|Complete Index of Top 10 Prospects|
John Manuel chatted with subscribers
|Pre-Order the 2007 Prospect Handbook|
30 scouting reports on every team
|1.||Travis Buck, of Born: Nov. 18, 1983 • B-T: L-R • Ht: 6-2 • Wt: 205|
|Drafted: Arizona State, 2005 (1st round supplemental) • Signed by: Jeremy Schied|
|Background: The 2006 season was more of the same for Buck, who has been an elite prospect since high school. He was part of a banner class of Washington state prep players in 2002 that included Red Sox lefthander Jon Lester, Pirates farmhand Brent Lillibridge and Giants prospect Travis Ishikawa, among others. Buck fell from top-round consideration in the 2002 draft after a modest senior season, going in the 23rd round to the Mariners, so he went to Arizona State. He had been an infielder but played outfield exclusively his first two seasons with the Sun Devils, then saw time at third base in 2005, when he helped the team reach the College World Series. Since signing with the Athletics as the 36th overall pick that year for $950,000, he has hit .328/.399/.511 with a staggering 53 doubles in 497 pro at-bats. He was leading the minors with 39 two-baggers in 2006 when he went down with an abdominal injury in July that ended his season. He returned briefly in the Arizona Fall League before being sidelined again, and his injury was finally diagnosed properly as a sports hernia.|
Strengths: While hitting comes naturally to Buck, he works hard at his craft, with an inner drive to be a great hitter. He has quick hands, strong wrists and outstanding pitch recognition. He has the bat speed to turn on good fastballs, yet trusts his hands enough to wait out breaking balls. The result is that he stays balanced, uses the whole field with a repeatable, low-maintenance swing and lashes line drives from foul line to foul line. As he gets stronger and learns to use his lower half better, many of his doubles should start going over the fence. Oakland conservatively projects Buck to produce Rusty Greer-like numbers with .300 batting averages and 15-20 homers annually. He covers the plate well and isn't afraid to take a walk. A solid athlete, Buck is a good baserunner who's improving as a basestealer.
Weaknesses: Scouts long have projected home run pop for Buck. One scout projected his power as a 65 on the 20-80 scouting scale when he was in high school. Yet he hit just 19 homers in three years at Arizona State and has just 10 in 125 pro games. The A's believe Buck's power will emerge as he continues to fill out and gain experience. Their theory is that players such as Buck, Daric Barton and Kurt Suzuki--their top three prospects--develop more home run power because they hit the ball hard consistently and control the strike zone. Buck's defense is just OK. His speed plays better on the bases than in the outfield, and his fringy arm fits best in left field. He does compensate for his lack of arm strength with good accuracy.
The Future: Buck should be fully recovered from his sports hernia and at full strength for spring training. It was his presence that made his former Sun Devils teammate, Andre Ethier, expendable in the Milton Bradley trade in December 2005. Buck is a bigger version of Ethier with similar tools but more projected power. While some more minor league at-bats wouldn't hurt--he should start the year at Triple-A Sacramento--Buck should be big league-ready midway through the 2007 season.
|2.||Daric Barton, 1b Born: Aug. 16, 1985 • B-T: L-R • Ht: 6-0 • Wt: 205|
|Drafted: HS--Huntington Beach, Calif., 2003 (1st round) • Signed by: Dan Ontiveros (Cardinals)|
|Background: Acquired from the Cardinals in the Mark Mulder trade in December 2004, Barton established himself as the A's top prospect and played in the Futures Game in 2005. In 2006, however, his progress halted when he broke his left elbow in a first-base collision with Tony Womack in Triple-A. Barton returned to the Rookie-level Arizona League briefly in August, then played full-time in the Dominican League.|
Strengths: Oakland general manager Billy Beane called Barton the best hitter in the minors when he traded for him, and he remains the system's best pure hitter. He has a textbook swing, fluid and short with a bit of loft, hinting at future power. His exceptional plate discipline allowed him to control the strike zone at Triple-A as a 20-year-old, and he's advanced enough to know to use the whole field.
Weaknesses: Barton wasn't tearing up Triple-A before his injury. Even those who believe in Barton's power grade it as average at best, and if he doesn't develop that kind of pop he'll be a less-than-intimidating threat for a first baseman. To keep hitting for average and to make himself an average defender at first base, he'll have to work harder on staying in shape. His thickening lower half could leave him well-below-average as a runner.
The Future: Frank Thomas' departure as a free agent could create an opportunity for Barton. He probably needs more minor league time, especially considering the former catcher still hasn't played the equivalent of a full season at first base. A big spring training could make it hard to keep his bat out of the Oakland lineup, however.
|3.||Kurt Suzuki, c Born: Oct. 4, 1983 • B-T: R-R • Ht: 5-11 • Wt: 200|
|Drafted: Cal State Fullerton, 2004 (2nd round) • Signed by: Randy Johnson|
|Background: Suzuki went from walk-on to hero at Cal State Fullerton, leading the Titans to the 2004 College World Series championship as the team's top hitter and emotional core. He built on his "Kurt Klutch" reputation in 2006 with USA Baseball's Olympic qualifying team, hitting .455 with a game-winning homer against Brazil. Team USA manager Davey Johnson called him the team's best player.|
Strengths: Never satisfied, Suzuki keeps getting better. He repeats his short swing, geared to produce line drives, and has improved significantly in using the whole field. He draws plenty of walks and is tough to strike out. He's an athletic grinder who went from decent to above-average defensively through hard work and fundamentals, leading Double-A Texas League catchers in fielding percentage (.997) while ranking second in catching basestealers (47 percent).
Weaknesses: Suzuki doesn't project to hit for much power, though some scouts expect him to hit 10-15 homers a season because he controls the strike zone so well and hits the ball hard. Defense doesn't come naturally to him, but he has shown the ability to work at it with outstanding results. He's a below-average runner, though fine for a catcher.
The Future: Suzuki's natural leadership ability and work ethic have drawn admiration from Jason Kendall during Suzuki's trips to big league camp. After a year in Triple-A, Suzuki should be ready to replace Kendall when his contract expires after the 2007 season.
|4.||Matt Sulentic, of Born: Oct. 6, 1987 • B-T: L-R • Ht: 5-10 • Wt: 170|
|Drafted: HS--Hillcrest, Texas, 2006 (3rd round) • Signed by: Blake Davis|
|Background: Sulentic won the high school triple crown in the Dallas Metroplex last spring, hitting .654-20-59. Area scout Blake Davis talked him up to Oakland's front office for four hours, and the A's took him in the third round and signed him for $395,000. The Astros had planned on selecting him with the next pick. After tearing up the short-season Northwest League, Barton finished his pro debut on fumes in the low Class A Midwest League.|
Strengths: Few doubt Sulentic will hit, and he soon should rival Daric Barton and Travis Buck for the title of best hitter in the system. Sulentic has a pure lefthanded swing and an innate ability to get the barrel on the ball consistently. His strength and bat speed should produce above-average power. His toughness and makeup quickly endeared him to the A's.
Weaknesses: Projecting a position for Sulentic, who played both middle-infield spots and all over the outfield in high school, already is a challenge. He took a stab at second base in instructional league before Oakland decided to leave him in left field for now. His arm is below-average. He's probably maxed out physically.
The Future: Though he offers little projection, Sulentic is already very good and looks like a future No. 3 hitter. If he settles in as a left fielder, he could move quickly. He'll likely start 2007 back at low Class A Kane County.
|5.||Jermaine Mitchell, of Born: Nov. 2, 1984 • B-T: L-L • Ht: 6-0 • Wt: 200|
|Drafted: UNC Greensboro, 2006 (5th round) • Signed by: Neil Avent|
|Background: Mitchell spent two years at Texarkana (Texas) Junior College before transferring to UNC Greensboro as a junior. A's area scout Neil Avent, a former UNCG assistant coach, stayed on Mitchell and the A's crosschecked him and 27th-round outfielder Larry Cobb in the Southern Conference tournament. They popped Mitchell in the fifth round, signed him for $155,000 then watched him sizzle in his pro debut until he broke a bone in his right foot.|
Strengths: Only injury slows Mitchell, who's the system's fastest runner with 70 speed on the 20-80 scouting scale. Unlike many speedsters, he's no slap hitter. He has powerful legs and a strong frame. He has the plate discipline to wait on his pitch and the swing plane to drive the ball to all fields.
Weaknesses: Mitchell's throwing arm is below-average but playable in center. He'll need experience and at-bats to adjust against better breaking balls, to translate his raw power into home runs and to hone his baserunning instincts.
The Future: Mitchell could be a star if it all comes together, and his toolsy package makes him look like a fiffh-round steal. He should join Cobb and Matt Sulentic in a dynamic Kane County outfield to start 2007.
|6.||Javier Herrera, of Born: April 9, 1985 • B-T: R-R • Ht: 5-10 • Wt: 160|
|Signed: Venezuela, 2001. • Signed by: Julio Franco|
|Background: Considered on the fast track after ranking as the Northwest League's top prospect in 2004, Herrera has hit significant speed bumps the last two seasons. He was suspended for violating baseball's performance-enhancing drug policy in 2005, then missed all of 2006 after injuring his elbow in spring training. He had Tommy John surgery and wasn't ready to return for instructional league.|
Strengths: Herrera has more athletic ability than anyone in the system. He has above-average power and speed, a sound swing and center-field skills. He had the A's best outfield arm before his surgery and it should bounce back. He started drawing more walks in low Class A two years ago.
Weaknesses: Herrera has yet to play 100 games in a season and has played just five above low Class A. Many Tommy John surgery alumni--especially hitters--have returned quicker than Herrera, leading to suspicion that he didn't attack his rehabilitation as he should have. When he last played, he struck out 111 times in 372 at-bats in 2005 because he tends to overswing.
The Future: Herrera may struggle in 2007 if his plan is to work his way back into shape. Even if he's a bit heavier and slower in his return, his power potential allows him to profile as a corner outfielder. He'll head to high Class A Stockton as soon as he's healthy.
|7.||Jason Windsor, rhp Born: July 16, 1982 • B-T: R-R • Ht: 6-2 • Wt: 235|
|Drafted: Cal State Fullerton, 2004 (3rd round) • Signed by: Randy Johnson|
|Background: Windsor was drafted three times between high school and junior college before leading Cal State Fullerton to back-to-back College World Series trips in 2003-04. He was the CWS outstanding player and Kurt Suzuki's batterymate when the Titans won the national title in 2004. Windsor tied for the minor league victory lead and made his big league debut in 2006.|
Strengths: His big heart and durable frame are key ingredients for Windsor, who often pitches off a mid-80s fastball that tops out at 90 mph. It plays up because of his plus changeup, which is the best among the system's starters and has good sink. He throws his curve and slider for strikes as well and isn't afraid to challenge hitters.
Weaknesses: Starting pitchers with below-average fastballs have to be fine and confident, a difficult line to straddle. Windsor must command his fastball better to have success if he's not going to throw harder. Major league hitters torched him during his brief stint with Oakland.
The Future: Shane Komine has better stuff, but Windsor's bigger frame gives him the better chance at long-term success among the A's upper-level starters. The A's like Windsor's moxie, though scouts from other organizations consider him fringy. Another pitch--perhaps a cutter or splitter--could be the difference between Windsor becoming a back-of-the-rotation starter or a 4-A pitcher. He also could develop into a Justin Duchscherer-style set-up man.
|8.||Marcus McBeth, rhp Born: Aug. 23, 1980 • B-T: R-R • Ht: 6-1 • Wt: 185|
|Drafted: South Carolina, 2001 (4th round) • Signed by: Kelly Heath|
|Background: McBeth ranked seventh on this list in 2002--as a center fielder. A former kick returner on South Carolina's football team, he long has been one of the A's top athletes and always had well-above-average arm strength. After he hit .233 in three pro seasons, he moved to the mound in 2005 and ranked fifth in the minors in saves in 2006.|
Strengths: Though he's relatively new to pitching, McBeth's athleticism has helped him made rapid strides. His changeup has become a plus pitch in short order and rates as the organization's best. He plays it off a 95-96 mph fastball that jumps out of his hand. His mid-80s slider has become an average pitch, even above-average at times. One A's official said McBeth's best attribute is his competitive fire.
Weaknesses: Just 6-foot-1, McBeth at times will miss up in the strike zone with his changeup and slider. He needs to locate his changeup better against lefthanders. With more mound time, his ability to set hitters up should improve.
The Future: McBeth will get the opportunity to join the Oakland bullpen in 2007. His power stuff would fit in well between set-up man Justin Duchscherer and closer Huston Street.
|9.||Justin Sellers, ss Born: Feb. 1, 1986 • B-T: R-R • Ht: 5-10 • Wt: 160|
|Drafted: HS--Huntington Beach, Calif., 2005 (6th round) • Signed by: Randy Johnson|
|Background: The son of former big league righthander Jeff Sellers, Justin committed to play for Cal State Fullerton but signed for a relatively modest $150,000 bonus as a 2005 sixth-rounder. A Marina High (Huntington Beach, Calif.) teammate of Daric Barton in 2003, Sellers was the youngest Kane County player for much of 2006. Oakland has considered making him a switch-hitter but hasn't gone ahead with the experiment yet.|
Strengths: Sellers has passed fellow 2005 draftee Cliff Pennington as the best defensive infielder in the system. He has a feel for defense, making difficult plays look easy thanks to soft hands, smooth footwork, surprising range and a solid- average, accurate arm. Offensively, he controls the strike zone and has the bat speed to sting balls from gap to gap. His above-average instincts play well defensively and on the bases, where he's a slightly above-average runner.
Weaknesses: Sellers had more fly outs than any A's farmhand in 2006. He hasn't adjusted his homer-oriented approach despite evidence that homers won't be a big part of his game. They definitely won't be if he doesn't respond to the organization's pleas that he hit the weight room and get stronger.
The Future: Today's A's value defense more than most clubs. Sellers' ceiling is as a Mark Ellis-style shortstop, though he'll need to show more professionalism to get there. Oakland hopes a stronger, more coachable Sellers arrives at spring training ready to earn a spot in high Class A.
|10.||Trevor Cahill, rhp Born: March 1, 1988 • B-T: R-R • Ht: 6-3 • Wt: 195|
|Signed: HS--Vista, Calif., 2006 (2nd round) • Signed by:|
|Background: With just 19 innings under his belt entering his senior season in high school, Cahill was something of an unknown quantity leading up to the 2006 draft. His commitment to Dartmouth also complicated matters. He pitched his way into first-round consideration until strep throat resulted in a pair of poor outings in May. Oakland thought it would take a hitter with its top choice (second round), but changed gears when Cahill was available and signed him for $560,000.|
Strengths: Cahill offers plenty of projection. At his best, his fastball sits at 92-94 mph and his spike curveball is a plus-plus pitch. His curve is a power breaker that could become a swing-and-miss big league pitch. A former high school shortstop, Cahill has the athletic ability make quick adjustments and respond to coaching.
Weaknesses: It wasn't just strep throat that affected Cahill's stuff. His inexperience as a pitcher has led to an inability to hold his stuff, during starts and from outing to outing. The A's are confident Cahill will become more consistent with a professional approach to conditioning, training and preparation. He also needs to come up with a changeup.
The Future: Cahill may be less refined than other young A's arms, but his combination of size, health, stuff and intelligence makes him the best bet among them. He may start 2007 in extended spring training and play in short-season Vancouver before making his full-season debut the following year.
|Complete Index of Top 10 Prospects|
|Pre-Order the 2007 Prospect Handbook|
30 scouting reports on every team
Buck: Shawn Davis
Barton, Suzuki, Herrera: Steve Moore
Sulentic, Mitchell, Windsor, McBeth, Cahill: Bill Mitchell
Sellers: Paul Gierhart