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December 29, 2009

Future Shock

A's Top 11 Prospects

by Kevin Goldstein

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top 11 prospects

Five-Star Prospects
1. Chris Carter, 1B
2. Michael Taylor, LF
Four-Star Prospects
3. Michael Ynoa, RHP
4. Grant Desme, CF
5. Grant Green, SS
Three-Star Prospects
6. Max Stassi, C
7. Jemile Weeks, 2B
8. Tyson Ross, RHP
9. Adrian Cardenas, 2B
10. Corey Brown, OF
11. Pedro Figueroa, LHP

Four More:
12. Fautino De Los Santos, RHP: A former top prospect, De Los Santos looked good in his brief return from Tommy John surgery; he has ability to move back up this list.
13. Anthony Capra, LHP: Capra has plus command and a changeup that together could equal back-of-the-rotation possibilities.
14. Shane Peterson, OF: He has a line-drive bat and plus speed that both impress, but it's slightly incongruous with a corner outfield profile.
15. Ian Krol, LHP: Krol's a raw left-hander with an outstanding breaking ball who got a $925,000 bonus in the seventh round.

1. Chris Carter, 1B
DOB: 12/18/86
Height/Weight: 6-4/225
Bats/Throws: R/R
Drafted/Signed: 15th round, 2005, Sierra Vista HS (NV) (White Sox)
2009 Stats: .337/.435/.576 at Double-A (125 G); .259/.293/.519 at Triple-A (13 G)
Last Year's Ranking: 4

Year in Review: After leading the minors in total bases in 2008, Carter used a monstrous second half to tie for the minor-league lead in 2009.
The Good: Carter has top-of-the-charts power, with natural loft and backspin as well as the kind of strength where he doesn't have to pull a ball or even make full contact for it to fly over the wall. He made impressive adjustments against more advanced pitching to close up some holes in his swing, reducing his strikeout rate as the season wore on, leaving most to believe he'll hit for average as well. Combined with a good feel for the strike zone, he could put up big numbers in all three triple-slash categories.
The Bad: Carter will always have a high strikeout rate, as it's just a product of his offensive game, but he still has a tendency to chase at times. Despite putting in a lot of work defensively, he remains a below-average first baseman.
Ephemera: In his last 52 games for Double-A Midland, Carter had one of the longest extended hot streaks of the year, batting a remarkable .412 (82-for-199) with 18 doubles and 12 home runs.
Perfect World Projection: He's likely to be a .280- to .300-hitting first baseman with 30-40 home runs annually.
Path to the Big Leagues: Daric Barton has a better glove, and showed some signs of life with the bat down the stretch, giving him first shot at the job.
Timetable: Carter will need a monster spring training to break camp with the big leagues. He'll likely begin the year back at Triple-A, but it's unlikely he'll finish there.

2. Michael Taylor, LF
DOB: 12/19/85
Height/Weight: 6-6/250
Bats/Throws: R/R
Drafted/Signed: 5th round, 2007, Stanford University (Phillies)
2009 Stats: .333/.408.569 at Double-A (86 G); .282/.359/.491 at Triple-A (30 G)
Last Year's Ranking: 2 (Phillies)

Year in Review: After a breakout year in 2008, Taylor proved his doubters wrong by repeating his performance at the upper levels before arriving in Oakland from Philadelphia (via Toronto) for first-base prospect Brett Wallace.
The Good: Taylor is one of the more unique hitting prospects in baseball. Built like a defensive lineman, Taylor employs a contact-oriented approach that leads to a high batting average and consistent contact rate, while projecting for 20-25 home runs annually just because he's so big and strong. He's a phenomenal athlete for his size, and an average runner once he gets going, while his arm is another plus tool. He gets high grades for his makeup and work ethic.
The Bad: Taylor's power ceiling is no more than average because of his approach, although those disappointed by that are ignoring all of the other skills he brings to the table. His ability to make contact causes his to expand his strike zone at times, and a more patient approach could make him an even better hitter. His outfield play can be a bit sloppy at times, and his routes to the ball are often circular.
Ephemera: Taylor graduated sixth in his class academically at Apopka High School in Florida, the same school that produced Royals ace Zack Greinke.
Perfect World Projection: Taylor will probably be a hitting third in the order in the big leagues.
Path to the Big Leagues: The A's system is loaded with young outfielders who are either close to big league-ready or still establishing themselves in the big leagues. It's a crowded situation, but none of them have Taylor's talent.
Timetable: Taylor will begin the 2010 season at Triple-A Sacramento, and is expected to make his major-league debut at some point in the season.

3. Michael Ynoa, RHP
DOB: 9/24/91
Height/Weight: 6-7/210
Bats/Throws: R/R
Drafted/Signed: Dominican Republic, 2008
2009 Stats: Did not play
Last Year's Ranking: 1

Year in Review: The highest-profile Dominican signing in baseball history saw his professional debut delayed by lingering elbow problems.
The Good: No teenager in the game can match Ynoa's projection. Healthy and pitching in the Dominican this winter, Ynoa sat at 92-94 mph while touching 95, and he also showcased a sharp breaking ball and impressive changeup. His long, angular frame is nearly ideal, and he's impressed the A's with his understanding of the game.
The Bad: Ynoa needs innings, and with 2009 going down as a lost season, that means he's now on track with most his age, instead of way ahead of them. The elbow issues are a red flag for some, although he showed no ill effects this winter. There's little to knock about his abilities, other than the fact that we haven't seen them much yet.
Ephemera: Ynoa was born on the day Nirvana released Nevermind, the album that unleashed grunge onto an audience outside that of the independent music scene.
Perfect World Projection: Ace.
Path To The Big Leagues: The A's have exercised incredible patience with Ynoa, and that doesn't look like it will end anytime soon, so this might be a while.
Timetable: Ynoa will likely spend all of 2010 in Arizona, beginning the year in extended spring training before making his official pro debut in the Arizona League. Oakland wants to keep him close to their facility in Phoenix before hopefully letting the reins go in 2011.

4. Grant Desme, CF
DOB: 4/4/86
Height/Weight: 6-2/205
Bats/Throws: R/R
Drafted/Signed: 2nd Round, 2007, Cal Poly
2009 Stats: .304/.398/.656 at High-A (62 G); .274/.334/.490 at Double-A(69 G)
Last Year's Ranking: Not ranked

Year in Review: After barely playing since getting drafted due to a variety of injuries, this toolsy outfielder was the minor league's only 30/30 player and earned MVP honors in the Arizona Fall League.
The Good: Desme certainly has the tools to be a top prospect. He has plus-plus raw power that comes from a combination of bat speed and brute strength, while his tick-above-average speed play up due to outstanding instincts on the basepaths. He's an above-average outfielder with a strong arm.
The Bad: Desme's power can also be his undoing at times, as he gets power-conscious with his swing, strikes out a ton, and is prone to extended slumps. While he performed admirably in center, his skill set plays much better in a corner. His plate discipline is average, and he can be fooled by good breaking stuff. Because of all the injuries to start his career, he's been on the age/development curve, as he turns 24 in April without even having played at the upper levels.
Ephemera: In a testament to his streakiness, Desme went 23-for-49 (.469) with ten home runs in his first 12 Arizona Fall League games, but was just 11-for-59 (.186) with one bomb in his last 15 contests for Phoenix with 20 strikeouts.
Perfect World Projection: Desme projects as an everyday corner outfielder with 30 home runs a year and enough elsewhere to make up for the strikeouts, but he's not going to steal 30 bags in the majors.
Path to the Big Leagues: There is a long line of outfielders in Oakland waiting for their shot, and Desme is currently one year behind most of them.
Timetable: Desme will begin 2010 at Double-A Midland hoping to find more consistency while proving that 2009's breakout was the real deal.

5. Grant Green, SS
DOB: 9/27/87
Height/Weight: 6-3/180
Bats/Throws: R/R
Drafted/Signed: 1st Round, 2009, USC
2009 Stats: .316/.350/.368 at High-A (5 G)
Last Year's Ranking: Did not qualify

Year in Review: Potentially the second pick in the draft entering the spring, Green had a disappointing junior year and fell to Oakland's 13th pick, where he received an above-slot bonus of $2.75 million.
The Good: Green fits the new mold of being a big, athletic shortstop. He's a 60-65 runner on the 20-80 scouting scale and features gap power with the potential for getting close to average. He possesses excellent defensive fundamentals, and Oakland officials were pleasantly surprised at Green's ability to hit the ground running in his five California League games after a long layoff.
The Bad: The are questions about where Green fits defensively in the long term. His arm is a bit light for shortstop in terms of both strength and accuracy, making him below average on plays to his right. There are many believe he'd work better at second base, while some even tinkered with the idea of trying him in center. While there are a few weaknesses in his game, little about it screams impact potential.
Ephemera: Green was the first true freshman to start at shortstop for the USC Trojans in nearly 20 years.
Perfect World Projection: He'll likely be an above-average up-the-middle player, maybe even an occasional All-Star.
Path to the Big Leagues: The A's have a ton of second basemen, but shortstop has been a hole for a while, and Cliff Pennington is anything but a guarantee as a long-term solution.
Timetable: Green's performance this spring will dictate his assignment for 2010, but the most likely destination for him is High-A Stockton.

6. Max Stassi, C
DOB: 3/15/91
Height/Weight: 5-10/205
Bats/Throws: R/R
Drafted/Signed: 4th round, 2009, Yuba City HS (CA)
2009 Stats: .000/.500/.000 at Rookie-level (1 G); .286/.340/.367 at Short-Season (13 G)
Last Year's Ranking: Did not qualify

Year in Review: Rumored to be in Oakland's mix for their first-round pick, Oakland was thrilled to see him still on the board in the fourth round, and they gave him a $1.5 million bonus.
The Good: Stassi is the rare catcher with the potential to provide above-average value both offensively and defensively. He has a quick, compact swing that leads to consistent hard contact, projecting as a high-average hitter with gap power. Defensively, he's smooth and agile behind the plate with soft hands, and had the best pure receiving skills of any catcher in the draft.
The Bad: Stassi is short and stocky, and he runs like a catcher. There isn't a lot of power in his game, but he could develop double-digit pop as his swing matures. His arm is average, and he has a history of shoulder issues from his school.
Ephemera: Stassi became the sixth player drafted out of Yuba City High School (none of whom reached the majors), whose school nickname is the Honkers, after the Canadian geese who frequent the area.
Perfect World Projection: Stassi has the potential to be a .280-.300 hitting catcher with 10-15 home runs and plus defense.
Path to the Big Leagues: Kurt Suzuki is one of the better young catchers in the game, but it's far too early to worry about that.
Timetable: Stassi's 14-game pro debut was enough to convince Oakland that he's ready for a full-season assignment. He'll begin 2010 at Low-A Kane County.

7. Jemile Weeks, 2B
DOB: 1/26/87
Height/Weight: 5-10/175
Bats/Throws: S/R
Drafted/Signed: 1st round, 2008, University of Miami
2009 Stats: .299/.385/.468 at High-A (50 G); .238/.303/.343 at Double-A (30 G)
Last Year's Ranking: 9

Year in Review: Oakland's first-round pick in 2008 hit well at High-A, struggled after a promotion, and continued to be beset by injuries.
The Good: Weeks' tools rank with anyone of the system. Like older brother Rickie, Weeks' bat speed is off the charts and, despite his size, he's shown an ability to punish mistakes, and projects to hit 15-20 home runs annually. He's a 60 runner on the 20-80 scouting scale and knows how to use his speed on the bases. He also has an excellent understanding of the strike zone, which should lead to 70-90 walks annually.
The Bad: Weeks has been limited to just 99 games since signing due to a number of injuries, leading some to already slap the 'prone' label on him. Despite being a switch-hitter, he struggles against good left-handers. Multiple scouts questioned his effort at times, noting highly inconsistent times down the line and indifferent defensive play.
Ephemera: Jemile and Rickie aren't the only athletes in the family, as sister Valeria was an NCAA Regional Finalist in track.
Perfect World Projection: Weeks could be a second baseman with a high on-base percentage, 15 home runs, and 25 stolen bases annually.
Path to the Big Leagues: Weeks is currently in a one-year battle with Adrian Cardenas for the big-league second base job beginning in 2011.
Timetable: Weeks will begin 2010 back at Double-A Midland, and some feel he could take a major step forward by simply having a healthy year.

8. Tyson Ross, RHP
DOB: 4/22/87
Height/Weight: 6-5/215
Bats/Throws: R/R
Drafted/Signed: 2nd Round, 2008, Cal
2009 Stats: 4.17 ERA (86.1-78-33-82) at High-A (18 G); 3.96 ERA (50.0-40-20-31) at Double-A (9 G)
Last Year's Ranking: Just missed

Year in Review: The high-ceiling righty was at his best at the end of the year, delivering scoreless outings in three of his last four regular season starts while striking out 19 over 12 1/3 frames in a pair of playoff outings.
The Good: When he's on, Ross is electric, with a 92-94 mph fastball that touches 96, a plus power slider that is a true out pitch, and a changeup that projects as at least average. When scouts talk about a "classic power pitcher's frame," Ross is the poster boy, and his command and control are solid.
The Bad: The A's have worked hard to smooth out Ross' delivery, but there are still a lot of moving parts to it, which leads to inconsistent outings. The shoulder issues he went through in 2008 did not show up last year, but scouts still see his arm action as a bit on the violent side.
Ephemera: Ross attended Bishop O'Dowd High School in Oakland, which also produced big leaguers Greg Norton and Ryan Drese.
Perfect World Projection: He'll be a good third starter.
Path to the Big Leagues: The A's are loaded with young arms, but Ross has the raw ability to separate himself from the pack.
Timetable: After his late-season showing, some in the A's system believe that Ross is on the verge of a breakout showing. A numbers game could have him starting the year in Double-A, but continued progress could lead to a big-league audition by the end of the year.

9. Adrian Cardenas, 2B
DOB: 10/10/87
Height/Weight: 6-0/185
Bats/Throws: L/R
Drafted/Signed: 1st round, 2006, Monsignor Edward Pace HS (FL) (Phillies)
2009 Stats: .326/.392/.446 at Double-A (79 G); .251/.317/.372 at Triple-A (51 G)
Last Year's Ranking: 5

Year in Review: This infielder kept on hitting in his first full year with Oakland, as he's hit no lower than .295 in any of four pro seasons.
The Good: Cardenas might be the best pure hitter in the system, as he puts the thick part of the bat on balls with great consistency, showing off gap power and no weaknesses by pitch type or side. He's as comfortable turning on a ball as he is going the other way, and he's improved his plate discipline to at least average. He has very good hands defensively.
The Bad: Cardenas has hit just four home runs over 156 games at the upper levels, and few believe there's much more coming. He's not especially athletic, even at second base, and his bat doesn't profile well for the hot corner, where he played for the first time last year.
Ephemera: Cardenas is aiming to become the first position player drafted out of Monsignor Pace to reach the big leagues, but the school has already produced one member of the A's roster in lefty Gio Gonzalez.
Perfect World Projection: He projects to be a .300-hitting second baseman with 40 doubles.
Path to the Big Leagues: Both Cardenas and Weeks are hoping to do well enough for Oakland to decline Mark Ellis' 2011 option.
Timetable: Cardenas will begin 2010 back at Triple-A Sacramento, but he should make his Oakland debut during the second half.

10. Corey Brown, OF
DOB: 11/26/85
Height/Weight: 6-2/210
Bats/Throws: L/L
Drafted/Signed: 1st round, 2007, Oklahoma State University
2009 Stats: .268/.349/.488 at Double-A (66 G)
Last Year's Ranking: Just missed

Year in Review: A power/speed combination player, Brown made significant progress at Double-A, albeit while dealing with knee issues.
The Good: On a pure tools level, Brown is highly similar to Desme. He has plus raw power and above-average speed, and he has a better chance of staying in the middle defensively to go with an arm that is a tick above average. He cut down his strikeout rate significantly in 2009, leaving more scouts convinced that his bat will play enough to get to the big leagues.
The Bad: Brown still has a lot of holes in his swing, and he'll never hit for a high average. Injuries to both knees last year have created some long-term concern over his speed staying with him as he advances up the ladder. He might need a platoon partner in the big leagues, as left-handers have always given him trouble.
Ephemera: Oklahoma State has produced four big-league players with more than 200 career home runs: Jeromy Burnitz (315), Robin Ventura (294), Mickey Tettleton (245), and Pete Incaviglia (206).
Perfect World Projection: Most likely, he will be a low-average power/speed threat in center field.
Path to the Big Leagues: There are plenty of outfielders ahead of Brown on the depth chart for now.
Timetable: Brown will join Taylor at Triple-A Sacramento in what will be one of the most physically impressive outfields in the minors.

11. Pedro Figueroa, LHP
DOB: 11/23/85
Height/Weight: 6-1/165
Bats/Throws: L/L
Drafted/Signed: Dominican Republic, 2003
2009 Stats: 3.23 ERA (86.1-89-31-78) at Low-A (16 G); 3.56 ERA (65.2-62-35-67) at High-A (11 G)
Last Year's Ranking: Not ranked

Year in Review: Figueroa was a late bloomer who earned the A's Pitcher of the Year honors with strong showings at both full-season A-ball affiliates.
The Good: Figueroa has well above-average velocity for a southpaw, sitting at 91-94 mph with his fastball and touching 95 several times a night. His slider is a go-to offering with considerable two-plane break, while his changeup projects at least average. Once quite wild, the A's have slowed down his mechanics, and he was able to consistently throw strikes in 2009 with all of his offerings.
The Bad: Figueroa is slight of build, and has problems maintaining his stuff deep into games. He's already 24, and has just one full-season league year of experience under his belt. He needs to find more consistency with his changeup, as well as find the confidence to use it.
Ephemera: Figueroa had a 1.86 ERA in six home starts for High-A Stockton, but his ERA ballooned to 6.00 on the road.
Perfect World Projection: He'll be a third or fourth starter, with a backup plan as a late-inning reliever.
Path to the Big Leagues: Lefties who throw hard tend to get plenty of chances.
Timetable: After moving at a snail's pace through the Oakland system, Figueroa will move more aggressively through the system with a likely 2010 assignment to Double-A Midland.

The Sleeper: Shortstop Dusty Coleman has the tools and athleticism to stay at the position, while offering surprising power.

Top 10 Talents 25 And Under (Born 4/1/84 or later)
1. Brett Anderson, LHP
2. Chris Carter, 1B
3. Michael Taylor, LF
4. Andrew Bailey, RHP
5. Trevor Cahill, RHP
6. Michael Ynoa, RHP
7. Cliff Pennington, SS
8. Grant Desme, CF
9. Daric Barton, 1B
10. Aaron Cunningham, OF

Nobody was surprised to see Anderson succeed in his big-league debut, but between good coaching, a continued dedication to conditioning, and maybe just arriving on the big-league stage itself, he gained 2-3 mph on his fastball and suddenly looks like someone with ace potential. Rookie of the Year Andrew Bailey has to stuff to keep it up for years. Trevor Cahill's big-league debut was troubling, as the plus breaking ball he was depending on in the minors suddenly became a non-factor as his command went backwards. If the curve doesn't return, he's just another guy. Cliff Pennington does nothing spectacularly, but he's a solid across-the-board shortstop in a world where there are fewer than even 30 of those. Barton suddenly started hitting at the end of 2009, which is something he's always done in the minor leagues, so he'll get a shot at proving it's for real. Despite a miserable big-league showing in 2009, outfielder Aaron Cunningham still has plenty of believers. Not making the list include righty Vin Mazzaro, whose lack of an out pitch really caught up with him in the big leagues, as well as lefty Gio Gonzalez, who has now driven three organizations nuts with his inconsistency; on one day he looks like a third starter, and five days later you wonder if he could get Sally League hitters out. Also missing is Ryan Sweeney, a good fourth outfielder masquerading as a starter.

Summary: The A's still have an excellent collection of elite and potentially-elite level talent in the system, but a number of graduations have left the system a bit on the thin side. Still, between the majors and the minors, the Oakland rebuilding process remains a go on all systems.


Next up: the Seattle Mariners.

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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