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35. Aaron Shipman, OF
|Shipman is still looking for a season where his numbers match his talents.|
Big things were expected out of Shipman when he was selected in the third round of the 2010 draft by the A's. The outfielder from Quitman, Georgia, has struggled to translate his immense talents into production on the field over the past two seasons. Despite those struggles, however, team officials are still optimistic about the future of the 20-year-old centerfielder.
After spending his first pro season in the short-season New York-Penn League, Shipman made the jump to full season ball in 2012. He played the entire year with the Low-A Burlington Bees of the Midwest League, posting a .206/.319/.261 line in 108 games. Shipman battled injuries throughout the season, including a wrist injury that sapped his ability to hit with much authority. The left-hander had only 16 extra-base hits in 360 at-bats, and no homeruns. The 6'0'', 175-pounder has yet to homer in 175 professional games.
Shipman does have solid plate discipline, especially for a player his age. In 360 at-bats, he walked 60 times, which would put him on pace for a 90-walk season if he played a full schedule of games. He also struck-out 86 times, however. Shipman has well above-average speed, but he struggled getting good reads and was successful on only 50% of his base-stealing attempts. Defensively, Shipman covered a lot of ground but was still learning the ropes in terms of angles and reads off the bat.
From a talent perspective, there may be only a small handful of players in the entire A's organization who would be considered more physically gifted than Shipman. The hope within the A's organization is that as Shipman grows into his body and matures, he will start to see positive results on the field. Shipman gets high marks from coaches for his work ethic and he has yet to have the benefit of a fully healthy season.
"He is still a tremendous athlete, but putting your game together as a player doesn't come in one year or six months or what have you," A's minor league hitting coordinator Todd Steverson said. "He struggled. Every player at some point in his career struggles. Now he is able to put that in his arsenal to get better.
"You don't want to say, ‘I'm glad he struggled,' but now he has an idea of things that were going on when he did struggle that he can stop a lot faster than he did this year. Just pure growth and maturity tends to help a lot of players. With him coming up for his third year, hopefully that will be the case for him. He does still possess a lot of talent."
It is difficult to know exactly how much Shipman's wrist injury played into his struggles this season. He didn't get much loft on the baseball, hitting the ball on the ground in more than half of his at-bats. He wasn't particularly lucky either, posting a well-below average .268 BABIP. Shipman doesn't project to be a homerun hitter at any stage of his career, but he should be able to reach the gaps with more regularity as he matures physically. With his plus speed and natural plate discipline, Shipman has all of the tools to be a successful leadoff hitter. He also projects to be an above-average defensive outfielder down-the-road.
Shipman won't turn 21 until just before the start of spring training. Assuming he is healthy this spring, he is likely to return to the Midwest League at the start of the season, suiting up for the A's new Midwest League affiliate in Beloit.
34. B.J. Boyd, OF
|Boyd has a good natural feel for the game.|
The A's dipped heavily into the high school ranks during the 2012 draft, taking five high school players amongst their top seven picks. Boyd was the fifth of those high school players to be selected, coming off the board in the fourth round. A standout running back at Palo Alto High School, Boyd was recruited to play football in college but he chose to sign with the A's soon after the draft.
The South Bay native had a strong pro debut, hitting .301/.401/.434 with 16 stolen bases in 20 chances in 143 at-bats for the Arizona Rookie League A's. Boyd finished eighth in the league in stolen bases and 12th in the league in triples. His .401 OBP was good for 11th in the league and his .301 average was 17th best in the AZL.
Boyd put up those numbers based mostly on his pure athleticism and instincts for the game. As a two-sport athlete in high school, Boyd didn't spent as much time at high school showcases and in off-season camps as many high school players taken in the top rounds of the draft. Consequently, he is more raw than many of the high school players taken around him in the draft. Not having seen many left-handed pitchers in high school, Boyd struggled in a small sample-size against lefties (four hits in 20 at-bats), but he still managed to be patient against southpaws (seven walks). Against right-handers, the left-handed hitting Boyd batted .317/.400/.472 in 123 at-bats.
The A's are excited about Boyd's ability to grow as a player because of his innate instinctual feel for the game.
"B.J. is a lot more raw of a player," Steverson said. "Having a one sport every day and probably the adjustments from high school to professional baseball and having the guys throw 90+ everyday is always going to be an adjustment, especially when you don't see it in high school everyday.
"It's tough to evaluate how good his game awareness is until you see him on an everyday basis. The instincts part is a very tough part of the game to teach and is really almost unteachable."
Boyd stands at only 5'10'', but he is well-built physically and could add a power element to his game as he learns more about professional pitching. He has plus speed and a good natural feel for the strike-zone. Defensively, Boyd is still learning how to read the ball off the bat, but his pure speed allowed him to cover a lot of ground this summer in centerfield and he has the tools to grow into an above-average defensive centerfielder.
The A's viewed Boyd as a bit of a project when they selected him, but he has already made a strong first impression with the organization. They won't be in a hurry to rush him, as he won't turn 20 until mid-July. However, if Boyd has a strong spring, he could see time early in the year in the Midwest League, although even if he does spend the majority of the season with Beloit, he is likely to be held back in Arizona during the cold first few weeks of the season.
33. B.A. Vollmuth, 3B
|Vollmuth had a disappointing first full season.|
Vollmuth was the second player selected by the A's in the 2011 draft (third round) and the first position player taken by Oakland. The third baseman signed late in 2011 and only received a handful of at-bats with short-season Vermont before the end of the season.
Vollmuth was sent to Low-A Burlington at the start of the 2012 season and he would spend the first half of the year with the Bees before receiving a promotion to High-A Stockton after the All-Star break. The Southern Miss alum got off to a sluggish start with Burlington but finished on an up-note. His overall line was mediocre, however, as Vollmuth hit .260/.337/.411 with seven homers in 265 at-bats.
Vollmuth's time in Stockton mirrored his stint with Burlington. In 264 at-bats, Vollmuth had a .261/.338/.398 line with seven homers. Once again, Vollmuth started out slowly and finished his time with Stockton swinging the bat better. His overall line for the 2012 season was .261/.336/.405 with 14 homers and a 144:56 K:BB ratio in 132 games. Vollmuth also struggled defensively at third base.
Those numbers were disappointing, as Vollmuth came to the A's with the reputation as a polished hitter and he had impressed during both his short 2011 stint with Vermont and that year's Instructional League camp. Despite the disappointing campaign, Vollmuth is still held in high esteem by the A's minor league coaching staff. They still see a player who has the tools to hit for average and power and the arm strength and hands to be an above-average defensive third baseman.
"B.A., in my opinion, is one of our better right-handed hitters in the organization," Steverson said. "He's got a tremendously talented bat. He can hit homeruns and can use the whole field.
"I think B.A. never really truly got hot. If you look at his numbers over the course of the year, they were pretty similar at both levels. I don't believe he is the type of player who strikes out as much as he did this year. I think he should improve upon that next year. But he is a very good hitter. I'm pleased with his progress during the Instructional League. I think his big thing is that he needs to keep working on being a complete player and really hone in on that defensive side.
"If he hones in on that and if he shows the potential that he has with the bat, then we've got a player. Baseball is not just one-sided. We want complete players."
With a solid spring, Vollmuth should receive a promotion to Double-A Midland at the start of the 2013 campaign. The A's have been searching for their next longterm answer at third base since Eric Chavez began to experience significant injury issues in 2009. Both Josh Donaldson and Scott Sizemore will get opportunities to become that longterm answer, but if neither pan out, Vollmuth could be in a position to make a push for a spot sometime in 2014. He will need to show significant improvements in 2013 to make that possible, however.
32. Shane Peterson, OF/1B
|Peterson parlayed a strong showing with Sacramento into a spot on the A's 40-man roster.|
There were probably several moments over the past few years when Peterson began to wonder if he would ever play anywhere else than with the Double-A Midland Rockhounds. Since being acquired by Oakland midway through the 2009 season, Peterson has logged 274 games with the A's Texas League affiliate. After a breakthrough 2012 campaign, Peterson should have Midland in his rearview mirror, however.
The outfielder/first baseman had a solid 2011 campaign and received his first taste of Triple-A that season, hitting .293 with an 856 OPS in 46 games with the Sacramento River Cats. However, despite those solid numbers, Peterson was sent back to Double-A for the final six weeks of the 2011 season and landed back with Midland at the start of the 2012 campaign thanks to a crowd of veteran outfielders and first basemen on the Sacramento roster. Peterson could have been forgiven if he allowed his play to be negatively impacted by his seemingly endless stint with Midland. However, Peterson approached his time with the Rockhounds in 2012 in a professional manner and posted solid numbers (.274/.441/.420).
Despite suffering an ankle injury with the Rockhounds that cost him a month of playing time, Peterson was given that coveted opportunity at Triple-A after the Texas League All-Star break. He never looked back. In 38 games with the River Cats, Peterson batted .389/.484/.618 with seven homeruns. The A's rewarded Peterson after the season ended with a spot on the 40-man roster.
"He had to be mentally strong. It's not easy to go back to a league for that many years knowing that you played well in that league," Steverson said during the season. "You have to take the mindset that you have to play well where you are at, instead of saying ‘I'd rather be somewhere else playing.' He's been able to do that."
It may seem like Peterson has been in the A's system forever, but the Southern California native is still relatively young. He won't turn 25 until February (for some context, Peterson is seven months younger than Grant Green). The A's have always liked Peterson's approach at the plate and he has continued to improve his plate discipline over the past few years. In 2011, he had a 75:53 K:BB ratio and in 2012, it was 78:67. Peterson uses the whole field well and has hit for average for the majority of his professional career. Defensively, Peterson is a poor man's Mark Kotsay. He doesn't have Kotsay's range in center, but Peterson has a strong arm and good range in the corners and he can also play a solid first base.
The thing that has held Peterson back has been his lack of one plus tool. He hits, runs and fields well, but he doesn't stand-out in any one area. There are a number of similarities offensively between Peterson and former A's top prospect Danny Putnam. Peterson has more speed than Putnam did and more defensive versatility, but he has suffered from being labeled a "tweener", much like Putnam did. Peterson showed more power with Sacramento last season than he has previously in his career. If Peterson can continue to add power to his game, he will increase his chances at a big league career significantly.
31. Chris Bostick, 2B/SS
|Bostick has a solid hit tool, as well as above-average speed.|
Bostick was easily the biggest surprise from the A's 2011 draft class. The infielder from Rochester, New York, was the A's 44th round pick in 2011. After starring during a summer wood bat league, Bostick signed with the A's late in the signing period. The then-18-year-old blistered the Arizona Rookie League to the tune of a .442/.482/.654 line in 52 at-bats and continued to swing the bat well during the A's fall Instructional League.
Bostick spent the first half of the 2012 season at extended spring training and was on the Opening Day roster for the Vermont Lake Monsters in the short-season New York-Penn League. He had to fight off the effects of a broken nose suffered late in the extended spring season, but after a bit of a slow start, Bostick swung the bat well in late June and in July for the Lake Monsters. An August slump dropped his overall numbers to a mediocre .251/.325/.369 line, but Bostick still showed glimpses of his potential with the Lake Monsters.
"He didn't finish his year in Vermont the way that it started. It started off really, really good," Steverson said. "He did get hurt for a minute there. But I think overall, the kid is an energetic and a real asset to the organization."
Bostick, a two-sport star in high school, has above-average speed and impressive athleticism. He has excellent hand-eye coordination and a smooth swing with good bat speed. Defensively, Bostick mostly played second base in 2012, although he also saw time at shortstop. He runs the bases well and should be a base-stealing threat throughout his career.
What the A's like most about Bostick is his enthusiasm for the game and for improving his skills. Despite being only 19, Bostick has shown the maturity of a much older player. The A's felt good enough about Bostick's maturity to send him to Sacramento to start for the River Cats in the A's-River Cats pre-season scrimmage in March. He should be the type of player who gets the most from his natural ability based on his work ethic and approach to practice.
"He really embraces knowledge. As a coach, you really love to see guys come out at that level who want to learn and want to hear everything that you have to say as coaches to get better," Stevereson said.
Bostick profiles as a top-of-the-order hitter. He is still refining his plate discipline, but he has shown the ability to grind out at-bats and to see a lot of pitches out of the leadoff spot. Despite being only 5'10'', 190, Bostick has pop in his bat and he could develop into a double-digit homerun threat as he matures. He will turn 20 just before the start of the 2013 regular season and should get his first taste of full-season ball with the Low-A Beloit Snappers.