March 27, 1998
Prospect Report: AL West
or, Ladies and Gentlemen, Your 1998 Oakland Athletics!
Outside of non-rookie Todd Greene and spring training monster Troy Glaus, the Angels aren't going to be the beneficiaries of significant help from their farm system. Glaus is a defensive whiz with legitimate bat speed and the potential to develop a ton of power. He won't be developing it in Anaheim, where half the team plays out of position, and Matt Perisho is randomly traded at the top of every hour.
Contrary to Lisa Winston's pre-expansion draft assertion that the Oakland farm system is 'barren', the A's have the deepest and richest bunch of position players around, many of whom will be in UMAX Coliseum to start the season. Catcher A.J. Hinch and right fielder Ben Grieve have definitely won starting jobs, and are the two leading candidates for AL Rookie of the Year (ROY). Grieve hits for average and power, plays solid defense, and draws walks like Tony Phillips facing Brad Pennington. Hinch is a weak-armed catcher with a great bat and a great deal of poise. His defense will get better. If the ROY doesn't come from one of those two, it could come from potential teammate center fielder Ryan Christenson, a Dave Dellucci look alike who has a Hendersonesque batting eye, a quick powerful bat, and covers a lot of ground in center. At the start of camp, GM Billy Beane had Christenson slated for Edmonton. As of Thursday, Christenson is even money with Jason McDonald to win the opening day CF job in Oakland. As if that wasn't enough, shortstop Miguel Tejada, currently out with a broken finger, is held at bay by the defensive prowess of recent re-addition Kurt Abbott. Tejada shouldn't have to wait for too many groundball singles to take the job away from Abbott. "Another one just beyond his reach, Ray!" Offensively, Abbott and Tejada are similar players -- solid pop, batting eye a weakness. IF Mark Bellhorn will begin the season at AAA, presumably because 2B Scott Spiezio has a voodoo doll of Art Howe. All quiet on the pitching front; Chris Enochs could be a late season callup, and Jay Witasick could help out as a role player.
All eyes are upon young LF Jose Cruz. Cruz can do it all. He'll hit for average and power, has a great batting eye, is a borderline CF or excellent LF, and he should be a fixture in Seattle for years to come; he's the ideal #2 hitter in front of ARod, Griffey, Martinez, and Buhner. What an offense! (ed. note: We've worked hard not to tell Gary about all that unpleasantness...) IF Brian Regan could help out if Cora falters, and Ken Cloude, although not a rookie, could be one of the best 20 pitchers in the AL by the end of August. Long term, Regan looks like a very solid prospect. Ryan Anderson is not yet the best pitcher in history, but we'll keep you posted. With Lou Piniella managing, it's unlikely that we'll see that many rookies on this squad any time soon.
3B Fernando Tatis, although technically not a rookie, looks like a much improved player, particularly with the glove. If his batting eye comes around, he could be a very good long term option for the Rangers. Lefty pitcher Matt Perisho, acquired from Anaheim for Mike Bell, could fill in and surprise should the rotation chew up and spit out a starter or two. Cesar King could step up in the case of an injury to Ivan Rodriguez, but otherwise, he'll spend the year in the minors, and eventually end up in some other (Pudge-free) organization.