Oakland A's Top-50 Prospects: 50-46

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 Tuesday and Thursday will be "Top Prospect List Day," as we will release our top-50 prospect list in groups of five. Today, we kick-start the series with a review of prospects 50-46.

50. Scott Hodsdon, P
Hodsdon was a two-way player for Azusa Pacific.
Oakland selected Hodsdon in the sixth round of the 2007 draft out of Azusa Pacific University, the alma mater of fellow A's farmhand Jason Ray. Hodsdon was his college conference's Co-Player of the Year in 2007, a season during which he went 10-1 as a pitcher and hit 26 homeruns and drove-in 100 runs as an infielder. Hodsdon, who played four years at Azusa Pacific, was selected by the A's to be a pitcher. He was assigned to short-season Vancouver and he spent his entire first pro season with the Canadians.

Hodsdon threw 67 innings for the C's, going 7-1 with a 4.57 ERA. He started 10 games and threw in six games as a reliever. Hodsdon was dominant as a reliever, posting a 2.89 ERA and striking out 25 while walking only four in 18.2 innings. He was more inconsistent as a starter, posting a 5.21 ERA and walking 19 while striking out 42 in 48.1 innings.

Despite his success as a reliever this season, Hodsdon profiles as a starter, at least for now. He has a deep array of pitches in his arsenal: a two-seam fastball, a four-seam fastball, a slider, a change-up and a split-finger. His fastball sits in the low-90s/high-80s with good sink. Hodsdon throws with a low three-quarters arm angle that gives his pitches a lot of movement and makes it difficult for hitters to pick up the ball out of his hand.

Although he was a senior draft selection, Hodsdon is relatively raw as a pitcher given that he spent much of his collegiate career concentrating on being a position player. Consequently, he struggled with areas like pitching from the stretch, holding runners and repeating his delivery. Those areas are bound to improve with experience. When he was on his game this season with Vancouver, Hodsdon was dominant. He had one complete game and in his final start, he threw 8.2 shut-out innings and struck out 12. Hodsdon will mostly likely start next season with Low-A Kane County.

49. Patrick Currin, RP
Currin was a Cal League All-Star.
It was a tale of two seasons for Currin in 2007. During the first half of the season, Currin was simply outstanding, posting an ERA just above 2.00 and saving seven games in 40.1 innings for Low-A Kane County and High-A Stockton. Currin was particularly good for Stockton, posting a 1.71 ERA and saving six games in only 16 appearances. He even earned a spot on the California League All-Star team, throwing 1.1 shut-out innings in the contest.

Currin's fortunes turned during the second half of the season, however, as he allowed Cal League batters to hit .319 off of him (he allowed only a .154 BAA to Cal League hitters before the All-Star break). His ERA for the second half of the season was 6.86 and he allowed 51 hits in 39.1 innings.

Some of those second half struggles could be attributed to the dramatic shift that the Ports' roster underwent after the All-Star break. Gone were defensive stalwarts Cliff Pennington and Javier Herrera and All-Star catcher Anthony Recker. Currin still appeared to have very good stuff in the second half of the season, as he struck out 43 and walked 13 in the second half (compared to a 47:15 K:BB ratio in the first half). On the season, Currin struck-out an impressive 90 batters in 80 innings of work.

When he is at his best, Currin has a similar repertoire to that of A's reliever Kiko Calero. Currin's fastball sits in the mid-to-high-80s and he can occasionally hit 90-91. He uses a three-quarters delivery, which gives him great movement across the plate and down in the strike zone. He has a slurve/slider that is very effective, especially against right-handers. Currin induces a lot of groundballs and he does a good job of holding runners on-base. He has served as a late-inning reliever for most of his collegiate and pro career and he has gotten high marks for his mental make-up when faced with pressure situations.

48. Mike Affronti, IF
Affronti starred for the Ports.
Affronti split his season between Low-A Kane County and High-A Stockton. Even though he was a Midwest League All-Star with the Cougars, he put up his best numbers during a six-week stint with Stockton in the Cal League. Affronti, a 17th round pick in 2006 out of Le Moyne College, began the year with Kane County. He was inconsistent with the Cougars, hitting under .230 in April and June and .284 in May and .325 in July. He spent most of his time with the Cougars batting in the second spot in the line-up, where he hit .250.

Affronti was promoted to High-A Stockton in late-July when the Ports lost Cliff Pennington to promotion and Isaac Omura to a broken thumb. Affronti made a position switch from shortstop to second base with the Ports and moved into the top spot in the line-up. Both changes seemed to suit him, as he put up outstanding numbers during his time with Stockton. In 109 at-bats, Affronti batted .321 with an 822 OPS. He also brought a lot of energy to a team was really running on fumes by the final month of the season. For the season, he finished with a .280 BA in 104 games for Kane County and Stockton.

Affronti is a natural athlete, and he was a three-sport star in high school, excelling in baseball, soccer and football. He is very hard-nosed and high-energy. Despite being big for a middle infielder (6'2'', 200 LB), Affronti moves well around second base from both sides of the bag and he has good range. At the plate, Affronti is an aggressive hitter. He doesn't walk a lot, but he doesn't strike-out much either. He uses a short swing to fight off a lot of tough pitches and he tends to keep most of his contact on a line or on the ground. Affronti was more of a power-hitter in college, but he hasn't shown much homerun power since turning pro. He has average foot speed, but he is a smart base-runner and he is always looking for an extra base.

Affronti has shown himself to be a quick learner since he became a pro. He was the A's 2006 Instructional League Most Improved Player and he took to playing second base with ease in 2007 despite spending most of his career as a shortstop. Affronti has also seen some time at third base in the past, and his versatility should allow him to be in the line-up everyday no matter what affiliate he is playing on.

47. Scott Deal, SP
Deal had a career-high in innings.
Deal, who was selected out of high school in the fifth round of the 2005 draft, was part of a youthful Kane County starting staff in 2007. The 20-year-old right-hander threw a career-high 149 innings in 2007, going 7-10 with a 4.29 ERA. It was his first season with a full-season affiliate, as he spent the 2005 campaign in the Arizona Rookie League and the 2006 campaign in short-season Vancouver.

During his brief tenure as a pro, Deal has developed a well-deserved reputation for having above-average command. The lanky right-hander walked only 38 batters this season and he has walked only 67 in 250 career innings in the minor leagues. Deal isn't a strikeout pitcher, however, as he had only 74 strikeouts in 2007 and he has a career K/9 ratio of only 4.61. He was inconsistent in 2007, posting mediocre numbers in April, outstanding numbers in June and August and poor numbers in May and July.

A Washington State native, Deal uses a fluid delivery and he has a lot of leverage on his 6'4'' frame. He generally throws his fastball in the high-80s, although he can touch 91 on occasion. Deal's fastball is very heavy and he is able to spot it in the lower part of the strike-zone. He is very aggressive within the strike-zone, inviting hitters to swing at his offerings. When Deal is pitching well, opposing hitters are beating his sinking fastball into the ground. His defense turned 19 double-plays behind him in 2007, the most for any pitcher on the Cougars' staff in 2007.

Deal is an intelligent pitcher and he also works at one of the faster paces of any pitcher in the A's system. He repeats his over-the-top delivery well and he showed this season that he can handle a heavy workload by making 25 starts and two relief appearances. Deal hasn't developed a real swing-and-miss pitch as of yet, which means that he is heavily reliant on the defense playing behind him. That has resulted in a lot of hits allowed, as he gave up 183 this season. Deal doesn't have over-powering stuff, but he has good movement and good control, so he should be able to develop more of a swing-and-miss to his game as he gets older. He will pitch the entire 2008 season as a 21-year-old, so he still has plenty of time to refine his pitches. He may also add a few miles per hour on his fastball velocity as he fills out. His stock as a prospect could rise quickly if he develops a strikeout pitch next season.

46. Ryan Webb, SP
Webb missed the last seven weeks of the seeason.
The 2007 campaign was a disappointing one for Webb. The 6'6'' right-hander appeared to be on the verge of a break-through season in mid-May when he was promoted from High-A Stockton (where he had spent the entire 2006 season) to Double-A Midland. At the time of his promotion, Webb was allowing opposing batters in the tough Cal League to hit only .208 off of him and he had struck out 45 in 49.2 innings.

Webb's positive momentum was stopped when he arrived in Midland, however. In five starts with the Rockhounds, Webb had a 9.12 ERA and he allowed 10 homeruns in only 25.2 innings. Webb told OaklandClubhouse.com that he was fighting a bit of a dead arm while in Midland, and he was pitching too much up in the strike-zone while at Double-A. When he returned to Stockton in June, it appeared that Webb was on his way to recovering the form he had early in the season. His first start back with Stockton was a bad one (seven runs in 3.2 innings), but he allowed only seven runs over his next 20 innings. It was at this point that Webb's season came unraveled. Over his next three starts, he allowed 17 runs in only 9.2 innings. He was shut-down by the A's after allowing seven runs in 2.1 innings on July 22, and he missed the rest of the season with an undisclosed injury.

Despite the set-back this season, Webb still has a lot of potential to grow into a consistent starter. When his mechanics are solid, he has a nice, easy delivery that generates a lot of downward motion when he releases the ball. He has a low-90s fastball, a slider and a solid curveball. Webb's command has always been excellent and he is an intelligent pitcher who likes to think along with the hitters. At times, that intelligence has worked against Webb, as he has on occasion appeared to try to think his way through a tough inning rather than trust his stuff.

Webb hasn't developed the consistency yet that the A's would have hoped he would have in his fourth season as a pro. He is still prone to the big inning and he sometimes pitches too much in the middle of the plate. Webb is still very young, and he won't turn 22 until February. Even if he has to repeat at Stockton at the start of next season, he will still have a chance to make it to the big leagues. However, he'll need to make significant strides next year and demonstrate that he can handle the more advanced levels to maintain a path to the big leagues.

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