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 second in our series, we take a look at the progress of prospects 40-31 from our off-season list.

* Note: These rankings were made prior to the 2008 season. Adjustments for 2008 performance will be made to the rankings during the off-season. All stats as of July 28, 2008.

40. Justin Sellers

After spending most of last season at High-A Stockton, Sellers has spent the 2008 season where he finished the 2007 season – with Double-A Midland. Thus far, Sellers' 2008 season has gone much the same way his 2007 unfolded. Like last year, Sellers got off to a slow start to his season offensively. In April, he hit only .200 and he hit only slightly better at .238 in May. However, the last two months have gone much better for Sellers. For the month of June, he hit .272 and he doubled his season total for homeruns by hitting two in the month. July has been even more productive for Sellers. Through Monday, he was hitting .309 with six triples and a 911 OPS for the month. Overall, Sellers is batting .255 with a .334 OBP and a 711 OPS.

Defense has always been Sellers' strongest asset since turning pro. A natural shortstop, Sellers has split his time between short and second, increasing his versatility. His glove and range are good enough for him to handle both positions. Sellers hasn't run that effectively this season (eight steals in 14 chances), however, and his OBP is lower than it should be. Sellers will likely never hit for power, so he will need to be strong in the "small ball" areas to be an effective player. He finished his second half with Stockton last year on an up note. If he can continue to do the same with Midland this year, Sellers – who will be only 23 next season – could challenge for a spot in Triple-A next season.

Status: Looking for strong finish

39. Danny Putnam

Putnam's 2007 season was scattered and saw him spend time at three different levels (including the major leagues) and miss nearly two-and-a-half months thanks to a broken hand. His 2008 season has been a lot more stable. He has spent a couple of weeks at Double-A, but he has been with Triple-A Sacramento for the vast majority of the season. After struggling to find his rhythm last season, Putnam has been swinging the bat much better this season. In 69 games with Sacramento, Putnam is batting .268 with 14 homers, 48 RBIs and an 864 OPS.

With the exception of a poor month of June that included a bout with pneumonia, Putnam has been remarkably consistent with the River Cats this season. He has maintained at least an OPS of 875 in April, May and July. Despite being a left-handed hitter, Putnam has dominated left-handed pitching (998 OPS) and his overall .504 SLG leads all regular Sacramento players. Putnam saw his status with the A's organization dip last year when he struggled after his broken hand. In addition, over the last year, the A's have added a number of talented outfielders via trades. Nevertheless, if Putnam continues to hit as he has thus far this season, he will receive serious consideration by Oakland for a 40-man roster spot this off-season (he will be eligible for the Rule 5 draft if he isn't added).

Status: Value rising

38. Jeff Baisley

A knee injury severely limited Baisley during the second half of the 2007 season and injury has again been an issue for the third baseman in 2008. Baisley has been with Triple-A Sacramento all season – his first at that level – and he has played well when he has been healthy. Unfortunately, Baisley has missed the last six weeks with a stress fracture in his foot. He could return sometime in the next few weeks.

Before the injury, Baisley was making a case for an opportunity in the big leagues. In 62 games, he was batting .289 with eight homers, 40 RBIs and an 868 OPS. He was also showing a strong glove over at third base. Baisley's injury is very unfortunate for him, as the A's almost certainly would have given him a chance to play at the big league level when Eric Chavez went on the DL for the second time. Instead, that opportunity has gone to Jack Hannahan and Brooks Conrad. If Baisley gets back on the field over the next two weeks and is swinging well come September 1st, he could still get a chance in September with the A's. Oakland needs to see what it has in terms of third basemen in case Chavez can't return to the position next season, so getting Baisley on the field in a September audition would behoove both the A's and Baisley.

Status: Hoping to heal in time

37. Jeff Fiorentino

Fiorentino was claimed by Oakland off of waivers just before the start of spring training. He spent the entire spring in the A's big league camp and was even on the A's 28-man roster during their opening series with the Boston Red Sox in Japan. Fiorentino had one at-bat in those Japan games and he made it count, collecting an RBI single. He was sent to Triple-A Sacramento before the A's US opener. Unfortunately, his season hit a major speed bump during the first week of game action when he was hit in the face with a errant throw to first and suffered broken bones in his face.

Fiorentino returned to the River Cats in late May, but he wasn't with Sacramento for long. On May 30th, the A's designated Fiorentino for assignment and, in a bit of irony, he was claimed by his original club, the Baltimore Orioles. Since then, Fiorentino has been with Triple-A Norfolk. In 43 games, he has a .257 average and a 680 OPS.

Status: In Triple-A with Baltimore

36. Kevin Melillo

After undergoing off-season wrist surgery, Melillo's 2008 season got off to a delayed start. He missed much of spring training getting his wrist back into playing shape and didn't return to active play until mid-April. Melillo returned to Triple-A Sacramento, the club that he helped lead to a PCL and Triple-A championship in 2007. Melillo got off to a good start with the River Cats, but he was scuffling a bit in late May when he was designated for assignment by the A's. In 38 games with Sacramento, Melillo hit .260 with five homers and a 773 OPS.

Just before the June draft, Melillo was traded to the Toronto Blue Jays. Since that time, he has been with Triple-A Syracuse. His overall numbers with the Chiefs haven't been great (730 OPS in 38 games), but his home/road splits have been pretty dramatic. At Syracuse, Melillo is batting only .194 with a 578 OPS. On the road, he is batting .270 with an 878 OPS. With Toronto's middle infield situation somewhat unsettled right now, Melillo could get a look by the Blue Jays this September. He will be eligible for the Rule 5 draft this off-season if he isn't added to the Blue Jays' 40-man roster.

Status: In Triple-A with Toronto

35. Matt Sulentic

Sulentic's 2007 season was an unmitigated disaster. He had an outstanding pro debut season in 2006 after being selected in the third round of that year's draft, but he struggled badly during his first full pro season in 2007, hitting only .175 with Low-A Kane County and .261 in short-season Vancouver. Sulentic worked extremely hard during the off-season and the A's rewarded his hard work by sending him directly to High-A Stockton despite his 2007 struggles with Kane County.

Sulentic has validated the A's faith in him. The 20-year-old outfielder has been a steady force for Stockton all season. In 95 games, he is batting .309 with nine homers, 55 RBIs and an 849 OPS. Sulentic has also shown dramatic improvement as a defensive outfielder. The Dallas area native is one of the youngest position players in the California League and he has more than held his own. He should get a crack at Double-A Midland as a 21-year-old next season and he will likely enter the season much higher on the A's prospect list than he was this year.

Status: A rising star

34. Jamie Richmond

Richmond was acquired by the A's last January as part of the Mark Kotsay trade with the Atlanta Braves. The Toronto, Canada, native came to the A's with a reputation as a right-hander with a strong pitcher's IQ and excellent control. For the most part, he has been as advertised this season for the Low-A Kane County Cougars. He got off to a great start for the Cougars, posting ERAs of 3.70 and 3.26 in April and May. Richmond has struggled more in June (6.11 ERA) and July (5.92 ERA). However, the tremendous control has been there for Richmond throughout the season. He has walked only eight batters since the All-Star break and 19 in 115.1 innings overall.

The right-hander doesn't have over-powering stuff, so he is a pitcher who relies heavily on having a solid defense behind him. At times during the second half of the season, Richmond's defense has let him down. A's minor league pitching coordinator Gil Patterson has indicated that Richmond, despite the mediocre 4.60 ERA, has done the things that he wanted Richmond to do this season: namely throw strikes and work deep into games. Richmond is likely to go to High-A Stockton next season.

Status: Steady

33. Craig Italiano

After two injury-marred seasons, Italiano has finally been healthy this year. He got off to a great start to his 2008 campaign, blowing away the competition in the Midwest League by posting a 1.16 ERA in 70 innings for the Kane County Cougars. Italiano started the Midwest League All-Star game and he struck-out 79 while allowing only 43 hits. That effort earned Italiano a promotion to High-A Stockton, where he encountered his first speed bump of the season. In 19.1 innings for the Ports, Italiano has allowed 32 hits and 24 earned runs.

Italiano's struggles with Stockton may have more to do with fatigue than anything else. The right-hander hasn't thrown more than 50 innings in any season since 2005, and he is now at 89.1 innings on the year. In addition, Italiano has struggled with his location at times, and location issues tend to be exposed quickly in the hitter-friendly California League. Nonetheless, Italiano's 2008 season has been a successful one. Assuming he finishes the season healthy, Italiano should start the 2009 season back with Stockton looking to build on the progress he made in 2008. Despite missing nearly two full seasons with injuries, Italiano just turned 22 last week.

Status: Encouraging performance

32. Travis Banwart

The A's fourth round pick in 2007, Banwart began the season with Low-A Kane County. The Wichita State alum made seven starts with the Cougars, posting a 2.38 ERA and putting up a 41:11 K:BB ratio in 41.2 innings pitched. He was then promoted to High-A Stockton, where he has been limited by a sore right shoulder. He has made eight starts with Stockton, but he has thrown only 28.1 innings, as the A's have limited his pitch count to ensure the health of his shoulder. Banwart's control has also been effected by the sore shoulder. He has walked an uncharacteristic 20 with the Ports, although he has mostly pitched around it.

Banwart, when healthy, has demonstrated all of the skills of a potential major league starter. He has a solid mix of pitches, good command and the ability to work deep into games. His shoulder problems are worrisome, although he has been pitching without limitation over the past few turns through the rotation. Banwart is looking for a healthy end to his season and better command to go along with the good health.

Status: Aiming to be full-strength

31. Gregorio Petit

Petit was added to the A's 40-man roster this off-season after a 2007 campaign that saw him hit .292 in a combined 133 games for Double-A Midland and Triple-A Sacramento. He played well in his first big league spring training camp and accompanied the A's to Japan. After getting off to a fast start with Sacramento at the start of the season, Petit got the call to replace an injured Donnie Murphy on the A's roster in May. Petit spent nearly a month with Oakland during that stint and then spent another week with the A's in July when Bobby Crosby landed on the DL.

Thus far, Petit has done in 2008 what he did in 2007: play great defense and hit for a solid average. He doesn't hit for much power and doesn't walk a lot, but Petit has shown himself to be one of those players who manages to influence a game nearly every time he is out on the field. He is a natural shortstop (and an above-average one at that), but he has proven that he can also handle second base and third base. Thanks to his outstanding glove, Petit's offensive production will always be viewed as somewhat of a bonus. Thus far this season, Petit has put up a .294 average with Sacramento and he is hitting .348 in 12 games with the A's. He should be back with Oakland in September, if not sooner, and should be one of the leading candidates for one of the A's roster spots next spring.

Status: On the cusp of being full-time major leaguer

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