Note: this is not a re-ranking of current prospects. A new top-50 prospects list will be released this off-season.
40. Josh Whitaker
Whitaker’s progress through the A’s system the past two seasons has been impeded by unlucky injuries. The outfielder has missed some time this first half with injury once again, but this time he has been healthy enough to force the A’s to move him up a level. Whitaker hit .320/.367/.523 with nine homers in 51 games for Double-A Midland before the A’s moved him up to Triple-A. Since joining the River Cats, Whitaker has 14 hits in 64 at-bats and a 22:3 K:BB rate.
Whitaker has always been underappreciated because he isn’t particularly flashy, but Whitaker shouldn’t be overlooked. He is a good athlete who runs well for a man his size. He has power to all fields, the ability to hit for average and the arm strength for right field. Whitaker can put himself on the radar of potential 2015 call-ups if he can finish the 2014 season with a strong second half with Sacramento.
Status: Looking to make his mark in Triple-A
39. Jeff Urlaub
Like Whitaker, Urlaub is another often over-looked prospect who has had to push his way into being noticed. His season was off to a strong start before an elbow injury derailed it. Urlaub had surgery a few weeks ago and he will miss the rest of the season. He expects to be ready to pitch at the start of next season.
Before Urlaub got hurt, he was getting his feet wet in Triple-A after posting a 1.57 ERA in 23 innings for Double-A Midland. When healthy, Urlaub is a similar reliever to Jerry Blevins; not a hard thrower but a lefty with great command, an excellent curveball and the ability to avoid hard contact. If he is healthy next spring, he will have a chance to start the season back in Triple-A.
Status: Rehabbing a season-ending injury
38. Josh Bowman
After a disappointing 2013 season, Bowman was looking for a bounce-back in 2014. Unfortunately, he didn’t get off to the start he would have wanted, struggling out of the Stockton Ports’ rotation. He was moved into the bullpen midway through May and that seemed to have helped him get back on-track. In 11 relief outings, Bowman had a 3.42 ERA and, most importantly, he walked only three in 23.2 innings. Recently, Bowman has moved back into the rotation and he has allowed just three runs in 9.1 innings.
Bowman’s struggles the past year-and-a-half have been puzzling. He has an above-average sinker and a history of throwing strikes. With Midland last year, Bowman struggled to keep the ball on the ground for the first time in his career. He hasn’t had any problems in that area this season. His GO/AO is 1.33. He has allowed too many homeruns (14), but only three of those have come since June 1. It’s not clear whether Bowman will stay in the rotation or go back to the bullpen for the rest of the season, but a strong finish in either role will give him another shot to win a spot in Midland next spring.
Status: Improving after a slow start
37. Conner Crumbliss
For the second straight year, Crumbliss began the year on the Sacramento roster, although unlike last year, he didn’t actually receive an at-bat with the River Cats before being sent back to Midland. Crumbliss re-joined the RockHounds just a few days into the season and he has been with Midland ever since. Crumbliss got off to a slow start this season and his numbers are uncharacteristically poor (.223/.335/.344). Crumbliss has been hitting better of late (.263/.370/.447 in July), however, and his K:BB is still nearly 1:1 (47:49), so he could be in for a strong finish.
Crumbliss has primarily been an outfielder over the past few years, but he has recently seen a lot of time at second base. He has always been able to play that position, but if he can show that he can handle it on a day-to-day basis, that might be Crumbliss’ ticket back to Triple-A next season.
Status: Picking up steam
36. Ryon Healy
Healy was the A’s third-round pick last season. He had a disappointing pro debut with the A’s two short-season squads (658 OPS), but the A’s showed faith in the slugging corner infielder, sending him to High-A Stockton at the start of this season rather than Low-A Beloit. Healy continued to struggle in April, but the A’s maintained their faith in Healy and it has paid off. After posting only a .185/.231/.343 line in April, Healy hit .278/.323/.391 in May, .353/.355/.539 in June and .339/.371/.559 thus far in July. In total, Healy is batting .281 with 12 homers and a 755 OPS.
Healy is a corner infielder in the Troy Glaus mold. He is a good athlete and has shown promise at third while also seeing time at first and DH. Healy needs to continue to improve his plate discipline, but he has shown a natural ability to barrel the ball and his power is starting to come around. Healy has homered five times since the All-Star break after homering seven times before the break. He should be in-line for a promotion to Midland next season if he continues to improve as he has each month thus far.
Status: Starting to blossom
35. Shane Peterson
Peterson almost played his way onto the A’s 25-man roster out of spring training in 2013. He didn’t receive as much playing time with the A’s this spring, but, unlike last year when he struggled during the first half with Sacramento, Peterson is playing like a man who deserves a major-league spot. Peterson was named to the PCL’s mid-season All-Star team and is currently sporting a .309/.386/.430 line. He has 26 doubles and 11 stolen bases in 13 chances. Peterson has also played excellent defense in centerfield.
The A’s have dipped into their outfield/first base depth already this season without recalling Peterson, but that doesn’t mean he will be kept off of the A’s roster all season. At the very least, Peterson’s ability to play all three outfield positions and first base, as well as run the bases well, should make him an attractive candidate for a September call-up.
Status: He’s an All-Star
34. Jake Goebbert
Goebbert had a strong first season in the A’s organization last year, batting .262/.354/.474 with 22 homers for Double-A Midland and Triple-A Sacramento. Goebbert got off to another strong start for Sacramento this season, posting an 876 OPS in 31 games before he was traded to San Diego in the Kyle Blanks deal. Goebbert continued to hit well for Triple-A El Paso, earning his first big league call-up after 32 games and an 843 OPS. Since joining the Padres, Goebbert has a .265/.324/.412 line in 17 games.
With a 736 OPS, Goebbert is arguably one of the Padres’ best hitters right now. The Northwestern alum is probably a future fourth outfielder, but he could see a lot of starting time with a struggling Padres’ club this season. Quite a rise from a lightly regarded 13th-round pick in the 2009 draft.
Status: Big leaguer
33. Iolana Akau
Akau was the A’s 20th-round pick last season out of a high school in Hawaii. Oakland gave the talented backstop an above-slot deal ($375,000 reportedly) to turn down a commitment to the University of Hawaii and turn pro. Akau got his feet wet in pro ball last year in the Arizona Rookie League and he is repeating that league this year. In nine games, Akau has five hits in 29 at-bats.
The A’s took Akau for his glove, not his bat, and they will be patient as his offense develops because he has the potential to be a special defensive player. Akau has one of the strongest arms of any catcher in minor league baseball. He also is very athletic, moving well behind the plate. Young for his year in school, Akau won’t turn 19 until after the 2014 regular season ends. He is still maturing physically and should add more pop to his bat as he puts on weight. Look for the A’s to move Akau slowly. He should finish the season in Rookie Ball.
Status: Learning the ropes in the AZL
32. Seth Frankoff
Frankoff had a breakout season for High-A Stockton in 2013, posting a 2.78 ERA and striking out 93 in 74.1 innings. He moved up to Double-A Midland at the start of 2014 and assumed the role of the RockHounds’ closer for most of the first half of the year. Frankoff thrived in that role, earning a spot in the Texas League All-Star Game. He saved 15 games for the RockHounds and posted a 2.41 ERA in 33.2 innings. He struck-out 47 and walked 11. Frankoff earned a promotion to Triple-A at the start of July. He has struggled in his first four outings, allowing 10 runs in six innings.
If Frankoff can get back on-track with the River Cats, he could be in position for a 40-man roster spot this off-season. At the very least, a strong showing in Triple-A during the second half could position him for the Rule 5 draft and a possible non-roster invitation to spring training if he isn’t added to a team’s 40-man roster.
Status: Tackling Triple-A
31. Sean Murphy
After a strong year with Stockton and Midland in 2013, Murphy came into spring training with a shot to make the Sacramento rotation. He had a strong spring, landing on the River Cats’ roster for the first time in his career. The right-hander struggled with Sacramento, however, posting a 7.18 ERA in seven starts before being sent to Stockton for a brief time. After two solid starts with the Ports, Murphy joined Midland, where he has been pitching ever since. In six starts with the RockHounds, Murphy has a 2.97 ERA and a 34:11 K:BB in 36.1 innings.
Sometimes it takes a pitcher a little while to make that jump from Double-A to Triple-A, and Murphy should be better in Sacramento the next time around. If the A’s end up recalling Tommy Milone or Drew Pomeranz at some point this season, Murphy could be the choice to take a spot in Sacramento’s rotation.
Status: Pitching well in Double-A