A's Top-50 Prospects: Additional Reports

On December 31, 2009, we released a revised version of our Oakland A's top-50 prospects list for the 2010 season. In that list, there were three players added who did not appear in the original rankings, Michael Taylor, Ryan Ortiz and Conner Crumbliss. Inside are scouting reports for all three players...

1. Michael Taylor

Note: Taylor was acquired by the A's in enough time for us to include the scouting report below in the "Oakland A's Top-50 Prospects: 5-1" article that originally appeared on December 30th.

It is rare that a team trades its number one prospect before he even has an opportunity to debut in the major leagues. However, it is also rare for a team to land a talent like Taylor without giving up an established major league veteran in return. Such was the unusual deal that brought Taylor to the A's from Philadelphia via Toronto in early December. Before the deal, Taylor was one of the Phillies' top prospects and had been the subject of trade rumors since the mid-season trade deadline when the Phillies were involved in discussions for top-flight pitchers such as Roy Halladay and Cliff Lee. Taylor stayed put during the regular season, but he was moved in December when Philadelphia finally put together a package of prospects (including Taylor) good enough to entice the Blue Jays to send them Halladay. The Blue Jays then turned around and dealt Taylor to the A's straight-up for Brett Wallace.

In some ways, Taylor and Wallace are similar players. They are both products of Pac-10 college programs, with Taylor hailing from Stanford and Wallace hailing from Arizona State. Both are intelligent, middle-of-the-order hitters who project to hit 20+ homers, hit for average and be run-producers in the major leagues. And both have moved through the minor leagues at a steady clip. Wallace reached Triple-A midway through his first full season in the minors; Taylor reached Triple-A during the final third of his second full professional season.

It is there that the similarities between the two stop, however. While Wallace falls into the "we are not selling jeans" category of ballplayer (i.e, a ballplayer who doesn't necessarily look the part but produces the numbers), Taylor is the physical prototype for a slugging corner outfielder. He is built like an NFL tight end, standing 6'6'' and weighing 250 pounds. Taylor is an above-average athlete who swiped 21 bases in 2009 and can play all three positions in the outfield (although he is best-suited in the corners, more on that later).

Taylor's journey to minor league stardom was also a bit of a surprise. Wallace entered professional baseball with the hype that comes from being a top-15 pick. He was also a two-time Pac-10 player of the year and a two-time Pac-10 Triple Crown winner. Taylor, on the other hand, had an inconsistent career at Stanford and was a fifth round pick in 2007. At the time he was drafted, he was considered a raw prospect who didn't take full advantage of his pure athletic talents, whereas Wallace was considered a nearly finished product.

Taylor's "rawness" was exposed in 2007 during his professional debut season when he hit only .227 with a 665 OPS in 66 games for short-season Williamsport of the New York-Penn League. He dedicated himself to reworking his swing before the 2008 season and produced terrific results. In 132 games for Low-A Lakewood and High-A Clearwater, Taylor hit .346 with 19 homers, 88 RBIs and a 968 OPS. His time with Clearwater was particularly impressive, as he posted a 939 OPS in a league that is notoriously difficult on hitters.

In 2009, Taylor set out to prove that his 2008 breakthrough was no fluke and he did just that, tearing through Double-A before putting together a solid 30-game stint at Triple-A to close out the year. At Double-A Reading, he hit .333 with 15 homers, 65 RBIs and a 977 OPS in 86 games. He then hit .282 with five homers and an 850 OPS in 110 at-bats with Triple-A Lehigh Valley. He missed some time with Lehigh Valley with a strained right oblique, but recovered in-time to rejoin Reading for the post-season. Taylor was named a Topps Double-A All-Star for his efforts this season.

Although some of his tools rate higher than others, Taylor is a five-tool athlete. He has hit for average throughout his career, has power, can run and has a strong throwing arm. When he was in college, he employed a very level swing (often referred to as the Stanford swing, as the Stanford coaching staff emphasizes it) that was effective at producing consistent contact, but didn't generate much loft for homeruns. Taylor has since tweaked his swing to generate more loft, but he still doesn't get the consistent rise on the ball that Carter does, although Taylor is capable of challenging Carter in a homerun distance contest. Taylor is not going to lead the league in walks, but he draws a decent number and his strike-out totals are relatively low for a middle-of-the-order hitter. His splits against lefties and righties have been roughly equal throughout his career.

Defensively, Taylor profiles more as a corner outfielder, even though he arguably has the speed to play center. He had 11 outfield assists last season and should have enough arm strength to play in right. He still needs to improve on his routes to the ball, especially in left field, but, for the most part, Taylor projects to be an adequate defensive outfielder, at the very least. He has always received high marks for his work ethic and his coachability.

At the time the A's acquired Taylor, the Oakland front office indicated that he would have every opportunity to win a spot on the team's Opening Day roster this spring. However, with the team's acquisition of Coco Crisp, the A's can afford to have Taylor spend some more time in Triple-A before calling on his services. Because of the oblique injury, Taylor only had 110 at-bats at Triple-A. He went to Mexico this winter to make-up for some of those lost at-bats, but had his winter league season cut short (65 at-bats) by a sore elbow. Given that and the fact that Taylor just turned 24 in December, the A's may prefer to have him spend at least the first six weeks of the season in Triple-A. Nonetheless, barring any major injuries or a surprising drop-off in his level of play, Taylor should make his major league debut in 2010.

49. Ryan Ortiz

Along with pitching, catching is a resource that most organizations generally feel they can never have enough of. The A's are starting to test that theory a bit, with talented catchers at nearly every level of their organization. Ortiz is one of the newest additions to the team's stable of good catching talent. The Oregon State alum was taken by Oakland in the sixth round of the 2009 draft. After signing with the A's in late June, he spent his professional debut season with the short-season Vancouver Canadians, where he appeared in 48 games and was one of the team's top offensive players, posting an 818 OPS in 151 at-bats.

Perhaps used to the damp climates of the Northwest thanks to his collegiate experience, Ortiz was able to put up solid numbers in the notoriously pitcher-friendly Northwest League. He posted only a .258 average, but he used 29 walks to put up a .388 OBP and he collected 17 extra-base hits to give him a respectable .430 SLG. Ortiz was especially effective away from the Canadians' home ballpark, which is one of the most difficult parks for hitters in the Northwest League. At home, his OPS was 656, but on the road, he had a 973 OPS. All four of his homeruns came on the road.

Coming out of college, Ortiz had a reputation for having an above-average bat for a catcher, and his initial performance with Vancouver certainly backs up that notion. A right-handed hitter, Ortiz has a smooth swing and a balanced approach at the plate. He isn't a pure power hitter, but he has good gap power that may eventually lead to more homeruns. Ortiz has an excellent batting eye. He walked more frequently than he struck-out in college and had a 26:29 BB:K ratio with the Canadians.

Defensively, Ortiz has the physical tools to be a solid catcher, but, like many young catchers, his bat is ahead of his glove at this point. Ortiz had 13 passed balls in 44 games behind the plate for Vancouver. Both totals led the Northwest League. He also committed five errors. Ortiz did flash a strong arm behind the plate, however, finishing second in the league in caught-stealing percentage with a little more than 35% of attempted base-stealers thrown out. At 6'3'', 205, Ortiz is on the big side for a catcher, but he has good agility and there isn't any reason to believe that he will have to move off of the position.

As was noted earlier, the A's have a lot of talented catchers in their system in front of Ortiz, with Kurt Suzuki and Landon Powell in the big leagues, Josh Donaldson, Anthony Recker and Joel Galarraga likely at Triple-A, 2009 Cal League All-Star Yusuf Carter likely at Double-A and 2008 third-round pick Petey Paramore at High-A. Ortiz will also have to compete with 2009 fourth-round pick Max Stassi, who was impressive enough during a short stint with Vancouver and during the Instructional Leagues that he might be ready for full-season baseball in 2010 despite being 18 (he will turn 19 in March). If Ortiz continues to perform as he did with Vancouver in 2009, however, he will continue to find regular playing time and move up the system no matter who he is competing with. The A's could try Ortiz at first base or in left-field from time-to-time next season to get his bat into the line-up everyday. He will be 22 throughout the 2010 season.

50. Conner Crumbliss

Crumbliss was one of the talks of the A's 2009 draft class. Only a 28th round pick, Crumbliss put together one of the best debut seasons of any A's draft choice last season when he hit .290 with a .427 OBP and an 831 OPS in 71 games for short-season Vancouver and Low-A Kane County. He then followed up that performance with a strong showing at the A's Instructional League camp.

Crumbliss wasn't a well-known name when he was taken out of Emporia State in the 28th round, but he quickly made an impact as a professional. He walked 12 times in his first nine games, posting a .432 OBP despite batting only .160, and he stole four bases. Crumbliss followed that performance by batting .386 with 25 walks and a 1033 OPS in 101 at-bats in July before tailing off a bit with the Canadians in August. He picked up his level of play again in mid-August when he was promoted to Kane County, where he jumped into an everyday role and had an 840 OPS in 28 August at-bats and an 832 OPS in 22 September at-bats. He also provided value defensively, playing all over the outfield and at second base.

Crumbliss has a similar profile to former Cal Bear and Oakland A's utilityman Lance Blankenship. Like Blankenship, Crumbliss can do a little bit of everything, but he isn't a standout at any one thing. He works the count extremely well, has above-average speed, plays all over the field and can hit for a little more power than one would expect from a player of his size (5'8'', 175). Crumbliss, a left-handed hitter, struggled against lefties with Vancouver, although the sample size was extremely limited (46 at-bats). He will need to demonstrate that he can hit both lefties and righties to see his name in the line-up everyday.

"Crumbliss, at first, reminded us a lot of Steve Stanley and the impact that he had, but this guy can play the infield and he has a little bit more power than Steve had at the same time. He brings that same lead-off, aggressive kind of approach to the game. He can steal bases," A's Director of Player Development Keith Lieppman said.

"He is the blue collar guy, aggressive, make-things-happen, on-base percentage guy who gets on-base in every way possible: with a hit, or a bunt hit or a walk. Fundamentally, he is a pretty sound player. He's kind of one of those underdog-type guys that once you let him go and play for awhile, he impresses."

Because of his size, Crumbliss will continually need to prove to skeptics that he can handle higher level pitching, especially as he moves up past A-ball. He was a senior when he was drafted, so Crumbliss will turn 23 in mid-April and he may get a crack at High-A Stockton early in 2010.

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