Powell injured his knee just weeks before the start of spring training. The injury put him on the shelf for the entire 2005 season and opened up his spot on the A's non-roster spring invitee list to fellow 2004 catching draft pick Kurt Suzuki. Suzuki took advantage of his opportunity in big league camp, impressing the A's coaching staff with his defense and his presence at the plate. After a strong 2005 campaign with the Stockton Ports, Suzuki was firmly planted as the A's top catchign prospect.
Powell returned in 2006 as a major question-mark. Knee injuries are usually devastating to catchers, so it was unclear how Powell's body would respond to the rigors of catching day-in and day-out. However, it didn't take long for Powell to answer those questions, as he quickly established himself as the top defensive catcher in the California League while playing for the Stockton Ports.
Powell spent the majority of the season with the Ports, hitting 15 homeruns in 90 games. He was named to the California League All-Star team (both in-season and post-season) and was later tabbed to play in the prestigious Arizona Fall League, where he was named to the Rising Stars Showcase. Powell even earned a late-season promotion to Double-A Midland, where he hit .268 in 12 games.
Between Stockton, Midland and the AFL, Powell proved that he was able to handle the rigors of playing every day by participating in 118 games.
Now Powell will have a chance to prove himself in front of the big league staff once again. The Oakland A's confirmed this week that Powell has been added to the non-roster invitee (NRI) list for major league spring training camp. He will join Suzuki and John Baker as non-roster invitee catchers in camp. The other catchers in camp will be Jason Kendall, Adam Melhuse and Jeremy Brown (all of whom are on the 40-man roster).
The addition of Powell to the NRI list likely means that A's DH Mike Piazza will not see much time behind the plate this spring. Piazza has played as a catcher for his entire career, but the A's will be asking him to transition to the designated hitter role this season.
Powell is expected to be at Double-A Midland at the start of 2007, while Suzuki should start the year at Triple-A Sacramento.