Oakland A's Top-50 Prospects: 30-26

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 continue the series with prospects 30-26.

30. Dan Meyer, SP:
Meyer's come-back season ended with six major league appearances.
After two disappointing seasons hampered by injury, Meyer finally put together a campaign along the lines of what the A's were expecting out of him when they acquired him from the Atlanta Braves in December 2004. Meyer began the year at extended spring training as he finished his recovery from off-season shoulder surgery. After three weeks at extended spring training, Meyer was sent to Double-A Midland for one start. He was then moved up to Triple-A Sacramento, where he would immediately make an impact for the River Cats by allowing only one run in five innings.

Meyer would spend the bulk of the rest of the season in the River Cats' rotation. In 21 starts, the left-hander posted an impressive 3.28 ERA in 115.1 innings. He struck out 105 batters and held opposing batters to a .243 BA. Meyer was consistently good for Sacramento, with the exception of the month of June when he had a 5.67 ERA. In every other month, Meyer posted an ERA of 3.54 or lower. His outstanding season earned Meyer two stints with the Oakland A's. He struggled during his time in the big leagues, posting an 8.82 ERA in 16.1 innings.

Meyer's performance was especially impressive when one considers how unlikely it was that he would be even pitching this season. After two years of undiagnosed pain, Meyer finally underwent exploratory surgery midway through the 2006 season. The surgeon discovered a large bone chip floating in his shoulder which he removed. Doctors were unsure that Meyer would ever pitch again. After a long off-season of diligent rehabilitation, Meyer not only pitched again, but pitched with the same life on his fastball that he had back when he was one of the top pitching prospects in baseball while in the Atlanta organization.

"He widely exceeded our expectations with his performance this season, especially his last couple of months in Triple-A when he did so well," Farhan Zaidi, Oakland A's Baseball Operations Analyst, told OaklandClubhouse.com last month.

"I'm very happy that we had a chance to get him up here and he was able to get some experience and to start to get a sense of what you need to do to get major league hitters out."

Now healthy, Meyer is throwing his fastball in the low-90s with his trademark sink. He also has an improved change-up, a curveball and a slider. Meyer changes speeds well, but his location was still spotty even late in the season. His wildness was effective at Triple-A, as hitters often chased his pitches out of the strike zone. However, at the major league level, hitters were more patient, forcing Meyer to throw more towards the middle of the plate, which resulted in a number of hard-hit balls.

"In the big leagues, it is all about where you miss when you don't get the ball where you are trying to throw it. You have to prepare that way. You can't miss to the other side of the plate when you are trying to go away. Guys who pitch in the big leagues, whether they are starters or relievers, they miss in good spots, and if you don't practice with that in mind and pitch that way, you are not going to be a major league pitcher," Ron Romanick, Oakland A's Minor League Pitching Coordinator, told OaklandClubhouse.com earlier in the year.

"And that is what I kept telling Dan. I said, ‘you have tremendous feel, but your misses need to be where you are aiming or at least out where you don't get hurt when you miss.' It's not about where you hit, but where you miss. Everything else will follow off of that. He has a lot of swing-and-miss in his game."

Meyer is out of options next season, so the A's will have to make a decision about his future with the team by the end of spring training. As of right now, the A's have an opening in their rotation and Meyer will likely be one of the pitchers competing for that spot. He may also stick with the team as a reliever. Meyer isn't well-suited to be a left-handed situational set-up man, as he is actually more effective against right-handers than left-handers. However, he could fill a role as a long reliever with the team in 2008.

29. Justin Sellers, IF:
Sellers is one of the best athletes in the A's system.
Sellers was selected out of high school in 2005, and he has been on a steady path up the Oakland chain since that time. After spending all of the 2006 season in Low-A Kane County, Sellers spent most of the 2007 campaign with High-A Stockton before getting a late-season call-up to Double-A Midland. Sellers was in the Ports' everyday line-up and he had a solid season. He hit .274 with a .350 OBP and 11 steals in 114 games. He struggled during his brief time in Double-A, batting only .156 in 14 games. Sellers has spent the off-season playing in Hawaii, where he has acquitted himself well in the Hawaiian Baseball League, batting .281 with a .360 OBP and seven doubles in 27 games.

Although Sellers has never posted a season OPS higher than 700 in any full season, he is still very highly thought of within the A's organization. Sellers is one of the best natural athletes in the A's system. Defensively, he has all of the tools to be a Gold Glove defensive player down the road. Although he is still prone to making mistakes on easy plays, Sellers has plus range, good hands and a strong throwing arm from short. He also demonstrated that he could play a solid second base this season when he was sharing the infield with Cliff Pennington early in the season in Stockton and later in the year in Midland.

At the plate, Sellers is still finding himself. He is naturally selective and he does a good job seeing a lot of pitches. However, he still has a tendency to swing for the fences even though his frame is better suited to be a line-drive hitter. Nearly 11 percent of the balls Sellers hit while he was in Stockton this season were pop-ups on the infield, usually on pitches he was trying to muscle into the seats. Sellers had 26 doubles this season, and most of those came on hard groundballs down the line. Sellers is an asset on the base paths. He has above-average speed, is a smart base-runner and has a way of getting into pitchers' heads by frequently jumping off first base.

Sellers is listed at 160 pounds, and he may not even be that big. He has an extremely wiry frame with room to fill-out. If Sellers can add some weight to his frame, he may increase his power production a little bit, at least in terms of his number of doubles. However, power will likely never be a big part of his game. He does have the capability of being a solid lead-off hitter. If he can keep the ball more on a line or on the ground, Sellers could hit around .300 with a good on-base percentage.

His defense will likely give him a shot at the big leagues, regardless of whether he dramatically improves his hitting. Whether he can stick at the major league level will have a lot to do with if he can improve his hitting. Sellers will be 22 at the start of the 2008 season and he will likely start the year where he ended his 2007 campaign, at Double-A Midland.

28. Danny Putnam, OF:
Putnam's season was interrupted by injury once again.
Putnam's 2007 season was exhilarating and frustrating, all at the same time. On the plus side, Putnam made his major league debut, hit his first major league homerun and had a walk-off, extra-inning homerun in Game 4 of the PCL semi-final series. On the down side, Putnam missed a significant portion of the season with a freak injury for the second season in a row. In 2006, it was a knee injury. In 2007, it was a broken hand suffered when he was hit-by-a-pitch.

Overall, Putnam's season was uneven, thanks in large part to his injury and in small part to spending nearly a month in the big leagues while getting only 28 at-bats. Putnam was dominant early in the season with Double-A Midland. He hit .327 with 15 RBI and a 615 SLG in 52 at-bats. At that point, he was recalled to Oakland, where his playing time was scattered. He appeared in 11 games and batted .214 with a homer and two RBIs. Putnam showed good defensive versatility while with Oakland, playing all three outfield positions despite never playing much centerfield before reaching the big leagues.

When Putnam was sent back to the minor leagues, he was sent to Triple-A where the A's were hoping he would spend the rest of the season sharpening his skills. Unfortunately, he was hit in the hand after being in Sacramento only a few days and that injury sidetracked the rest of his season. Putnam ended up batting only .216 with very little power in 51 games with Sacramento.

Putnam is a better hitter than he showed in Triple-A this season. When healthy, he has a compact left-handed swing that produces a lot of line-drives and a surprising number of homeruns for a man of his size (a listed 5'10''). He has a balanced set-up and he does a good job of going the other way and up the middle. Dating back to college, scouts have doubted his ability defensively. Putnam has only average foot speed, but he does a surprisingly good job getting to balls in the gap. His arm strength is average, but he is an accurate thrower.

Putnam's stock rose when he demonstrated that he could play in centerfield this season. He will likely get more reps in center next season to see if he could stick there. As a corner outfielder, Putnam is more likely to be a fourth outfielder/pinch-hitter in the major leagues because he isn't likely to be a 30 homer hitter. As an outfielder who can play well at all three outfield spots, Putnam has a better chance of seeing significant playing time in the major leagues. Putnam will be 25 throughout the 2008 season, so he will need to have a strong season at Triple-A to maintain his prospect status.

27. Jeff Baisley, 3B:
Baisley's hot start was thwarted by a knee injury.
After winning the Midwest League MVP award in 2006, big things were expected of Baisley in 2007. He jumped from Low-A directly to Double-A, spending the entire 2007 season with Double-A Midland. Baisley got off to a strong start to his season and looked poised to post another stand-out campaign. However, he injured his knee in June and missed a month. Baisley was never the same after returning from the injury.

Before he was hurt, Baisley was batting .288 with an 823 OPS. However, after his return, Baisley managed only a .201 BA with a 520 OPS. Those struggles continued into the Arizona Fall League where he managed only a 626 OPS. Baisley admitted in an interview with OaklandClubhouse.com during the Arizona Fall League season that his knee was still bothering him and that only rest this off-season would allow it to heal completely.

Given that he was hurting, less should be read into Baisley's numbers during the second half of the season than the first half when he was healthy. During those first 70 or so games, Baisley demonstrated that he could handle the Double-A level. Based on that half season, he has a strong chance of starting next season at Triple-A.

Baisley is a classic pull hitter at the plate. He doesn't take as many pitches as most A's prospects, but he also does a better job of driving the ball than many A's farmhands. He has a homerun hitter's build at 6'3'', 220 pounds and a smooth right-handed swing with a slight upper-cut.

Defensively, Baisley committed 15 errors in only 101 games, but seven of those came in July and August when Baisley was hurting. He has soft hands and a good arm and should be able to handle the position at the higher levels. Baisley saw some time at first base during the Arizona Fall League and he could see more time there to increase his versatility next season.

26. Kevin Melillo, 2B:
Melillo's wrist injury hampered his power late in the season.
Like Baisley and Putnam, Melillo saw a promising season derailed by an in-season injury. Melillo was cruising along with a solid season at Triple-A Sacramento when he injured his wrist in June. That injury eventually shelved him for nearly the entire month of July and hampered him throughout the rest of the season. He wound-up having to have off-season surgery on his wrist to repair a torn ligament. He should be 100 percent for spring training.

Melillo had an OPS in the mid-800s when he injured his wrist, but he finished the season with a 798 OPS. Where the wrist really hurt Melillo was with his power production. He had 21 doubles, six triples, eight homeruns and a .461 SLG during the first half of the season when he was mostly healthy. After the All-Star break, Melillo's power all-but-disappeared, as he managed only six doubles, two homers and a .382 SLG.

All things being equal, Melillo might have been shut-down for the season with the wrist problem. However, the River Cats needed him in the line-up when J.J. Furmaniak and Donnie Murphy were recalled to Oakland, so he toughed it out. Melillo was one of the vocal team leaders on a River Cats' squad that won the PCL and Triple-A championships in 2007.

Like Baisley, it makes sense to put more stock in the numbers that Melillo put up while healthy than when he was hurt. That being said, the injury was ill-timed for Melillo, who watched Murphy and Jack Hannahan get significant playing time at the major league level while he was hurting. Melillo did make his big league debut, but it was only for one at-bat (he walked). Had he been healthy all season, Melillo may have had a lot more time in the big leagues this season.

Offensively, Melillo profiles as an above-average offensive second baseman. He has good power for a middle infielder and he works the count well. Melillo will strike out his fair share, but he also walks a good amount. He has average foot speed. Defensively, Melillo has continued to improve as he has gotten more experience. He will probably never be an above-average defensive second baseman, but he has transformed himself from below-average to average. Melillo has seen some time at third base, but second base is his natural position.

Melillo will be 26 next season, so this will be the season for him to make the move and try to establish himself as a big leaguer.

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