excellent starting pitcher.

9. Richie Robnett, OF

The talented Robnett appeared to be on the verge of a big breakthrough as a middle-of-the-order hitter when he broke his hamate bone in July and missed the rest of the season. Before that injury, Robnett had been promoted to AA-Midland for the first time and had gone five-for-14 with a homer, which he hit off of former Kansas City Royals pitcher Zack Greinke. Before his promotion to Midland, Robnett hit .266 with 11 homers in 69 games for A-Stockton. He also had a brief appearance with AAA-Sacramento when he was filling in for injured River Cats' outfielders. Robnett recovered from the broken hamate bone in time to impress at the A's Instructional League and to appear briefly at the Arizona Fall League, where he had five extra-base hits in only four games. He also played briefly for Mazatlan in the Mexican Winter Leagues, but had to leave the team after only nine games with an as-of-press-time undisclosed injury.

Robnett reduced his strikeouts slightly from a strikeout every 3.40 at-bats to one every 4.14 at-bats this season. He was outstanding on the road while with Stockton, but struggled at home at Banner Island Ballpark as a member of the Ports. At times, he showed all of the makings of being a star. He has plus power, especially to the pull field, good range and a great arm both in right and in center. However, he still suffers from bouts of inconsistency when he can't seem to buy a hit. Robnett's swing has a tendency to get long when he is struggling, although that happened less frequently this season than it did in 2005. The A's have taken it slow with Robnett, who was very raw when he was drafted. He'll begin the year at AA-Midland and he won't turn 24 until mid-September. He is starting to trust his natural power and has improved his routes in the outfield. If Robnett can stay healthy, he could put it all together for a monster season in 2007.

8. Landon Powell, C

Powell's 2005 season was lost completely to injury (a torn ACL), so it was an accomplishment in and of itself for him to catch regularly in 2007. He played in 102 games for A-Stockton and AA-Midland during the regular season and then appeared in 16 more games for the Phoenix Desert Dogs during the Arizona Fall League. At the plate, Powell hit .264 with 15 homers and a .350 on-base percentage for the Stockton Ports in 90 games. He hit .268 in 12 games with AA-Midland, although he managed only one extra-base hit in 41 at-bats for the Rockhounds. Powell struggled in the AFL, hitting an empty .170 in 53 at-bats. He collected only two extra-base hits for Phoenix, but he did walk nine times against 12 strikeouts.

Where Powell really impressed scouts this season wasn't at the plate, however, it was behind it. The bulky backstop was outstanding with the glove, flashing a plus arm and good receiving skills all season long. At times, he was so quick to throw the ball down to second base that his middle infielders couldn't even get to the base in time to make the play. He also earned praise for his game-calling skills. There were a lot of questions coming into this season about whether or not Powell's knee would hold up to the rigors of catching an entire season after the injury. He has a very big frame (at least 250 pounds), so it wasn't known whether the knee would allow him to squat game-in and game-out. However, he was able to play without much restriction behind the plate, although his running at times was labored. His knee will need to hold up for him to make an impact at the major league level, as he isn't likely to hit well enough to be a starting DH or first baseman at the major league level. However, his defensive skills are good enough that if he can continue to hit around .260 with 15-20 homers, he'll find his way onto a major league roster.

7. Trevor Cahill, SP

Cahill was the A's first pick in the 2006 draft, as Oakland took the right-hander out of a San Diego-area high school in the second round. He signed late and then suffered from some minor injuries that delayed his professional debut. Once he did get onto the field, Cahill was impressive. He made four appearances, allowing only two hits and three earned runs in nine innings. His final start was his best, as he threw four perfect innings to jump-start a combined no-hitter for the Arizona Rookie League A's. In high school, Cahill was a prodigious strikeout pitcher, as he whiffed 109 strikeouts in only 66.2 innings. He struck-out 11 for the A's Rookie League team.

Like Lansford, Cahill is relatively new to pitching, as he was a position player at the start of his high school career. He has a low-90s fastball with some sink, a change-up and a very sharp breaking ball that induced a lot of swings and misses in high school. Cahill is very intelligent and he turned down a chance to play baseball for Dartmouth to sign with the A's. He didn't play enough this season to get a real read on how he stacks up against professional hitters, but he has a lot of potential. Based on the pattern the A's established with high school draft picks Lansford, Vince Mazzaro and Craig Italiano this season, Cahill will likely begin the 2007 season at low-A Kane County.

6. Kevin Melillo, 2B

Melillo had a breakout season in 2005, when he hit 24 homers and drove-in 93 runs while moving up three levels from low-A Kane County to AA-Midland. The A's kept Melillo in Midland for the entire 2006 season. He didn't have quite the same level of success at the plate in 2006 that he did in 2005, but he still had a good year, hitting .280 with 12 homers and 73 RBIs in 134 games. He also stole 14 bases. He struggled at the plate during the Arizona Fall League, where he hit only .245 in 23 games. However, where Melillo did make strong improvements this season was with his glove. He went from being a liability at second to being a reliable asset. He was the Texas League's top fielding second baseman. Melillo also played some third base during the AFL season and he held his own at the position, which could add to his value as a prospect since he is now a more versatile fielder.

Melillo will be 25 next season and should start the year at AAA-Sacramento. He is a well-rounded hitter, with power to all fields and a good batting eye. He can be streaky at times and has a tendency to lift the ball when he is struggling. Melillo doesn't have sprinter speed, but he is an intelligent base-runner who can steal his share of bases off of inattentive pitchers. He also has above-average power for a second baseman. Coaches have always praised Melillo for being a leader on the field and for his work ethic. He is close to being major league ready and could make his debut during the 2007 season.

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