|Capra pitched well for Wichita State in 2008. b>|
Once he signed, Capra was sent to Low-A Kane County, where he would spend his entire professional debut season. His performance was uneven with the Cougars. Capra posted a 4.22 ERA and he struck-out 39 and walked 22 in 49 innings. In four of his 10 starts, Capra threw at least six innings and allowed two runs or fewer. However, in the six other starts, he allowed 17 runs in 24 innings. Not surprisingly, his control was good in his successful starts (seven walks in 25 innings), and poor in his bad starts (15 in 24 innings). Capra did a good job keeping the ball in the ballpark (three homers allowed), despite being primarily a flyball pitcher.
Given that this was Capra's first full season as a starter and that he surpassed his career-high in innings pitched by nearly 50 innings, it probably isn't surprising that he was inconsistent with Kane County. He also had to overcome an emergency appendectomy early in the collegiate season that may have impacted his conditioning. At 6'1'', 210 pounds, Capra has a stocky build naturally, so he will need to work to maintain his conditioning throughout his career.
Despite his inconsistent pro debut, Capra still rates as a solid prospect because of the quality of his stuff and the fact that he is left-handed. He throws his fastball in the 90-92 range and can touch 94 in short bursts. Capra also has a plus change-up and a hard curveball. He has a deceptive throwing motion, which allows him to hide the ball well, especially from left-handers. Capra dominated left-handed hitters last season, so if he stalls as a starter, he could excel as a reliever down-the-road.
39. Scott Mitchinson
|Mitchinson was effective when healthy. b>|
Despite having four seasons of minor league baseball under his belt, Mitchinson had only pitched as high as Low-A coming into the season thanks to injury. The A's decided to start him back in Low-A again at the beginning of the 2008 season, and he wound-up spending most of the year with Kane County. For the first half of the Midwest League season, Mitchinson was one of the most dominant pitchers in the league. In 11 starts before the All-Star break, Mitchinson was 5-2 with a 1.60 ERA and 65 strike-outs in 67.1 innings. He was on the verge of a mid-June call-up to High-A Stockton when he began to experience elbow pain. That soreness sidelined him until August.
When he returned in August, Mitchinson picked up right where he left off. He allowed no runs or walks and struck-out eight in 6.2 innings for the Cougars before being promoted to Stockton just before the end of the season. Mitchinson shined in his first taste of High-A baseball, allowing only two runs on five hits in 10.2 innings in two regular season starts. On the season, Mitchinson had a 1.73 ERA and a 87:12 K:BB ratio in 88.1 innings pitched. He didn't fare as well in the post-season, however, allowing 11 runs in 12.1 innings over three starts, although there was some suspect umpiring during at least one of his post-season outings.
Despite all of his years in professional baseball, Mitchinson won't turn 24 until December. The right-hander features a low-90s fastball with a good change-up and an excellent breaking ball. However, it is his control which makes Mitchinson unusual. In 354.1 career innings, he has walked only 71 while striking out 351. He has also allowed only 15 homeruns over that stretch.
Pitchers who rely on control often find success in the lower levels, but are tested at the higher levels when the hitters become more skilled. Mitchinson doesn't have dominant stuff, but he has enough life on his pitches to continue to get outs as he advances. However, he'll need to prove that he can stay healthy for an entire season if he is going to have a chance at a major league career. He will likely start the year in Stockton once again, but he'll need to finish the year at Double-A or higher to remain on this list next season.
38. Jeff Baisley
|Baisley starred for Sacramento. b>|
Baisley has had a relatively quick climb through the A's system. A 2005 12th round pick as a senior, Baisley spent the 2006 season at Low-A Kane County (where he earned the Midwest League's MVP award), the 2007 campaign with Double-A Midland and last season with Triple-A Sacramento and in the big leagues. Despite that quick climb, Baisley has always been old for his levels because he was drafted after his senior year. He will be 26 in December.
Baisley doesn't have the ceiling of a superstar, but he has the skills to be a solid contributor in the major leagues. The right-handed hitter has a quick, line-drive stroke and the ability to hit to all fields. He demonstrated improved plate discipline in 2008 with the River Cats, posting an OBP nearly 70 points higher than in 2007. He isn't fast and nagging knee and foot injuries have made him even slower. However, he has good foot work at third base, soft hands and a strong throwing arm. Baisley was forced to play some first base both in the Arizona Fall League in 2007 and with the A's in 2008, and he demonstrated that he could handle that position defensively, as well.
Going into the 2009 season, Baisley will be one of the candidates to land a spot on the A's bench as a back-up corner infielder. He will likely compete against Jack Hannahan, Cliff Pennington, Gregorio Petit, Eric Patterson, Joe Dillon and others for the opportunity to back-up Eric Chavez and Daric Barton this spring. Being a right-handed hitter should give Baisley some advantage in this competition.
"Yeah, he is definitely in the mix. He had a very nice year in Triple-A. [River Cats' manager] Todd Steverson said that he was consistently one of their best hitters in terms of power and discipline and getting big hits for them," Farhan Zaidi, A's baseball operations analyst, said after the season.
"He came up to the big leagues and did a nice job. He struggled a little bit at first and couldn't get any hits to fall in in his first few at-bats. But he finished off nicely and played good defense both at first base and third base. So he is definitely a name that will be in that major league mix for corner infield depth."
37. Anthony Recker
|Recker improved in his second tour of the Texas League. b>|
Recker made up for some of that disappointment during spring training when he played well in his first big league camp. He was sent back to Midland at the start of the regular season and he fared much better in the Texas League the second time around. In 117 games, the right-handed hitting catcher batted .274 with 11 homers and a 783 OPS, and he was named to the Texas League mid-season All-Star team. Recker has been a mid-season All-Star in each of his three full minor league seasons.
Although Recker improved over his 2007 effort with Rockhounds, he still struggled with his consistency. He alternated good months and bad months at the plate, posting OPSs under 700 in April and July and OPSs of 800 or higher in May, June and August. Recker also struck-out 140 times, eclipsing his career-high by nearly 30 strike-outs.
Recker, who turned 25 in late August, is one of the physically strongest players in the A's system, but he has a tendency to allow his swing to get long at times. Behind the plate, Recker has transformed himself from a below-average defensive catcher into a solid receiver. He has received high marks from his pitchers for his diligence in developing game plans and learning their strengths and weaknesses. He was a very raw player when he was drafted out of Division III Alvernia in 2005, and he has worked hard to develop his game, but he still has adjustments to make with his swing and his footwork behind the plate to take his game to the next level.
The A's currently have three catchers on their 40-man roster (Kurt Suzuki, Rob Bowen and Landon Powell), but Recker is a strong candidate to be added to that roster this winter. He would be eligible for the Rule 5 draft if he isn't added. Recker is likely to get his first taste of Triple-A next season and he will need to show that he can cut down on the strike-outs and continue to improve on the defensive-side of the ball. He could compete for a job with Oakland as soon as 2010, but he will need to play well to keep the recently acquired Josh Donaldson behind him on the depth chart.
36. Daniel Thomas
Of all of the players on our top-50 prospects list, Thomas is probably the least well-known name. However, his anonymity could be gone in a hurry if he can manage to stay healthy. The right-handed pitcher was the A's 13th round pick out of the University of South Florida. A red-shirt junior when he was selected, Thomas had a relatively average collegiate career, but those numbers were affected by injuries.
Thomas missed his entire senior season of high school when he had Tommy John surgery and it took him a few years to regain his arm strength. He was back throwing well by 2007, when he started to feel some discomfort in his throwing elbow once again. Thomas was shut-down after only five starts that season, although the elbow injury did not ultimately require surgery. He was selected in the 44th round of the 2007 draft by St. Louis despite the injury, but Thomas elected to return to South Florida in 2008 and try his luck in the draft again.
Thomas threw 57.2 innings for the Bulls in 2008, making 10 starts and two relief appearances. His ERA was mediocre (4.21), but he struck-out 55 in 57.2 innings and wowed scouts with his hard fastball and his big, bending curveball. Some publications projected that Thomas would go as high as the sixth round of the draft, but his injury problems hurt him on draft day and he fell down to the A's in the 13th round. After signing with Oakland, he made 13 appearances for the Vancouver Canadians, all in relief. In 18.2 innings, Thomas allowed only 11 hits and he struck-out 20 while walking nine.
Numbers aren't the reason that Thomas has landed on this list, however. He is here because of the quality of his right arm, which has continued to add velocity as he has regained his arm strength. By the end of the Canadians' season, Thomas' fastball was being clocked as high as 98 MPH. He continued to impress during the A's Instructional League, where he displayed some of the most dominating stuff of any Instructional League pitcher in the desert this fall.
Although Thomas has a starter's build at 6'2'', 200 pounds, he is probably best suited for the bullpen given his extensive injury history and the fact that he will be already 23 at the start of next season. His three-pitch mix of a high-90s fastball, 12-6 curveball and plus-change-up gives him more than enough weapons to be a late-inning reliever. Staying healthy will be the biggest issue for Thomas. If he can stay on the mound consistently, he could move up the A's system quickly and join the ever-growing ranks of nearly major league-ready hard-throwing relief arms in the Oakland organization.