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Top Ten Prospects: Oakland A's
Complete Index of Top 10s
By Kevin Goldstein
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, 2005.
Pitching could prove to be the biggest problem for the A’s, whose recent success has revolved around the big three of Tim Hudson, Mark Mulder and Barry Zito. Hudson can be a free agent following the 2005 season, while Mulder and Zito can leave after their 2006 club options. Oakland also might trade one of more of its aces this offseason. While Harden has proven capable of filling a rotation slot, Joe Blanton is the only other minor league starter close to being ready. Brad Sullivan, the A’s top pick in 2003, suffered though a disappointing 2004 season in high Class A. John Rheinicker, who ranked as high as No. 2 on this list two years ago, has regressed and symbolizes Oakland’s thin crop of lefthanders.
The bullpen picture is prettier, as reinforcements are on the way to shore up one of the club’s biggest weaknesses in 2004. Huston Street and Jairo Garcia are both closer-worthy and ready to contribute in 2005. They should provide the A’s with a quality 1-2 punch for some time.
Though they’ve scored less than the average AL club in each of the last two years, Oakland has fewer questions on offense. Swisher is a lock for a corner-outfield job and should match or exceed the production of costly Jermaine Dye, who became a free agent. First baseman Dan Johnson has hit at every level, and he could take the place of Scott Hatteberg or Erubiel Durazo. The A’s addressed an organizational weakness by drafting two of the top college catchers available in 2004, Landon Powell and Kurt Suzuki.
The A’s drafting philosophy has remained consistent for nearly two decades, as they focus almost exclusively on college players. In many ways, the 2004 draft was a sequel to the “Moneyball” class of 2002, as Oakland owned six of the first 67 picks. While the A’s did select six collegians, they didn’t make any signability choices and their overall effort received high grades.
Oakland takes college players not only for their ability to reach the majors quickly, but also for their more immediate trade value. There are mixed reports on two of their “Moneyball” picks, third baseman Mark Teahen (supplemental first round) and lefthander Bill Murphy (third), but the A’s already have used Murphy to acquire Mark Redman and Teahen to get Octavio Dotel in the three-team Carlos Beltran deal.
While Oakland still isn’t drafting many high schoolers, the club has renewed its efforts in Latin America. Garcia, a Dominican, made a meteoric rise in 2004. Two of the system’s highest-ceiling position players are Venezuelan outfielder Javier Herrera and Dominican outfielder Alexi Ogando.
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