* 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 good through Sunday, August 1, 2010
10. Corey Brown
It has been a tale of two seasons for Brown, who struggled badly in his first taste of Triple-A baseball, but has excelled in a return stint with Double-A Midland. In 34 early season games with the Sacramento River Cats, Brown struggled to make consistent contact. He batted only .156 and he struck-out 30 times in 34 games. Sent back to Midland in late May, Brown instantly turned around his season. In 64 games with the ‘Hounds, he is batting .318 with a 900 OPS, 14 stolen bases in 14 tries and 34 walks. He has been particularly good against right-handed pitchers, batting .371 with a 1007 OPS in 159 at-bats. Brown nursed a bad knee throughout most of last season, but he has been healthy in 2010.
The A's front office claims to be high on Brown's future still, but it is puzzling that the team hasn't given him another chance in Triple-A, especially given the River Cats' recent outfield shortages. He could get another chance with the River Cats before the season is out and a strong finish would go a long way towards erasing his rough April. In the meantime, he is helping the Rockhounds make another run at the post-season.
Status: Looking for another crack at Triple-A
With Kurt Suzuki, Landon Powell and Jake Fox ahead of him on the depth chart, it seemed unlikely that Donaldson would get an opportunity at the major league level, at least early in the 2010 season. Suzuki's oblique injury and a lack of depth in the A's outfield gave Donaldson a crack at the big leagues in late April/early May. He hit one memorable homerun, but, for the most part, was shown by big league pitchers that he needed to make some adjustments to his approach at the plate. Donaldson has spent the rest of the season with Sacramento, where he has been one of the River Cats' most consistently productive players, despite a .238 BA.
Donaldson's power has been the most surprising aspect of his game. He has hit a career-high 18 homeruns in only 82 games for the River Cats and is slugging at a .480 clip. His plate patience has suffered some for that power surge, however, as his OBP has slipped to .332 from its normal .370-.380 range. Donaldson's average has slipped a lot during the month of July, as he was hitting in the more respectable .260-.270 range for much of the season, perhaps a sign of late-season fatigue. Defensively, Donaldson has continued to show improvements, although his glove isn't everyday major league quality yet. Now a member of the A's 40-man roster, Donaldson is a strong candidate to serve as the A's third catcher in September and could get a decent number of at-bats if the A's are out of the race by then.
Status: Swinging a power bat
The 2009 season started out so well for Doolittle, who almost played his way onto the A's Opening Day roster in spring training. He got off to a hot start with the Sacramento River Cats, only to injure his knee in early May. Doolittle attempted to rehab the knee without surgery and appeared ready to get back on the field at several points during the season. However, he continued to struggle with pain and eventually had surgery on his left patella tendon in October. Doolittle's surgery was unable to correct the problem and he recently underwent another operation. At this point, his recovery timetable is unknown. Unfortunately for Doolittle, he has had to sit on the sidelines while Daric Barton has solidified his hold on the A's first base job and Chris Carter has charged up the prospect ranks.
Status: Recovering from another surgery
7. Michael Ynoa
Before this season, Ynoa was in danger of becoming the A's version of Sidd Finch, a pitcher in mythology only. The much-acclaimed 2008 international amateur free agent signing had yet to throw a pitch in a regular season minor league game before this season. That has now changed, although Ynoa hasn't thrown nearly as many innings as one would have hoped at this point in the season. The 6'7'' right-hander has tossed nine innings total in three starts for the A's Arizona Rookie League team and hasn't thrown in a game since July 1 thanks to some arm soreness. He is expected to return to the mound in the next week or two. In those nine innings, Ynoa has thrown well, reaching 96 with his fastball and showing good movement. He has struck-out 11 and walked four and allowed five runs on six hits, including one homerun.
Over the past two years, Ynoa's career has been marked by a series of minor ailments. He missed all of the AZL Rookie League season in 2009 with a sore elbow and then missed time during extended spring training with a dental problem. A's minor league pitching coordinator Gil Patterson has worked with Ynoa on mental toughness and pitching through some of the minor ailments. Ynoa still has plenty of time to progress through the A's system, but he will be 19 in September, so the A's need him to start being able to build up his innings totals in order to get him to a place where he can throw 150+ innings in a season.
Status: Still battling minor injuries
6. Max Stassi
It has been an uneven season for Stassi. The A's 2009 4th round pick was a non-roster invitee to big league spring training and he impressed everyone at the A's camp. The 19-year-old was sent to a full-season affiliate at the break of camp, and he was one of the youngest position players in the Midwest League on Opening Day. Since that time, Stassi has shown glimpses of why it was members of the A's front office were as excited about Stassi as any prospect in recent memory, but his inconsistent play has also reminded people that he is still a teenager. Offensively, Stassi has shown impressive power, clubbing 12 homeruns in the notoriously power-unfriendly Midwest League. He has also struck-out at an alarming rate, with 113 strike-outs in 84 games. Defensively, Stassi started out the season 0-for-30 throwing out runners, but he has improved his rate since then significantly and has done a better job of blocking balls and calling the game. He hasn't missed significant time with injury, but Stassi has been banged up with the typical bumps and bruises associated with being a catcher.
Playing catcher is the most physically and mentally tasking position on the field, and it is often the position in which players take the longest to develop. The A's are still very high on what Stassi offers both offensively and defensively and they will be patient with his development. He should finish off this season with Kane County and will compete in spring training for a spot in High-A Stockton next season.
Status: Learning the ropes
5. Jemile Weeks
In a sea of frustrating injury moments for A's prospects this season, Weeks' re-injury of his troublesome left hip was one of the worst. He was off to a strong start with Midland and was batting .316 with two homers over his last 10 games before straining his flexor tendon in his hip trying to beat out an infield groundball on May 6. He tore the same tendon in 2008 and it took him nearly eight months to make a full recovery thanks to a variety of set-backs. Weeks didn't lose as much time to the injury this time around. He returned to the field in early July with the A's Rookie League team and after two weeks in the Arizona Rookie League, he re-joined the Rockhounds' roster. Since coming back to Midland, he has hit safely in eight-of-10 games and has six walks against only one strike-out. He has also stolen two bases.
If he can remain healthy, Weeks has demonstrated that he can be an impact player. In 45 games this season, he has 12 stolen bases and he has shown a good eye with 21 walks against 24 strike-outs. He also has 17 extra-base hits. An average defensive player at best at Miami, Weeks has evolved into a solid second baseman and should continue to improve with time and work. He isn't a big power hitter like his older brother Rickie, but Jemile has shown that he can drive a pitch out on occasion. However, speed is his best tool, so keeping his legs healthy is paramount to his ultimate success or failure as a player. His goal for the rest of this season will be to remain on the field. He may head to a winter league in the off-season to get additional at-bats, as well.
Status: Back in the line-up
As with Brown, Cardenas has had widely contrasting results in Triple-A and Double-A this season. After missing the first three weeks of the season with a broken thumb, Cardenas was sent to Sacramento, where he was the River Cats' everyday third baseman. He struggled with the bat, hitting only .228 in 31 games, and struggled even more with the glove. He was sent back to Midland in June and has torn up the Texas League to the tune of a .360/.458/.488 line. His K:BB ratio, which was a decent 17:9 in Sacramento, is a ridiculously good 18:31 with Midland. Defensively, it continues to be a work-in-progress for Cardenas, who has an .860 fielding percentage in 23 games at third with the Rockhounds.
The A's see more of a future within the organization for Cardenas at third than at second, so it isn't an experiment that the team is going to give up on despite a rough first few months. The bat should be fine, although Cardenas still doesn't hit for as much power as the team would like. However, Cardenas won't turn 23 until after the season is over, so he still has some time for development. He is likely to get another shot at Triple-A once one of the River Cats' infielders is promoted to the big leagues. If he can show some improvement with the glove before the end of the season, that will end his campaign on an up note.
Status: Looking for steadiness with the glove
3. Grant Green
Green, the A's top pick in 2009, didn't have much time to show his new organization what he could do last season, as he signed in mid-August and was only able to suit up for five games for High-A Stockton at the end of the season. He had six hits in 19 at-bats (all as a DH), but he was able to participate fully in the A's Instructional League camp in October. When the start of the 2010 season rolled around, Green was back in Stockton, where he has spent the entire season. Green got off to a so-so start, batting .286 with a 724 OPS in April. However, he began to pick-up his play in May (.317/.380/.407) and really hit his stride with the bat in June (.340/.398/.638) and July (.347/.378/.554). Through Sunday, Green was sitting seventh in the Cal League in batting average (.325), 12th in OPS (880), tied for second in doubles (30) and 19th in homeruns (12).
Things haven't gone as smoothly for Green on the defensive-side of the ball, however. He has made a league-leading 28 errors at shortstop. Although some of those errors, especially the fielding ones, will evaporate over time with experience, there have been concerns from those who have watched Green play regularly that his arm strength isn't good enough to stick at shortstop. The A's are keeping him there for the moment, but there have been whispers of a position move. To what position remains to be seen. Green has the athleticism to handle centerfield, for instance, if the A's were interested in going that route, and certainly his bat would play there. But that is likely an answer that will come in 2011. For now, Green is performing as expected with the bat and could end-up with a late-season audition in Midland by season's end.
Status: Hitting like a first rounder
2. Chris Carter
A year after hitting 39 homers but batting only .259 for High-A Stockton, Carter drew glowing praise around baseball for becoming a more complete hitter in 2009, when he won the Texas League MVP by hitting .337 with 24 homers in 125 games for Midland (he hit .329 with 28 homers in 138 overall games with Midland and Sacramento). Expectations were huge for Carter in 2010 and a slow start to the season worried a lot of prospect watchers. However, a hot July has got Carter back on the prospect hot sheets. For the month of July, Carter hit .318 with nine homers and a 1075 OPS. Overall, he has an organization-leading 24 homers (which puts him second in the PCL) and his season OPS is a solid 875. His average is only at .254, but a team-leading 63 walks has his OBP at .360.
Carter has more frequently resembled the hitter he was in 2008 than the one he was in 2009, although both iterations were frightening to opposing pitchers. He is still working on his pitch recognition, especially on breaking balls. Carter has really struggled at the River Cats' Raley Field, posting only a .224 average and a 788 OPS, and he has shined on the road, with marks of .282 and 959, respectively. Defensively, Carter has still struggled at times at first and he has a league-leading 10 errors this season. He has also appeared in 14 games in the outfield (nine in left and five in right). With his recent hot streak, Carter's name has been bandied about as a possible call-up to help the A's address their offensive woes. However, the A's have generally preferred to give Carter close to a full season at a level before promoting him, so it would seem more likely that he would join the A's in September, when Oakland could use him in strategic situations where he is likely to succeed (especially against left-handed pitching). He should have a big role on the A's next season.
Status: Ripping up the PCL after slow start
Taylor wouldn't be a top-10 A's prospect if he hadn't experienced some trials and tribulations this season, it seems. The outfielder was acquired by the A's for top prospect Brett Wallace during the off-season and pundits immediately started the clock on when Taylor would be hitting third in the A's line-up. Perhaps the pressure of those expectations got to Taylor in the early going, or perhaps it was a combination of a new league and a nagging calf injury that landed him on the DL in May. Whatever it was, Taylor struggled for the first two-and-a-half months of the season. He began to turn it around in mid-June and has since raised his average from the .230s to .276. He hit .324/.418/.448 in July and has really been hot since the All-Star break (.368/.456/.485).
Taylor hit 19 homers in 2008 and 20 in 2009, but with only five through Sunday, he won't reach those totals this season. However, he has still been a run-producer, with 62 RBIs in 92 games and a .361 average with runners in scoring position. Defensively, he has played all over the outfield, but has spent most of his time in right. Despite the calf injury, he has shown good speed with 11 stolen bases in 15 chances and five triples. The A's will need to add Taylor to the 40-man roster this off-season, so it seems likely that he will get some time with the team in September and could play himself into Opening Day 2011 consideration with a good showing.
Status: Recovering from a slow start