A's Barely Break Even On Player-Development Front





OAKLAND—Oakland's top five farm teams all made the playoffs, and its 2009 draft picks performed well beyond expectations. Sounds like a good year for the system, right?

Not so fast, because for every positive development in 2010, the Athletics seemingly faced an equally devastating setback.

At the close of the '09 season, the organization appeared to have five potential impact hitters on the rise. As it turned out, two of them didn't play a game this season, while the other three scuffled with Triple-A Sacramento.

First, power-hitting outfielder Grant Desme gave up baseball to join the priesthood. Then first baseman Sean Doolittle's surgically-repaired knees failed him again.

The A's expected that at least two members of the Triple-A trio would contribute in the second half, but first baseman Chris Carter, outfielder Michael Taylor and second baseman Adrian Cardenas all started slowly.

Cardenas hit so poorly (.267/.320/.329 for Sacramento) that he spent much of the year in Double-A. Taylor struggled for much of the season and batted just .272/.348/.392 with six homers.

Only Carter redeemed himself enough to earn a September callup, batting .319/.421/.637 with 12 homers in the second half.

"I think it has to do with expectations," farm director Keith Lieppman said. "They bought into (the hype), got wind of the high expectations from the organization and, in turn, put pressure on themselves to achieve that expectation. In doing so, they lost sight of the day-to-day things they had to take care of.

"Any time a young player has it dangled out there that you're going to be there by midseason, there's a tendency to miss the mark and look past what you're doing right now."

In contrast, the '09 draft class showed remarkably well. Shortstop Grant Green (first round), catcher Max Stassi (fourth), third baseman Steve Parker (fifth), lefty Ian Krol (seventh) and righthander Paul Smyth (35th) all made positive impressions.

"Many players fade in August," Lieppman said, "but our guys took on a different mantra and played through the season."

A's ACORNS

• Injuries to top prospects like Doolittle, Pedro Figueroa, Tyson Ross, Jemile Weeks and Michael Ynoa depleted the organization's depth. "I guess that would be the biggest disappointment," Lieppman said. "But it's always a double-edged sword because a lot of guys get opportunities they otherwise would not have had."

Tyler Ladendorf embellished his utility résumé in instructional league by emphasizing the outfield. He batted .274/.326/.385 in 478 at-bats for high Class A Stockton this season, playing mostly second base, shortstop and center field.