He found out last season. The 24-year-old shortstop batted .286/.353/.464 in 420 at-bats for Double-A Midland, made the Texas League all-star team and then earned his first invitation to big league spring training for 2011.
"The improvements he's made are tremendous," farm director Keith Lieppman said. "He's become a sure-handed, steady infielder. He is learning positioning and reading hitters. He's really advanced a lot in the last year and a half since his injury."
Horton has emerged as the top defensive shortstop prospect in the organization, and he is showing improvement with his bat. In 11 games in the Mexican Pacific League in November he batted 17-for-37 (.459) with two strikeouts.
"The big thing for me was getting comfortable with my routine, the pregame stuff," Horton said. "Not just showing up for batting practice, but coming in with a plan. That let me maintain my comfort level to game time."
The one knock on the lefty-hitting Horton's résumé is his shortage of power. Just 24 of his 120 Midland hits went for extra bases, three of those being home runs. Nearly all his hits in Mexico were singles as well—he mixed in two doubles.1
"He started showing some signs of developing some power last year," Lieppman said. "He hit more balls into the gaps. The power's there—it just hasn't developed quite yet. Maybe it just comes later."
Horton has demonstrated that he has both the arm and glove to remain on the left side of the infield, though he played four Double-A games at second base to gain versatility.
The Athletics selected Horton out of North Carolina in the second round of the 2007 draft, but his next two seasons were limited by injuries: plantar fasciitis in the feet in '08 and then an elbow injury in '09 that required surgery.
• The A's completed their minor league staffing by naming Rick Magnante manager of the new short-season Vermont affiliate in the New York-Penn League. He'll be flanked by coaches Casey Myers (hitting) and John Wasdin (pitching), both of whom are former A's draft picks.
• Slugging left fielder/first baseman Chris Carter had been scheduled to play winter ball in Mexico, but his thumb injury took too long to heal and he stayed home to recover.