|Jared Burton had a strong season with Cincinnati after the A's lost him in last year's Rule 5 draft. b>|
The A's began the day with 33 spots filled on their 40-man roster. Oakland brought that total up to 38 by adding five players: pitchers Jeff Gray and Henry Rodriguez, shortstop Gregorio Petit, catcher Landon Powell and outfielder Richie Robnett.
|Henry Rodriguez is one of the A's top prospects. b>|
Gray is coming off of a season during which he saved an A's minor league system-high 15 games for Double-A Midland and Triple-A Sacramento. The Southwest Missouri State alum had a 3.34 ERA in 67.1 innings during the 2007 regular season. He struck out 57 and walked 24 and allowed only two homers. Gray recently completed his Arizona Fall League season, where he had a 5.68 ERA in 12.2 innings for the Phoenix Desert Dogs. Gray features a mid-90s fastball that could have made him an attractive Rule 5 candidate for many teams looking for hard-throwing relievers.
Rodriguez is one of the best young arms in the A's system. The right-hander has never pitched above the A-ball level, but his combination of a high-90s fastball and a good change-up could have made him attractive to other teams in the Rule 5 draft despite his inexperience. The 20-year-old Venezuelan native went 6-8 with a 3.07 ERA as a starter for Kane County in 2007. He struck out 106 in only 99.2 innings for the Cougars. Rodriguez is currently pitching for Zulia of the Venezuelan Winter League, and he has a 1.62 ERA and 16 strike outs in 16.2 innings thus far.
Petit, who also hails from Venezuela, has been eligible for the Rule 5 draft each of the past two seasons. In the past, Petit was considered too raw to be kept on a major league roster for an entire season. However, he became a much more viable candidate for the Rule 5 draft in 2007 when he reached both the Double-A and Triple-A levels for the first time. Petit hit .292 with a 728 OPS and 59 RBI in 133 games split between Midland and Sacramento. He was named to the Texas League All-Star game while with Midland and helped the River Cats win the PCL and Triple-A titles. Petit is an outstanding defensive shortstop and second baseman. He is currently playing in the VWL for Caracas and is batting .229 in 48 at-bats for the Leones.
|Richie Robnett has big-time homerun power. b>|
Robnett was also a first round pick of the A's in 2004. The power-hitting outfielder spent most of the season with Double-A Midland, where he led the team with 18 homers and 74 RBI. He finished seventh in the Texas League in both categories despite spending the final three weeks of the season in Triple-A. Robnett was a Texas League mid-season and post-season All-Star, and he homered during the Texas League All-Star game off of Royals' top prospect Luke Hochevar. Robnett struggled at the Triple-A level, striking out 16 times in 33 at-bats. However, he finished the regular season with four hits in his final 13 at-bats (.308). Robnett has the most raw power of any player in the A's system. The 24-year-old also has a strong throwing arm and decent speed. He has seen time at all three outfield positions during his minor league career.
A's Sign Three Minor League Free Agents
The minor league free agency period is underway and the A's have inked three players thus far: Troy Cate, Todd Donovan and Todd Linden.
|Todd Linden was once a top prospect for the Giants. b>|
Donovan, a fleet-footed outfielder, was an eighth round pick of the San Diego Padres in 1999. He played for San Diego when current A's first base coach Tye Waller was the Padres Director of Player Development. Donovan has also played for the Dodgers, Orioles, Indians and Rangers organizations. He has done a good job of getting on-base throughout his career and he has stolen 272 bases in 647 games during his career. Donovan spent last season in the Texas Rangers chain, however, a groin injury cost him much of the season. He hit .254 in 63 at-bats for Double-A Frisco. Donovan has played above the Double-A level only twice during his nine year career – in 2005, when he hit .378 in 13 games with Triple-A Las Vegas, and in 2006, when he hit .216 in 45 games with Triple-A Ottawa.
Linden is a familiar name to many Bay Area baseball fans. A top prospect in the Giants chain for many years, Linden became something of a lightening rod for many Giants fans who were frustrated with San Francisco's player development efforts. The switch-hitting outfielder was the Giants first round pick in 2001. He became a top prospect the next season when he posted a 901 OPS at the Double-A level and finished the year in Triple-A. Linden made his big league debut with the Giants in 2003, batting .211 with a homer in 18 games. He continued to receive chances at the big league level in 2004, 2005, 2006 and 2007, but was never able to capture a full-time role. His best stint with the Giants came in 2006, when he had an 811 OPS and a .273 BA in 77 at-bats. He struggled with San Francisco in 2007, batting .182 with a 450 OPS in 55 at-bats. He was released mid-season and picked-up by the Florida Marlins, where he had more success. He hit .375 in a 14-game stint with Triple-A Albuquerque and batted .271 with a 711 OPS in 129 at-bats for the Marlins.