The Oakland A's announced a top prospect-laden list of non-roster invitees to major league camp on Monday. The 17 non-roster players announced today brings the A's total to 20 thus far. The A's had previously announced that outfielder Matt Carson, pitcher Kevin Cameron and first baseman Tagg Bozied had been signed as minor league free agents with invites to big league camp.
The 17 players announced on Monday were pitchers Brett Anderson, Andrew Bailey, Trevor Cahill, Andrew Carignan, Brett Hunter, Jared Lansford, Arnold Leon, Vince Mazzaro, Tyson Ross, James Simmons and Jerome Williams; infielders Adrian Cardenas, Chris Carter, Sean Doolittle and Jemile Weeks; and catchers Josh Donaldson and Joel Galarraga.
Williams and Galarraga are recent additions to the A's organization. For Williams, it is his second stint with Oakland, although he never actually got to pitch with the A's the first time around. He was a waiver claim by Oakland in September of 2006, but he was non-tendered in December of that year and wound-up signing with the Washington Nationals for the 2007 season. The former San Francisco Giants' prospect spent last season in the Los Angeles Dodgers' chain, but he was limited to only 36 innings between Triple-A Las Vegas and High-A Inland Empire. He is currently pitching in the Puerto Rican Winter League, where he is 1-3 with a 5.04 ERA in 30.1 innings. Williams has a career 4.25 ERA in 425.1 major league innings, mostly with the Giants. His best major league season came in 2003, his rookie year, when Williams went 7-5 with a 3.30 ERA in 21 starts as a 21 year old.
Galarraga is an international acquisition for Oakland. He will be joining the A's in a similar arrangement to the one that Oakland had regarding Leon last year. Galarraga is expected to split the 2009 season between the A's organization and the Mexican League, just as Leon did in 2008. Galarraga is a Cuban-born catcher who is 26 years old. The right-hander hit .318 with a .416 OBP and an 856 OPS in 105 games for the Petroleros de Minatitlan of the Mexican Summer League this season, which is roughly equivalent to Triple-A level baseball. He has played some outfield in addition to catcher in Mexico. He was a Mexican League All-Star in 2007 when he hit .356 in 48 games.
The remaining 15 players are all included on Scout.com's top-50 Oakland A's prospect list and despite the fact that they are non-roster players, many of them may factor into the A's fortunes in 2009. All eyes will be on the A's young starting pitching quartet of Anderson, Cahill, Mazzaro and Simmons, all of whom should start the year in Triple-A and may be ready for the big leagues by the end of the season. Simmons will be making a return appearance as a non-roster invitee after being a part of the A's big league camp in 2008. Oakland will also be bringing some heat into the bullpen with fireballers Carignan, Bailey, Lansford and Leon. Carignan, Bailey and Lansford all pitched at the Arizona Fall League this season with good success, while Leon is currently competing in the Mexican Winter League, where he has a 3.31 ERA in 16.1 innings.
Batting practice in big league camp should be fun as long as first-basemen/outfielders Carter and Doolittle are around. Both began the year with Stockton and put on huge power displays in the cages and during the games with the Ports. Carter led the A's organization with 39 regular season homeruns, all for Stockton, while Doolittle went deep 22 times for Stockton and Midland. Cardenas and Donaldson were two of the A's top prospects acquired in mid-season trades (Cardenas from Philadelphia and Donaldson from Chicago). Both participated in the Arizona Fall League this season and both are the A's top prospects at their respective positions in the middle infield and at catcher.
Three of the non-roster invitees are members of the A's 2008 draft class: infielder Weeks and pitchers Ross and Hunter. Weeks and Ross were the A's first two picks, while Hunter was the A's seventh round pick. Oakland gave Hunter a record-setting signing bonus for a seventh round pick, topping $1 million. He pitched well during the A's Instructional League and in a brief stint in Hawaii this fall. Weeks, who was the A's highest draft pick in nearly a decade, hit .297 in 19 games with the Low-A Kane County Cougars last season before injuring a hip flexor. He is expected to be healthy by spring training. Ross, a Cal alum and Oakland native, had a 4.66 ERA in 19.1 innings for Kane County during the regular season and then starred for High-A Stockton in the post-season. He also had a strong Instructional League camp.
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