Oakland Athletics Top 10 Prospects
Index of Top 10 Prospects for all 30 Major League Teams
By Casey Tefertiller
1. Carlos Pena, 1b
Age: 23. B-T: L-L. Ht.: 6-2. Wt.: 210. Drafted: Northeastern, 1998 (1st round). Signed by: Joel Grampietro (Rangers).
Background: If there was any doubt, Pena established himself as the top first-base prospect in the game last year. After driving more than 100 runs in each of his first two full pro seasons, he slumped at the start of 2001 in Triple-A. Hamstring and ribcage problems contributed to him hitting just .229-8-24 in his first 50 games, but once he got healthy he looked like the Pena of old. He batted .326-15-50 in the second half and was impressive during his September callup with the Rangers, which included a two-homer game against Oakland. Because Rafael Palmeiro shows no signs of slowing down for Texas, Pena worked out in the outfield in the Dominican Republic this winter. He was born in the Dominican before moving to Boston with his family in 1992, later becoming a local star at Northeastern and in the Cape Cod League. Any chance Pena might switch positions ended in January, when the Athletics acquired him and Mike Venafro from the Rangers for four of their top prospects: lefthander Mario Ramos, outfielder Ryan Ludwick, first baseman Jason Hart and catcher Gerald Laird.
Strengths: Pena showed better-than-advertised opposite-field power in the majors. That encouraged the Rangers, because he has gotten into trouble in the past by trying to pull too many pitches. He has a silky smooth lefthanded stroke and always has maintained solid strike-zone judgment. Pena is a good athlete who runs well enough to leg out doubles and steal an occasional base. Hes smart and has the character to grow into a clubhouse-leadership role.
Weaknesses: Pena must stay back on breaking pitches to handle them better. He looks for fastballs too often, contributing to his average of 129 strikeouts the last three seasons. Big league lefthanders noticed and held him to one hit and five whiffs in 11 at-bats. Pena sometimes tries to be too flashy at first base, and he got caught in between hops on too many balls while in the majors.
The Future: The Athletics are giving the daunting assignment of replacing Jason Giambi to Pena, who he has the tools and the makeup to handle it well. Hes a leading candidate for American League rookie of the year.
2. Eric Byrnes, of
Age: 25. B-T: R-R. Ht.: 6-1. Wt.: 175. Drafted: UCLA, 1998 (8th round). Signed by: Rick Magnante.
Background: Byrnes played his high school ball near Oakland in Mountain View, Calif., and has been impressive since turning pro. He batted .357 in his debut, was a California League all-star in 1999 and earned playing time in the majors the last two years. After earning a spot on the Athletics 2001 playoff roster, he was MVP of the Dominican League in the offseason.
Strengths: Byrnes has hit at every stop, and he has solid power potential that hell tap into as he develops his game. His speed is another asset. He has an intense work ethic that has led to improvement, and he always exhibits all-out hustle.
Weaknesses: While Byrnes has shown great improvement on defense the last two years, he still is not a top-level outfielder. Some in the organization question whether he has the tools to become an everyday major leaguer or is just a supreme overachiever.
The Future: The trade of Ryan Ludwick and Byrnes huge winter have raised his standing in the organization. Hell come to spring training fighting for a big league job. Oakland hopes hell become an everyday leadoff man who can set the table for the rest of the order.
3. Chad Harville, rhp
Age: 24. B-T: R-R. Ht.: 5-10. Wt.: 180. Drafted: Memphis, 1997 (2nd round). Signed by: John Poloni.
Background: Harville tasted the majors barely two years after signing, then went through a bit of a lull. He came to spring training last year shooting for a job on the big league roster, only to land on the 60-day disabled list instead with a strained rotator cuff. He used the down time to develop a smoother delivery.
Strengths: Harville threw 98 mph when he signed, but the injury and refined motion have dropped him to 95, albeit with better movement on his four-seam fastball. He also has a plus slider, giving him two hard pitches that could make him a major league closer. Last year he added both a low-90s two-seamer and a slow curveball.
Weaknesses: Harville had a problem throwing the four-seam fastball at the knees, but the difficulty was less pronounced after he expanded his repertoire. Hes learning to use all four pitches together.
The Future: Oakland has been waiting three years for Harville to refine his skills and hell compete for a set-up job this spring.
4. Esteban German, 2b
Age: 23. B-T: R-R. Ht.: 5-9. Wt.: 165. Signed: Dominican Republic, 1996. Signed by: Santiago Villalona.
Background: German put up quality numbers during his first four seasons in the system, but his long swing and propensity to hit popups to the right side made the Athletics wonder if hed be able to adjust at higher levels. But in 2001, he concentrated on playing the little mans game and was named Oaklands minor league player of the year.
Strengths: Speed is Germans game, and when he uses it he becomes an offensive force. He stole 83 bases in 2000, then 48 in 61 attempts last season. He has the knack for reading pitchers and getting jumps that makes for a prolific basestealer. A prototypical leadoff man, he works pitchers well, can hit late in the count and has developed a propensity to reach base.
Weaknesses: After making more contact and hitting more balls on the ground, German needs to grow more comfortable with that approach. He also must become more consistent on defense.
The Future: German has an outside chance at Oaklands second-base job. More likely, hell open the year at Triple-A Sacramento. He could be a better long-term fit in the leadoff role than Eric Byrnes.
5. Bobby Crosby, ss
Age: 21. B-T: R-R. Ht.: 6-3. Wt.: 190. Drafted: Long Beach State, 2001 (1st round). Signed by: Rick Magnante.
Background: As the son of Ed Crosby, the former As scout who signed Jason Giambi and is now with the Diamondbacks, Bobby has a baseball pedigree. The 2001 Big West Conference player of the year, he played only briefly after signing because of a hip flexor injury. He reported to instructional league, but the organization determined he would be best off going home to recover.
Strengths: Crosby has the potential to become a big-time hitter for a middle infielder. He also was arguably the top defensive player in the 2001 draft. The As rave about Crosbys baseball instincts. Hes a field general whose head is always in the game.
Weaknesses: Despite his reputation, Crosby will need more flexibility to become a fluid big league shortstop. At 6-foot-3, hes tall for the position and doesnt bend well to snare grounders. Nevertheless, Crosby seemed to make all the plays during his brief stop in the California League.
The Future: Crosby will return to Class A to hone his skills during his first full year as a pro. The As want to see him as a shortstop for a full season before deciding if he might be better suited for third base.
6. Mark Ellis, ss
Age: 24. B-T: R-R. Ht.: 5-11. Wt.: 180. Drafted: Florida, 1999 (9th round). Signed by: Cliff Pastornicky (Royals).
Background: Oakland netted three players in a three-team deal with the Devil Rays and Royals in January 2001Johnny Damon and Cory Lidle, who contributed to the clubs wild-card run, and the lesser-known Ellis. Though he had played just seven games in Double-A, the As sent him to Triple-A last season. He was impressive at Sacramento and again in the Arizona Fall League, where he hit .308 with nine steals.
Strengths: A consistent, effective middle infielder, Ellis is a heady player who rarely makes mistakes. Offensively, he uses the whole field, hits for average and draws his share of walks. Despite only average speed, he has the skill to steal bases and is an outstanding baserunner.
Weaknesses: The big question surrounding Ellis is whether he has the arm to play shortstop at the big league level. He helps his cause with a quick first step and release. He has ample arm for second base, and that may be his position of the future if hes to become a regular.
The Future: The presence of Miguel Tejada is another factor that will push Ellis toward second base. Ellis and incumbent Frank Menechino are the frontrunners to start at second for Oakland this year.
7. Jeremy Bonderman, rhp
Age: 18. B-T: R-R. Ht.: 6-0. Wt.: 195. Drafted: HSPasco, Wash., 2001 (1st round). Signed by: Gary McGraw.
Background: Because he was 18 and received his GED diploma, Bonderman entered the 2001 draft as a high school junior. He drew scouts attention the previous summer when he was the ace of the U.S. team that finished second at the World Junior Championship. Hamstring problems and high expectations kept him at less than his best last spring. He signed for $1.35 million and reported directly to instructional league.
Strengths: The As have prospered by drafting college pitchers, but Bonderman was too enticing to resist. With a fastball at 93-96 mph and a hard breaking ball thats a cross between a curveball and slider, his ceiling is in orbit.
Weaknesses: Bonderman pitched just three innings in instructional league and is as raw as the wind off the Columbia River. His ability to throw strikes and develop a changeup are unproven, and the As havent seen enough of him to know what else might need to be done.
The Future: Oakland probably will start Bonderman in high Class A (their lowest level with a full-season affiliate) on a tight pitch count, then send him to short-season Vancouver in June. The As dont want to overwhelm him early in his career.
8. Freddie Bynum, 2b/ss
Age: 21. B-T: R-R. Ht.: 6-1. Wt.: 185. Drafted: Pitt (N.C.) CC, 2000 (2nd round). Signed by: Billy Owens.
Background: Bynum hit .521 and went 27-for-27 in steals in junior college in 2000, leading to his somewhat surprising selection as Oaklands top draft pick (second round). He was the top prospect in the short-season Northwest League during his pro debut, but problems with his right ankle limited his progress in 2001. The As moved him from shortstop to second base, a better fit because he has extra time to make plays.
Strengths: Bynum has the raw tools to make for an outstanding top-of-the-order hitter and middle infielder. He has a plus arm, plus speed, outstanding hand-eye coordination and remarkable range. He plays with an enthusiasm that becomes contagious to those around him.
Weaknesses: The recurring injuries robbed Bynum of needed experience against pro pitching to refine his stroke. He also needs to show more patience to bat early in a lineup. He struggled at shortstop, fumbling grounders, but at second base he was able to recover in time more often to get the out.
The Future: Bynum will return to the California League in 2002 to make up for lost time. He needs to start converting his tools into skills.
9. Franklyn German, rhp
Age: 22. B-T: R-R. Ht.: 6-6. Wt.: 260. Signed: Dominican Republic, 1996. Signed by: Santiago Villalona.
Background: German, whos not related to Esteban German, has gone from a slender teenager into a Lee Smith lookalike and throwalike. The As added him to the 40-man roster in November, anticipating he could go in the major league Rule 5 draft despite never having pitched above Class A. Considering how well he pitched in his native Dominican this winterhe didnt allow a run and held opponents to a .075 average in his first 14 appearancesGerman would have been a likely pick.
Strengths: A power arm with huge potential, German hit 97 mph during the regular season and 99 in the Dominican. His velocity has increased each year since he signed in 1996. He uses both a splitter and a changeup to complement his heat.
Weaknesses: Germans biggest weaknesses are his command and maturity, neither of which is consistent. But he had made strides in both areas this winter thanks to working with Sacramento manager Bob Geren, the skipper of a rival Dominican club.
The Future: Oakland will send German to Double-A and see how he develops. Though Billy Koch and Chad Harville are ahead of him, German could provide another closing option in a couple of years.
10. Chris Tritle, of
Age: 19. B-T: R-R. Ht.: 6-4. Wt.: 220. Drafted: HSCenter Point, Iowa, 2000 (19th round). Signed by: Jim Pransky.
Background: A multisport star at his Iowa high school, Tritle ran in the state track meet and earning all-conference honors in basketball. He turned down several football scholarships as wide receiver, which caused him to slide in the 2000 draft, to sign with Oakland. He batted .233-3-21 in his pro debut in the Rookie-level Arizona League, then returned there last summer and was named the leagues MVP and No. 1 prospect.
Strengths: Tritle is a five-tool player with a high ceiling. He led the AZL in homers and steals and has the potential to be a 30-30 player in time. He has the speed and ability to play center field, getting outstanding jumps on balls and showing fine instincts.
Weaknesses: Still a long ways from the majors, Tritle will need time to develop. He has to make more contact, as breaking balls currently give him problems. More of a pull hitter at this point, he could use right field more effectively.
The Future: Oakland hopes that Tritle proves ready for the California League in spring training. Hes a player who really would benefit if the As had a low Class A affiliate as opposed to two in high Class A.
Rest of the Best:
11. Mike Wood, rhp
Copyright 2002 Baseball America. All rights reserved.|
This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten, or redistributed.