Oakland Athletics: Top 10 Prospects With Scouting Reports

Oakland Athletics: Scouting Reports

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.

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Oakland Athletics

The Athletics returned to prominence in the 2000s, claiming four division titles and making the playoffs five times in seven seasons from 2000-06. But the decade ended on a down note as they posted their third consecutive losing season in 2009, going 75-87 for their worst record and first last-place finish in 11 years.

Only a few holdovers remain from Oakland's run in the early part of the decade, most notably oft-injured third baseman Eric Chavez. The A's are trying to rebuild around young pitching, and last year's team featured the majors' youngest rotation, with all six of its regular members age 25 or younger.

Foremost among that group were Brett Anderson and Trevor Cahill, the team's top two prospects entering last year. Both held their own as 21-year-olds making their big league debuts, and they were the only Oakland pitchers to post double-digit win totals. Anderson was especially impressive, going 6-4, 3.48 with 86 strikeouts in 88 innings after the all-star break.

Dallas Braden and rookies Gio Gonzalez, Vin Mazzaro and Josh Outman joined them in the rotation. Outman fared the best, going 4-1, 3.58 in 12 starts, but he went down with elbow problems in June and needed Tommy John surgery.

Another rookie, righthander Andrew Bailey, took over as closer in late May. He went on to win the American League rookie of the year award after converting 26 of 30 save opportunities and leading all major league relievers in opponent average (.167) and strikeouts per nine innings (9.8).

While Oakland's pitching kept the team competitive, ranking fourth in the AL with a 4.29 ERA, the same couldn't be said of the offense (ninth in scoring, last in home runs) and defense (second-most unearned runs allowed). General manager Billy Beane traded for Matt Holliday last offseason, but the slugger couldn't match his production with the Rockies. Beane flipped Holliday to the Cardinals in July for a package of three prospects headlined by corner infielder Brett Wallace, then dealt Wallace to the Blue Jays in the offseason for outfielder Michael Taylor (whom the Jays had just obtained from the Phillies in the Roy Halladay deal).

Taylor adds to a mix of nearly-ready hitters the A's hope will give their offense the punch it has lacked. Others on the verge of helping the big league club include first baseman/outfielder Chris Carter (the system's No. 1 prospect), infielder Adrian Cardenas and outfielder Sean Doolittle. With all the graduations to the majors, the pool of pitching prospects at the top of the system has thinned out.

Oakland has invested heavily in scouting and player development the last two year, spending a record $4.25 million in 2008 on Dominican righthander Michael Ynoa—who didn't pitch last season because of elbow problems—and $13 million on the last two drafts. The A's have aggressively signed several players for more than MLB's slot recommendations, including shortstop Grant Green (first round), catcher Max Stassi (fourth) and lefthander Ian Krol (seventh) for a combined $5.125 million last August.

The A's may have to continue a budget-minded approach in the big leagues, however, after abandoning plans to build a new ballpark in Fremont, Calif. The project met heavy resistance from local groups, and with the ballpark's opening continually delayed, the team decided to look elsewhere. San Jose appears to be the new leading candidate, but territorial issues involving the Giants may hamper that plan.

1.  Chris Carter, of/1b   Born: Dec. 18, 1986B-T: R-RHt: 6-4Wt: 225
 Drafted: HS—Las Vegas, 2005 (15th round)Signed by: George Kachigian/Joe Butler (White Sox)
Chris CarterBackground: Carter has found a home with the Athletics. The White Sox drafted him in 2005, then traded him to the Diamondbacks for Carlos Quentin in December 2007. He spent 11 days in the Arizona organization before getting shipped to the Athletics in the Dan Haren deal, part of a six-player package that also included Brett Anderson and Carlos Gonzalez. After Carter finished second in the minor leagues with 39 home runs in 2008 but batted just .259, he worked hard to shed his reputation as an all-or-nothing slugger. The results were spectacular, as Carter posted a .329 average last season, leading the minors in hits (179) and ranking second in RBIs (115). His power didn't go away either, as he posted his third straight 25-homer season and managers rated him as his league's best power prospect for the third consecutive year. Named MVP of the Double-A Texas League, he led the league in doubles (41), extra-base hits (67), on-base percentage (.435) and slugging (.576), and he might have won the triple crown if he'd stayed there all season. He capped his year with four homers in the Triple-A Pacific Coast League playoffs for Sacramento.

Strengths: Home runs always will be Carter's calling card. However, he dedicated himself to becoming a more complete hitter and stopped giving away at-bats. He lowered his hands slightly and eliminated a small bat wrap from his swing, giving himself a more compact stroke. With his pure strength and explosive wrists, he still produces light-tower power. Carter can hit balls out of any part of any ballpark, and he's strong enough to do so without having to sell out for power. He's willing to take walks when pitchers won't challenge him, and he did a better job of handling offspeed pitches in 2009. He also made strides defensively at first base, where he should be at least adequate and possibly average, a big step up from years past. He has a strong arm for the position.

Weaknesses: Though Carter reduced his strikeout rate in 2009, whiffs always will come with the territory with him. He's still learning to control the strike zone and not be overanxious. He needs to stay on breaking balls better, so the A's dispatched him to play in the Mexican Pacific League, well known for being chock full of junkballers. That venture was short-lived, as he returned home with what was believed to be appendicitis but turned out to be the flu. Carter still isn't the most agile first baseman and he has given up playing third base. He played some left field after his promotion to Sacramento, and that might be an option if he can get more experience, improve his instincts and stay in good shape. He has some athleticism for his size, but his first-step quickness and speed are below average.

The Future: Carter can add power to an Oakland offense that sorely needs it. He has a great opportunity to make the A's in spring training and should bat in the middle of their lineup for years to come. The final question is where he plays. First base, left field and DH are all possibilities, but his best position is the batter's box.
2009 Club (Class) AVG OBP SLG AB R H 2B 3B HR RBI BB SO SB
Midland (AA) .337 .435 .576 490 108 165 41 2 24 101 82 119 13
Sacramento (AAA) .259 .293 .519 54 7 14 2 0 4 14 3 14 0
2.  Michael Taylor, of   Born: Dec. 19, 1985B-T: R-RHt: 6-6Wt: 250
 Drafted: Stanford, 2007 (5th round)Signed by: Joey Davis (Phillies)
Michael TaylorBackground: Taylor emerged as one of the game's top outfield prospects during the last two years, batting .334 with 39 homers in the Phillies system. He was traded twice in the offseason, to the Blue Jays as part of a package for Roy Halladay and to the Athletics straight up for corner-infield prospect Brett Wallace.

Strengths: Despite his size, Taylor has few holes and has become an excellent hitter, squaring up balls consistently and smashing line drives to all fields. Pitchers try to tie him up inside, and while he can be vulnerable there, he has shown the ability to make adjustments. He has excellent raw power, average speed and good baserunning instincts. He's a solid defender with an average-to-plus arm who grades as above-average in left field.

Weaknesses: Taylor could stand to be more selective to get to his power more consistently. He needs to learn to loft the ball to become a true 30-homer threat. Conditioning probably will be a long-term issue for Taylor, who does a good job of staying on top of his juvenile diabetes.

The Future: Blocked in the Phillies system, Taylor has a clearer path to regular playing time with the Athletics. He'll get a chance to win Oakland's left-field job in spring training but figures to open the season in Triple-A.
2009 Club (Class) AVG OBP SLG AB R H 2B 3B HR RBI BB SO SB
Reading (AA) .333 .408 .569 318 59 106 22 4 15 65 35 51 18
Lehigh Valley (AAA) .282 .359 .491 110 15 31 6 1 5 19 13 19 33
3.  Grant Green, ss   Born: Sept. 27, 1987B-T: R-RHt: 6-3Wt: 170
 Drafted: Southern California, 2009 (1st round)Signed by: J.T. Stotts
Grant GreenBackground: A top prospect since high school, Green shot up draft boards with an outstanding showing in the Cape Cod League in the summer of 2008, hitting .340 on his way to being named the league's top prospect. He struggled early last spring but recovered to bat .374/.435/.569 for Southern California. Oakland landed him with the 13th overall pick and signed him at the Aug. 17 deadline for $2.75 million.

Strengths: Green has a short, compact stroke with a natural feel for hitting and an up-the-middle approach. Lean and athletic, he shows smooth actions and strong instincts at shortstop. He has good range and a solid arm, and his hands work well. He's also a plus runner. The A's laud his competitive makeup and how hard he plays the game.

Weaknesses: Green's bat isn't as explosive as his Cape showing seemed to indicate. He could project for average power once he develops physically, but he doesn't always maintain a good swing plane. His defense could use refinement, and scouts outside the organization weren't sold that he'd be more than an average defender at shortstop.

The Future: Green has the offensive upside and playmaking ability to be an all-star shortstop, perhaps a lesser version of Troy Tulowitzki. He'll begin his first full pro season at high Class A Stockton, where he made his brief debut, and easily could reach Double-A Midland by the end of the year.
2009 Club (Class) AVG OBP SLG AB R H 2B 3B HR RBI BB SO SB
Stockton (Hi A) .316 .350 .368 19 2 6 1 0 0 3 1 5 1
4.  Max Stassi, c   Born: March 15, 1991B-T: R-RHt: 5-10Wt: 205
 Drafted: HS—Yuba City, Calif., 2009 (4th round)Signed by: Jermaine Clark
Max StassiBackground: Stassi comes from a baseball family. He's the great-great nephew of former big league outfielder Myril Hoag, and his father Jim was his high school coach. A first-round talent who slipped last June because of his price tag, Stassi landed the largest bonus ever given to a fourth-rounder, $1.5 million.

Strengths: Stassi has good leverage in his swing and plus raw power to all fields. He's an advanced hitter for his age, with a balanced setup and quick hands. Against older competition at short-season Vancouver, he showed he could lay off breaking pitches out of the zone and wasn't afraid to go deep in counts. He's a secure receiver and shows a feel for calling pitches, and he has a strong, accurate arm. The A's consider him a future plus defender behind the plate.

Weaknesses: A shoulder injury limited Stassi to DH duty for part of the high school season. His arm should play when healthy, but it bears watching. As with most young hitters, his stroke can get long at times. Oakland wants him to use his legs a little better in his swing. His speed is already below average, though he's not a baseclogger.

The Future: Stassi is mature enough to open his first full pro season at low Class A Kane County. He's still a few years away from the majors, but he appears to be the closest thing to a sure bet a high school catcher can be.
2009 Club (Class) AVG OBP SLG AB R H 2B 3B HR RBI BB SO SB
AZL Athletics (R) .000 .500 .000 1 0 0 0 0 0 0 1 1 0
Vancouver (SS) .286 .340 .367 49 3 14 4 0 0 8 2 11 0
5.  Pedro Figueroa, lhp   Born: Nov. 23, 1985B-T: L-LHt: 6-1Wt: 165
 Signed: Dominican Republic, 2003Signed by: Juan Carlos de la Cruz
Pedro FigueroaBackground: Figueroa's development had proceeded so slowly that he needed five years in Rookie and short-season ball and went unpicked in the 2008 Rule 5 draft. He broke though in 2009, winning Oakland's minor league pitcher of the year award after going 13-6, 3.38 with 145 strikeouts in 152 innings between two Class A stops.

Strengths: From a low-three-quarters delivery, Figueroa whips lively fastballs that sit at 93-95 mph and touch 97. He can throw his fastball with natural sink or give it cutting action. His breaking ball was big and sloppy in the past, but he has tightened it into a mid-80s slider with depth. His changeup still is developing but shows some promise and he's not afraid to throw it.

Weaknesses: Command is Figueroa's biggest downfall, a result of sometimes rushing his delivery. That causes him to throw too many hittable pitches and hand out too many walks. He may be a late bloomer, but he's 24 and has yet to pitch above Class A.

The Future: Figueroa will have the stuff to be a frontline starter if he throws more strikes. If not, he could be a weapon out of the bullpen, with one A's official comparing him to Damaso Marte. Added to the 40-man roster this offseason, Figueroa should begin 2010 in Double-A.
2009 Club (Class) W L ERA G GS CG SV IP H HR BB SO AVG
Kane County (Lo A) 10 2 3.23 16 16 0 0 86 89 6 31 78 .267
Stockton (Hi A) 3 4 3.56 11 11 0 0 66 62 3 35 67 .251
6.  Tyson Ross, rhp   Born: April 22, 1987B-T: R-RHt: 6-5Wt: 215
 Drafted: California, 2008 (2nd round)Signed by: Jermaine Clark
Tyson RossBackground: Ross looked like a potential first-round pick entering 2008. An up-and-down junior season at California dropped him to the second round, but he got back on track in his first full season, pitching well down the stretch and starring in the Texas League playoffs as Midland won the championship.

Strengths: The A's lengthened Ross' previously short stride by about a foot last year, with spectacular results. His sinking fastball now sits at 93-94 mph and touches 97. He throws a cutter that usually comes in around 90 mph and a slider with tilt at 82-84, both of which are above-average pitches. He cuts an imposing figure on the mound and is a good athlete for his size.

Weaknesses: Ross' command needs tightening and his changeup lags behind his other offerings, though he shows a feel for it. He has an upright finish to his delivery and his motion is hard on his shoulder. He missed time in his 2008 pro debut with a shoulder strain as well as a couple of starts last April with biceps tendinitis.

The Future: Durability may always be a concern with Ross and eventually could dictate a move to the bullpen, but Oakland will continue developing him as a starter. He has middle-of-the-rotation stuff, and possibly more. He may open 2010 back in Double-A, but should reach Sacramento by the end of the year.
2009 Club (Class) W L ERA G GS CG SV IP H HR BB SO AVG
Stockton (Hi A) 5 6 4.17 18 18 0 0 86 78 10 33 82 .237
Midland (AA) 5 4 3.96 9 9 1 0 50 40 3 20 31 .225
7.  Jemile Weeks, 2b   Born: Jan. 26, 1987B-T: B-RHt: 5-10Wt: 175
 Drafted: Miami, 2008 (1st round)Signed by: Trevor Schaffer
Jemile WeeksBackground: Weeks and his brother Rickie, the No. 2 choice in the 2003 draft, are the eighth pair of siblings to become first-round picks. Jemile signed for $1.91 million as the 12th overall selection in 2008. A hip-flexor injury cut short his pro debut and lingered into the spring, delaying his arrival at Stockton until late May. He struggled after an August promotion to Double-A but recovered to hit .290 with two homers in the Texas League playoffs.

Strengths: Weeks has good pitch recognition and a line-drive swing that produces surprising power for a player his size. He has the speed to steal bases, though leg injuries cut into his ability to run last year. He's athletic enough for the middle of the diamond and has a strong arm.

Weaknesses: Injuries have been Weeks' biggest obstacle going back to his college career, when hamstring and groin woes derailed his sophomore season. His hands aren't always smooth at second base and he sometimes rushes himself turning double plays. He can fall in love with his power and try to hit home runs, lengthening his swing.

The Future: Staying healthy will be Weeks' top priority in 2010. The A's are grooming him to be their leadoff hitter of the future, so it will be important for him to maintain a disciplined approach. He'll return to Midland to open the season.
2009 Club (Class) AVG OBP SLG AB R H 2B 3B HR RBI BB SO SB
Stockton (Hi A) .299 .385 .468 201 29 60 9 2 7 31 26 40 5
Midland (AA) .238 .303 .343 105 10 25 5 0 2 13 10 16 4
8.  Grant Desme, of   Born: April 4, 1986B-T: R-RHt: 6-2Wt: 205
 Drafted: Cal Poly, 2007 (2nd round)Signed by: Rick Magnante
Grant DesmeBackground: Desme broke a bone in his wrist late in the 2007 college season, then separated his shoulder in minor league camp in 2008 and wasn't fully healthy again until last spring. He showed off his all-around talents at two Class A stops, becoming the only 30-30 player in the minors last year.

Strengths: Desme has average to plus tools across the board. He has a quick bat and good leverage, providing power to all fields. A good athlete with average speed, his instincts allowed him to steal 40 bases and play mostly center field in 2009. He also has the arm strength for right field and earns praise for his leadership.

Weaknesses: Desme has trouble with pitch recognition and breaking balls, leading to 148 strikeouts last season and questions as to how much he'll hit for average. He'll lapse into trying to do too much at the plate and overswing. He needs to improve his routes on balls in the outfield, and he'll probably wind up on a corner in the long run.

The Future: If Desme can make more consistent contact, he could bat in the heart of Oakland's lineup in a couple of years. For now, he'll advance to Double-A and try to keep his momentum going from 2009.
2009 Club (Class) AVG OBP SLG AB R H 2B 3B HR RBI BB SO SB
Kane County (Lo A) .274 .334 .490 259 49 71 19 2 11 38 21 81 24
Stockton (Hi A) .304 .398 .656 227 49 69 12 4 20 51 33 67 16
9.  Adrian Cardenas, inf   Born: Oct. 10, 1987B-T: L-RHt: 6-0Wt: 185
 Drafted: HS—Miami, 2006 (1st round supplemental)Signed by: Miguel Machado (Phillies)
Adrian CardenasBackground: Baseball America's High School Player of the Year in 2006, Cardenas went 37th overall in that draft to the Phillies and signed for $925,000. The A's acquired him along with Josh Outman and outfield prospect Matt Spencer in exchange for Joe Blanton in July 2008. Cardenas reached Triple-A last season at age 21 while playing second base, third base and shortstop.

Strengths: A natural hitter with a compact swing, Cardenas has a keen sense for putting the barrel on the ball. He has gap power and controls the strike zone well for a player his age. He has an all-fields approach and always looks like he has a plan at the plate. He has the hands and arm to play anywhere in the infield, as well as average speed.

Weaknesses: A high school shortstop, Cardenas lacks range and quickness there. He can handle the defensive responsibilities at third base, but doesn't have the home run power for the position. His bat profiles best at second base.

The Future: Cardenas' long-term future with the organization may hinge on his ability to fit at third base. Most of Cardenas' value stems from his bat, so the A's will find a place for him as long as he keeps hitting. He'll likely return to Sacramento to open 2010.
2009 Club (Class) AVG OBP SLG AB R H 2B 3B HR RBI BB SO SB
Midland (AA) .326 .392 .446 325 56 106 26 2 3 55 38 44 5
Sacramento (AAA) .251 .317 .372 183 23 46 15 2 1 24 17 29 3
10.  Sean Doolittle, of   Born: Sept. 26, 1986B-T: L-LHt: 6-3Wt: 190
 Signed: Virginia, 2007 (1st round supplemental)Signed by: Neil Avent
Sean DoolitleBackground: A two-way standout as a first baseman and lefthander at Virginia, Doolittle signed for $742,500 as a sandwich pick in 2007. After a strong first full pro season, he hit .329/.441/.724 with 11 RBIs in big league camp last spring. But tendinitis in both knees ruined his season, which ended in early May. His left knee eventually required surgery.

Strengths: Doolittle has bulked up and become more power-oriented since turning pro. He has a disciplined, all-fields approach and hangs in well against lefthanders. His swing is short to the ball and sound mechanically. A first baseman until last year, he moved to right field to take advantage of his above-average arm strength. The A's think he's athletic enough to handle the position, and he could always move back to first, where he was an above-average defender.

Weaknesses: Though Doolittle has gotten stronger as a pro, scouts still don't project him to have more than fringe to average power. He's a below-average runner who isn't a threat on the bases. If he loses a step after knee surgery, he won't be able to stay in right field.

The Future: Following his knee surgery, Doolittle may not be ready for the start of spring training. Nevertheless, he looks like a safe bet to be a solid big league hitter, and he could develop more power. He'll return to Triple-A once he's healthy.
2009 Club (Class) AVG OBP SLG AB R H 2B 3B HR RBI BB SO SB
Sacramento (AAA) .267 .364 .448 105 17 28 5 1 4 14 15 23 0

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