Oakland Athletics: Top 10 Prospects

Oakland Athletics

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, 2007.

1.Travis Buck, of
2.Daric Barton, 1b
3.Kurt Suzuki, c
4.Matt Sulentic, of
5.Jermaine Mitchell, of
6.Javier Herrera, of
7.Jason Windsor, rhp
8.Marcus McBeth, rhp
9.Justin Sellers, ss
10.Trevor Cahill, rhp
Best Hitter for AverageDaric Barton
Best Power HitterRichie Robnett
Best Strike-Zone DisciplineDaric Barton
Fastest BaserunnerJermaine Mitchell
Best AthleteJavier Herrera
Best FastballCraig Italiano
Best CurveballBen Jukich
Best SliderSantiago Casilla
Best ChangeupMarcus McBeth
Best ControlScott Deal
Best Defensive CatcherKurt Suzuki
Best Defensive InfielderJustin Sellers
Best Infield ArmCliff Pennington
Best Defensive OutfielderJavier Herrera
Best Outfield ArmJavier Herrera
CatcherKurt Suzuki
First BaseNick Swisher
Second BaseMark Ellis
Third BaseEric Chavez
ShortstopBobby Crosby
Left FieldMatt Sulentic
Center FieldMilton Bradley
Right FieldTravis Buck
Designated HitterDaric Barton
No. 1 StarterRich Harden
No. 2 StarterDan Haren
No. 3 StarterJoe Blanton
No. 4 StarterKirk Saarloos
No. 5 StarterJason Windsor
CloserHuston Street
YearPlayer, Position2006
1997Miguel Tejada, ssOrioles
1998Ben Grieve, ofOut of baseball
1999Eric Chavez, 3bAthletics
2000Mark Mulder, lhpCardinals
2001Jose Ortiz, 2bLancaster (Atlantic)
2002Carlos Pena, 1bRed Sox
2003Rich Harden, rhpAthletics
2004Bobby Crosby, ssAthletics
2005Nick Swisher, ofAthletics
2006Daric Barton, 1bAthletics
YearPlayer, Position2006
1997Chris Enochs, rhpOut of baseball
1998Mark Mulder, lhpCardinals
1999Barry Zito, lhpAthletics
2000Freddie Bynum, ss (2nd round)Cubs
2001Bobby Crosby, ssAthletics
2002Nick Swisher, ofAthletics
2003Brad Sullivan, rhpAthletics
2004Landon Powell, cAthletics
2005Cliff Pennington, ssAthletics
2006Trevor Cahill, rhp (2nd round)Athletics
Mark Mulder, 1998$3,200,000
Nick Swisher, 2002$1,780,000
Barry Zito, 1999$1,625,000
Cliff Pennington, 2005$1,475,000
Joe Blanton, 2002$1,400,000
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Oakland Athletics

The Athletics haven't moved to their new home in Fremont, Calif., a bedroom community roughly 20 miles south of their current base in Oakland. The ink hasn't even dried on the blueprint for the club's plan to build a small, technology-driven ballpark, Cisco Field, by 2010 or 2011.

And yet the A's make significant changes every year, winning with different players and different styles. The biggest shift in the last year has been parting ways with manager Ken Macha--twice, in fact, rehiring him after letting his contract expire in 2005 but firing him after 2006.

In four seasons, Macha piloted a pair of American League West winners, never won fewer than 88 games and took the A's past the first round of the playoffs for the first time since 1990. But even as Oakland was sweeping the Twins in an AL Division Series--a prelude to getting swept by the Tigers in the AL Championship Series--it plainly wasn't Macha's team.

It also won't belong to Bob Geren, his replacement as manager. More than any general manager, Billy Beane has put his stamp on his franchise. Beane became GM after the 1997 season, and 1998 remains Oakland's only losing year with him in charge. While the winning has been constant, how the A's have won has changed substantially. The 2006 model was a defensive wonder, featuring six-time Gold Glove Award winner Eric Chavez, impenetrable second baseman Mark Ellis and three outfielders capable of playing center field. Oakland also hit just 175 home runs and had a modest .340 on-base percentage.

By contrast, the first of Beane's teams to reach the postseason mashed 239 homers and had a .360 OBP. That 2000 club drew 100 more walks, had nearly 200 more strikeouts and played a very different style of baseball than the 2006 edition. Beane's A's have little to do with doing things by the book--"Moneyball" or any other--and everything to do with finding players who can help them win at a price they can afford.

Oakland can't pull that off over the long haul without a productive farm system, and that's why the next few years will be crucial. The big league lineup had four homegrown regulars--Chavez, Bobby Crosby, Dan Johnson and Nick Swisher--and more appear to be on the way. The A's ability to draft and trade for position players remains impressive. Their top three prospects--outfielder Travis Buck, first baseman Daric Barton and catcher Kurt Suzuki--all have had success in Double-A, and all three could be big league starters by 2008. For that to happen, Barton (shoulder) and Buck (sports hernia) have to bounce back from ailments that derailed them in 2006, but neither injury is considered a long-term problem.

The A's success has led to lower picks in the first round of the draft. They once drafted Mark Mulder and Barry Zito with top 10 choices in 1998 and 1999, but they haven't selected that high since. As a result, it has been harder to find quality arms. While Beane has remade the big league rotation, the farm system has little premium pitching to offer. To that end, the A's have gone for undervalued high school arms in the last two drafts, and have hopes for the likes of Jared Lansford, Craig Italiano, Vin Mazarro and their top pick in 2006, second-rounder Trevor Cahill.