* 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 7, 2010
40. Jared Lansford
For a second consecutive year, Lansford is struggling with his command. But for a second consecutive year, he is still getting good results. The right-handed reliever leads the Midland Rockhounds with 11 saves and was recently a participant in the Texas League All-Star game. He has a 2.45 ERA, is holding opposing batters to a .241 average and has a terrific groundout-to-flyout ratio of 3.12. He has also yet to allow a homerun. However, his WHIP is a mediocre 1.30 thanks to 16 walks in 33 innings.
There is a lot to like about Lansford. He has an above-average sinker that bores in on hitters and is almost always pounded into the ground. With a good infield defense behind him, Lansford can be extremely effective. His command is shaky, however, and he doesn't strike-out a lot of batters (26 thus far this season), making him sometimes overly dependent on his defense. To his credit, both his strike-out rate and walk rate have improved this season. He has escaped a number of tricky situations this season, thanks in part to nine double-played turned behind him. The A's emphasize strike-throwing for their relievers, so Lansford will need to continue to cut-down on his walks to be considered for inclusion on the A's 40-man roster this off-season.
Status: Pitching for a 40-man roster spot
39. Jason Christian
For a second straight year, a separated left shoulder has severely impacted Christian's season. In 2009, a left shoulder separation ended Christian's season after only 86 games. This year, another left shoulder injury has limited him to 25 games and only 87 at-bats.
Christian began the year with High-A Stockton and was hitting only .162 in 12 games when he separated his shoulder diving for a ball. He wasn't able to return to the field until mid-June when he suited up for a handful of rehab games with the AZL A's. Christian was then assigned to Low-A Kane County, where he played all of last season. Over his first 10 games, he is batting only .184. It is hard to judge Christian's performance right now with only a handful of at-bats spread over the course of three levels. The goal for him this second half is to remain healthy and get consistent at-bats.
Status: Working his way back into a groove
38. Carlos Hernandez
Over the last two seasons, no pitcher in the A's system has won more games than Hernandez. The lefty won 15 games for Stockton and Midland last season and he has opened the 2010 campaign with an 8-1 mark. Hernandez has also dropped his Double-A ERA from 4.62 in 2009 to 3.89. Like Lansford, however, Hernandez has been skating through some dicey situations, as he is carrying a WHIP of 1.49. Allowing that number of base-runners finally caught-up to Hernandez in June, when he posted an ERA of 6.31 after keeping his ERA below 3.00 the first two months of the season.
Hernandez is a bulldog on the mound and his competitiveness serves him well even if his raw stuff isn't anything to write home about. Being a groundball pitcher allows him to pitch around his wildness to some extent; however, like Lansford, Hernandez needs to cut down on his base-runners allowed. Assuming he can do that, he should be in Triple-A by next season or even the end of this year.
Status: Pitching well but looking to refine his command
37. Steven Tolleson
Tolleson was a late off-season addition by the A's via a waiver claim from the Minnesota Twins. The utility infielder hit only .174 in 23 big league spring training at-bats, but he got off to a hot start with the Sacramento River Cats and Tolleson was given his first crack at the big leagues in late April. He received only four at-bats, but he collected his first major league hit before being sent back to Sacramento. Since then, the only thing that has slowed Tolleson down was a strained calf that landed him on the DL in June. Through Wednesday, Tolleson was leading the River Cats offense with a .328/.421/.508 slash line.
Tolleson can play all over the field and he has been at a number of different positions for the River Cats this season, including second base, third base, shortstop and left field. A .276 hitter coming into this season, Tolleson profiles more as a utilityman in the major leagues than an everyday player. The A's have been emphasizing positional flexibility on their roster this season. As a player with a versatile glove and a good eye at the plate, Tolleson is a strong bet to see the big leagues again this season at some point, especially if he continues to swing the bat the way he has with Sacramento thus far this season.
Status: Pushing for a bigger major league audition
36. Connor Hoehn
It was a roller-coaster start to the season for Hoehn, who spent his first professional spring training being prepared as a starting pitcher only to be returned to the bullpen just before the start of the season. Despite the change in plans, Hoehn has adjusted well to his role in relief and is excelling in his first full professional season. The A's 2009 12th round pick was a Midwest League All-Star and he has a sparkling 2.88 ERA in 56.1 innings.
The right-hander doesn't just have a good ERA. He also has held opposing batters to a .175 average and he has struck-out 72 batters. He has walked a few too many (25), but his strike-out and hits against numbers have made the walk issue something to work on rather than a major problem. A workhorse, Hoehn has averaged more than two innings per appearance.
Status: Looking for a repeat of the first half
35. John Meloan
After tossing 8.1 scoreless innings and striking out 11 for the A's in a September call-up last season, Meloan looked poised to play an important role in the A's bullpen this season. Unfortunately for him and for the team, Meloan developed elbow soreness during spring training and wound-up having Tommy John surgery. He could return early next season.
Status: Out for the year
34. Ben Hornbeck
Last season, Hornbeck generated buzz around minor league baseball when he struck-out 159 batters in only 116.1 innings for Low-A Kane County, High-A Stockton and Double-A Midland. He also had a 3.17 ERA and a .211 average against. Hornbeck began the 2010 season with Double-A Midland and his numbers slipped considerably. In 38.1 innings, Hornbeck struck-out 26 and walked 19 with a 5.87 ERA for the Rockhounds. He was sent back to Stockton in late May and, while some of his numbers have returned to his 2009 level, he is still struggling with his command. In 47 innings for the Ports, Hornbeck has struck-out 54 and walked 16, but his ERA is 4.79 thanks to 54 hits allowed, including nine homeruns.
Location has really been the biggest issue for Hornbeck this season. Even when he has avoided walking people, he has still has missed location within the strike-zone, accounting for the increased homerun totals. Hornbeck doesn't have the velocity to get away with missing up, so his command has to be sharp for him to succeed. His off-speed pitch is still outstanding, however. The A's aren't ready to give up on him being a starter yet, but he did pitch extremely well in a relief role last season and has pitched well against left-handed hitters this season, so Hornbeck's future could be as a left-handed reliever down-the-road.
Status: Trying to find his touch
33. Jeremy Barfield
As of Wednesday, Barfield's offensive 2010 numbers with Stockton were almost identical to his 2009 campaign with Kane County. In 2009, his slash line was .262/.343/.389 and in 2010, it is .262/.339/.393. Barfield was hoping to increase his offensive output when he moved from the pitcher-friendly Midwest League to the hitter-friendly California League, so that goal hasn't yet been accomplished, but he is having an overall decent season for the Ports. He has nine homeruns and 49 RBIs and he is second on the team with 39 walks. Defensively, Barfield has shined in right field, throwing out an astounding 18 base-runners through Wednesday.
Barfield has also played a team-high 83 games despite playing with a sore knee that has severely limited his running ability. A right-handed hitter and left-handed thrower, Barfield has killed left-handed pitchers to the tune of .318 average and a 938 OPS. He has struggled against right-handed pitchers, however. He has also hit much better on the road than he has at Banner Island Ballpark. Barfield is still a work-in-progress, but, at 21-years-old, he has time to continue to develop. He will likely spend the rest of the season in Stockton and should make the jump to Double-A next year if he continues to play as he has thus far.
Status: Churning along
32. Brett Hunter
It hasn't been an easy road for Hunter since he signed for a record bonus for a seventh-round selection back in 2008. The right-handed pitcher has had to deal with minor arm problems as well as a myriad of mechanical issues throughout his pro career. In 2009, Hunter struck-out 64 in 57 innings, but he walked 63 and posted a 6.47 ERA for the A's Low-A, short-season A and Rookie ball affiliates. In 2010, it has been much of the same during his time in the High-A Stockton bullpen. In 18.1 innings, Hunter has struck-out an incredible 31 batters, but he has walked 17, allowed four homeruns and has given up 23 hits. The last number is arguably the most disturbing, as Hunter was significantly harder to hit in 2009 than he has been this season.
Although he still isn't 100 percent physically, Hunter's problems have mostly stemmed from his mechanics, which have had a tendency to change on him from appearance to appearance. Some days he is in rhythm and can dominate. On others, he is completely all over the place. That he has flashes of dominance raises hopes that he can one day soon put it together and become a back-end of the bullpen force. But it is just as likely that he will find his career going the way of A's 2003 first-round pick Brad Sullivan, who struggled with arm injuries and later completely lost his feel for his mechanics. Like Sullivan, Hunter is a very hard worker. Hopefully, he can find the success that eluded Sullivan. Through Wednesday, Hunter, in five innings, had allowed four hits and three walks, but only one run, and he had struck-out five in July, so perhaps he is turning a corner.
Status: Looking to build on successful outings
31. Julio Ramos
Big things were expected of Ramos this season after he posted a 2.57 ERA in 84 innings for short-season Vancouver and High-A Stockton in 2009. Unfortunately, the southpaw developed shoulder soreness before the season and has yet to pitch. He was scheduled to see doctors in Los Angeles this week in hopes of getting an exact diagnosis of the injury and he isn't close to returning to active play. At this point, it would be a victory if Ramos manages to get through this season without having to have serious surgery.