On January 9, we released our final Oakland A's top-50 prospect ranking for the 2013 season. In compiling that ranking, we considered significantly more than 50 players. In this two-part series, we take a look at the players who just missed making the cut.
These players are listed in alphabetical – not rank – order.
Travis Banwart: Banwart has been on the verge of the big leagues for two years now. In an organization with less pitching depth, he may have already made that jump to the show. Instead, Banwart has found himself being somewhat of a forgotten man in an organization that has graduated several outstanding arms to the big leagues over the past two years. Banwart did a bit of everything for Triple-A Sacramento last season, starting 18 games and making 18 relief appearances. Some of his relief work was of the long-man variety, but he also had some shorter appearances. In total, Banwart posted a 3.85 ERA with a 99:37 K:BB ratio in 128.2 innings. Banwart was the A's fourth-round selection in 2007. He will be eligible for minor league free agency at the end of the 2013 season if he isn't added to the A's 40-man roster before then.
Shawn Duinkerk: The 18-year-old native of Aruba is extremely raw, but there is a lot of potential for growth from the outfielder. Duinkerk, a left-handed hitter, had never faced a left-handed pitcher before he signed with the A's as an amateur free agent. His rawness was evident in his first season in the States, as he managed only a 631 OPS in 24 Arizona Rookie League games. At times, Duinkerk has flashed impressive power and a plus arm from the outfield. Duinkerk is currently built like a bean pole at 6'5'', 195 pounds, but he should fill out as he gets older and participates in the A's strength and conditioning program.
Ryan Dull: Over the past few years, the A's have found several promising pitchers in the later rounds of the draft. Dull may be the next in that group. The A's 32nd-round pick this past season impressed the Oakland coaching staff with his fastball command and his change-up in his pro debut. He also received praise from several coaches for his competitiveness on the mound. Dull split the 2012 season between the AZL and the New York-Penn League. In 31.2 innings, he struck-out 47 while walking nine. He is already 23 but profiles similarly to former A's relief prospect Connor Robertson.
Omar Duran: Arm issues have held Duran back so far in his career, but he has a lot of talent in his left arm. He can reach the mid-90s with his fastball and he struck-out 49 in only 27.2 innings of work last season. He also walked 24, however, so there is still plenty of work to be done. The soon-to-be-23-year-old Dominican native made his full-season debut in 2012. If healthy, he should spend the entire 2013 season in full-season ball.
Kris Hall: The A's 2013 8th-round pick saw his pro debut season end early with arm fatigue, but he showed why the A's spent a top-10 round pick on him before landing on the DL. Hall flashed a fastball in the 91-94 MPH range, as well as a promising slider and change-up. His command was off with short-season Vermont, which may have been as a result of his arm soreness. He struck-out 24, but walked 14, in 27.1 innings with the Lake Monsters. If healthy, Hall will likely be a starter in 2013.
Tucker Healy: For the past two seasons, Healy was one of the top pitchers in Division III baseball. He expected to be drafted in 2011, but was left disappointed when his name wasn't called. Those fortunes turned in 2012, when Healy was selected by the A's in the 23rd round. Healy isn't big, but he can rush his fastball up to 94 MPH in relief stints and he has been a strike-out pitcher throughout his career. His ability to miss bats carried over into professional baseball, as he K'd 45 in 29.1 innings. Healy should be part of the Low-A Beloit bullpen in 2013.
Tom Mendonca: Generally speaking, players who are left unprotected in the minor league portion of the Rule 5 draft are not considered valuable commodities. However, Mendonca might prove the exception to the rule. The former Fresno State star was a second-round pick in 2009 by the Texas Rangers. He had solid seasons at the plate in 2009 and 2011 but struggled in 2010 and 2012 and was caught in a numbers game in a talented and deep Rangers system and was left available for the A's to take in the Rule 5 minor league draft in December. Mendonca has been a third baseman for most of his career. The Rangers tried moving him behind the plate before the 2012 season, but that experiment didn't go particularly well and may have affected him at the plate with Triple-A Round Rock. The Turlock native has a powerful left-handed bat, but he has always struggled to get on-base. That part of his game will have to improve for the A's to take a long look at him, but the organization is relatively thin on third base prospects in the upper-levels, so he should get an opportunity to show what he can do either with Midland or Sacramento in 2013.
Melvin Mercedes: Mercedes didn't receive the same amount of press as some of the other 2012 A's draft picks, but that could change in the coming years. The New York native posted a 935 OPS in 31 games in the Arizona Rookie League in his pro debut. Selected out of the College of Central Florida, Mercedes showed his athleticism and his polished approach at the plate while with the AZL A's. Although he is only 5'8'', Mercedes is well-built and could develop some gap power down-the-road. He has a strong arm, good hands and an aggressive approach at shortstop. Mercedes turned 21 in January and could be challenged with a full-season affiliate assignment in 2013.
Sean Murphy: Injuries held Murphy back in 2011, but the 6'6'' right-hander had a solid full season in 2012 with Low-A Burlington and High-A Stockton. Murphy struck-out 159 in 159 innings while walking 52. He did allow 25 homers (most coming in the hitter-friendly California League), but he held opposing batters to a .238 average. Murphy isn't overpowering, but he locates his fastball well and has a good mix of secondary pitches, including a change-up, curveball and slider.
Wilfredo Solano: So far, Solano hasn't developed as the A's hoped he would when they gave him a seven-figure signing bonus as an amateur free agent from Venezuela. He has played well in camp settings during Instructional Leagues and extended spring training, but he has been unable to translate those performances to the field. In 2012, Solano played in his first non-complex league and he posted a 549 OPS for short-season Vermont. The good news is that Solano just turned 20 this week and there are few questions about his talent. He has excellent hand-eye coordination, quick wrists and has shown power to all fields at times. The A's coaching staff has also praised Solano for his work ethic and his ability to take information and apply to his game. He has been a shortstop throughout his career, although there has been talk about moving him to centerfield. Solano is the kind of player who could make us look foolish for leaving him off of the top prospect list if his tools come together. Depending on how he looks this spring, Solano could get his first taste of full-season ball with Beloit in 2013.
Tony Thompson: The former Big 12 Triple-Crown winner had a big second half with High-A Stockton, which could be a sign of good things to come in 2013. Thompson had an 850 OPS after the Cal League All-Star break and a 914 OPS in August. The third-baseman has the tools to hit for average and he is an excellent contact hitter. Thompson has shown flashes of legitimate power, as well. The 24-year-old should jump to Double-A in 2013, and it could be a make-or-break season for the Kansas alum.
Jeff Urlaub: There may be no pitcher in the A's system who throws more strikes than Urlaub. The left-hander has walked 22 batters in 147.1 career relief innings. He also does a good job of missing bats, having racked up 156 career strike-outs. Urlaub doesn't have much margin for error, as his fastball rarely breaks 89 MPH. However, he has excellent command, and he has allowed only eight homeruns in his career. Urlaub is equally tough against righties as he is against lefties. The Scottsdale native had an unusual path through collegiate ball thanks to an arm injury his freshman season, and he will turn 26 in April. However, if he continues to put up the kind of numbers he has put up thus far in his career, age won't hold him back. Urlaub should get an opportunity in Double-A in 2013.