Oakland Athletics: Top 10 Prospects Chat With Jim Shonerd

Oakland Athletics: Chat

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.

    JAYPERS (IL): Jim, was it purely a lack of playing time that pushed Ynoa out of the Top 10? What are scouts telling you about his mechanics since he was first signed?

Jim Shonerd: Thanks for coming out, everyone. Let's talk some A's. Ynoa was the hardest player to rank in the system. I had him pegged as low as No. 20 at one point, but he ended up just outside the top 10. The reports I got on him from when he was throwing off the mound in the Dominican in November were very positive. He repeats well for someone his age, with a fluid arm action and smooth motion. His stuff was still there too, with low 90s fastballs and hard, late-breaking curveballs. Ultimately, we decided to be conservative with his ranking this year, given the injury and the fact he hasn't pitched in a game yet. But if he goes out and dominates the AZL or Northwest League this year, he'll be right back in the top 10 for next year.

    Kyle (Miami, FL): Jim Callis had Mike Spina as one of his sleeper picks out of the 11th round in the draft. What can you tell us about him and did he make the top 30?

Jim Shonerd: A righthanded hitting third baseman from Cincinnati, Spina got some consideration for the back of the list but fell short. He's a strong kid who sprays the ball well and probably has 15-20 home run power. He's a solid defender as well, but just didn't really have enough standout tools to earn a spot in the top 30.

    Ben (Leland Grove): How far off the list was Julio Ramos? Impressions of him?

Jim Shonerd: Ramos ended up ranking in the mid 20s in the Prospect Handbook. He's not overpowering at 88-91 mph, but could add some velocity as he develops. He has a good tumbling changeup that's his go-to pitch, but he lacks an effective breaking ball for now. The A's scrapped his curveball before last season and switched him to a slider. The curve was just too easy for batters to pick up since he raised his arm more when throwing it. The slider is below-average, but it's in its early stages and has shown some promise.

    Adam Merkado (NYC): What can you tell me about Rashun Dixon and his ultimate ceiling? After watching his season, he seems to lack the plate discipline, but the athleticism is clearly there. Did he rank in the top 30?

Jim Shonerd: Dixon fell outside the 30, but was close. You're right about the athleticism, but he's still learning how to hit. He was simply overmatched against Northwest League competition. When they started throwing breaking balls away, he just couldn't recognize them or take them the other way. He's got tremendous raw power and all the physical tools though, but it might be another year or two before he really breaks out.

    Ethan (Calgary, Alberta): Ian Krol is an intriguing guy who got a large bonus as a mid round pick. What is the scouting report on him that warranted the high bonus?

Jim Shonerd: Oakland's seventh round pick last year, Krol has command of three average pitches. His fastball velocity was down last year, but he's shown 89-92 mph before and topped out at 93. He doesn't project to add much velocity, but both of his secondary pitches, a curve and change, have a chance to be plus. He has an advanced feel for pitching for his age as well. He does need to show that any off the field issues are in his past after he was suspended from his high school team last year for being found in the presence of alcohol, his second violation of the school's athletic code of conduct.

    Steve (Las Vegas): How close were the top 3?

Jim Shonerd: It was a close call between Carter and Taylor. Green was a pretty clear No. 3. The Brett Wallace-Taylor trade hadn't yet been completed when we sent the Handbook to press, so Wallace is still listed as the A's No. 2 in the book. For the rankings, Carter's power potential was what won out for him over both Wallace and then Taylor.

    Dirk (Oaktown): Could you tell us about the acquisition of Clay Mortensen, and if he made your top 30?

Jim Shonerd: Mortensen's a sinker-slider guy who ranked in the teens in the Handbook. His sinker can be really good when he's on, as he can sit 89-91 and top out at 92 and gets plenty of groundballs. His slider shows flashes of being above-average at 81-85 mph. He also has a changeup that he struggles to throw for strikes. He's been plagued by mechanical issues. His arm action is long in the back and he has a hard time staying on top of the ball, making his pitches flatten out. He also has trouble maintaining a consistent release point, causing his command of the zone to suffer. He can be a back of the rotation guy potentially, but it's hard to see him beating out the other candidates in the organization over the long term.

    Josh (Golden Gate): How can Corey Brown be left off this list? What makes guys like Doolittle and Cardenas rank above him? Was he close to this top-10? Thanks.

Jim Shonerd: Brown was a close call. He's got five-tool potential, but what ended up keeping him off was his lack of a consistent approach, which was reflected in his high strikeout totals. Sometimes he'll show a willingness to use the whole field, while at other times he looks like he's trying to jerk balls. That's the big difference between him and guys like Doolittle and Cardenas, who look like professional hitters and are safer bets to hit at the major league level.

    JAYPERS (IL): Is Brett Hunter on your Top 30 radar? Is he a SP or RP down the road?

Jim Shonerd: Hunter is still on the radar, but barely. He still has one of the best arms in the system, capable of throwing 92-94 mph sinking fastballs and topping out at 95-96. But his mechanics seemed to change with every outing last year and his command was all over the map. He'll be developed as a reliever going forward, and the A's have revamped his delivery, giving him a lower arm slot and making his motion similar to Carlos Marmol's. The lower arm angle means his slider doesn't get as much tilt as it once did, but it still comes in hard at 83-85 mph. He still has the potential to move quickly and be a real weapon, but he's got to show he can throw strikes.

    Karl of Delaware (Georgetown, Delaware): Of last years Prospect Handbook top thirty A's players - who dropped down the most and who jumped up the rankings the most?

Jim Shonerd: James Simmons took the biggest plunge, dropping all the way out of the rankings from being No. 10 last year. Simmons had a tough year at Sacramento, where his lack of a third pitch really caught up to him. He still has back of the rotation potential since he has command and a good changeup, but his curveball just didn't have enough break to be effective. The A's are trying to give him a cutter instead, but it's a work in progress. Pedro Figueroa had the biggest jump, from out of the rankings to No. 5. Of guys who were in last year's top 30, the honor for biggest jump goes to Grant Desme, who was No. 30 last year.

    Karl of Delaware (Georgetown, Delaware): You fellows have Adrian Cardenas as a 3rd baseman in the future. Is his arm strong enough for this position change? I always thought he was a 2nd base guy.

Jim Shonerd: Putting Cardenas at third there was more a product of necessity than anything else. Projecting Jemile Weeks at second doesn't really leave anywhere else to put Cardenas. He does have the arm for third, but the problem is his bat doesn't really profile there. As always with those projected lineups, take them with a grain of salt, but it was interesting to be in what could be the same scenario that the A's may find themselves in with the real Cardenas, where you figure he's going to hit, you've just got to find room for him somewhere in the field. Third base was the best place for that, given the A's lack of other top prospects at the position.

    Dave Stewart fan (Pitching mound, Oakland Coliseum): I still don't understand WHY the A's moved Sean Doolittle to the Outfield to accomodate Chris Carter at First Base. In my mind Doolittle is a better defender at First Base and infield defense is preferred over outfield defense. I viewed Carter as a Jermaine Dye-type Right Fielder. What was the team's thinking on this?

Jim Shonerd: I wouldn't say it was just to accommodate Carter. The A's had a real logjam of potential first basemen at the big league and Triple-A levels, and they felt Doolittle had the athleticism to play the outfield, which would also allow them to take advantage of his arm strength. He can always move back to first, which what we have him doing in the projected lineup.

    Ben (Leland Grove): In what capacity is Henry Rodriguez best suited for, and when will he reach Oakland for good?

Jim Shonerd: The sense I got from talking to A's people about him is that it might just be time to see whether he's going to sink or swim in the majors. He seemed unmotivated at times in Triple-A last year but responded well to the challenge of facing big leaguers in September. The A's haven't ruled out returning him to starting, but he looks like he's still best suited for the back of bullpen if he can throw enough strikes.

    Henry Thompson (Sauce Town USA): Where did Arnold Leon And Fautino De Los Santos rank? And what are the reports on Santos as he comes back from Tommy John?

Jim Shonerd: Both of those guys ranked in the high teens. De los Santos was back throwing the mid 90s in November and his changeup was showing progress as well, with great depth and hand speed. He still hadn't started working his slider and curveball back into his repertoire yet and those will be the last to come back. He should be healthy for this season and, like Michael Ynoa, should move up the rankings easily if he shows his stuff is all the way back against live competition.

    Don (Rosemont, IL): Obviously, Paul Smyth had a nice start to his career. Is he a guy that can project somewhere in the bullpen or is he just a guy that can carve up inexperienced hitters?

Jim Shonerd: Signs point towards the latter. The A's 35th round pick from Kansas last year, Smyth's got advanced pitchability and comes right after hitters, but it's hard to project him to be more than a 6th or 7th inning guy at best. A sidearming righthander, his fastball sits around 87-89 and his slider was more sweeping rather than being a true biting slider. He's one of those guys who'll have to prove himself at every level.

    Jim (Denver): Did a local product from our area Anthony Capra make your top 30 list if so why and if not why not? He had a pretty good year 2009

Jim Shonerd: Capra didn't make the top 30 but was one of the last cuts. He's a finesse lefty who isn't overpowering at 88-92, but he hides the ball well and gets some deception. He's a competitor who has a great feel for pitching and will throw any pitch in any count. His changeup is his only real plus pitch though. He also throws an average slider and get-it-over curveball, and he gets in trouble when he leaves balls up. He's the type of guy you'd expect to success at the Single-A level and he did. If he proves himself in Double-A this year, he should get a nice bump in the rankings.

    Michael (Salt Lake): Ken Smalley Put up some pretty good numbers in Kane County. Was that becasue he faced weak Competiton or is he a legit proesct?

Jim Shonerd: He didn't make the Handbook, but he is a prospect. His fastball has some jump and sits at 91-92 and can touch 94. His change is his best secondary pitch, featuring some splitter-like action at 80-81 mph. His success last year was thanks to fastball command and that changeup. What holds him back was his lack of an effective breaking ball. The A's have tried both a curve and a slider with him, but they're not much more than show-me pitches.

    Grant (Chicago, IL): At what level do you see Justin Marks starting out this year? I know he is not overpowering, but with 4 solid offerings is he a mid rotation possibility down the road?

Jim Shonerd: Probably Stockton. He can be a guy who moves quickly and is a reliable back-of-the-rotation type. As you said, he's got four solid offerings, but none of them are plus, which makes it hard to project him for anything more than a No. 4 starter at most. He's a strikethrower though and has a physical frame, though there's some effort in his delivery.

    Brian (South Dakota): Did Dusty Coleman make the top 30? What is your opinion of him?

Jim Shonerd: Coleman's intriguing, but didn't make the top 30. He's not the most rangy shortstop, but he's got good hands and a strong enough arm. He's got some power potential and his swing is similar to Grant Desme's, though Coleman's pitch recognition lags behind, leading to a lot of swings and misses. He's not projected as an everyday shortstop at the big league level though. He could move to second base down the road, and one scout compared him to Tony Graffanino.

    Neil (Phoenix, AZ): Is Ben Hornbeck a power lefty, or more of a finesse type? Does he stick as a starter, or will he end up in the pen?

Jim Shonerd: Finesse. Hornbeck's a guy that relies on his changeup. His fastball tops out at 88-91, but his change can be devastating. He gets a 10-12 mph differential between it and his fastball and the bottom drops out of it at the end. He opened last year as a starter but moved to the bullpen in July and it looks like he'll stay there. The A's are working on giving him a curveball and a cutter as well, though those are a ways away.

    Christian (Ft Hood, TX): What can you tell me about 12th RD pick Connor Hoehn and did he crack the Top 30 with his impressive debut in short season ball?

Jim Shonerd: I really like Hoehn and he did make the top 30. He's got a sturdy, physical frame and attacks hitters with sinking 92-94 mph fastballs. His breaking ball is called a slider but is somewhat hybridish and has late, darting movement. He's shown a feel for his changeup as well and it has some fade to it. His delivery gets some deception, but he has trouble repeating and there's some effort there as well. After working out of the bullpen at Vancouver last year, he should be a starter this year, and he's a guy I'd look for to have a breakout season.

    Rod (Seattle): I know the projected line-ups don't mean much, but ONE position player from 2009 and 3 pitchers has to say something, doesn't it? What does it say the most about, their prospects or their current roster?

Jim Shonerd: I think it speaks both to the quality of hitters they have in the system and, yes, to how the A's have been a bit offensively challenged over the last few years. Like we always say though, those lineups should be taken with a grain of salt.

    Greg (Danville): Who do you prefer, Michael Taylor or Brett Wallace?

Jim Shonerd: Taylor. The two profile similarly as hitters, but Taylor has much more defensive value.

    Matt (Manhattan): Jim's sleeper pick for 2010 is __________?

Jim Shonerd: I've mentioned Connor Hoehn, so the guy I'll nominate here is a 21-year-old righthander named Jonathan Joseph. His numbers at Vancouver last year were less than inspiring, to put it kindly, but he's got a 92-94 mph fastball that touches 96 and a hammer curveball. His command needs to get better, but he repeats his motion well and maintains his arm slot, so there's reason to believe he should develop into a more consistent strikethrower. With those tools, he could tear up Midwest League hitters when he arrives at Kane County.

    birdwell (costa mesa CA): Can I get a scouting report on Tyreace House? Is he a top 30 guy? Does he look to be in the outfield mix for the A's in the future? The kid can fly!

Jim Shonerd: House just snuck into the back of the top 30. He's not going to set the world on fire with his bat, but he's got plus-plus speed and can be a highlight reel defender in center field. He does have a short, slashing swing and doesn't try to do too much at the plate, though he still needs to work on his ability to play small ball, bunting and such. He could develop into a leadoff type hitter down the road. Worst case, he could be defensive replacement/pinch runner extraordinaire.

    Nate (Still in the snow...): Is it fair to say that 2010 is a make-or-break year for Desme and Figueroa to show they're legit options for starting gigs in Oakland?

Jim Shonerd: More so for Figueroa due to his age, but I wouldn't toss either on the scrap heap if they struggle. They'll both be advancing to Double-A this year, which is the hardest transition young players have to make from one level to the next, so it'll be important for both to show they weren't just products of facing lesser competition.

    Chip (Reno, NV): Where would Aaron Cunningham have been listed and where would Sogard fall in the list?

Jim Shonerd: Cunningham was no longer eligible as he just barely surpassed the 130 big league at-bat limit for prospect eligibility. Sogard would probably fall somewhere in the teens. It's hard to see where he fits long term with both Weeks and Cardenas already in the organization. He doesn't have Weeks' loud tools or Cardenas' versatility.

    jim (huntsville, al): Where was Josh Donaldson in your rankings? He had a terrific year at Double A and seems to be underrated when it comes to prospect status? What do you think his big league ceiling is?

Jim Shonerd: I'll wind it up with this one. Donaldson is in the teens. He toned down the aggressive stride in his swing last year, giving himself a more compact stroke. He's got a good feel for the zone and the strength to hit home runs to all fields, though his in-game power is mostly geared to his pull side. He does show soft hands and some athleticism behind the plate, but he's got work to do back there after he led Texas League catchers in both passed balls (17) and errors (16) last year. He doesn't have Stassi's upside, but he is the best catching option the A's have in the upper levels of the system.

Jim Shonerd: Thanks for all the questions, everyone. There are just two more organizations left in our roundup of Top 10s. Come back on Friday as Matt Eddy rejoins you to talk Mariners. Have a great rest of the week!