* 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 13, 2010
30. Andrew Carignan
The good news for Carignan is that he is healthy and pitching after missing nearly all of last season with arm problems. That said, it hasn't been an easy season for the right-hander by any stretch of the imagination. After posting a 2.01 ERA and saving 28 games in 2008 for High-A Stockton and Double-A Midland, Carignan looked poised to break-through to the big leagues by mid-season 2009 before arm troubles set-back those plans. After nearly a year of rehab, Carignan's arm is healthy, but he is still searching for his 2008 form.
Carignan joined the Ports in mid-May and has been in the Stockton bullpen ever since. It has been a roller-coaster for Carignan since that time. Some appearances, he has been completely in rhythm and dominant, and others he has not had any feel for his mechanics and has had a lot of trouble throwing over the plate. In 27.1 innings, he has a 5.93 ERA with 34 strike-outs, but 29 walks. He is inducing a lot of groundballs, with a groundout-to-flyout rate of nearly two-and-a-half. His velocities have been decent (92-93 MPH), although not as high as they were before the arm trouble, but it is really re-learning to repeat his delivery that has caused Carignan the most trouble. The A's are confident that he can regain his 2008 form once his delivery is more consistent and he has been working hard to get back to that point. Once he gets on a roll, the A's won't hesitate to move him up aggressively.
Status: Looking for consistency
29. Nino Leyja
Leyja burst onto the scene in 2008 when he hit .315 with an 862 OPS for the AZL Athletics as a 17-year-old. Since that time, things haven't come quite as easily for the middle infielder. Leyja was scheduled to spend the 2009 season with short-season A Vancouver, but when injuries struck in Low-A Kane County, Leyja was called on to fill-in. Injuries and early struggles limited Leyja's playing time with the Cougars in 2009 and he wound-up playing in only 49 games the entire season. In 2010, he began the year with Kane County, but he struggled to find his way at the plate. In 37 games, he hit .224 with a 511 OPS, which was actually a backtrack from his numbers with the Cougars in 2009 (.231/653 in 33 games). At the start of short-season, Leyja was sent down to Vancouver, and he is still looking for his batting stroke, as he is hitting only .203 with a 592 OPS.
Despite those struggles, there is still reason for optimism with Leyja. He won't turn 20 until after the season, meaning that he is still younger than most of his Vancouver teammates. He has shown more patience in Vancouver than he did in Kane County, walking seven times against eight strike-outs with the Canadians (he had a 38:8 K:BB ratio with Kane County), and, in 55 at-bats, he has already collected one more extra-base hit than he did in 125 at-bats with the Cougars. Both the Midwest and Northwest Leagues are difficult leagues to hit in, but Leyja needs to continue to plug away at it. He has hit well in Arizona both during Rookie League and during instructional leagues, so his stroke should come around eventually.
Status: Still learning
28. Matt Sulentic
Sulentic's minor league career has been an odd one, indeed. The outfielder zoomed up prospect charts in 2006 when he hit .306 for Vancouver and Kane County as an 18-year-old. He slipped down the lists precipitously the next season when he hit only .224 for the C's and the Cougars, only to see his stock rise again with back-to-back solid seasons for High-A Stockton (.309/849 in 2008) and Double-A Midland (.288/759 in 2009). He is threatening to fall off those rankings again this season, as he has struggled in a repeat campaign with Midland. In 75 games for the Rockhounds, Sulentic is batting only .253 with a 637 OPS.
What is most strange is that Sulentic's power numbers have fallen off considerably. Although he was never a slugger, Sulentic did keep his slugging percentage in the .400 levels in each of the past two seasons. This year, Sulentic's slugging percentage is lower than his on-base percentage by more than 30 points (.301 to .336, respectively). As a corner outfielder, that number obviously won't cut it. Sulentic has played nearly everyday, but the drop in power numbers does make one wonder if he has been playing hurt. He has also seen his base-running numbers go down. He stole 21 bases in 30 chances last year, but is only six-for-11 this season. Sulentic, 22, will need a big second half to avoid another year in Midland next season. He is batting .405 with an 853 OPS over his last 10 games, so perhaps a big finish is in store for Sulentic.
Status: Needs a late-season hot streak
27. Mickey Storey
Storey was an unstoppable force in 2009, pitching for all four of the A's full-season affiliates and compiling a 1.22 ERA and striking out 71 while walking only eight in 51.2 innings. Storey then went on to pitch well in the Arizona Fall League. Things haven't been as easy for Storey in 2010, but he has still put together a solid season. In 55.1 innings for Double-A Midland and Triple-A Sacramento, Storey has a 4.07 ERA with 52 strike-outs and 16 walks. Opponents are batting .228 off of him and he has allowed six homeruns.
Storey isn't an overpowering pitcher. He relies on mixing his offerings to keep hitters off-balance and pinpoint control. If he is off at all with his command or if his pattern becomes predictable, he can be very hittable. However, when he is on, hitters are almost helpless to make contact. He was more hittable during his stint in Triple-A than he was in Double-A, a sign that he needs to continue to refine his command and work on his pitch sequence at the higher levels. Storey projects as a set-up man or middle innings reliever in the big leagues
Status: Steady progress
26. Rashun Dixon
It was a rough season all around for Dixon in 2009 with short-season A Vancouver and it appeared 2010 wasn't starting off any better when he slammed into an outfield wall making a catch in spring training. The crash required stitches and kept him out of action for more than a week of camp. Nonetheless, the A's were confident enough in Dixon's abilities to send him to Low-A Kane County despite his struggles with Vancouver and his missed time during the spring. Thus far, it has looked like a wise decision. A July slump has dampened his overall numbers some, but his .250/.353/.377 line is decent for a 19-year-old playing full-season ball for the first time, especially in the difficult Midwest League.
As with many 19-year-olds, Dixon's approach to the game still needs more maturity, as he doesn't always have the same focus day-to-day. But that is something that is generally learned by players as they get older. He has really struggled at the Cougars' home park, but is batting .290 with an 866 OPS in away games. Dixon has alternated his good and bad months this season, with outstanding performances in April and June and poor numbers in May and July. A hot August finish should put him in-line for a promotion to Stockton in 2011.
Status: A step forward
25. Justin Marks
It has been a strange season for Marks, who was the A's second pick (and a third-round selection) in the 2009 draft. A polished college lefty, Marks was expected to breeze through the Midwest League and be in the California League by now. It hasn't happened yet, but there is still time left in the season. Marks got off to a horrible start in April, posting an ERA higher than nine and walking 15 in 16.2 innings. Since then, he has gotten better in every month. Overall, his record is only 2-10 and he has a mediocre 5.30 ERA, but he has struck-out 97 batters in 90 innings while walking 36.
Much of Marks' bad start can be attributed to rust. The Louisville alum injured his groin during his first professional appearance last season in Arizona and he had to have surgery on the injury, something that prevented him from getting a lot of throwing in during the off-season. As he has found his rhythm, his strike-outs have increased while his walks have gone way down. Over his last three starts, Marks has struck-out 26 batters and his ERAs in June and July have been in the threes. Marks has dominated left-handed batters this season (BAA of .195), a sign that even if Marks doesn't find consistent success as a starter, he could have a future as a lefty specialist. But there is certainly no reason to give up on Marks as a starter yet. He could get an audition in Stockton by the end of the season and will almost assuredly be there in 2011.
Status: Looking to finish strong
24. Sam Demel
When the A's selected Demel in the third round in 2007, they believed they were getting a reliever who could be fast-tracked to the big leagues. In 2010, they were proven correct, although Demel hasn't been suiting up in green and gold. The right-hander was traded to the Arizona Diamondbacks in mid-June for Conor Jackson and Demel has been a mainstay in the D-Backs' bullpen ever since.
Demel became a valuable trade chip for the A's this season thanks to a new cut fastball and better overall command of his entire repertoire, all of which translated to a 1.26 ERA and six saves in 28.2 innings for the Triple-A Sacramento River Cats. Demel was promoted immediately to the big leagues after he was traded and he has responded by posting a 3.00 ERA with 11 strike-outs and only two walks in his first 12 major league innings. It should be a start, health-permitting, of a long major league career for the TCU alum.
Status: Big leaguer
23. Dusty Coleman
Coleman's 2009 season was dramatically affected by a wrist injury that turned out was a fracture. He played through the injury, which occurred in May, for most of the season, but his numbers suffered greatly. Coleman had off-season surgery on the wrist and was hopeful of being back on the field early in the 2010 season. Unfortunately, the wrist didn't respond to the surgery as he and the team had hoped and he had to have a second surgery, ending his 2010 season before it even began.
Status: Out for the year
22. Shane Peterson
A big part of the Midland Rockhounds' championship squad in 2009, Peterson was expected to have a big season in 2010. He began the year back with Midland, but the thought was that if he played well, he'd earn a promotion to Triple-A Sacramento once there was an opening in the River Cats' outfield. Surprisingly, Peterson has struggled in his second go-around in the Texas League. In 78 games, he is batting only .228 with a 628 OPS.
Since being drafted in the second round in 2008 by the St. Louis Cardinals, Peterson has been on a fast track. He reached Double-A midway through his first full professional season despite being only 21. He is still relatively young for Double-A this season at 22-years-old, so he has some time to recover from this poor start. His track record as a career .290 hitter in nearly 200 minor league games coming into this season would indicate that he will turn it around eventually. A strong August would help to salvage the season.
Status: Looking for a hot streak
21. Brad Kilby
This article's theme of injury-plagued seasons continues with Kilby, who has been on the disabled list with a left shoulder injury since late May. Kilby had a break-out 2009 season when he posted a 2.13 ERA for Sacramento and then posted a 0.53 ERA in 17 September innings with the A's. Kilby was one of the final cuts in A's major league spring training camp, but he struggled with his command throughout camp and also had some arm stiffness.
Kilby pitched well early with Sacramento and was one of the first relievers the A's turned to when injuries struck their bullpen. He pitched well for the A's, posting a 2.16 ERA and striking out eight while walking none in 8.2 innings. However, he was sent back to Sacramento in a roster crunch. The demotion was supposed to be temporary, but Kilby started to struggle and then was sidelined with the sore shoulder. He has been rehabbing the injury and is hoping to avoid surgery and return this season. If he is healthy by September, he will be a no-brainer recall for the A's. While on the DL, Kilby has made himself useful in a different way for the River Cats. He has become Sacramento's version of the "Rally Monkey," donning extra tight baseball pants when the River Cats need a late-game rally. The Rally Pants have helped Sacramento storm back into the playoff chase after a very slow start.
Status: Working to get back on the field