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December 17, 2007

Future Shock

Oakland's Top 11 Redux

by Kevin Goldstein

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Just five days after publishing my Oakland Top 11 Prospects, Billy Beane, David Forst, and the gang over in O-Town decided to completely blow things up by trading Dan Haren and deceptive reliever Connor Robertson to Arizona for most of the D'backs minor league system. Not only does this make the not-so-far-away Arizona Top 11 much more interesting (and challenging), but it also renders the original Oakland list nearly irrelevant, or as I like to see it, much deeper, as former No. 11 prospect Sean Doolittle is now No. 16.

Four of the six players received would make a revised Top 11 for the A's, and here's how I have it:

Five-Star Prospects
1. Daric Barton, 1B
2. Carlos Gonzalez, OF
Four-Star Prospects
3. Brett Anderson, LHP
4. Trevor Cahill, RHP
Three-Star Prospects
5. Chris Carter, 1B
6. James Simmons, RHP
7. Aaron Cunningham, OF
8. Henry Rodriguez, RHP
9. Andrew Bailey, RHP
10. Corey Brown, OF
11. Jermaine Mitchell, OF

Greg Smith, a command and control lefty, comes in at No. 13 for me, after Javier Herrera but before Jerry Blevins, while Dana Eveland is no longer eligible for prospect rankings, though he's seemingly always eligible for a seat at the buffet table; when you're David Wells, being fat is kind of cool, but when you're 25 and have yet to establish yourself in the big leagues, it's kind of annoying.

But let's talk about the big four briefly, because they're not going to get full write-ups because of the timing here. You could argue with me that Gonzalez should be the number one guy, and I probably wouldn't put up much of a fight. His tools are outstanding, his performances merely good, and his effort highly questionable. Still, there is tremendous upside here, including the possibility of a Hanley Ramirez-like "OK, I'm in the majors, now I'll be good" type of breakout. It's of some importance to note that when Gonzalez moved up to Triple-A this year, Arizona moved him to center, if anything, to showcase him there, as there was no room in Arizona's big league outfielder for him. He also was moved to center recently for Zulia in the Venezuelan Winter League, and according to scouts, he's a good enough outfielder to be an average center fielder for the first few years of his career. With Oakland's center-field situation currently in flux because of Mark Kotsay's chronic back issues, Gonzalez has a shot of being in the Opening Day lineup.

Anderson instantly becomes the best pitching prospect in the system. He's arguably the most polished teenage pitcher in the minors, and the only one I can think of who already has a plus breaking ball, plus changeup, and plus command. He's also a big left-hander with average velocity and as I recently commented elsewhere, he might not have the star power of some other young arms, but if you could bet on one teenage pitcher reaching the majors and being a regular contributor, Anderson would be your best bet. He'll likely begin the year at High-A Stockton.

Joining him at Stockton will be Carter, who already received the full treatment: he ranked as the top position player in the White Sox system. While we're throwing out the platitudes, Carter immediately takes the throne as the best power prospect in the system, not that he had a ton of competition. Even with Daric Barton taking over the first base job in the big leagues, you don't pass up the opportunity to put a power bat in the system like this, and you figure it out in two or three years when Carter hopefully gives you one too many first basemen.

Cunningham is another three-star talent, and while he's a little closer to the big leagues, likely beginning the year at Double-A Midland, scouts are mixed on him. Nearly everyone thinks he can hit, but many wonder if he can hit well enough to be an everyday outfielder. Hitting isn't his only tool though, as he has a good arm and runs well enough to play an acceptable center field. This is not to say he won't develop into a starting outfielder, it's just saying that some things have to break right.

While the package of players Oakland received doesn't lead off with the star power of a Jacoby Ellsbury, Philip Hughes, or Jon Lester, as an overall sum of talent, it matches up well with the offers the Minnesota was rumored to be getting for Johan Santana during the winter meetings. But those are rumors, this is reality, and the rebuilding process has not only begun in Oakland, but it's gotten off on the right foot.

Kevin Goldstein is an author of Baseball Prospectus. 
Click here to see Kevin's other articles. You can contact Kevin by clicking here

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