Looking Beyond The Top-50

The Oakland A's system has made big improvements over the past year both in terms of the quality of the prospects in the A's system and the quantity of players with a chance to make the big leagues. Choosing only 50 players for our top prospect list was a tall order, as we considered more than 70 players for our list. Inside are the players who just missed the cut...

Josh Horton: Horton, the A's second round pick in 2007, did a lot of things well for Stockton in 2008. He hit for average (.277 BA), saw a lot of pitches, walked a decent amount and played solid defense at short. Horton was a big part of the Ports' championship run (.388 average with a .483 OBP in the playoffs), enhancing his reputation as a player who plays a big part on winning teams. He struggled badly down the stretch of the regular season, however, managing only a 587 OPS after the All-Star break after hitting .302 with a 795 OPS before the break. Horton also didn't hit for any power, collecting only 20 extra-base hits in 477 at-bats. A more consistent campaign and a little more drive in his swing could move Horton up these rankings quickly next season.

Petey Paramore: Paramore was the A's third-round pick this season out of Arizona State. The switch-hitting catcher came to the A's with a quad strain that limited him for the first few weeks after he signed. He hit well for the A's Rookie League team, but he struggled with his swing with Low-A Kane County, hitting only .225 with a .333 SLG in 102 at-bats. Paramore finished up strong, however, after making a few mechanical adjustments and he carried those improvements into the A's Instructional League. He showed good plate discipline in his first pro season. Paramore is already a strong defensive catcher, and he has drawn some comparisons to A's 2004 first-round pick Landon Powell.

Jeremy Barfield: Barfield, the younger brother of Cleveland second baseman Josh Barfield and son of former All-Star Jesse Barfield, was taken by the A's in the eighth round of the 2008 draft out of a Texas junior college. The outfielder played in 69 games for short-season Vancouver, and he hit .271 with a 715 OPS. Barfield displayed big power in flashes for the Canadians, but he managed only three homeruns. Vancouver's Nat Bailey Ballpark is a notoriously difficult place to hit, especially for power hitters, and that reflected itself in Barfield's stats. He hit .339 with an 885 OPS and two of his homers in 34 games on the road, but batted only .202 with a 541 OPS at home. Barfield may have to battle another difficult hitting environment in the Midwest League next season. In addition to a powerful swing, Barfield has the arm for right-field and the build to be a powerful, middle of the order hitter. He won't turn 21 until midway through next season.

Danny Putnam: Putnam fell off of the prospect map a little bit after the 2007 season when he struggled with injuries and hit only .216 in 51 games in his first taste of Triple-A. He also hit .214 in 11 major league games that season. Putnam was dropped from the A's 40-man roster before the 2008 season and began the year in Double-A. However, after less than a week, he was promoted to Sacramento and he took advantage of his second opportunity at that level. Despite inconsistent playing time, Putnam was productive when his name was in the line-up for the River Cats. In 89 games, he hit .276 with 15 homers and an 877 OPS. He also played solid defense in left. It isn't clear where Putnam fits into the A's overall depth chart for the outfield. In another organization, he would likely get another shot to be at least a fourth outfielder in the big leagues next season.

Franklin Hernandez: Hernandez quietly put up big numbers for the A's Arizona Rookie League team in 2008. The first baseman hit .316 with four homers and he posted a .489 SLG in 55 games for the AZL A's. A product of the A's Dominican Academy, Hernandez was named an Arizona Rookie League All-Star. He followed that performance with a strong showing in the A's Instructional League. The A's haven't produced many sluggers from their Dominican Academy over the past few years, but Hernandez has an opportunity to break that trend. He will be 22 next season.

Ryan Webb: Since they selected him in the fourth round of the 2004 draft out of a Florida high school, the A's have been waiting for the 6'6'' Webb to fill out his frame and add a few miles per hour to his fastball. That finally happened this season. He came to camp in great shape and throwing his fastball in the 93-95 MPH range after throwing in the 89-92 MPH range before this season. Unfortunately, the better stuff didn't translate into better numbers for Webb. He spent the entire season at Double-A and posted a 5.19 ERA in 130 innings. He struck-out only 94 while walking 44. Despite those numbers, the A's protected Webb from the Rule 5 draft because his ceiling as a pitcher is still high. In addition to that 93-95 MPH fastball, Webb has a hard slider, an effective cutter and a change-up. He has tended to struggle during the second time through a line-up, and he might benefit from a move to the bullpen.

Yung-Chi Chen: As recently as 2006, Chen was one of the top second base prospects in baseball as a member of the Seattle Mariners organization. In 2006, he hit .342 for High-A Inland Empire and .295 for Double-A San Antonio. A shoulder problem cost him much of the 2007 season and his 2008 campaign was cut two months short thanks to a torn meniscus in his knee. Chen was struggling at the plate even before the injury and there were questions about whether the shoulder was still bothering him. He was dropped from the Mariners' 40-man roster during the off-season and claimed off of waivers by the A's. When healthy, the Taiwan native can hit for average, has decent power for a middle infielder and he can steal some bases. He profiles as a utility infielder in the big leagues.

Alexander Valdez: After a strong 2007 campaign, Valdez entered the 2008 season with some momentum. Unfortunately, his momentum was stalled when someone with the same name was on the US no-fly list and it kept him from getting a visa into the United States for the first four months of the season. He did arrive in the US in time to play for a month for Stockton, but he hit only .169 in 21 games. Valdez made up for some of that lost time during the A's Instructional League, winning the camp's most valuable player award. The switch-hitting infielder has a smooth stroke from both sides of the plate and some power potential. He also has a slick glove at third and second. Valdez will 24 for most of next season and he has only limited time above Low-A, so he needs to make some quick progress next season.

Michael Richard: The speedy Richard had a tough time staying on the field in 2008, but when he was healthy, the shortstop was productive for Kane County. Richard hit .287 with 41 walks and only 35 strike-outs in 321 at-bats. He swiped a team-high 35 bases in 42 attempts. Defensively, things were not as productive for Richard, who committed 25 errors in only 85 games. Richard doesn't hit for power, but his plate discipline and speed make him an intriguing top-of-the-order hitting prospect. However, he will turn 25 next August and is competing with a number of other A's shortstop prospects. He may benefit from a move to second base or centerfield.

Tyreace House: House was the A's sixth-round pick in the 2008 draft out of a Southern California junior college and the A's first pick who wasn't from a four-year school. He spent his first pro season with the A's Rookie League club, and he hit .263 with 18 walks against 22 strike-outs and 12 stolen bases in 13 chances. House is a former high school track and football star and he is arguably the fastest player in the A's system. House has good plate discipline and a short, even swing with a slight uppercut. He has a muscular build, but he hasn't hit for power yet. Adding some gap power to his speed and patience could make House a very intriguing prospect.

Chris Berroa: Berroa was another speedy player taken by the A's in 2008. The 11th round pick didn't sign until late July, so he appeared in only 13 games in his professional debut season for the A's Rookie League club. He hit .311 with a .396 OBP. Berroa is an alumni of the Jack Cust Baseball Academy and he was selected by the Washington Nationals out of high school in 2007, but he didn't sign. He will turn 20 in February. Berroa is raw and the A's won't rush him, but he has some impressive tools, including above-average speed, a strong glove in center and a good throwing arm.

Graham Godfrey: Godfrey came over to the A's as the main prospect in the Marco Scutaro trade before the 2008 season. He spent the majority of the season with High-A Stockton. Godfrey had an up-and-down year with the Ports and finished with a 5.10 ERA in 134 innings. He showed good control (37 walks and 119 strike-outs), but he was hittable, allowing opposing batters to hit him at a .293 clip. Godfrey features a fastball, change-up, slider and curveball. His fastball sits in the low-90s and his slider rates as an above-average pitch. Godfrey's control is above-average. He walked only 12 over his final 66.1 innings of the season. Pitching in the California League can be a battle of attrition and it wouldn't be a surprise to see Godfrey put up better numbers in the Texas League next season.

Jose Guzman: After spending most of the 2007 season as a starting pitcher, Guzman was moved into the bullpen and found success as a reliever in 2008. The Dominican right-hander made four appearances for High-A Stockton and 30 appearances for short-season Vancouver, compiling a 2.23 ERA in 40.1 innings. He saved 15 games and struck-out 39 against 12 walks. Guzman, 21, was named a Northwest League All-Star and the league's top reliever.

David Thomas: Thomas was the A's 14th round pick in 2008 out of tiny Catawba College. The switch-hitting outfielder had an impressive debut in 62 games for the A's Rookie League team and short-season Vancouver. In 220 at-bats, Thomas hit .300 with 20 doubles and an 833 OPS. He walked 31 times against 44 strike-outs. Thomas has shown little difficulty adjusting to wooden bats. In addition to his strong 2008 professional season, Thomas won the MVP of the wooden bat Coastal Plains League in 2007.

Jose Crisostomo: Crisostomo made his US debut this season with the A's Rookie League team. In 28 games, the left-handed hitting outfielder batted .308 with a .381 OBP. He doubled five times and scored 17 runs. Crisostomo, a Dominican native, has a good idea of the strike-zone and he walked 32 times against 25 strike-outs in the Dominican Summer League in 2007. Crisostomo has good speed, but he doesn't yet have a feel for reading pitchers moves and stealing bases. He will turn 20 in late April and he is likely to spend next season with short-season Vancouver.

Ronny Morla: After posting a 3.70 ERA for the A's Rookie League team in 2007, Morla was expected to put up big numbers in 2008. The tall right-hander spent the season with short-season Vancouver and, although he showed flashes of excellence, he wasn't able to put up the numbers that he did in Arizona. In 16 starts, Morla posted a 4.88 ERA. He allowed only four homeruns and he struck-out 77 in 75.2 innings, but his walks were up (33). Morla has good stuff including a low 90s sinking fastball, but he struggled with his command, especially towards the end of the season. He is 20 and is still a prospect to watch.

Jamie Richmond: Richmond was acquired along with Joey Devine in the Mark Kotsay trade with the Braves last January. The Toronto native spent the season with Low-A Kane County, where he was a workhorse for the Cougars. In 163.1 innings, Richmond posted a 4.79 ERA. He showed great command, walking only 27, but he allowed 16 homers and struck-out only 98. Richmond has always had excellent location, but he needs one more out pitch to take it to the next level. He will be 23 next season and is likely to head to High-A Stockton.

Lance Sewell: Injuries limited Sewell in his pro debut season in 2007. The A's 2007 seventh-round pick was healthier in 2008 and was one of Kane County's top relievers. The lefty had a 2.88 ERA and he struck-out 78 while walking 28 in 78 innings. He allowed seven homeruns, but gave-up only 61 hits. The San Diego State alum has a deceptive throwing motion that makes it very difficult for hitters to pick-up his release point.

Richie Robnett: After a strong 2007 campaign that led to Robnett being added to the A's 40-man roster, the powerfully built outfielder had a rough 2008 campaign. Robnett was set to start the season in Triple-A when a medical issue popped up at the end of spring training and sidelined him for the first few months of the season. He had trouble getting back into a good rhythm upon his return to the field and he hit only .236 with three homers and a 658 OPS in 58 games for Sacramento before being demoted to Double-A Midland. Robnett fared better with the Rockhounds, batting .259 with a 749 OPS, but it still wasn't up to his level of play from the previous year. The former first round draft choice has shown flashes of being the player that the A's thought he was when he was selected, but he has had a tough time staying healthy and consistent over the past three years. He shows tremendous power in the batting cage, but strike-outs have limited his production during games throughout his career. His spot on the roster may be in jeopardy the off-season if the A's need to add someone.

Mathieu LeBlanc Poirier: The A's took LeBlanc Poirier in the 21st round out of a Canadian college. The French-Canadian pitcher began the year in the Arizona Rookie League before getting a chance to pitch in his home country at the tail-end of the season with Vancouver. His overall stats weren't that impressive (5.74 ERA and 38 hits allowed in 31.1 innings), but he struck-out 27 and showed a lot of promise at the A's Instructional League camp. The 21-year-old right-hander features a low-90s sinker and an above-average curveball.

Pedro Figueroa: Figueroa is already 23 years old and he has yet to pitch above short-season ball, but the lefty has promising stuff and could prove to be a late-bloomer. The Dominican native posted a 3.93 ERA and struck-out 77 in 68.2 innings for short-season Vancouver in 2008. He finished the year on a high note, tossing 13 scoreless innings and striking out 19 while walking one over his final two starts. The 6'1'' lefty can run his heavy fastball up to 93. His command has always been his biggest weakness as a pitcher, but his late season improvements in that area could portend bigger things for Figueroa in the coming year.

Chad Kerfoot: Kerfoot, a 2007 30th round pick, dominated out of the bullpen for Kane County in 2008. The right-hander went 8-1 with a 2.35 ERA and 73 strike-outs against only 15 walks in 72.2 innings. He saved four games and held opposing batters to a .234 average. The A's have hit on a few pitchers selected in the later rounds over the past few years (Jeff Gray, Dallas Braden and Connor Robertson are three late-round picks to make the big leagues) and Kerfoot could continue that tradition.

Jason Windsor: After reaching the big leagues in 2006, Windsor has been stymied over the past two seasons by shoulder problems. He missed most of the 2008 season rehabbing from a 2007 surgery and made only 11 starts at the end of the year. He didn't perform well in those starts, posting an 8.41 ERA in 35.1 innings with 27 walks and only 26 strike-outs. However, rust could have been a factor in Windsor's struggles. When healthy, Windsor doesn't have over-powering stuff, but he can compete with his good fastball location and assortment of breaking pitches. He has a long way to climb back to where he was in 2006, however.

Ryan Doolittle: The younger brother of A's first base prospect Sean Doolittle, Ryan Doolittle was taken in the 26th round of this year's draft out of a New Jersey community college. Doolittle spent his pro debut season in the Arizona Rookie League. He got off to a slow start with the AZL A's, but finished on a strong note, allowing only three runs and no walks over his final 20 innings. He continued those improvements into the fall with a strong showing at the A's Instructional League camp. Doolittle currently features a four-seam and two-seam fastball, slider and change-up. At 6'3'', 190 pounds, Doolittle has a good frame for a starting pitcher.

Larry Cobb: Cobb rebounded from a disastrous 2007 campaign with the Kane County Cougars to become a Midwest League All-Star for Kane County in 2008. The utilityman hit .273 with 13 homers, 70 RBIs and 19 stolen bases in 107 games for the Cougars. Cobb isn't a big guy (he is listed at 5'9'' and may be shorter than that), but he has good pop for a player his size and defensive versatility, as he can play second base and centerfield. It will be interesting to see what kind of power numbers he can put up in a hitter-friendly league like the California League after slugging .441 in the power-sapping Midwest League.

Archie Gilbert: The A's signed Gilbert as a minor league free agent before the 2008 season and they liked what they saw from him last year so much that they re-signed him for the 2009 campaign. The Union City native hit .278 with 35 stolen bases while batting lead-off for most of the season for the Stockton Ports. The 5'8'' Gilbert isn't big, but he racked up 42 extra-base hits. He also had an impressive 55:61 BB:K ratio. Gilbert was lights-out in the playoffs, bating .352 with 11 RBIs, four stolen bases, five doubles and 11 runs scored in 12 games for Stockton.

Mike Madsen: Madsen had a breakthrough campaign in 2007, as he was named to the Futures Game and he posted a 3.84 ERA in 147.2 innings for Stockton, Midland and Sacramento. Unfortunately, that high innings total may have taken its toll on Madsen, who missed most of the 2008 season with a sore elbow. His status for next spring is uncertain. The right-hander isn't over-powering, but he has excellent command and good sink on his fastball.

Mike Mitchell: As with Madsen and Windsor, Mitchell has been held back by injuries over the past few years. The Missouri native missed the entire 2008 season and most of the 2007 season after tearing his labrum in spring training in 2007. Mitchell was on the verge of a big league call-up before that injury and, when healthy, he has the stuff to be a set-up man in the big leagues. It remains to be seen whether he will be able to regain his stuff fully, as labrum injuries are tricky for pitchers to overcome.

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