* Note: These rankings were made prior to the 2010 season. Adjustments for 2010 performance will be made to the rankings during the off-season. Stats as of July 5, 2010
45. Tyreace House
House is one of the fastest players in the A's organization and also has one of the organization's best batter's eyes. Those two skills scream lead-off hitter and the A's sent House to the Dominican Instructional League this past fall to have him work with team instructors on improving those skills. In many ways, House has achieved many of the goals the A's set out for him this fall. A fixture in the Kane County line-up this season, House has reached base at an above-average clip (.409 OBP and 50 walks in 66 games through Monday) and has stolen a team-best 19 bases. He is also hitting a respectable .277 and has seen his production increase every month of the season (596 OPS in April, 622 in May and 806 in June). Through Monday, House was riding a Midwest League-best 33 game on-base streak.
There are a few areas that House will need to work on as the season progresses, however. Defensively, House needs to improve on his routes and his ability to read the ball off of the bat. He'll also need to minimize the mental mistakes. On the bases, House is still learning to read pitchers and get good jumps, as evidenced by his eight caught-stealings. The biggest flaw in House's game, however, is that he doesn't hit for any power. He has only seven extra-base hits all season, despite his speed (and three came in the same game). That may not be something he can improve on this season. Power is something that often develops later in a player's career. However, down-the-road House will need to show some ability to drive the ball into the gaps. All-in-all, it has been a positive first half for House in his first crack in a full season league.
Status: Continuing to grow as a player
44. Kenneth Smalley
Smalley went from a little-known 24th round pick in 2008 to a prospect in 2009 when he posted a 2.73 ERA and struck-out 119 in 131.2 innings for Low-A Kane County. Smalley was named to the Midwest League's Post-Season All-Star team for his efforts. In 2010, he was promoted to High-A Stockton, where he has had difficulty matching his stellar ERA from 2009. In 72.2 innings, Smalley has a 6.19 ERA for the Ports. He was recently moved from the starting rotation into a long-relief/tandem-starter role.
The 6'2'' right-hander has good stuff, as evidenced by his 60 strike-outs this season, but he has struggled with his command throughout his career. Even in 2009 when he was dominating in Kane County, Smalley walked more than four batters per nine innings. This season has been more of the same, as he has 37 walks in 72.2 innings. He was able to pitch around those walks in the Midwest League, but it has been a more difficult task in the hitter-friendly Cal League. If Smalley can limit those walks, he has the stuff to improve his numbers with Stockton in a hurry. A permanent move to the bullpen could allow him to focus on fewer pitches and have better command.
Status: Looking to cut-down the BBs
43. Justin Friend
A 13th-round pick of the A's in 2007, Friend generated notice last season when he posted a 2.87 ERA and he struck-out 78 in 59.2 innings for High-A Stockton. After a late-season stint with Double-A Midland, Friend was part of the A's contingent at the Arizona Fall League. He struck-out nine in 11 innings at the AFL and then this spring threw a scoreless inning with a strike-out in a big league spring training game for Oakland.
Friend was sent back to Midland at the start of the season and through 31.2 innings, he had a 3.69 ERA. However, he had struck-out only 25 and had walked 21. That wildness can sometimes be indicative of a player pitching with discomfort, and that seems to have been the case for Friend, who landed on the DL with right elbow pain in early June. He's been on the DL ever since.
42. Tyler Ladendorf
Since being drafted in the second round in 2008, Ladendorf has been viewed as a player with huge potential but disappointing performance. Coming into this season, he had a career batting average of .249 in 398 at-bats, and that was despite hitting .410 in a 61 at-bat stint in the rookie Appalachian League while in the Minnesota chain. This year, Ladendorf has started to show flashes of fulfilling his promise. The infielder currently has a .286 average with 12 stolen bases in 15 chances in 266 at-bats for High-A Stockton. Ladendorf had a rough May (.250/.273/.319), but in April (.311/.373/.422) and in June (.341/.391/.412) he was very much the hitter the A's and Twins expected him to be when they watched him break all sorts of records at Howard Community College in Texas.
The Des Plaines, Illinois, native is a superior athlete, having broken all sorts of stolen base records in college. He is also an above-average infielder who can also play all three outfield positions. Ladendorf isn't a particularly patient hitter, however, so he has yet to be able to take full advantage of his speed and base-running smarts. The 22-year-old needs to continue to refine his approach at the plate, but the A's love his defensive abilities and his maturity on the field so much that they had him fill in for Triple-A Sacramento when they were short an infielder early in the season. If Landendorf can avoid having another May-like month the rest of the season, he should be in-line for a jump to Double-A Midland next season.
Status: Making progress
41. Argenis Paez
Paez is a name known currently only to the most ardent of A's fans, but that could be changing soon. The 19-year-old Venezuelan right-hander has impressed the A's brass since the team signed him in 2008. An extreme sinkerball pitcher, Paez recorded nearly four groundouts to every flyout last season and, amazingly enough, he has doubled that ratio in 2010. In 16 innings for the A's AZL club, Paez has allowed only 15 hits and two walks and he has a 1.69 ERA. He has not allowed a homerun and, in fact, has given up only one in 119.1 career minor league innings.
Paez's sinker has been rated among the best in the A's system, and he has seen an increase in his velocity this season. At 19-years-old, Paez should continue to gain velocity as he grows into his 6'3'' frame. Paez won't be rushed through the system, although he could get a late-season audition in Vancouver. Nevertheless, he is a candidate to be in Kane County next season and should be a name to watch in the coming years.
Status: Sky's the limit