Previous Rankings: 2011 | 2010 | 2009 | 2008

System in 20 Words or Less: A few big trades and it's a whole new ballgame in Oakland.

Five-Star Prospects
1. Michael Choice, OF
Four-Star Prospects
2. Jarrod Parker, RHP
3. A.J. Cole, RHP
4. Brad Peacock, RHP
5. Sonny Gray, RHP
6. Derek Norris, C
7. Grant Green, OF
Three-Star Prospects
8. Chris Carter, 1B
9. Collin Cowgill, OF
10. Raul Alcantara, RHP
11. Max Stassi, C

Nine More
12. Michael Taylor, OF: He made some improvements in 2011, but the A's showed "confidence" in Taylor by acquiring Reddick and re-signing Crisp.
13. Josh Donaldson, C: He doesn’t have any star-level tools, but he has improved defensively and has always had solid power.
14. Yordy Cabrera, SS: He had an ugly full-season debut in 2011, but the seven-figure tools are still there.
15. Bobby Crocker, OF: This 2011 fourth-round pick is a big-time athlete with speed and power potential.
16. Aaron Shipman, OF: He could explode with some hitting refinements due to his speed and advanced approach.
17. Vicmal De La Cruz, OF: De La Cruz was beat up in the Dominican Summer League. His speed and bat are his best tools.
18. Ian Krol, LHP: He lost 2011 due to injury, but his instructional league showing has officials optimistic for a bounceback.
19. Miles Head, 1B/3B: Head came over in the Andrew Bailey trade. There is nothing pretty about what he does, but his power is significant.
20. Jermaine Mitchell, OF: He finally had his breakout season, but he is also 27 now.

1. Michael Choice, OF
: 11/10/89
Height/Weight: 6-0/215
Bats/Throws: R/R
Drafted/Signed: First round, 2010, University of Texas-Arlington
2011 Stats: .285/.376/.542 at High-A (118 G)
Tools Profile: Power, patience, and athleticism.

Year in Review: The A’s top pick from 2010 led the California League in home runs in his full-season debut.
The Good: Choice has monster power; most scouts put a 70 score on the tool, while others think that might be a bit low. He made big progress throughout the year in cutting his strikeouts and trusting his swing instead of muscling his power, and should be at least an average hitter who can hit .270-.280 annually. He's a good outfielder with a solid arm.
The Bad: Despite the progress, strikeouts will always be a part of Choice's game. He played center field in 2011, but he’s just an average runner and will end up in a corner before he gets to the big leagues.
Ephemera: Choice had two hits in eight at-bats with the bases loaded in 2011. Both were grand slams.
Perfect World Projection: He could be a middle-of-the-order presence who can hit cleanup for any team.
Fantasy Impact: His home runs alone will be worth a high pick, but he'll add a handful of stolen bases as well.
Path to the Big Leagues: Choice will move up to Double-A in 2012, and is expected to push for a big-league job at some point in 2013.
ETA: 2013

2. Jarrod Parker, RHP
: 11/24/88
Height/Weight: 6-1/195
Bats/Throws: R/R
Drafted/Signed: First round, 2007, Norwell HS (IN)
2011 Stats: 3.79 ERA (130.2-112-55-112) at Double-A (26 G); 0.00 ERA (5.2-4-1-1) at MLB (1 G)
Tools Profile: He has power stuff in a smaller package.

Year in Review: The Diamondbacks’ top prospect made his return from Tommy John surgery, improved throughout the year, and went to Oakland in the Trevor Cahill deal.
The Good: Parker has two plus fastballs. His four-seamer has plus-plus velocity at 93-97 mph, but his low-90s two-seamer earns even higher grades for its heavy natural sink, and because it's as likely to generate ground balls as strikeouts. He found more bite on his slider as the season wore on, and his command and control also improved.
The Bad: Parker's changeup needs improvement; it can be too firm and just come in as a bad fastball. He's never been a physical pitcher, and with one surgery already, there are fair questions about his ability to handle a 200-inning workload.
Ephemera: While Parker surrendered just seven home runs in 2011, all of them came in his first nine starts. He did not give up a homer in his final 17 outings, spanning 87 2/3 innings.
Perfect World Projection: He could be a good number-three starter, but has a chance to be a two if he returns to pre-surgery form.
Fantasy Impact: It’s good across the board.
Path to the Big Leagues: Parker will get a long look this spring, but will likely begin the season at Triple-A Sacramento.
ETA: Late 2012

3. A.J. Cole, RHP
: 1/5/92
Height/Weight: 6-4/180
Bats/Throws: R/R
Drafted/Signed: Fourth round, 2010, Oviedo HS (FL)
2011 Stats: 4.04 ERA (89-87-24-108) at Low-A (20 G)
Tools Profile: He’s a classic high-ceiling righty with stuff and room for growth.

Year in Review: This $2 million bonus baby missed plenty of bats in Low-A, and was the best prospect to come over from Washington in the Gio Gonzalez deal.
The Good: Cole has the highest-ceiling arm in the system. He's tall, skinny, and tremendously projectable. He already throws in the 92-95 mph range, and touches 98 using simple, easy mechanics. He's shown some ability to spin a breaking ball, and tends to throw strikes.
The Bad: Cole's secondary stuff needs to improve, particularly his changeup. Left-handers hit him hard in 2011 by sitting dead red, so he needs to avoid relying too much on his fastball. He has good control, but needs to refine his command; he has a tendency to groove pitches when he needs a strike.
Ephemera: Cole is the only player ever drafted out of Oviedo High, whose most famous alumni is Monty Sopp, better known as Billy Gunn to pro wrestling fans.
Perfect World Projection: He could be a star-level starting pitcher.
Fantasy Impact: He’ll have plenty of strikeouts and a low ERA. What else do you want?
Path to the Big Leagues: Cole will move up to High-A in 2012, and his new organization means he’ll face a stiffer challenge in the California League.
ETA: 2014

4. Brad Peacock, RHP
: 2/2/88
Height/Weight: 6-1/175
Bats/Throws: R/R
Drafted/Signed: 41st round, 2006, Palm Beach Central HS (FL)
2011 Stats: 2.01 ERA (98.2-62-23-129) at Double-A (16 G); 3.19 ERA (48-36-24-48) at Triple-A (9 G); 0.75 ERA (12-7-6-4) at MLB (3 G)
Tools Profile: He has good stuff, and even better command.

Year in Review: This control specialist found some more velocity, reached the big leagues, and was the most advanced prospect sent to Oakland in the Gonzalez trade.
The Good: Once known far more for his location than stuff, Peacock now has consistent plus velocity in the low-90s, and has shown the ability to reach back for mid-90s heat when he wants it. His curveball is average but plays up due to his ability to throw strikes with it or bury it in the dirt, and he has a decent changeup.
The Bad: Peacock's fastball is his best pitch by a wide margin. He can get a bit fastball-heavy in his sequencing. He threw far fewer strikes in Triple-A and the big leagues, and seemed to nibble at times.
Ephemera: When he made his big-league debut, Peacock became the first player drafted 1,231st overall to reach the big leagues.
Perfect World Projection: He could be a good third starter.
Fantasy Impact: A good ERA and low walk totals will keep the WHIP down, but he's not going to be a pure strikeout pitcher.
Path to the Big Leagues: Peacock will compete for a job in spring training, and should spend a significant portion of 2012 in the big leagues.
ETA: 2012

5. Sonny Gray, RHP
: 11/7/89
Height/Weight: 5-11/200
Bats/Throws: R/R
Drafted/Signed: First round, 2011, Vanderbilt University
2011 Stats: 4.50 ERA (2-4-0-2) at Rookie (1 G); 0.45 ERA (20-15-6-18) at Double-A (5 G)
Tools Profile: He has a small package, but big stuff.

Year in Review: Though he was among the top pitchers in college baseball, Gray fell to Oakland with the 18th overall pick. He proceeded to conquer Double-A hitters after signing. 
The Good: Gray attacks hitters with two plus pitches. His fastball sits in the low 90s but can get into the 94-96 mph range when he ramps it up. His curveball is a plus-plus offering that many scouts consider among—if not the best available—in the 2011 draft. While there are some concerns about his height, his arm action is smooth, and he maintains his stuff deep into games.
The Bad: Gray will need to refine his changeup as a professional; it's currently an inconsistent and rarely seen offering. Because of his size, his pitches can come in a bit straight.
Ephemera: Gray's nickname is “Hace Sol,” which translates to “It's Sunny.”
Perfect World Projection: He could be a good number-three starter, and maybe a bit more.
Fantasy Impact: It’ll be good in every category.
Path to the Big Leagues: As surprising as it was to see Oakland send Gray to Double-A to begin his career, it was more surprising to see him dominate. He'll return there in 2012, and is now on the fast track.
ETA: 2013

6. Derek Norris, C
: 2/14/89
Height/Weight: 6-0/210
Bats/Throws: R/R
Drafted/Signed: Fourth round, 2007, Goddard HS (KS)
2011 Stats: .210/.367/.446 at Double-A (104 G)
Tools Profile: He has plenty of power and is one of the most patient hitters around, but can he hit?

Year in Review: He somehow put up good overall numbers in Double-A despite hitting .210. He was part of the package received from the Nats in the Gonzalez trade.
The Good: Norris is a three true outcomes hitter who had a home run, walk, or strikeout in more than 50 percent of his plate appearances. He has tremendous plate discipline and well above-average raw power, which allows him to make up for a low batting average. He's improved dramatically over the past two years behind the plate; his athleticism has allowed him to become at least an average receiver with an average arm that plays up thanks to a quick release.
The Bad: Norris is just a career .249 hitter in the big leagues, has always had contact issues, and there is little hope in him ever hitting for a high average. He sometimes walks a thin line between patient and passive, where he’ll seem to look for a walk while laying off pitches he could drive.
Ephemera: Norris had a bizarre split of .071/.350/.071 in the sixth innings of games in 2011; he went 2-for-28 with 10 walks and 16 strikeouts.
Perfect World Projection: He’d be Mickey Tettleton with defensive chops.
Fantasy Impact: If your league doesn't count on-base percentage, you're stuck balancing a low batting average with excellent power for a catcher.
Path to the Big Leagues: It depends on the numbers game, but Norris will begin at one of Oakland's two upper-level teams.
ETA: 2013

7. Grant Green, OF
DOB: 9/27/87
Height/Weight: 6-3/180
Bats/Throws: R/R
Drafted/Signed: First round, 2009, USC
2011 Stats: .291/.343/.408 at Double-A (127 G)
Tools Profile: He has plenty of average tools and a plus bat.

Year in Review: He was unable to reproduce big numbers away from the Cal League, but Green made a smooth transition to center field.
The Good: Green's best tool is his bat. He has plenty of bat speed and consistently stings balls into the gaps. He has the ability to flirt with .300 in the big leagues to go with plenty of doubles and 10-15 home runs. He was always an error-prone shortstop, but Green impressed by taking to center field quickly, and earned good reviews in both center and right in the Arizona Fall League. He's an average runner, and his arm is average to a tick above.
The Bad: Green's future might depend on his ability to stay in center field. He doesn't have the power normally associated with a corner outfielder, and with just average speed, his range is limited. While he's hardly a free swinger, he could use better plate discipline.
Ephemera: Green hit just one triple in 2011, but he’s USC's all-time leader in the category, with 20.
Perfect World Projection: He could be a .300-hitting outfielder, but won’t have much in the way of secondary skills.
Fantasy Impact: He will have a high batting average, but only minor contributions elsewhere.
Path to the Big Leagues: Green will move up to Triple-A in 2012, and is on pace for a September audition.
ETA: Late 2012

8. Chris Carter, 1B
: 12/18/86
Height/Weight: 6-4/245
Bats/Throws: R/R
Drafted/Signed: 15th round, 2005, Sierra Vista HS (NV)
2011 Stats: .333/.429/.708 at High-A (6 G); .274/.366/.530 at Triple-A (75 G); .136/.174/.136 at MLB (15 G)
Tools Profile: Power, power, and more power.

Year in Review: Carter had another year of big numbers in the minors and big struggles in majors.
The Good: Carter has the raw power to hit 40 home runs in the big leagues. He's massively strong, and doesn't need to fully square a ball up in order for it to leave the yard. He works the count and draws plenty of walks, and runs well for his size.
The Bad: Carter has never found a defensive home, and is well below average at both first base and in the outfield. A steady diet of breaking balls have left him looking lost in the big leagues, but Oakland hopes he can follow in the mold of many right-handed power hitters who took extra years to develop.
Ephemera: Carter improved his Triple-A slugging percentage by 37 points over the last five games of the season by going 14-for-28 with five doubles and a pair of home runs.
Perfect World Projection: He could be a fifth-spot hitter in the lineup with power and walks.
Fantasy Impact: He'll help in power categories only.
Path to the Big Leagues: The A's might just abandon any hope of Carter finding a position and give him consistent playing time as the team's designated hitter.
ETA: 2012

9. Collin Cowgill, OF
: 5/22/86
Height/Weight: 5-9/185
Bats/Throws: R/L
Drafted/Signed: Fifth round, 2008, University of Kentucky
2011 Stats: .354/.430/.554 at Triple-A (98 G); .239/.300/.304 at MLB (36 G)
Tools Profile: He’s a pure hitter with more tools than his size would suggest

Year in Review: He took advantage of his environment to put up huge numbers at Triple-A, but struggled in his big-league debut.
The Good: Cowgill has a knack for making hard contact thanks to outstanding plate coverage and hand-eye coordination. He has gap power and his average to a tick above-average speed plays up due to excellent baserunning instincts. He stole 30 bases in 33 attempts in the minors last year. He's a good outfielder with a good arm.
The Bad: Cowgill's smallish stature is always going to turn off scouts. He can play center field in a pinch, but is more comfortable in a corner, where he lacks the power to profile well.
Ephemera: Former A's third baseman Kevin Kouzmanoff is the only 168th overall pick in the draft with more than one major-league home run. Cowgill is part of a three-way tie for second, joining Brandon Jones and Bruce Fields with one.
Perfect World Projection: He could be an everyday corner outfielder, but not one with a classic profile.
Fantasy Impact: He’ll have a high average and double-digit power and speed.
Path to the Big Leagues: While Cowgill is going from the defending National League West champs to a rebuilding squad, he has an opportunity to earn a full-time job in the outfield this spring.
ETA: 2012

10. Raul Alcantara, RHP
: 12/4/92
Height/Weight: 6-3/180
Bats/Throws: R/R
Drafted/Signed: 2009, Dominican Republic
2011 Stats: 0.75 ERA (48-23-6-36) at Rookie (9 G); 6.23 ERA (17-25-6-14) at Short-Season (4 G)
Tools Profile: He has good stuff, but he also has the kind of polish rarely found in a pitcher so young and inexperienced.

Year in Review: He blew away Gulf Coast League hitters, and many observers think he's the player to watch among those netted from Boston for Bailey.
The Good: Alcantara has an impressive combination of velocity and location. He sits in the low 90s and can touch 94-95—figures that should become more the norm as he fills out. He's a strike-thrower, but it goes further than that; he works both sides of the plate and can hit the corners. He'll flash a plus curveball with heavy spin, and has some concept of a changeup.
The Bad: Alcantara needs to refine his secondary stuff and learn how to mix it in better in order to give hitters a different look. His changeup is no more than a work in progress. More than anything, he just needs innings.
Ephemera: Alcantara faced 60 left-handed batters in the Gulf Coast League in 2011, and didn't walk a single one.
Perfect World Projection: He could be a star-level starting pitcher, but obviously he's a long ways away.
Fantasy Impact: Can we get him to a full-season league first?
Path to the Big Leagues: Alcantara has the polish to pitch in a full-season league, and will likely spend the year in the Low-A Burlington rotation.
ETA: 2015

11. Max Stassi, C
: 3/15/91
Height/Weight: 5-10/205
Bats/Throws: R/R
Drafted/Signed: Fourth round, 2009, Yuba City HS (CA)
2011 Stats: .231/.331/.331 at High-A (31 G)
Tools Profile: He has great defense and a solid bat.

Year in Review: This top young catcher had a lost season as nagging shoulder issues finally led to surgery.
The Good: Stassi is a potentially special defender. He has outstanding receiving skills and blocks balls very well. He had a strong arm before the surgery, but the procedure shaved a bone down to improve range of motion, and there was no structural damage. He has a good approach at the plate, and the potential for close to average power down the road.
The Bad: Stassi's defense will likely always be ahead of his bat. He can get pull-conscious, and he is prone to strikeouts. The A's hope the surgery can finally get his development on track, as he's played just 141 games over the last two years.
Ephemera: Stassi's older brother, Brock, was a 33rd-round pick by the Phillies last year out of the University of Nevada. His father also played at the school, and was a 17th-round pick by the Giants in 1982.
Perfect World Projection: He could be an everyday catcher with plus defense and average offensive contributions.
Fantasy Impact: He’ll have some power for a catcher, and that's it. He’ll be more valuable in sim leagues where the defense helps.
Path to the Big Leagues: Stassi will still be age-appropriate as a 21-year-old repeating High-A.
ETA: 2014

The Sleeper: A.J. Griffin, a 13th-round pick in 2010, went from Low-A to Triple-A in his full-season debut, and could quickly fit into the back of a big-league rotation.

Top 10 Talents 25 And Under (born 4/1/86 or later)
1. Jemile Weeks, 2B
2. Michael Choice, OF
3. Jarrod Parker, RHP
4. Brett Anderson, LHP
5. A.J. Cole, RHP
6. Josh Reddick, OF
7. Brad Peacock, RHP
8. Sonny Gray, RHP
9. Derek Norris, C
10. Grant Green, OF

The A's have always believed that if Weeks could just stay healthy, he'd burst onto the scene; he did that in 2011. Expect an equally high average in 2012 and a growth in secondary skills. Anderson is a hedge who could arguably rank first or seventh. If the elbow problems were part of his 2011 decline, then be optimistic. Reddick might not have been good enough for Boston, but he made some adjustments last year and could hit 15-20 home runs this year. He has one of the best outfield arms in the game.

Summary: The A's have rebuilt and revamped their system to aim for a breakout window that will hopefully open at the same time their new stadium in a new location does. If Major League Baseball continues to drag their feet on the matter, we'll just see a repeat of this cycle three years from now.