These 10 Oakland A's prospects are looking to continue to build off of breakthrough 2007 campaigns.
Brett Anderson: It is hard to say that Anderson was an unknown prospect coming into the 2007 season given that he was the 55th overall pick in 2006 out of an Oklahoma high school. However, he hadn't thrown a pitch during a minor league regular season game before the 2007 season, and given the uncertainty that can surround high school draft picks, it was hard to know what to expect of Anderson in 2007. It didn't take him long to establish himself as one of the top pitchers in the Low-A Midwest League, however.
The then-19-year-old dominated the Midwest League. In 14 starts, he posted a 2.21 ERA with 85 strike-outs and only 10 walks in 81.1 innings. He was named a mid-season Midwest League All-Star and he earned a late-June promotion to the High-A California League. Anderson's numbers in the hitter-friendly Cal League weren't as impressive as his stint in the Midwest League. However, he still struck-out more than a batter an inning (40 in 39 innings) and allowed three or fewer runs in all but two of his nine outings. His season was interrupted after he was injured in a car accident, but even with that hiccup, Anderson did more than enough to establish himself as one of baseball's top left-handers in the lower minors.
Anderson became a target of the A's in trade talks with Arizona after Oakland saw him pitch well during the fall Instructional League. The lefty enters the 2007 season as the A's second-best southpaw pitching prospect. Even if he doesn't start the season there, Anderson will be aiming to see significant time in his birthplace city – Midland, Texas, the home of the A's Double-A affiliate – in 2008. If that happens, Anderson could be in the major leagues as soon as September 2009, as a 21-year-old.
Trevor Cahill: Like Anderson, Cahill was certainly not an under-the-radar prospect coming into the 2007 season. He was the A's top pick in 2006, a second-round draft selection out of a San Diego-area high school. Unlike Anderson, Cahill did throw a few innings after being drafted. However, the sample size was extremely small, as Cahill threw only nine innings for the A's Rookie League affiliate. His 2007 season got off to a slow start, as he was hampered by illness during Spring Training. The A's held Cahill back at Extended Spring Training at the start of the season to give him a chance to regain his strength and to allow the weather to warm in the Midwest, where the A's were planning to send Cahill.
Cahill arrived in Kane County in late May. After one relief appearance, Cahill was shifted over into the rotation. He threw pretty well in his first six weeks with Kane County, but he really got it going after the All-Star break. In 13 post-All-Star-break appearances, Cahill had a 2.26 ERA and 72 strike-outs in 61 innings. During the final month of the season, there was arguably no better pitcher in the Midwest League than Cahill, who allowed only three runs in 36.2 innings (0.74 ERA) during the month of August.
Cahill impressed the A's brass last season with his work ethic. He arrived in Spring Training last year having developed a good change-up during the off-season on his own time, a pitch that allowed Cahill to have success in 2007. He will be adding another breaking pitch – likely a curveball – in 2008. His likely destination will be High-A Stockton in the California League, where he will have a tough time matching his 2.73 ERA from 2007. However, he if he posts an ERA under 4.00 and continues to strike-out more than a batter an inning, Cahill will remain one of the A's top pitching prospects. Like Anderson, Cahill could see some time in Double-A in 2008.
Henry Rodriguez: Rodriguez entered the 2007 season with the reputation for being purely a thrower and he finished the year with the label of a pitcher. The lanky right-hander has been one of the A's hardest throwers since he was signed out of Venezuela in 2003. However, up until the 2007 season, Rodriguez rarely knew where his 98 MPH fastball was going when he threw it. In 2006 – his first season playing in the United States – Rodriguez struck-out an impressive 59 batters in 43.2 innings in the Arizona Rookie League. However, he walked 50 and posted a 7.42 ERA. He ended the season on a positive note, however, combining with Cahill to throw a no-hitter in the season-finale.
Rodriguez, like Cahill, was held back at Extended Spring Training to start the 2007 season. He joined the Kane County Cougars in mid-May and spent much of the rest of the season in the Cougars' starting rotation. Although Rodriguez still walked too many batters (58 in 99.2 innings), he showed much better command than in previous years and did a much better job of pitching under control than he had in 2006. He held opposing batters to a .214 average and struck-out 106 hitters while posting a solid 3.07 ERA.
The 21-year-old right-hander is already off to a good start in 2008. He has shown even more improvement with his command in his first major league camp. Rodriguez will be challenged in the hitter-friendly California League in 2008, but if he can continue to show that he can throw strikes and work his way out of tight jams, Rodriguez will continue to rise in the ranks of the top A's pitching prospects.
Fautino De Los Santos: De Los Santos was a complete unknown coming into the 2007 season. The Dominican right-hander was coming off of an outstanding year for the Chicago White Sox's Dominican Summer League team in 2006, but he had yet to play professionally in the United States before last season. De Los Santos pitched well enough during Spring Training to earn a spot in the bullpen of Chicago's full-season Low-A affiliate, the Kaanapolis Intimidators. After a few outings out of the bullpen, however, De Los Santos quickly cemented himself in the Kaanapolis starting rotation. In 97.2 innings for the Intimidators, De Los Santos had a 2.40 ERA and he struck-out 121 batters. He held South Atlantic League hitters to a .148 batting average.
That performance earned De Los Santos a spot in the MLB Futures Game and an August promotion to High-A Winston-Salem. He made five starts at High-A to finish out the year, posting a 3.65 ERA and striking out 32 in 24.2 innings. In his final start of the season, De Los Santos allowed one run on two hits while walking one and striking out 10.
De Los Santos was one of the three prospects the A's acquired from Chicago for Nick Swisher. The right-hander will now challenge Rodriguez and Craig Italiano for the title of best fastball in the A's minor league system. Depending on how he performs this spring, De Los Santos will either start the year in High-A or Double-A. Despite having only one year of pro ball in the US under his belt, De Los Santos is a polished pitcher with a good understanding of how to attack hitters. He could see significant time in Double-A in 2008 and if he continues to post strike-out totals and opposing batting averages like he did last year (153 in 122.1 innings and a .163 BAA), De Los Santos will zoom through the A's system.
Aaron Cunningham: Since being selected in the sixth round of the 2005 draft out of Everett Community College by the Chicago White Sox, Cunningham has been on a steady rise up the prospect charts. He had a solid debut season with Rookie-level Bristol in 2005, posting an 838 OPS in 222 at-bats in 2005. Cunningham followed that season with another strong campaign, posting an 879 OPS at Low-A Kannapolis in 2006. An ankle injury limited Cunningham to only 95 games in 2006, however, and prevented him from making the leap to High-A that season.
Cunningham got his chance at High-A in 2007 and quickly made an impact. He hit .294 with an 852 OPS in 252 at-bats with High-A Winston-Salem to start the year. After being named to the Carolina League All-Star team, Cunningham was dealt by Chicago to the Arizona Diamondbacks. With Arizona, Cunningham really began to pick up the pace. He tore through High-A Visalia, batting .358 with a 939 OPS. That earned him a bump up to Double-A Mobile, where he posted an impressive 898 OPS in 118 at-bats to finish off the season. In total, Cunningham appeared in 127 games in 2007 and hit .308 with a career-high 16 homers and an 885 OPS.
That performance and a stint in the Arizona Fall League made Cunningham a coveted prospect. He was one of the players the A's targeted in the Dan Haren trade, and he has impressed his new organization since arriving in the trade. Cunningham showed a strong work ethic by working out at the A's Spring Training facility well before the start of camp and he played well in limited opportunities in major league camp. Unfortunately, Cunningham's spring ended early when he broke his wrist diving back into a base. He will miss about two months with the injury. Despite the set-back, Cunningham has made himself one of the A's top outfield prospects in his brief time in the organization and he will be looking to earn a shot at a major-league roster spot in 2009 if he can put together a strong 2008 season after he returns from the injury.
Chris Carter: Carter was traded twice this off-season, but he is far from an unwanted prospect. In fact, quite the opposite. Carter made himself into a coveted commodity after a standout 2007 campaign for the Chicago White Sox's Low-A squad. After struggling in a 13-game stint with Low-A Kannapolis in 2006, Carter starred for the Intimidators by hitting .291 with 25 homers, 93 RBIs and a 906 OPS in 2007.
Carter's rise as a prospect has been a quick one. He was selected out of a Las Vegas-area high school by the White Sox in 2005 and played well in his pro debut season at Rookie-level Bristol that same season. In 2006, the White Sox tried jumping Carter up from Rookie ball to Low-A, but the jump proved difficult for Carter, who hit only .130 in 13 games for Low-A Kannapolis. He was sent back to Extended Spring Training and spent the rest of the season with short-season Great Falls of the Pioneer League, where he hit .299 with 15 homers and a 968 OPS. With his strong performance in Kannapolis in 2007, Carter quieted any doubts that may have emerged about his prospect status after his struggles with the Intimidators in 2006.
The lanky first baseman is expected to start the season with High-A Stockton. Given his prodigious power and the California League's reputation for being a hitter's haven, Carter has a chance to put up huge numbers in 2008. A big season along the lines of his 2007 performance should put Carter in the running to be the A's top position prospect going into 2009.
Andrew Bailey: Despite posting strong numbers during his pro debut season in 2006, Bailey was still a relative unknown coming into the 2007 season. The right-hander from Wagner College was a sixth-round pick by the A's in 2006. He was only a year removed from Tommy John surgery at the time of the draft. Although he was still working off some of the rust from his surgery, Bailey still posted a 2.02 ERA and 53 strike-outs in 58 innings for short-season Vancouver in 2006.
Bailey's 2007 season got off to a slow start, as he was sidelined early in Spring Training with a strained oblique muscle. The injury kept Bailey in Extended Spring Training for the first month of the season. He was promoted to Low-A Kane County in late April and, after one relief appearance, he jumped into the Cougars' rotation. Bailey quickly became one of the Midwest League's top strike-out pitchers. He whiffed 74 in only 51 innings for the Cougars in 11 starts. That performance earned him a promotion mid-season to High-A Stockton, where he continued to pitch well in a tough environment for pitchers. In 66 innings for the Ports, the hard-throwing Bailey posted a 3.82 ERA and struck-out 72 in 66 innings. Bailey was given one start at Triple-A Sacramento at the end of the season, and he held a no-hitter deep into the game and finished by allowing one run in eight frames.
Bailey used a combination of a mid-90s fastball with good movement and a curveball to strike-out 150 batters last season – most among A's minor leaguers. He has been working on a change-up and the addition of that pitch will make him even more difficult to hit. Bailey will likely start the season with Double-A Midland. A strong season in 2008 should give Bailey an invitation to major league camp next spring and perhaps even a spot in the A's pitching staff at some point in 2009.
Nick Blasi: Blasi was a forgotten man in the A's system at the start of the 2007 season. Despite batting .309 with an 848 OPS in 59 games for High-A Stockton at the end of the 2006 season, Blasi was sent back to Stockton to start the 2007 campaign. Blasi struggled in his return to Stockton, hitting for decent power (four homers in 109 at-bats), but batting only .239. However, just when it appeared that Blasi was going to be stuck in Stockton for the entire year, his luck changed. Injuries opened up what was supposed to be a temporary spot with Triple-A Sacramento. Blasi took advantage of the opportunity, batting .348 in his first 92 at-bats with Sacramento.
That hot start earned Blasi a regular spot in the River Cats' outfield. With the exception of a brief stint at Double-A, Blasi spent the rest of the year in Triple-A, batting .316 in 313 at-bats and raising his profile as a legitimate prospect. He raised his profile even more with his play during the Pacific Coast League playoffs, after which he was named the MVP of the PCL playoffs.
Despite those big numbers, Blasi may have to fight once again to be noticed in 2008. The A's acquired a number of outfield prospects during the off-season. That roster crowding might force Blasi back to Double-A to start the year. However, if Blasi continues to hit like he did last season, he will eventually get another chance in Triple-A, and if he hits around .300 at that level once again, he will get his opportunity with some organization, whether it be the A's or another team.
Gregorio Petit: After a disappointing 2006 campaign with High-A Stockton, Petit rebounded with a strong effort both at the plate and in the field with Double-A Midland and Triple-A Sacramento in 2007. In 2006, Petit hit only .256 with a .310 OBP in 137 games for Stockton. In addition, his defense, while spectacular at times, was inconsistent. Petit turned that around in 2007. He began the year as the everyday shortstop with Midland, and he got off to a great start with the bat. In 66 games for the Rockhounds, Petit hit .306 with a .366 OBP. He was named a mid-season Texas League All-Star, but was promoted to Triple-A before he could appear in the All-Star Game.
Petit got off to a very slow start at the plate with Sacramento, but the team was patient with him and he eventually turned it around. In 67 games for the River Cats, he hit .277 with a .327 OBP. Most importantly, he played a solid, and sometimes spectacular, shortstop for Sacramento. This off-season, the A's rewarded Petit with a spot on the 40-man roster. He has played well in his first big league spring training camp, impressing A's coaches with his bat and his glove.
Petit can play both second and short, and he has the best infield throwing arm in the A's system. Petit won't turn 24 until December. It is the glove that will carry Petit, but if Petit can continue to show that he can handle the bat in 2008, he will increase his chances of seeing some time with the A's should one of their infielders go down with an injury.
Mike Madsen: Coming into the 2006 season, Madsen was the pick of many to zoom through the A's system. The Ohio State alum had a Northwest League-leading 1.69 ERA in 2005 for short-season Vancouver. The A's jumped Madsen up to High-A Stockton in 2006, but he struggled with the Ports, posting a 6.68 ERA in 121.1 innings. He was lit-up during a mid-season stint at Double-A, allowing 15 runs in 7.1 innings.
At the start of the 2007 season, Madsen returned to Stockton. He quickly erased the thoughts of his poor 2006 performance with the Ports, posting a 3.75 ERA in four starts. Madsen was promoted to Double-A Midland and this time around, he dominated the Texas League. In 11 starts, Madsen had a 2.76 ERA and 69 strike-outs in 65 innings. He was bumped up to Triple-A Sacramento in late June, where he would spend the rest of the season. Although Madsen's ERA in Triple-A wasn't pretty (5.09), he did put together some good outings with the River Cats. He finished the season with a 3.84 ERA in 147.2 innings. Madsen was also named to the MLB Futures Game's US team, although he didn't appear in the game.
After stalling out a bit in 2006, Madsen made a big push forward in 2007 and he is now on the cusp of being major-league ready. He learned to pitch to the lower half of the strike-zone in 2007 and did a good job staying away from the middle of the plate. Madsen will need to rebound in Triple-A this season the way that he rebounded in his second tours of duty in High-A and Double-A last season to make the next step in his career.
Bobby Cramer: To say that Cramer did more to increase his stock as a prospect than any other player in the A's organization would not be much of an exaggeration. The left-hander wasn't even in baseball, let alone in the A's organization, until Oakland convinced him to sign a minor-league deal in May when the Stockton pitching staff was decimated with injuries. Cramer, who had spent a few years in the Tampa organization before leaving baseball in 2005, quickly got himself re-acclimated to professional baseball. He went 4-1 with a 3.80 ERA and 41 strike-outs in 45 innings for Stockton before earning a promotion to Double-A Midland. Cramer had never reached Double-A before that point in his career.
He continued to impress at the higher level, going 5-1 with a 1.89 ERA in 52.1 innings for the Rockhounds. In fact, he was so impressive that the A's called Cramer up to Triple-A Sacramento for the PCL playoffs. He finished his first season back in pro ball with a 9-2 record and a 2.77 ERA in 97.1 innings.
Cramer experienced some shoulder soreness at the end of the season that lingered into his off-season. Assuming that he is healthy, Cramer will likely either be a starter for Midland or a reliever for Sacramento at the start of the season. He demonstrated that he could get out both right-handers and left-handers last season and that he could throw strikes. A left-hander who can do both of those things generally has a shot at the big leagues. The A's have more left-handed pitching depth at the Triple-A level than they did last season, but if Cramer continues to pitch well, he could make himself a viable candidate for a call-up to the big leagues if the A's experience any injuries, especially in their bullpen.
Extending The Momentum
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