Mid-Season Review: A's Prospects 31-40

During the off-season, we named our top-50 prospects in the Oakland A's system. Now that we have passed the midway point of the season, we thought it would be a good time to check the progress of those players. In the first in our series, we take a look at the progress of prospects 31-40 from our off-season list.

* Note: These rankings were made prior to the 2007 season. Adjustments for 2007 performance will be made to the rankings during the off-season. All stats as of July 22, 2007

31. Connor Robertson, RP:
Robertson got off to a fast start this season, posting a 1.93 ERA in 18.2 innings for the Sacramento River Cats in his first extended taste of Triple-A baseball. He earned a promotion to the big leagues at that point thanks to injuries in the A's bullpen. Robertson struggled with his command while in Oakland, missing his spots and allowing six hits and four runs in two innings of work. He broke the thumb on his pitching hand on a comebacker in his third outing with the A's and missed the next six weeks. Robertson returned to the mound in the minor leagues in mid-July and has allowed four earned runs in 4.2 innings since re-joining the Sacramento bullpen.

Robertson has been one of the A's top strikeout pitchers since he was drafted in 2004. He has continued that trend in 2007, striking out 25 in 23.1 innings in the minors and two in two innings in the majors. He gets excellent downward movement on his fastball, but he only throws it in the high-80s/low-90s, meaning that he has to be on target with his command to be effective. He was wild within the strikezone in the major leagues and that resulted in him being hit around. Some of that wildness may have been due to nerves. Robertson figures to get another shot in the A's bullpen in September and should be a candidate to win a spot with the A's next spring.

32. Brad Kilby, RP:
Like Robertson, Kilby has been a strikeout machine since he was selected by the A's in 2005. After a standout season in Kane County in 2006, Kilby was promoted to High-A Stockton to start the 2007 season. He struck out 16 batters in 8.1 innings with the Ports and was promoted to Double-A Midland by mid-April. Kilby has been a set-up man for the Rockhounds since that time, posting a 3.19 ERA in 42.1 innings. He has struck out 42 and walked 12 for the Rockhounds. Opposing batters are hitting .258 against Kilby this season.

Kilby has a deceptive throwing motion and he hides the ball well. His fastball is between 88-92 and he has an excellent change-up and a good slider. Kilby has struggled with his control at various points during his career and those problems have continued at times this season. He has allowed six homeruns in those 42.1 Double-A innings after not allowing any homers all of last season. Kilby has been very good with no runners on-base, but he has struggled with runners-on. When Kilby's command is good, he is very difficult to hit. Like Robertson, Kilby doesn't have a huge margin for error when he misses in the strikezone. Kilby has moved quickly through the A's system and could start next season at Triple-A if he finishes the 2007 campaign strong.

33. Gregorio Petit, 2B/SS:
After a somewhat disappointing 2006 season (at least offensively) at High-A Stockton, Petit had a break-through first half at Double-A Midland this season. The smooth-fielding middle infielder started the season as the Rockhounds' every day shortstop and lead-off hitter. He was a spark-plug for the Rockhounds, batting .306 with a .366 OBP and nine steals in 12 chances. He was promoted to Triple-A Sacramento in late June. Petit got off to a horrible start at the plate for the River Cats, batting only .080 in his first 25 at-bats. However, he picked it up after that, and is batting .324 in July and .410 in the 11 games since the All-Star break. Overall, he is hitting .258 in 27 games for the River Cats.

Petit had to play a lot of second base in 2006 when he was sharing the infield with Cliff Pennington, but he has primarily been playing at his natural shortstop position this season. He has the arm and the range to be a major league shortstop and did a nice job at second base when he played there last season. Offensively, he has the skills to be an Omar Vizquel-type offensive player. However, he tends to fall in love with his power at times, which causes him to over-swing and strike-out more than he should. Petit is one of the more coachable players in the A's system. The A's told him to work on going the other way this season and he has done a lot more of that, which has resulted in a more consistent approach. He doesn't walk a lot (29 in 343 at-bats this season), which hurts his chances of being a top-of-the-order hitter in the major leagues. However, he is only 22 years old and he still has time to learn to be a more patient hitter. He has good speed, although he still gets caught stealing a fair share of the time. Petit's glove should get him to the major leagues at least as a back-up even if he doesn't improve his strikezone judgment. However, if he can find a way to get on-base more consistently, Petit has the talent to be a starting major league shortstop.

34. Anthony Recker, C:
Recker started the season in High-A Stockton after a very strong showing with Low-A Kane County in 2006. He dominated the California League during the first half of the season, batting .319 with 13 homers and a 1010 OPS in 56 games for the Stockton Ports. Those numbers earned Recker a starting spot on the California League All-Star game and mid-season promotion to Double-A Midland. The transition to Double-A hasn't been a smooth one thus far for Recker. He is batting only .175 in 28 games with the Rockhounds and has a 35:7 K:BB ratio. Recker has yet to homer in the Texas League. However, he may be showing signs of turning it around, as he has collected hits in eight of his last 10 games.

Recker is still a work-in-progress defensively, but the A's will try to keep him behind the plate, as his bat would be a big plus as a catcher. He has struggled receiving the ball at times and has been inconsistent with his footwork while making throws down to second base. However, he has a very strong work ethic, which would lead one to believe that he will improve over time. Offensively, he has a classic slugger's mentality. Recker has a long swing that can lead to strikeouts, but also leads to some monstrous homeruns. He does a good job going to all fields and he has average speed for a catcher. Recker was a four-year college player, so he will be turning 24 in August despite being in only his second full professional season. With Landon Powell potentially missing the first part of next season, Recker could be fast-tracked to Triple-A in 2008. However, he'll need to show that he has made the adjustment to Double-A pitching the rest of this season for the promotion to be possible.

35. Ryan Webb, SP:
Webb began the 2007 season back in High-A Stockton after spending the entire 2006 campaign with the Ports. He got off to a good start in Stockton, holding opposing batters to a .198 BAA in April and posting a 32:10 K:BB ratio in 30 innings. That good form continued for Webb in early May, at which point he was promoted to Double-A Midland. His trip to the Texas League was not a kind one. Battling arm soreness that caused his arm angle to drop, Webb went 0-4 with a 9.12 ERA in five starts for the Rockhounds. His pitches were consistently up in the strikezone in Midland, and he paid the price, allowing 10 homers in only 25.2 innings. He had some initial success in his return to Stockton, but he has been roughed up in each of his last three starts for the Ports. He was placed on the disabled list on July 23, which is probably an indication that his recent struggles are injury-related.

This season has been a frustrating one for Webb. Mechanics have always been Webb's biggest problem and he felt that he finally established a good throwing motion at the start of the season. The arm soreness while in Double-A messed with those mechanics a bit and he has been working his way back to his early season form ever since. When the A's selected Webb in 2004 out of a Florida high school, they projected that he would eventually throw in the mid-90s thanks to his 6'6'' frame. He hasn't been able to develop that kind of velocity and sits mostly in the high-80s. However, Chris Young has proven that tall pitchers can be effective without mid-90s stuff if they have good control, which is something that Webb has had throughout his career. The next step for Webb is to learn to hit the corners, rather than pitching in the middle of the strikezone. He hasn't advanced as quickly as the A's may have hoped, but he won't turn 22 until next February, so he has time to put it all together.

36. Myron Leslie, 3B/OF:
After leading the Stockton Ports with 100 RBI in 2006, Leslie was expected to put up big offensive numbers for Midland in 2007. The versatile switch-hitter made the conversion from third base to first base/outfield last season and the A's were looking for Leslie to fill a super-utility role in the field while being a main cog in the Midland line-up. Leslie has shown good patience in Midland this season, posting a 46:49 BB:K ratio and putting up a .372 OBP despite hitting only .259. However, he hasn't shown any of the power that he had in Stockton last season, when he hit 17 homers. In 71 games, Leslie has hit only three homers and his slugging percentage is at .378. He has been on the disabled list since June 29 with tendonitis in his knee.

Leslie has the tools to be a valuable bench player in the major leagues. He has a good eye at the plate, bats from both sides and can play multiple positions. However, for Leslie to be considered for a major league spot down the road, he'll need to add more power to his game. He has a power-hitter's frame at 6'3'', 220; however, he has a tendency to go the other way rather than looking to pull the ball. Leslie's sore knee has contributed to his lack of power, as well. When he returns from the DL, Leslie will have to compete for playing time with the recently promoted Javier Herrera and the red-hot Luke Appert. If he can put a few good weeks together at the end of the season, Leslie could still be considered for Triple-A next season, although much of that decision will depend on whether guys like Danny Putnam and Jason Perry are in Triple-A in 2008. Leslie will be 26 next May.

37. Shane Keough, OF:
More than a year after signing with the A's as a draft-and-follow, Keough finally made his professional debut with Vancouver in June. Keough missed all of last year's short-season with a back injury that eventually required surgery and he spent the first half of the 2007 season working at extended spring training. The son of former A's pitcher and scout Matt Keough has had a tough time getting going offensively for Vancouver thus far. In 74 at-bats, the younger Keough has hit only .176 with three extra-base hits. He has shown good speed, however, swiping six bases in seven tries and scoring 11 runs in 21 games despite reaching base at a .253 clip.

Keough, who won't turn 21 until mid-September, figured to be a project prospect when the A's signed him. Despite his baseball background, Keough wasn't a polished player coming out of high school. He honed his skills a bit during his one season at Yavapai JC, but the back injury set him back. Keough has good raw tools. He runs well, throws well and has a swing that can generate good gap power. Keough still needs to learn how to recognize pitches and how to stay within the strikezone. He figures to do a lot of learning during the A's Instructional League season. His progress there could determine whether Keough starts the season in Low-A Kane County or repeats short-season in 2007.

38. Brad Ziegler, P:
Despite being one of the A's most effective minor league starters in each of the past three seasons, Ziegler was converted to a relief role by the A's this season. The A's also worked with Ziegler to go from a three-quarters delivery to a sidearm/submarine throwing motion. The team had Ziegler start the year in the Midland bullpen, where he was one of the Rockhounds' most effective relievers. In 23.2 innings, Ziegler went 4-0 with a 1.14 ERA. He struck out 18 and walked only four. He was promoted to Triple-A Sacramento in late May and has been a mainstay in the River Cats' bullpen ever since. In 36.2 innings, Ziegler has a 3.68 ERA for the River Cats. He has struck out 32 and has walked only seven, and he has been particularly effective of late, allowing only three runs in his last 16 innings of work. Ziegler has yet to allow a homerun in 60.1 total innings.

Ziegler has taken very quickly to his new throwing motion. His control has been excellent and he has generated a lot of groundballs. Like most sidearmers/submariners, Ziegler has dominated hitters from the same-side of the plate (in his case, the right-side), while struggling against opposite-side hitters. He has kept the ball in the park against lefties, but they have hit him hard, especially in Triple-A. In Triple-A, righties have hit .217 off of Ziegler, while lefties have hit .426. With his good control and groundball abilities, Ziegler could have a major league career with a team looking for a Chad Bradford-like presence in their bullpen. Unfortunately for Ziegler, teams more often look for left-handed specialists than right-handed specialists. However, the A's are one team that hasn't been shy about carrying a righty specialist in the past. Ziegler was a minor league free agent signing in 2004, so he can elect to be a free agent at the end of every season in which he isn't on the 40-man roster. Now that he has a more defined role and he has had significant time in Triple-A as a reliever, Ziegler could be quite marketable this off-season for a team looking to build a young, cheap bullpen if the A's don't add him to the 40-man roster. Should he not be added to the 40-man and still elect to stay with the A's, Ziegler would be a candidate for a non-roster invitation to major league spring training next year to compete for a bullpen spot.

39. Christian Vitters, SS/3B:
When the A's selected Vitters in the 10th round last season, they felt they were getting a great value pick. Vitters had a huge 2006 season for the Fresno State Bulldogs, but he broke his hand after being hit by a pitch towards the end of the year and his draft stock plummeted from a top-five round pick. Vitters didn't see much time in Vancouver in 2006, as his hand was still healing when he was selected. Despite not playing much in 2006, Vitters was promoted to full-season Kane County at the start of 2007. The rust from the broken hand was evident for Vitters at the start of the season. In 37 games before the All-Star break, Vitters hit only .212 with a 630 OPS. However, things have begun to turn around for Vitters of late. He is batting .297 in 18 games in July with an 845 OPS. Over his last 10 games, Vitters is batting .382 with two homers. On the season, Vitters is batting .240 with a 691 OPS.

Although he played a lot of shortstop in college, Vitters has been moved to third base this season. He was big for a shortstop (6'2'', 205), so third base is probably more of a natural fit. Vitters comes from a baseball family, with his younger brother Josh being a top-five pick by the Chicago Cubs this season. The older Vitters was thought to be a polished offensive player when he was selected, so his struggles at the start of the season were somewhat surprising. However, if he continues to hit as he has so far during the month of July, those struggles can probably be connected to his recovery from the hand injury. How he finishes the season will have a lot to do with where he starts next year. He turned 22 in late June.

40. Tom Everidge, 1B:
After hitting 20 homers for Stockton in 2006 and playing much of spring training with the A's Triple-A and Double-A squads, Everidge was a surprise repeat at High-A to start the season. He has shown good homerun power once again in Stockton this season, blasting an organization-high 19 homers thus far. He has also driven-in 71 runs in 91 games. The rest of his offensive numbers, however, have been disappointing for a player who is repeating a level. After batting .252 in 2006, Everidge's average has slipped to .211 and his K:BB ratio is at 81:48. He has only a .416 SLG despite the 19 homers because he has managed only 10 non-homer extra-base hits.

Everidge is one of the strongest players in the A's system, but that strength may be working against him this season. He appears to be trying to pull everything, and that approach has led to his disappointing numbers. Defensively, Everidge is average at best over at first base, so he will need his bat to take him further in the organization. He is an extremely hard worker and one of the fan favorites in Stockton this season. However, if he wants to avoid another season in the California League, he'll need to start reaching base a lot more regularly.

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