Oakland Athletics: Top 10 Prospects Chat With Chris Kline

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, 2008.

 Q:  Warren from Texas asks:
How is Landon Powell's rehab coming? How much hope is there now for him as a prospect? Thanks for the chat!

Chris Kline: Hey everyone, and thanks for stopping by. This might be a slightly abbreviated chat. I'm leaving for the Caribbean Series in the Dominican Republic early tomorrow morning, and this is just one of those days where it doesn't seem to have enough hours in it. OK, let's get after it.

Chris Kline: Powell is progressing along and is expected to be ready for spring training. The club also has him on a strict diet and so far, all reports are he'll come into the 2008 season in the same shape as he was to begin 2007. And that was the best shape of his career by far. I still worry about the knees holding up long term, though Oakland doesn't seem to. Powell had one of the best seasons for minor league catchers before he got hurt last year and if his health holds up, he could still be an impact guy. But for me, that's a pretty big question.

 Q:  Craig from Calgary, Alberta asks:
No Ryan Sweeney in the top 10. Has his prospect status dropped that far because of the lack of power?

Chris Kline: Lack of power and lack of focus in terms of consistency at the plate. It was hard to watch Sweeney in the Arizona Fall League at times last year, where he rarely squared up balls. He ranked No. 6 in a bad system before he was dealt, and with the A's he's more in the 11-15 range.

 Q:  Warren from Texas asks:
Who are the sleepers or players that you feel have the best chance to shoot up the Top 30 this year? Thanks for the chat!

Chris Kline: You are most certainly welcome, Warren. There are several, but the biggest one for me is infielder Alex Valdez. He's a switch-hitter with power potential, and can play 2B or 3B with good hands, actions and arm strength.

 Q:  Mat Germain from Halifax, Nova Scotia asks:
What are the chances Ryan Sweeney starts in the OF if he has a strong spring?

Chris Kline: Definitely in the mix, and he really needs to show that he can grab that opportunity this time around.

 Q:  Brett from IL asks:
What do you see in Matt Sulentic? Last year he had such a rough year and never looked comfortable in kane County. Can you see him rebounding in his second chance in the MWL?

Chris Kline: I think so and it's certainly too early to give up on him, but that's a very bad year. He needs to just tone down his approach and not try to hit everything in the air. And also show that he can stay to the middle of the diamond, proving that he can shorten his swing when he has to.

 Q:  Brett from IL asks:
Is Craig Italiano going to be healthy to start the year? Is this finally going to be the year he breaks out and reestablishes himself back as a top prospect in the Oakland organization?

Chris Kline: Italiano was back healthy and pitching during instructional league, though there are some concerns about the mental side of coming back from being hit by that line drive. He's a max-effort RHP with a short arm action, and he's obviously lost a lot of time. He'll pitch most of the year at 21 and should stay at Kane County all season.

 Q:  AUTOGRAFFIX.com from Stoughton, WI asks:
What role will Jairo Garcia...I mean Santiago Casilla have with the A's in 2008? Does he have the 2nd best slider in the system?

Chris Kline: Middle relief, possibly set-up. I would say the slider is second-best behind Sam Demel's, yes.

 Q:  John from Sacramento asks:
Where does Vin Mazzaro stand with organization heading into 08.

Chris Kline: Well, the stuff is all power and he's needs something softer to give him another option. If his changeup comes along, Mazzaro could move quickly.

 Q:  Jean-Paul from Springfield asks:
With this new infusion of talent, where would you rank Oakland's system overall now?

Chris Kline: I would say Top 10.

 Q:  Ben from Leland Grove asks:
How close was it between the Gonzalez's for the top spot? Who is a safer bet to reach their ceiling?

Chris Kline: Close, and I've always been a big fan of both guys. You hear makeup issues with both of them. For Carlos, it's his lackadaisical attitude. For Gio, it's his lack of maturity. But I think it's a minor thing in both cases. If Gio can consistently command the changeup, then I say he's the safer bet.

 Q:  AUTOGRAFFIX.com from Stoughton, WI asks:
Myron Leslie...Prospect or Suspect?

Chris Kline: I'll go suspect, but that's really up to Myron. It's there, the tools are there, he just has to perform.

 Q:  Jonathan from GA asks:
Chris, can you speak on Corey Brown? Chances he cuts down on Ks and is an impact OF?

Chris Kline: He could cut down on them some, but it seems like the K's are something the A's will have to live with to some degree. I see him as an impact OF in the big leagues that brings you power and speed.

 Q:  Tanner from Springfield asks:
What are your thoughts on Brad Ziegler and Jeff Gray for the 2008 season? Do they have a legitimate chance for some time on the Oakland staff?

Chris Kline: They do, and they were both awfully close to making the top 30. Gray has big time velocity and Ziegler is a strike-thrower who gives you a different look. I think both will see time in Oakland at some point in 2008.

 Q:  Jeff from Santa Ana asks:
Whats up with my boy Cliff Pennington? And how about 07 draftee Sean Doolittle? Whats the teams thoughts on him?

Chris Kline: Like Sulentic, Pennington pulls off balls too much and hits too many fly balls. He needs to fall out of love with his power and use the opposite-field more. He also needs to hone his approach from the right side. He hit .174 righthanded in 2007.

 Q:  Matt from Wheaton asks:
How does De Los Santos ranks ahead of Gonzalez in the White Sox system and not in Oakland's system?

Chris Kline: Gonzalez was No. 1 in Chicago's system while De Los Santos was No. 2. Here, it's Gio No. 2, De Los Santos No. 4.

 Q:  Ross from Cleveland asks:
Where did Mike Madsen rank? Couldn't he have contributed to the major league squad last year with how his stuff came around. He was extremely impressive w/ strikeouts at Double A right?

Chris Kline: A short righthander, Madsen's stuff went from above average in the Texas League to ordinary against more advanced hitters in Triple-A. Profiles as more of a middle reliever.

 Q:  Rod from Seattle asks:
Has anybody ever had so many of its top 10 in their projected lineup? And, what does that mean?

Chris Kline: Interesting question and it varies. But before this deal, the system was top heavy and frankly, not very good. I think if you went back and looked at it over the years, the Top 10s in below-average systems generally would be well represented in Best Tools. It just means they're not very deep.

 Q:  Chad from Dallas asks:
Can you comment on Jermaine Mitchell's expectations for this season? Do you see him as a starter or a fourth outfielder in the future?

Chris Kline: To quote one A's front-office executive, "Jermaine needs to get going." And that's more than true. He's older and will need to at least get to Double-A this year to really show his value. This year is huge for Mitchell, and there were conflicting reports that he'd let his body go during last season, though managers in Hawaii Winter Baseball called him the fastest guy out there and that he was in great shape. Either way, Jermaine needs to get going.

 Q:  Matthew from Bay Area asks:
Between The PCL regular and post seasons as well as Oakland, Barton hit 17 HR's last year. Of course he was still very young for both leagues. Why does BA talk about his power like he's David Eckstein?

Chris Kline: Not Eckstein, but that there are questions about the amount of power in there. We said the same thing about James Loney, who looks like he's turning out to have decent power. Like everyone always says, it's the last tool to develop. Maybe Barton is Loney, but Loney has a much better body and gives you plus defense at first base. Regardless, you're right in that yes, maybe there's more power in the bat than anyone expected.

 Q:  Gerard from Fresno, CA asks:
Everyone talks about Bailey, Gio, Simmons, Cahill, etc for our future rotation. But where's the Love for recent draft pick Travis Banwart??? This guy might be more accomplished than the others. How does he profile? As a 4th or 5th starter type only?

Chris Kline: Bawart's in the 30. Plus changeup, average fastball, average slider, average curveball . . . but 60 command. His ceiling is a No. 4 or No. 5, yes. Not much velocity, not much life (which is more important for me than velocity anyway), but hits his spot extremely well.

 Q:  Chad from Dallas asks:
It looks like the A's infield prospects are quite sparse. Are there any prospects in the Top 30 that could eventually take over for Mark Ellis or Crosby?

Chris Kline: I heart Josh Horton, and I didn't even go to UNC. The guy's a winner and I think he could have a huge season. I don't think it's going to be long before he pushes his way past the other middle infielders in the system. He might have to move to 2B, but the A's will keep him at short for now.

 Q:  ScottAZ from Phx, AZ asks:
Where does Richie Robnett stand on the list. Would he have been a top ten guy before the trades? What does his future hold?

Chris Kline: He was not. Robnett came in at a similar number as he did in last year's top 30 . . . in the teens. Best fit is RF with big raw juice, but he's really going to need to cut down on his strikeouts to allow that to play in the big leagues.

 Q:  Benny from Ohio asks:
Does Gregorio Petit have a chance to make the big league club?

Chris Kline: Yes, as a utility infielder.

 Q:  Josh from Stockton asks:
Where do you see Sam Demel starting this year and how long untill we see him in Oakland? Also, how do his stuff rate out in the A's farm system? Thanks for taking my question.

Chris Kline: Demel is certainly one of the most advanced arms the A's got in the draft last year, but he'll likely start 2008 in high Class A. Power arsenal with life and an above-average changeup that gives him an effective weapon against lefthanders.

 Q:  Eric from So Cal asks:
I was wondering how legitimate are the claims that de los Santos could be a frontline starter and would you say that the odds are in his favor of him reaching this potential or does he still need to prove a lot to justify these predictions?

Chris Kline: A lot to prove, but if you saw him in the Futures Game last year, you saw the life he has on his fastball and breaking ball. He's still somewhat raw, but you can't teach that kind of life. He just needs to command it a little better and learn to keep his emotions from getting to him on the mound.

 Q:  stan from round rock,tx asks:
What is Brett Anderson's ETA and where do you see him at the end of the 2008 season?

Chris Kline: Two years away, perhaps less. Big challenge for Anderson this year in the hitter-friendly Texas League. But this guy will eat a ton of innings for you.

 Q:  Sal from Twin Cities asks:
Would Corey Brown have been ranked in the top 5 had the A's not gotten all these prospects in trades? Seems like he has the potential to be a 4-5 tool type-player...even in the Bigs!

Chris Kline: I had Brown at No. 6. I agree with you on the tools and think he's got a chance to be special.

 Q:  Ryan Hagan from Charleston, Illinois asks:
I assume that Andrew Bailey was on the top 10 list at one point before the swisher and haren trades. How close was he to making the top 10 list? P.S. I love how 4 of the top 10 prospects on this list were in the white sox farm system last year.

Chris Kline: You assumed correctly, Ryan Hagan. Bailey was at No. 5, but I'm done giving away the pre-trade info on rankings. If you really want to see how the organization looked before the deals, grab yourself a Prospect Handbook.

 Q:  Drew W from Vienna VA asks:
Who has a higher ceiling: Jermaine Mitchell or Sean Doolittle?

Chris Kline: I go Doolittle.

 Q:  Drew W from Vienna VA asks:
What kind of stuff does rule 5 pick Fernando Hernandez have? Does he stick with the team all season?

Chris Kline: Think Matt Guerrier. Command and control rather than raw stuff, though several scouts graded his breaking ball as above-average to plus in the Arizona Fall League. I think he has a very good chance at sticking.

 Q:  James from VA asks:
What kind of a player do you think Cunningham will be? Does he have the stuff to become a solid player of is his power too lacking for RF?

Chris Kline: The power is lacking, but he could be more than a fourth OF in my opinion. I think he's an everyday player that brings you solid defense, a gap-to-gap approach with good speed and a total gamer mentality. He had a killer beard in the AFL, by the way.

 Q:  Ken Rule from Lakewood CA asks:
Hey Chris. Thanks for the chat. If you could only have one of these pitchers for your own minor league team, who would you chose and why?

Chris Kline: Well, we're not in this to stock the minors. So if I could pick one guy in the top 10 I'd want on a big league staff? Yowzers . . . I'd probably take De Los Santos because the life through the zone reminds me of guys like Rafael Perez or Fausto Carmona.

 Q:  Zachary from Sacramento, CA asks:
Chris - I take issue with the idea that the A's farm system is suddenly one of the best or deepest in baseball following the recent trades. The A's have failed to develop the talent they have in their own system. Shouldn't we err on the side of caution and think the A's will be unable to develop the talent they acquired from other organizations?

Chris Kline: To get back to that last question real quick, and I can't believe there haven't been any James Simmons questions, I take De Los Santos, but I really like Simmons. Command, command, command. And that's not taking anything away from any of the other arms on the list. I just wanted to mention Simmons because no one else has.

Chris Kline: Taking issue, hmmmm? Well, they haven't really drafted particularly well in recent years, but got back to what they've done best in the past in 2007: drafting college players who will move quickly. I don't think it's the development system as much what they've been given to work with.

 Q:  Mack from Allentown asks:
Where does Anthony Recker rate in the prospect status behind the dish in the A's system where they have catchers like Brown, Powell, and now Suzuki is with the big club?

Chris Kline: Alvernia represent! Recker's up there and in the 30 again. Chiseled physique, big power, but needs to refine his catch-and-throw skills after an abysmal showing behind the plate in 2007.

 Q:  Jeff from NYC asks:
In 2011, when Blanton will obviously be long gone, will Henry Rodriguez be a starter or reliever?

Chris Kline: Profiles as more of a reliever, but he did make strides with his changeup. If he can have that third pitch, he has a chance to stick in the rotation.

 Q:  Jeff from Colorado asks:
What's happened to Cliff Pennington? Can he at least be a utility player at the big league level or do the A's expect his collegiate production to return?

Chris Kline: Touched on Pennington before and he'll get every opportunity to right the ship. Smells more like utility at this point though.

 Q:  Walter from SLO asks:
hey CK! Do the A's plan on keeping Carlos Gonzalez in CF until he shows otherwise? Also, the scouting report mentions his continued high error totals. Any insight into whether they are generally fundamental errors, or say, tough balls that other guys may not have even gotten to? thanks!

Chris Kline: Yes. Bad jumps at times, poor reads at others. Scouts who saw him in the Southern League last year questioned his focus from pitch to pitch while he was in the OF, which probably holds some truth. But he is a guy who will put his body out there on the line, yes.

 Q:  Bobby from CA asks:
Do major scoutheads notice when a guy like Aaron Cunningham put in far superior numbers to guys like Dexter Fowler and Jordan Schafer?

Chris Kline: Scoutheads? Who are these scoutheads you speak of? Fowler was hurt for most of the year and Schafer led the minors in hits. Both of those guys project to hit for much more power too.

 Q:  KB from Madison,WI asks:
Chris...is Carlos Gonzalez the first player to be rated by BA as the number one prospect on two different minor league teams and different leagues in the same year?

Chris Kline: Nope. I believe the last player to do that was Andy Marte a couple years ago when he went from Atlanta to Boston to eventually Cleveland.

 Q:  KB from Madison,Wi asks:
Chris, its ok if you dekline from answering this question, but which prospect are you inclined to say has the higher ceiling? Carlos Gomez or Carlos Gonzalez?

Chris Kline: Two totally different types of players, kind of. Gomez has much more speed, less power. Gonzalez is the opposite of that. I think they both have tremendous potential, but in terms of reaching that ceiling, I'll take Gomez.

 Q:  Mad in Oaktown' from Office at work asks:
Andrew Bailey not in the Top 10??? Are you out of your mind? Cunningham over Bailey??? A 4th outfielder type over a potential 3rd or 4th starter???? Sorry, I don't get it.

Chris Kline: Bailey is not in the top 10, no. Am I out of my mind? Not at the moment. Cunningham still has a chance to be an everyday CF and is two years younger. Bailey still needs to prove he has a workable changeup to remain in the rotation, otherwise, he's a bullpen guy. So, I'll take the younger guy who's put up numbers and has speed with a chance to stick as an everyday player over the guy who profiles as a reliever.

Chris Kline: Thanks very much for all your questions, and I apologize I didn't get to them all. Need to make sure the passport is in order and pack my bags before heading out to the loudest 30,000 people at any game you'll ever see. Thanks for coming out, A's fans. Here's to rebuilding successfully! (Cue the sound of clinking glasses). CK