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 profile 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, RHP

Hodsdon had a 2.93 ERA for Kane County.
For a second consecutive year, right-hander Scott Hodsdon comes in at number 50 on our list of top A's prospects. The Azusa Pacific product was selected by the A's in the sixth round of the 2007 draft. He was a two-way player in college, so Hodsdon was a relatively inexperienced pitcher when he was drafted. After a solid debut with Vancouver in 2007, he was sent to Low-A Kane County for the 2008 season.

Hodsdon got off to a slow start, going 0-4 in April with an ugly 6.75 ERA. Hitters batted .388 against him and he allowed six walks in only 17.1 innings. After that, however, he really hit his stride. In May, he posted an ERA of 1.74 and then never looked back, posting ERAs of 3.57 or lower in each of the next three months. After the All-Star break, Hodsdon had a 1.98 ERA in 54.2 innings and he allowed only one homerun. On the season, Hodsdon had a 2.93 ERA for Kane County, good for ninth-best in the Midwest League. He finished third on the team in innings pitched with 120 despite missing three starts in July with a strained pectoral muscle.

Like many of the A's pitching prospects, Hodsdon is a groundball pitcher who doesn't walk a lot of batters. In 120 innings, he walked only 23, good for a little less than two per nine innings, and he induced groundballs from half of the batters he faced. Hodsdon doesn't allow many homeruns, either, giving up only seven on the season. He is an athletic pitcher who has some deception to his motion and good movement on his pitches, which include a sinking fastball that sits around 91 MPH.

Hodsdon could use a swing-and-miss pitch, however. He struck-out only 86 last season, so he was vulnerable to poor defenses, something that was evident in his 21 unearned runs allowed. The defenses behind him should continue to improve as he moves up the ladder, but more strike-outs would help him keep those unearned run totals down. In many ways, Hodsdon's numbers with Kane County were similar to those put up by Jared Lansford at that same level, but with fewer walks on Hodsdon's part. Lansford was eventually moved into the bullpen, where his career has taken off. Hodsdon could make a similar move, as his stuff profiles well as a reliever. Hodsdon, who was a senior sign in 2007, will turn 24 in May of next year, so a move to the bullpen could be fortuitous for him as it would allow him to advance through the system more quickly.

49. Tom Everidge, 1B

Everidge won the Texas League RBI crown.
They say that slow and steady wins the race and, for Everidge, his sometimes slow climb through the Oakland A's system might finally be bringing him the rewards that has been working for. The burly first baseman didn't receive a shot at Double-A until the final two weeks of the 2007 season, his fourth year in the A's chain. He made the most of that truncated opportunity, hitting .361 in 36 at-bats and the A's sent him back to Midland in 2008 for his first full season at the Double-A level.

After what has become an annual slow start for Everidge, the Sonoma State alum began to amass impressive numbers for the Rockhounds. In May, he hit .316 with eight homers and 29 RBIs. That effort included one monster game on May 26th when he hit three homeruns and drove-in a remarkable 10 runs, a performance that earned him a MiLB.com award for best Double-A Single Game Performance. After a down June, Everidge put up great numbers in July (.322 with six homers and 33 RBIs) and August (.315 with two homers and 23 RBIs) to finish the year with a .279 average, 22 homeruns and a Texas League-leading 115 RBIs.

That line earned Everidge Texas League post-season All-Star honors and has made him a strong candidate to land in Triple-A next season. Throughout his career with Oakland, Everidge has had to fight for recognition against players who were either drafted higher than him or acquired in trades despite hitting more than 20 homeruns and driving-in at least 80 runs in each of the past three seasons. His time in the spotlight might now finally be approaching.

"He certainly has put himself into a position where he can't fly under the radar anymore. When you put up those kind of numbers every year, it's not a fluke," Keith Lieppman, the A's director of player development, said this fall.

"We are assuming that he is the real deal. Once you do it at Double-A and put up those kind of numbers, you deserve the opportunity to move on to the next level. Guys like him who maybe had to wait a little bit longer to get their opportunity at the Triple-A level, whenever the timing comes, so be it. This may be his opportunity next year."

The barrel-chested Everidge has a lot of raw power and he is built like a taller, more muscular, right-handed version of Matt Stairs. He isn't fleet of foot and is limited defensively to first base. At the plate, Everidge has always been a "see-ball/hit-ball" kind of player. He has struggled when he has tried consciously to draw walks. Over the past few seasons, Everidge has struggled badly in April. If Everidge can come out of the gate swinging next season, his numbers could even improve over what he has put up the past few years. He will be 26 next April, so Everidge's window for being a major league regular isn't going to be for that much longer. However, if he puts up the kind of run-production numbers at Triple-A that he has in Single-A and Double-A, he is likely to get a crack at the big leagues in 2010, if not sooner.

48. Jeff Gray

Gray made his big league debut this season.
After a solid season split between Double-A and Triple-A in 2007, Gray was added to the A's 40-man roster during the off-season and invited to his first big league spring training. Once the season started, Gray was sent back to Sacramento, where he was expected to team up with Jerry Blevins as the River Cats' closer. Up-and-down results pushed Gray into more of a set-up role, however. The right-hander struggled on and off with his slider and curveball and wound-up posting a 4.39 ERA and allowing 86 hits and 23 walks in 67.2 innings.

Despite those struggles, Gray remained on the A's 40-man roster for the entire season and even received a September call-up, during which he made four appearances for the A's, allowing four runs in 4.2 innings with four strike-outs and a walk. He was then sent to the Arizona Fall League (a return appearance for the Missouri native) to continue to work on some mechanical changes that he was asked to make at the tail-end of the season.

Gray's year-long presence on the A's 40-man roster and his return trip to Arizona are two indications of what the A's think of the potential of his right arm. Gray was clocked as high as 96 MPH during his stint with Oakland in September, and the A's feel that if he can hone his secondary stuff, he has the potential to be an above-average reliever in the big leagues. Gray has featured a traditional delivery throughout his career, but he is currently in Arizona working with A's bullpen coach Ron Romanick on some mechanical changes that would add some deception to his throwing motion. Thus far, the new mechanics have led to good results for Gray, who has allowed only one earned run in nine innings at the AFL, allowing five hits. He has walked four, but two of those walks came in his first inning of work, and he has struck-out six.

The A's are an organization that values production, so Gray will need to continue to put up good numbers on the mound to secure his roster spot through the off-season and into the start of the regular season. However, with Alan Embree and Keith Foulke likely to leave the team via free agency and Huston Street on the trading block, the A's bullpen could have a few open spots going into spring training. A strong AFL performance coupled with a strong spring could give Gray a shot on the A's Opening Day roster. He may also wind-up as trade bait , as all 30 teams will have been able to get a close-up view of the new-look Gray in Arizona this fall.

47. Justin Sellers

Sellers had a down year at the plate.
The irrepressible Sellers has made a steady climb through the A's organization since he was drafted out of high school in the sixth round of the 2005 draft. Since beginning his career with short-season Vancouver, Sellers has spent an entire season at a level before moving up to the higher level the next season (the one exception coming at the end of the 2007 season when he spent three weeks with Double-A Midland after spending the year with High-A Stockton). In 2008, Sellers spent the entire year with Midland, appearing in 123 games as the Rockhounds' shortstop or second baseman.

It was a rough year for Sellers offensively. He hit only .200 in April and only posted an OPS above 800 in one month (July, when he hit .306 with an 893 OPS). Overall, he finished with a .255 average and a 700 OPS. Defensively, he continued to flash above-average range, a strong arm and soft hands at both second and short. On the bases, Sellers, who has above-average speed, was disappointing, as he stole only 10 bases in 16 chances.

At 22, Sellers was young for his level. Sellers has been young for every level he has played at as a pro, but the A's have always felt that his defensive abilities allowed him to compete with older players. Offensively, he has yet to find himself. Sellers is very athletic and he has great hand-eye coordination, but he hasn't demonstrated great bat control or the ability to use his legs to change a game. At times, Sellers falls in love with his power and his swing gets a little long. He did a better job of hitting the ball on the ground this past season, but he still struck-out too much (77 times in 439 at-bats) for a player without much power.

Sellers has the defensive abilities to start in the major leagues, but he will need to become more of an asset offensively to get that opportunity. He will never be a huge base-stealer, but Sellers has the speed to swipe 15-20 bags, and at a much higher percentage than he did last season. If he can hit .280+ with a .350+ OBP, he will be a useful player because of his defensive skills, but he needs to stay within himself as a hitter to be able to put up those kind of numbers. Despite having played three-and-a-half professional seasons already, Sellers is still a young player who didn't have the advantage of learning to hit in a collegiate environment, so he has time to make those improvements.

46. Gregorio Petit

Petit struggled down the stretch.
In many ways, the 2008 season was a breakthrough one for Petit, who finally reached the major leagues after seven years in the A's organization. The Venezuelan native was impressive during his brief stint with Oakland, hitting .348 in 23 at-bats spread over 14 games with the A's. However, he struggled down-the-stretch with Triple-A Sacramento and may have lost ground on the organization's middle infield depth chart to Cliff Pennington and Eric Patterson in the process.

Petit started the year off strong. He played well during spring training and was on the A's "practice squad" for their trip to Japan in March. He began the year with Triple-A Sacramento and hit well in April, batting .317 with a .366 OBP. His April play earned him his first stint with Oakland in mid-May. He went 2-3 in his first big league game and had a four-game hitting streak from May 18-21. Despite that initial success, Petit didn't get much playing time with Oakland, not receiving another at-bat before June 8th. On June 21st, he was sent back down to Sacramento having appeared in only 10 games (and receiving at-bats in only five games) over a five-week period.

Petit was recalled for another brief period in July just before the All-Star break, but he only appeared in two games over the eight-day period, collecting two hits in five at-bats. He would have one more stint with Oakland in August, a brief six-day appearance during which he did not receive an at-bat. All of this back-and-forth appeared to take a toll on Petit as the season wore on. The 23-year-old is always one of the most positive players in the clubhouse and he has a strong work ethic, but he appeared a bit unfocused during the final two months of the season. His offensive production dropped considerably and even his defense wasn't as strong as it normally is. Although Petit would probably never admit to it, he was probably pressing during July and August when Patterson and Pennington were getting their opportunities in the big leagues, and it hurt his overall production. He wound-up with only a .269 average after being at around .300 at the end of June. With the MLB season over, however, Petit has regained his stroke. In 18 games for his Venezuelan Winter League team, he is batting .354 with a homer, eight doubles and seven RBIs in 65 at-bats.

Going into next season, Petit figures to be in competition with Pennington and Patterson for at least one of the A's back-up infield positions and maybe even a starting spot if Oakland deals Bobby Crosby. Petit has the edge over both Pennington and Patterson defensively, but he doesn't have as much speed as the other two players. Assuming the composition of the A's roster stays mostly the same through the off-season, the back-up infielder battle should be one of the more intriguing battles in the A's camp this spring and Petit should be in the thick of it.


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