Name: Jason Stokes
Jason Stokes is a familiar name for longtime fans of the Kane County Cougars. Before the Cougars became an affiliate of the Oakland A's, Kane County was affiliated with the Florida Marlins. Back in 2002, the Cougars featured a hulking first baseman who took the Midwest League by storm, batting .341 with 27 homers and 75 RBIs. That first baseman was Jason Stokes, who at age 20 looked to be on the fast track to stardom. Unfortunately for Stokes, that journey to the big leagues has been stalled the past two seasons thanks to injury.
Stokes was drafted in the second round of the 2000 draft out of Coppell High School in Texas. Stokes was one of the most highly regarded high school power hitters in that draft, and was a first team High School All-American that season. Stokes signed for a bonus of more than $2 million after walking away from a commitment to the University of Texas. He made his professional debut the following season in Utica, but he struggled, managing only a 699 OPS in 35 games.
Despite those struggles, Stokes was promoted to the Midwest League and Kane County in 2002, where he had his best season as a professional. He participated in the Arizona Fall League and in the Futures Game that season. In 2003, Stokes was sent to the Florida State League (High-A), where he hit 17 homers in 121 games. He struggled with his plate patience, however, whiffing 135 times against only 36 walks.
Wrist injuries limited Stokes to 109 games in 2004. All but three of those games came with Double-A Carolina, where Stokes was productive, batting .272 with 23 homers and 78 RBIs. His K:BB ratio continued to be a problem, however, as Stokes struck out 121 times against only 42 walks in Carolina. His 2005 season was limited to only 13 games at Triple-A Albuquerque thanks to that wrist injury. Last season, Stokes appeared in only 65 games for the Isotopes, posting an OPS of 768.
Stokes is a classic swing-from-your-heels slugger with tremendous power but poor plate discipline. He originally injured his left wrist in 2002 and he has struggled to keep that wrist healthy ever since. At times, the wrist limits Stokes' power production. He also struggled with a groin injury in 2006. Stokes is an average at best first baseman defensively. He has good hands and a decent throwing arm, but he doesn't have a lot of range.
Stokes was, at one time, one of the brightest prospects in baseball. However, injuries have really taken a toll on his career. In 2006, his slugging percentage was only .418 despite playing in a hitter friendly environment. He had only one hit in 11 at-bats in major league camp with the Marlins this spring before being sent down to minor league camp.
With Daric Barton set to start at first for Sacramento, Stokes will likely see a lot of time at DH for the River Cats in 2007. If he can regain his old power stroke, he could have a big year for the River Cats and force the A's to consider adding him in September. Stokes will need to show better plate patience than he has in past years and he will need to stay healthy to have a chance at the big leagues, however. He is still only 25, so he has some time to prove that he can be a big league hitter, but he can't afford too many more injury-plagued seasons.