Oakland Athletics: Top 10 Prospects With Scouting Reports

Oakland Athletics: Scouting Reports




Baseball America's Top 10 Prospects lists are based on projections of a player's long-term worth after discussions with scouting and player-development personnel. All players who haven't exceeded the major league rookie standards of 130 at-bats or 50 innings pitched (without regard to service time) are eligible. Ages are as of April 1, 2009.

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Oakland Athletics

After a run of eight consecutive seasons with at least 87 wins, the Athletics have endured back-to-back losing seasons for the first time since 1998-99. But with an influx of talent into the organization from a variety of avenues, another prolonged run of success might not be far away.

With the farm system in disrepair by the end of the 2007 season, Oakland general manager Billy Beane went on a mission to acquire blue-chip prospects. Since then, he has traded veterans Joe Blanton, Rich Harden, Dan Haren and Nick Swisher and acquired building blocks such as lefthanders Brett Anderson and Gio Gonzalez, outfielder Aaron Cunningham, infielder Adrian Cardenas and slugger Chris Carter.

The rebuilding process also afforded the A's the opportunity to give big league playing time to several youngsters. Those deals also netted several players who plugged right into the Oakland roster, including Dana Eveland, Sean Gallagher, Carlos Gonzalez, Greg Smith and Ryan Sweeney.

Brad Ziegler, signed out of an independent league in 2004, was a revelation, setting a major league record with 39 straight scoreless innings to begin his career and supplanting Huston Street as the A's closer. Daric Barton (acquired with Haren in a 2004 trade for Mark Mulder) and Travis Buck (a supplemental first-rounder in 2005) weren't as successful but still showed the potential to be mainstays in Oakland's lineup.

The A's may not wait as long to try to contend as originally thought. Beane appeared to shift course with a November blockbuster that shipped Gonzalez, Smith and Street to the Rockies for Matt Holliday, who can become a free agent after the 2009 season. Holliday also could be dealt for more prospects at midseason, or Oakland could recoup two premium draft picks as compensation if he departs.

Besides all of Beane's wheeling and dealing, the A's also were aggressive in the draft and on the international market. They took one of college baseball's best up-the-middle athletes in second baseman Jemile Weeks with the 12th overall pick—their highest since 1999—and also paid dearly for players who slid because of signability, such as righthander Brett Hunter ($1.1 million in the seventh round), outfielder Rashun Dixon ($600,000 in the 10th) and shortstop Dusty Coleman ($675,000 in the 28th). Oakland spent $6.5 million on its draft, up from $4.2 million in 2007 and an industry-low $2.0 million in 2006.

The A's also set a new franchise record for an international signing bonus in February by signing Domincan outfielder Robin Rosario for $350,000. Rosario held that title for a mere five months before Oakland signed Dominican righthander Michael Inoa for $4.25 million, the largest bonus ever given to a international amateur free agent and the highest bonus of any kind in club history.

Moving into a planned new ballpark in Fremont, Calif., would increase the team's revenue, allowing it to start retaining some of its key free agents while continuing to pay top dollar for amateur talent. The A's hope Cisco Field will be ready for 2011, though the turbulent economy could impede building plans. When they do unveil their new home, they're banking that investing heavily in their farm system will end up paying dividends.

1.  Brett Anderson, lhp  Born: Feb. 1, 1988. Bats: Left. Throws: Left. Ht.: 6-4. Wt.: 215.
 Drafted: HS—Stillwater, Okla., 2006 (2nd round)Signed by: Joe Robinson (Diamondbacks)
Brett AndersonBackground: The exceedingly polished Anderson has had a head start in his development since childhood. He's the son of Oklahoma State coach Frank Anderson, one of college baseball's top pitching coaches before taking over the Cowboys. Brett's feel for his craft has been evident since his amateur days, as he led Team USA's youth and junior teams to silver medals in consecutive summers. He had the stuff to go in the first round of the 2006 draft, but his $1 million asking price dropped him to the Diamondbacks in the second round. He signed late for $950,000, turning down the chance to pitch for his father. Anderson quickly established himself as a premier pitching prospect in 2007, though he and six teammates were involved in a car accident that July, with Anderson sustaining a concussion that effectively ended his season. He and outfielder Carlos Gonzalez were the headline prospects in a six-player package Arizona sent to the Athletics for Dan Haren in December 2007. In his first season in the A's system, Anderson advanced to Double-A Midland and pitched for the U.S. Olympic team. He defeated Japan in the bronze-medal game, allowing four runs in seven innings. After he returned from Beijing, he joined Triple-A Sacramento for the Pacific Coast League playoffs, earning wins in both his starts (including the championship clincher) as well as a save.

Strengths: Anderson has premium command, averaging 1.9 walks per nine innings in his pro career and frequently locating his fastball on the corners of the plate. He's more proficient working his fastball to his glove side than his arm side.  His two-seam fastball sits at 88-92 mph and generates a lot of groundouts. He also can touch 94 mph with his four-seamer. Anderson has above-average secondary pitches across the board, including a mid- to high-70s curveball with two-plane break. His low- to mid-80s slider gives him a second quality breaking ball, and his changeup is often a plus pitch. He used his changeup more frequently once he reached Double-A. Anderson is mechanically solid and repeats his delivery well. He improved his pickoff move after working with fellow lefty Greg Smith, another part of the Haren trade.

Weaknesses:  The biggest knock on Anderson always has been his lack of athleticism. He got into better shape for the 2008 season, but while he fields his position well if grounders are hit in his vicinity, he's not quick to first base when he needs to cover the bag. He doesn't have overpowering velocity, but he has more than enough zip on his fastball considering his command and deep arsenal.

The Future: Anderson and Trevor Cahill teamed up at high Class A Stockton, Midland and the Olympics in 2008. There's debate among scouts about who's the better prospect, with Anderson getting the edge here because he has superior command and a wider array of plus pitches. Both should continue their rapid ascent through the minors by beginning 2009 in Triple-A, with a chance to reach the big leagues by mid-2009. They're the future anchors of Oakland's rotation.
 
2008 Club (Class) W L ERA G GS CG SV IP H HR BB SO AVG
Stockton (HiA)
9
4
4.14
14
13
0
0
74
68
5
18
80
.238
Midland (AA)
2
1
2.61
6
6
0
0
31
27
3
9
38
.235
 
2.  Trevor Cahill, rhp  Born: March 1, 1988. B-T: R-R. HT.: 6-3. WT.: 195.
 Drafted: HS—Vista, Calif., 2006 (2nd round). Signed By: Craig Weissmann.
Trevor CahillBackground: The A's top pick (second round) in 2006, Cahill teamed with Brett Anderson at two minor league stops and the Olympics, helping Team USA win bronze.

Strengths: Cahill works off an 88-92 mph two-seam fastball with outstanding heavy sink and running life, enabling him to rack up both grounders and swinging strikes. He also can touch 94 mph with his four-seamer. He backs up his fastballs with a nasty 79-81 mph knuckle-curve, a swing-and-miss pitch with hard downward movement. He also has another tough breaking ball in a low-80s slider with cutter-like action at times. He's a good athlete with a simple, compact delivery and good balance over the rubber.

Weaknesses: Cahill's changeup should become an average pitch, but he'll need to throw it more against higher-caliber competition. Though his mechanics are sound, he sometimes cuts his extension a little short out front, placing more strain on his back and shoulder. He strained his ribcage at the Olympics and didn't pitch afterward, though he threw off flat ground in instructional league and will be ready for 2009.

The Future: With some slight mechanical tweaks and improved command, Cahill could end up as a top-of-the-rotation starter. He should open 2009 in Triple-A and make his big league debut later in the season.
 
2008 Club (Class) W L ERA G GS CG SV IP H HR BB SO AVG
Stockton (HiA)
5
4
2.78
14
13
0
0
87.1
52
3
31
103
.174
Midland (AA)
6
1
2.19
7
6
0
0
37
24
2
19
33
.190
 
3.  Michael Inoa, rhp  Born: Sept. 24, 1991. B-T: R-R. HT.: 6-7. WT.: 205.
 Signed: Dominican Republic, 2008. Signed By: Raymond Abreu.
Michel InoaBackground: Inoa demolished international amateur bonus records when he signed with the A's on July 2 for $4.25 million. His potential was evident at age 13, when he was already 6-foot-4 and reaching 83-84 mph with his fastball.

Strengths: Several scouts have called Inoa one of the best 16-year-old pitchers they've ever seen. He already has a lively low-90s fastball that has touched 94 mph, and with his size and mechanics he projects to throw even harder. He has remarkable athleticism and coordination for his size, allowing him to repeat an effortless delivery and have good command. He has the potential for a plus curveball and also throws a changeup that already grades as fringe average. He also has flashed a splitter, though he didn't use it much leading up to his signing.

Weaknesses: All the glowing scouting reports are nice, but Inoa has yet to be tested by anything close to professional competition. Though his secondary pitches project as possible plus offerings, they have a ways to go. He needs work on the finer points of the game, such as holding runners.

The Future: Inoa's ceiling is as high as it gets. Oakland hasn't determined his first assignment yet. He'll likely begin 2009 in extended spring training before reporting to the Rookie-level Arizona League or short-season Vancouver in June.
 
2008 Club (Class) W L ERA G GS CG SV IP H HR BB SO AVG
Did Not Play—Signed late
 
4.  Aaron Cunningham, of   Born: April 24, 1986. B-T: R-R. HT.: 5-11. WT.: 195.
Drafted: Everett (Wash.) CC, 2005 (6th round). Signed By: Joe Butler/Adam Virchis (White Sox).
Aaron CunninghamBackground: Originally drafted by the White Sox, Cunningham was dealt to Arizona in June 2007 for Danny Richar. He spent just six months with the Diamondbacks before they flipped him to Oakland as part of the package for Dan Haren.

Strengths:  Cunningham has hit well everywhere he's been, posting an OPS above .852 at each level of full-season ball.  He has a good feel for hitting and a knack for squaring up balls with a balanced swing. His bat stays in the hitting zone a long time, generating solid-average power. A good athlete, he runs well and has a solid arm.

Weaknesses: Cunningham's swing can get a little bit long, and he struggled when he became more pull-conscious during his callup. He doesn't always take direct routes to fly balls, precluding him from being a good defensive center fielder. While his tools are average or better across the board, he doesn't have an outstanding tool that points to star potential.

The Future: Oakland's trade for Matt Holliday means Cunningham won't be playing left field for the A's in 2009, but he'll compete for a starting job in right. Additional seasoning in Triple-A wouldn't be bad for him, either.
 
2008 Club (Class) AVG OBP SLG AB R H 2B 3B HR RBI BB SO SB
Midland (AA)
.317
.386
.507
347
65
110
18
6
12
52
38
92
12
Sacramento (AAA)
.382
.461
.645
76
21
29
5
0
5
14
11
16
3
Oakland
.250
.310
.400
80
7
20
7
1
1
14
6
24
2
 
5.  Adrian Cardenas, ss/2b  Born: Oct. 10, 1987. B-T: L-R. HT.: 5-11. WT.: 190.
 Drafted: HS—Miami, 2006 (1st round supplemental). Signed By: Miguel Machado (Phillies).
Adrian CardenasBackground: Baseball America's 2006 High School Player of the Year, Cardenas made steady progress for two years before Philadelphia used him as the key chip in a mid-July deal for Joe Blanton. Cardenas moved from second base to shortstop in 2007, but Oakland moved him back after the trade.

Strengths: Cardenas has a compact, line-drive stroke and hits the ball to all fields. His swing has drawn comparisons to that of Adrian Gonzalez, and he should develop average power. He recognizes and handles offspeed pitches well, and he shows the ability to handle both lefties and righties. He logged each of his at-bats in a notebook all season and studied his observations of the pitchers he faced. He has solid-average speed and good baserunning instincts. He makes the routine plays in the field and has an accurate arm.

Weaknesses: After the trade, Cardenas developed a tendency to overswing and lengthen his stroke. His first step, lateral movement and footwork probably won't allow him to stay at shortstop and might be problematic at second base.

The Future: Cardenas eventually could move to third, where his bat and arm would profile well. He'll return to Double-A and is roughly a year away from the majors.
 
2008 Club (Class) AVG OBP SLG AB R H 2B 3B HR RBI BB SO SB
Clearwater (HiA)
.309
.374
.444
259
44
80
11
6
4
23
28
42
16
Stockton (HiA)
.278
.297
.333
72
11
20
1
0
1
10
1
14
1
Midland (AA)
.279
.392
.326
86
12
24
4
0
0
7
15
10
0
 
6.  Chris Carter, 1b/3b/of   Born: Dec. 18, 1986. B-T: R-R. HT.: 6-4. WT.: 210.
 Drafted: HS—Las Vegas, 2005 (15th round). Signed By: George Kachigian/Joe Butler (White Sox).
Chris CarterBackground: After leading White Sox farmhands with 25 homers in 2007, Carter was traded twice that December. Chicago traded him to the Diamondbacks for Carlos Quentin before Arizona used him as part of the package to acquire Dan Haren. In 2008, he topped the high Class A California League in runs (101), homers (39), RBIs (104) and slugging percentage (.569) and added five longballs in the playoffs as Stockton won the title.

Strengths: Carter's plus-plus raw power ranks among the best in the minors. He hits the ball deep out of the park to all fields with a fluid swing that generates tremendous loft and natural leverage. He shows the patience to draw walks. He has a strong arm.

Weaknesses: Carter's outstanding power comes with the tradeoff of a high strikeout rate. He has some holes in his swing and is susceptible to breaking balls. He has some athleticism, but his lack of first-step quickness and range are a liability at third base, where he committed 14 errors in 41 games, and his below-average hands are a handicap at first base, where he made 10 errors in another 41 games. He hasn't been much better as a right fielder.

The Future: Ticketed for Double-A, Carter should be able to hit his way into Oakland's lineup. The A's will continue to try him at different positions, but he may ultimately wind up as a DH.
 
2008 Club (Class) AVG
OBP SLG AB R H 2B 3B HR RBI BB SO SB
Stockton (HiA)
.259
.361
.569

506
101
131
32
4
39
104
77
156
4
 
7.  Gio Gonzalez, lhpBorn: Sept. 19, 1985. B-T: R-L. HT.: 5-11. WT.: 185. 
 Drafted: HS—Miami, 2004 (1st round supplemental). Signed By: Jose Ortega (White Sox).
Gio GonzalezBackground: The White Sox drafted Gonzalez in the sandwich round in 2004, sent him to the Phillies for Jim Thome in 2005 and brought him back as part of a package for Freddy Garcia in 2006. After Gonzalez led the minors with 185 strikeouts in 150 innings in 2007, Chicago sent him, Fautino de los Santos and Ryan Sweeney to the A's for Nick Swisher.

Strengths: Gonzalez's best pitch is a 75-78 mph curveball with sharp break and two-plane depth. He throws the curve often, and it has helped him average 10.3 strikeouts per nine innings in the minors. His fastball can touch 93 mph, though it more often sat at 87-91 last season with some run and sink. He has a simple, fluid delivery and throws from a high three-quarters arm slot.

Weaknesses: Gonzalez has been a prolific strikeout pitcher, but his fastball command is below average and led to an excess of walks in his brief stint with Oakland. He needs to repeat his delivery with more frequency, which in turn will lead to better command. After a long season, he lost velocity early in his big league starts. He'll have to upgrade his 80-84 mph straight changeup to have a legitimate third weapon against major league hitters.

The Future: Gonzalez should begin 2009 in Oakland's rotation. He could become a frontline starter if he improves his changeup and command.
 
2008 Club (Class) W L ERA G GS CG SV IP H HR BB SO AVG
Sacramento (AAA)
8
7
4.24
23
22
1
0
123
106
12
61
128
.233
Oakland
1
4
7.68
10
7
0
0
34
32
9
25
34
.242
 
8.  Vin Mazzaro, rhp  Born: Sept. 27, 1986. B-T: R-R. HT.: 6-2. WT.: 190.
 Drafted: HS—Rutherford, N.J., 2005 (3rd round). Signed By: Jeff Bittiger.
Vin MazzaroBackground: Though he posted a 5.21 ERA over his first two pro seasons, the A's sent Mazzaro to Double-A last season at age 21. He responded by leading the Texas League in ERA (1.90), earning TL pitcher of the year honors and a promotion to Triple-A.

Strengths: Mazzaro's hard sinker sits in the low 90s and touches 95, generating groundballs. He pitches off his fastball, and he shows the ability to sink, run or cut it. His control got significantly better in 2008, allowing him to keep hitters off balance by mixing locations and changing planes. He showed a greater willingness to challenge hitters than he had in the past. His improved slider has tight break and is an average pitch.

Weaknesses: Mazzaro still is trying to find a reliable offspeed pitch. He didn't throw his changeup much last season, though it took a step forward and could become an average offering. His curveball is more of a show-me pitch. His mechanics are mostly sound, though he does throw slightly across his body.

The Future: After getting knocked around in Triple-A at the end of last season, he'll return there in 2009. With Brett Anderson and Trevor Cahill nearly ready for the majors, Oakland shouldn't have to rush Mazzaro.
 
2008 Club (Class) W L ERA G GS CG SV IP H HR BB SO AVG
Midland (AA)
12
3
1.90
22
22
0
0
137.1
115
3
36
104
.229
Sacramento (AAA)
3
3
6.15
6
5
0
0
33.2
49
3
9
27
.340
 
9.  Jemile Weeks, 2b   Born: Jan. 26, 1987. B-T: B-R. HT.:
5-9. WT.: 180.
 Drafted: Miami, 2008 (1st round). Signed By: Trevor Schaffer.
Jemile WeeksBackground: The A's drafted Weeks with the 12th overall pick in June, their highest selection since they took Barry Zito ninth overall in 1999. That made Weeks and his brother Rickie, the No. 2 overall choice in 2003, the eighth pair of siblings to become first-round picks. An All-American at Miami, he signed for $1.91 million but had his pro debut cut shot by a hip flexor injury.

Strengths: Weeks is a quick-twitch athlete with plus speed. A switch-hitter, he has a slashing line-drive stroke, and his strong wrists and plus bat speed help him generate surprising power for a player his size. He has a good feel for the strike zone and profiles as leadoff man. He has the ability to make spectacular defensive plays at second base.

Weaknesses: Weeks needs to put in more work to make routine plays at second and to turn the double play. He has battled leg injuries the last two years, with repeated hamstring and groin problems hampering his sophomore season. His hip injury kept him out of instructional league.

The Future: Weeks' bat is advanced enough for him to make his full-season debut in high Class A. He doesn't have his brother's offensive upside, but he's no lightweight as a hitter and is a better defender.
 
2008 Club (Class) AVG OBP SLG AB R H 2B 3B HR RBI BB SO SB
Kane County (LoA)
.297
.422
.405
74
11
22
3
1
1
8
13
12
6
 
10.  James Simmons, rhp  Born: Sept. 29, 1986. B-T: R-R. HT.: 6-4. WT.: 220.
Drafted: UC Riverside, 2007 (1st round). Signed By: Craig Weissmann.
James SimmonsBackground: One of the most advanced pitchers in the 2007 draft, Simmons went straight to Double-A after signing for $1,192,000 as the 25th overall pick. He returned to Midland in 2008 and, after a slow start, he went 7-2, 3.00 over the final two months to finish second in the Texas League in strikeouts (120 in 136 innings) and third in ERA (3.51).

Strengths: Simmons has outstanding command of his 88-92 mph fastball, which peaks at 94. He has a two-seamer with some run and mild sink, and he leans heavily on his fastball the first time through the order. His best secondary weapon is his changeup, which has some run and the potential to become a plus pitch. He has a good delivery that he repeats easily. He does a good job fielding his position.

Weaknesses: Simmons' slider is still a work in progress, and his slow, loopy curveball is just a show-me pitch. He tends to stay a little too upright at the end of his delivery. He went through a brief dead-arm period in May and battled sleep apnea during the season.

The Future: Simmons will begin the season in Triple-A Sacramento with a chance to crack the big league rotation later in the year. He projects as a solid starter if he can tighten his slider.
 
2008 Club (Class) W L ERA G GS CG SV IP H HR BB SO AVG
Midland (AA)
9
6
3.51
25
25
0
0
136
150
11
32
120
.282

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Photo Credits: Bill Mitchell (Anderson, Carter, Simmons)
Steve Moore (Cahill, Cunningham)
Chris Kline (Inoa)
Paul Gierhart (Weeks)