Oakland Athletics Top 10 Prospects With Scouting Reports

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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, 2011.

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The Athletics offered their fans some reasons for hope in 2010. The club finished at 81-81 for its first non-losing season since 2006 and managed to beat out the struggling Angels for second place in the American League West.

But in other ways the season was more of the same, as Oakland failed to make the playoffs for the fourth straight season and relied heavily on its pitching staff to try to carry an underpowered offense.

The A's led the AL with a 3.58 ERA and had the league's youngest pitching staff, with Ben Sheets the only regular rotation member older than 26. Brett Anderson continued to dominate when he wasn't battling elbow issues, and all-star Trevor Cahill and Gio Gonzalez blossomed in their second full big league seasons.

The highlight of Oakland's year came on May 9, when Dallas Braden threw a perfect game against the Rays. The bullpen was solid, too, with Andrew Bailey posting a 1.47 ERA and 25 saves while fighting through ribcage and elbow problems.

While the A's have the pitching to return to contention, their offense continues to hold them back. Oakland ranked 11th in the AL in scoring and 13th in homers. Hope that the farm system would bolster the lineup turned out to be in vain.

The A's lost one of their top offensive prospects in January, when outfielder Grant Desme decided to leave baseball and enter the priesthood. He recorded the only 30-30 season in the minors in 2009, then won the Arizona Fall League home run title and MVP award before retiring.

First baseman/outfielder Chris Carter and outfielder Michael Taylor were supposed to be on the verge of contributing in Oakland after tearing up the minors in 2009, but both struggled in Triple-A. Carter recovered enough to get promoted in August, only to open his big league career on a 0-for-33 skid. Outfielder Sean Doolittle hasn't played since May 2009 and continues to recover from two surgeries on his left knee.

The A's difficulties in developing hitters have led to more aggressive spending in the draft. They went over slot to sign shortstop Grant Green ($2.75 million) and catcher Max Stassi ($1.5 million) in 2009, and again to land outfielder Michael Choice ($2 million), shortstop Yordy Cabrera ($1.25 million), outfielder Aaron Shipman ($500,000) and third baseman Chad Lewis ($300,000) in 2010. Green ranks No. 1 on this list, with Choice, Stassi, Shipman and Cabrera also cracking the Top 10.

Oakland also has been more active than ever on the international market, in spite of a potentially epic failure. Righthander Michael Ynoa, who received a franchise- and Latin American-record $4.25 million bonus in 2008, had Tommy John surgery last summer and has pitched a total of nine innings since signing. Undaunted, the A's signed Venezuelan third baseman Renato Nunez for $2.2 million in July. In November, they bid a reported $19.1 million for the rights to Japanese righthander Hisashi Iwakuma.

Iwakuma would have ranked No. 1 on this list had he come to terms with Oakland by press time. Negotiations reportedly were breaking down in late November, amid reports that the two sides were far apart in contract talks. The A's had until Dec. 7 to sign him, and would recoup the posting fee if they don't, while Iwakuma would have to return to Japan.

1.  Grant Green, ss   Born: Sept. 27, 1987B-T: R-RHt: 6-3Wt: 180
 Drafted: Southern California, 2009 (1st round)Signed by: J.T. Stotts
Grant GreenBackground: Green's profile as a prospect has taken a 180-degree turn since he came out  of Canyon High in Anaheim in 2006. Scouts at the time praised his defensive ability at shortstop but questioned his bat, and he stayed on the board until the Padres took him in the 14th round. He opted to attend Southern California, where he became known as an offensive-minded player who might not stick at shortstop. He hit .390 as a sophomore and .374 as a junior, sandwiched around a .340 performance in the Cape Cod League in the summer of 2008. Green ranked as the top prospect on the Cape and drew comparisons to former Long Beach State star Evan Longoria. A slow start and a disappointing home run total (four) in his junior season, combined with his asking price, caused him to slide slightly in the 2009 draft, but the Athletics still made him the 13th overall pick and the first shortstop taken. He signed at the Aug. 17 deadline for $2.75 million. He played five games at high Class A Stockton in August 2009 and returned there last season, ranking second in the California League in hits (174) and fifth in slugging percentage (.520). He delivered an RBI single in the Futures Game in his hometown, and joined Double-A Midland for its playoff run, going 3-for-22 with two homers.

Scouting Report: His brief look at Double-A notwithstanding, Green's bat has rarely slowed down since he was a college freshman. He has a smooth stroke with outstanding wrist actions. His swing is geared to use the opposite field and he stays inside the ball extremely well, driving balls to right-center field. The A's have worked with him to pull balls with more authority, and he has at least average power that could improve as he learns to incorporate his legs more in his swing. His strikeout totals were a bit high last year, but he still received praise for his feel for hitting and ability to get the barrel through the zone. As he moves up, he'll need to take more pitches and chase fewer out of the strike zone. There are more questions about his defensive future. Tall and lanky, he has average speed but needs to improve his first-step quickness, though his intelligence as a defender and feel for getting in the right positions help compensate. He struggles at times making routine plays and led Cal League shortstops in errors by a fairly wide margin, committing 37 while no one else had more than 27. His range and arm strength are fringy for the position, and even with a quick release he has difficulty getting carry on his throws and making them from deep in the hole. The A's hope his arm can be solid-average with the right footwork. If he has to change positions, he probably has to go to second base because he wouldn't have the arm strength for third base either.

The Future: Green's bat would have the most value at shortstop, and the A's will certainly give him every chance to stay there. Regardless of where he plays, his bat is what will get him to the major leagues. After getting a taste of Double-A in September, he'll return there to open 2011 and should be on track to get to the majors sometime the following year.
2010 Club (Class) AVG OBP SLG AB R H 2B 3B HR RBI BB SO SB
Stockton (Hi A) .318 .363 .520 548 107 174 39 6 20 87 38 117 9
2.  Chris Carter, 1b/of   Born: Dec. 18, 1986B-T: R-RHt: 6-5Wt: 230
 Drafted: HS—Las Vegas, 2005 (15th round)Signed by: George Kachigian/Joe Butler (White Sox)
Chris CarterBackground: Carter was No. 1 on this list a year ago and the A's hoped he could make an impact by season's end. Unfortunately, his first impression was a 0-for-33 streak to begin his big league career. Before that, Carter had rallied from a slow start at Triple-A Sacramento to bat .319/.421/.637 in the second half.

Scouting Report: Carter's power always will be his carrying tool. His wrists are exceptionally strong and he has lightning-quick bat speed. He has a short, easy swing capable of hitting balls out of any park in any direction. His power comes with the tradeoff of strikeouts, and his inability to recognize breaking pitches was exploited regularly in 2010. He always has been willing to take his walks, but Oakland tinkered with his approach and emphasized selectivity, which led to him being too passive at times. Carter has below-average speed and range, which limits him to first base and left field. He has enough athleticism and arm strength to play passable defense in left, but first remains his most likely long-term option.

The Future: With Daric Barton at first base in Oakland, left field and DH are Carter's avenues to making a big league impact in 2011. The A's desperately need his power in their lineup.
2010 Club (Class) AVG OBP SLG AB R H 2B 3B HR RBI BB SO SB
Sacramento (AAA) .258 .365 .529 465 92 120 29 2 31 94 73 138 1
Oakland .186 .256 .329 70 8 13 1 0 3 7 7 21 1
3.  Michael Choice, of   Born: Nov. 10, 1989B-T: R-RHt: 6-0Wt: 215
 Drafted: Texas-Arlington, 2010 (1st round)Signed by: Armann Brown
Michael ChoiceBackground: After batting .413 as a sophomore, Choice hit .383 as a junior in 2010 to win the Southland Conference batting title. He also led NCAA Division I with 76 walks and set Texas-Arlington's career home run record with 34. He passed Hunter Pence as the highest-drafted player in school history when the A's took him 10th overall, and he signed for a slightly over-slot $2 million in late July.

Scouting Report: Choice generates plenty of leverage and bat speed, giving him raw power that rates a 70 on the 20-80 scouting scale. Oakland believes he can hit for a solid average as well, but his swing is unorthodox with a lot of moving parts. Scouts worry about his swing plane and believe he could be prone to high strikeout totals. Choice played center field in his pro debut and has enough speed to possibly stick there for the time being. He needs to clean up his routes on fly balls and probably will end up on a corner in the long run, with his arm strength fitting better in left field than right.

The Future: Choice's swing has worked thus far, so the A's aren't going to touch it yet. He could be in for a big offensive year as he heads to the hitter-friendly California League to start his first full season.
2010 Club (Class) AVG OBP SLG AB R H 2B 3B HR RBI BB SO SB
AZL Athletics (R) .000 .222 .000 7 1 0 0 0 0 0 2 2 0
Vancouver (SS) .284 .388 .627 102 20 29 10 2 7 26 15 43 6
4.  Tyson Ross, rhp   Born: April 22, 1987B-T: R-RHt: 6-5Wt: 215
 Drafted: California, 2008 (2nd round)Signed by: Jermaine Clark
Tyson RossBackground: One of the biggest surprises of last spring, Ross made Oakland's Opening Day roster despite having made just nine starts above high Class A.  He predictably had his struggles but wasn't overwhelmed in his trial by fire before being sent down in July. He was shut down in August with a sprained ligament in his elbow.

Scouting Report: Ross features two above-average pitches in his fastball and slider. The fastball usually sits in the low to  mid-90s and touched 98 mph late in the season in Triple-A. He uses the sink on his heater to get plenty of groundouts. However, major league hitters exposed his inconsistent fastball command. Ross' 83-84 mph slider is the best in the system. He also throws a cutter with promise and a changeup that improved last season even though he didn't use it much as a big league reliever. The short stride and upright finish to his delivery lead to durability concerns, and he missed time with mild shoulder and biceps woes in his first two pro seasons.

The Future: The A's expect Ross to be ready for spring training, but scouts continue to worry about his health. He can reach his ceiling as a No. 2 starter if he can improve his command. He'll compete for Oakland's fifth-starter job in spring training.
2010 Club (Class) W L ERA G GS CG SV IP H HR BB SO AVG
Oakland 1 4 5.49 26 2 0 1 39 39 4 20 32 .271
Sacramento (AAA) 2 1 3.55 6 6 0 0 25 22 1 13 30 .253
5.  Jemile Weeks, 2b   Born: Jan. 26, 1987B-T: B-RHt: 5-9Wt: 170
 Drafted: Miami, 2008 (1st round)Signed by: Trevor Schaffer
Jemile WeeksBackground: Weeks (the 12th pick in 2008) and his brother Rickie (second in 2003) are the eighth pair of siblings to be drafted in the first round. Jemile has been unable to stay healthy as a pro, with repeated hip and leg injuries preventing him from playing a full season. Hip soreness knocked him out for two months during the 2010 regular season and again during the Texas League playoffs.

Scouting Report: When healthy, Weeks shows promising tools. He has a quick, explosive swing and can do damage from both sides of the plate. His strength and outstanding bat speed give him the capability to hit for more power than his body type would suggest. He's a good situational hitter who hangs in against tough pitches and rarely gets fooled. Weeks has above-average athleticism and speed, though the injuries have diminished his ability to steal bases. He's not the smoothest second baseman, but he has worked hard to improve his throwing and double-play pivot.

The Future: Weeks draws some Ray Durham comparisons and has the potential to be a top-of-the-order catalyst. The A's expect him to be ready for spring training and advance to Triple-A in 2011. If he can avoid the disabled list, he could make his big league debut by the end of the year.
2010 Club (Class) AVG OBP SLG AB R H 2B 3B HR RBI BB SO SB
Midland (AA) .267 .335 .403 273 43 73 14 7 3 33 28 37 11
AZL Athletics (R) .306 .432 .417 36 9 11 2 1 0 1 7 4 5
6.  Max Stassi, c   Born: March 15, 1991B-T: R-RHt: 5-10Wt: 190
 Drafted: HS—Yuba City, Calif., 2009 (4th round)Signed by: Jermaine Clark
Max StassiBackground: Stassi set a fourth-round record (since broken by the Nationals' A.J. Cole) when he signed for $1.5 million in 2009. He has strong baseball bloodlines, as his great-great uncle Myril Hoag played for the Yankees in the 1930s, his father Jim played in the minors and was his high school coach and his older brother Brock is entering his senior season at Nevada.

Scouting Report: Stassi's swing is compact, and he has the bat speed and strength in his forearms and wrists to hit for at least average power. He shows the ability to work counts and use the middle the field, but also gets pull-happy and has trouble laying off high fastballs at times. Scouts worry about his open stance and how frequently he swings and misses. Nagging shoulder problems hampered his throwing in 2010, though Stassi did erase 34 percent of basestealers. He has soft hands and good agility behind the plate, and the A's praised how he took charge of the low Class A Kane County pitching staff as a teenager. He's a below-average runner.

The Future: Stassi has the tools to develop into a solid all-around catcher. After Oakland gave him instructional league off so he could recover from the long grind of the season, he'll report to high Class A in 2011 and should put up bigger numbers in the California League.
2010 Club (Class) AVG OBP SLG AB R H 2B 3B HR RBI BB SO SB
Kane County (Lo A) .229 .310 .380 411 54 94 21 1 13 51 45 141 3
7.  Aaron Shipman, of   Born: Jan. 27, 1992B-T: L-LHt: 6-1Wt: 185
 Drafted: HS-Quitman, Ga., 2010 (3rd round)Signed by: Matt Ranson
Aaron ShipmanBackground: Shipman didn't get as much exposure as other top Georgia high school prospects because he never played for the Atlanta-based East Cobb juggernaut. He would have been the biggest recruit in Mercer baseball history, but his stock soared as the 2010 draft approached. The A's drafted him in the third round and signed him at the Aug. 16 deadline for $500,000. His father Robert played briefly in the minors and coached him in high school, and his brother Robert is a sophomore outfielder at Georgia.

Scouting Report: Shipman has the potential for four plus tools, with power his lone shortcoming. He has a short, slashing swing that produces consistent hard contact. He still has to learn to stay back better on pitches, but he has shown a nice aptitude for making adjustments. He could develop some power as he matures physically, but it's not going to be a focus of his game. Shipman has plus-plus speed and the chance to be an impact defender in center field, where he has above-average range and arm strength.

The Future: Shipman projects as a dynamic leadoff man and ballhawking center fielder. He'll need some time to develop though, and he'll likely begin his first full professional season in extended spring training before heading to Oakland's new short-season Vermont affiliate.
2010 Club (Class) AVG OBP SLG AB R H 2B 3B HR RBI BB SO SB
AZL Athletics (R) .118 .118 .118 17 2 2 0 0 0 2 0 6 3
8.  Yordy Cabrera, ss   Born: Sept. 3, 1990B-T: R-RHt: 6-4Wt: 200
 Drafted: HS—Lakeland, Fla., 2010 (2nd round)Signed by: Trevor Schaffer
Yordy CabreraBackground: The son of Tigers minor league manager Basilio Cabrera, Yordy moved to United States from the Dominican Republic when he was 14. The oldest high school player drafted in the 2010 draft class at nearly 20, he signed at the deadline for $1.25 million as the 60th overall pick. Though he was a well regarded pitching prospect who could fire mid-90s fastballs, he and the A's view him as an everyday player.

Scouting Report: Cabrera has a physical frame and produces excellent raw power. He has some lift in his swing, so he'll have to adjust to get down to the ball and hit it more on a line if he's going to succeed against good pitching. He's an average runner. He'll get a chance to start his career at shortstop, and though he has good hands and is athletic for his size, he may be too big to stay there. Wherever he plays on the diamond, he'll have plenty of arm strength. Oakland loves his attitude and work ethic.

The Future: If Cabrera's bat comes along, he'll have no trouble profiling as a third baseman if he can't stick at shortstop. His bat could be put to the test right away, as he's the most likely of the A's premium 2010 high school picks to start his first full pro season at their new low Class A Burlington affiliate.
2010 Club (Class) AVG OBP SLG AB R H 2B 3B HR RBI BB SO SB
Did Not Play—Signed Late
9.  Ian Krol, lhp   Born: May 9, 1991B-T: L-LHt: 6-1Wt: 180
 Drafted: HS-Naperville, Ill., 2009 (7th round)Signed by: Kevin Mello
Ian KrolBackground: Krol slipped to the seventh round in 2009 after being suspended from his high school team for being found in the presence of alcohol, violating the school's athletic code of conduct for the second time. The A's signed him for $925,000 and he excelled in a return to his home turf in 2010. While at Kane County, he lived at his home 30 minutes away and led the Midwest League in ERA (2.65) and baserunners per nine innings (9.4).

Scouting Report: Krol's fastball sits at 88-89 mph and tops out at 91, but he locates it well and complements it with two potential plus pitches. He spins a quality 11-to-5 curveball that's a swing-and-miss pitch when it's on. He has learned to trust his changeup, which he didn't need much in high school. He throws it with good arm speed and it comes in at 78-81 mph with some sinking and tailing action. Krol repeats his delivery well and has an advanced feel for pitching, helping his stuff play up.

The Future: Despite his big 2010, Krol's ceiling doesn't look any higher than that of a No. 3 or 4 starter as he lacks projection in his frame. He could move quickly through the minors for a high school pick, however, and will return to high Class A after finishing last season there at age 19.
2010 Club (Class) W L ERA G GS CG SV IP H HR BB SO AVG
Kane County (Lo A) 9 4 2.65 24 23 0 0 119 98 5 19 91 .223
Stockton (Hi A) 1 0 3.66 4 4 0 0 20 18 3 9 20 .247
10.  Michael Taylor, of   Born: Dec. 19, 1985B-T: R-RHt: 6-6Wt: 260
 Signed: Stanford, 2007 (5th round)Signed by: Joey Davis (Phillies)
Michael TaylorBackground: Taylor hit .312/.383/.515 in three years in the Phillies system, but Domonic Brown's emergence made him expendable and Philadelphia included him in its trade for Roy Halladay in December 2009. The Blue Jays promptly flipped Taylor to the A's for Brett Wallace. Shoulder problems cut short his winter season in Mexico and may have contributed to a slow start in Triple-A, and he never really got going.

Scouting Report: A physical specimen, Taylor still hit balls out to all fields during batting practice but rarely carried that power over into games in 2010. Scouts wondered where his bat speed had gone, and he had issues with a dead start in his swing. Oakland worked to shorten his stroke and improve his angle to the ball. He did get praise for his ability to control the strike zone and handle breaking pitches, but his production was still disappointing. Taylor has average speed and takes good routes, so he can play center field in a pinch. His strong, accurate arm works well in right field.

The Future: Taylor's physical tools are still readily apparent, and the A's hope last season was simply an aberration. Their November trade for David DeJesus will make it harder for Taylor to break into the big league outfield in 2011, but he still has to prove himself in Triple-A anyway.
2010 Club (Class) AVG OBP SLG AB R H 2B 3B HR RBI BB SO SB
Sacramento (AAA) .272 .348 .392 464 79 126 26 6 6 78 51 92 16

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