2012 Oakland Athletics Top 10 Prospects Chat With Jim Shonerd

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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.

Jim Shonerd: Good afternoon, everyone. It's been a very busy offseason for the A's system, so there's plenty to talk about. Let's get to it.

    @Jaypers413 (IL): Jim, how far off the top 10 was OF Bobby Crocker, and does he evoke any comparisons to Jake Marisnick in your opinion?

Jim Shonerd: Crocker, the A's fourth-round pick last year from Cal Poly, was in the Top 10 before all the trade acquisitions pushed him out. I can see the Marisnick comparison from an upside standpoint, though Crocker needs to tap into his power more. He's great at going the other way, but his swing plane is flatter and he doesn't turn on balls as much as the A's would like.

    Ryan (Los Angeles, CA): I liked what I've read about catching prospect Nick Rickles. Do you believe he has what it takes behind the plate? How about in front of it?

Jim Shonerd: Rickles, who was the A's 14th-rounder from Stetson last year, didn't quite make the Prospect Handbook, but I do like him some. Good makeup guy. Has a chance to hit, just needs to improve his pitch selection. He's got some size, so the A's think there's some power there. His catching was a little crude but got better as last year progressed, though a knee injury didn't allow him to catch during instructs.

    Chen (Taiwan): How far away was SS Chih-Fang Pan from the top 10? Thanks!

Jim Shonerd: Pan ranked in the mid-20s in the Handbook, though that was before the Gonzalez trade. He converted to second base this year but fits well there, and he has the offensive skill set to be a top-of-the-order hitter.

    Ben (Leland Grove): What improvements does Aaron Shipman need to make, and do you believe he's ready for full season ball?

Jim Shonerd: Shipman's in line to play in low Class A this year. He can have four average or better tools, lacking only power, and he's already one of the most patient hitters in the system — sometimes to a fault. The A's want him to be a little more aggressive at the plate, but he's already pretty advanced in terms of his feel for the game.

    Phil (North York): Hi - thanks for the chat! I was kind of surprised to see OF Jermaine Mitchell make the top ten! Isnt he a bit old to consider a top prospect at this point?

Jim Shonerd: It definitely felt strange to be putting a 27-year-old that high, but there's no eligibility limits with regards to age, only at-bats and innings. Mitchell has always had tools, and he's figured things out the last two years. His knee injury was unfortunate, since he certainly would've been in competition for a big league job. Of course, having a 27-year-old that high is also a function of the struggles the A's system has been through in recent years.

    Ray (sacramento, ca): What does Oakland think of Josh Donaldson? Now that Powell is off the roster does he fit as Suzuki's backup or is he an everyday player? Also, Is he a top 15 prospect?

Jim Shonerd: He'll be in competition for the backup job in Oakland. The A's gave Donaldson some time at third base — his original position in college — last year, and they think that's an option for him, but he's still a catcher right now. He'll get a chance, as he's got some power and moves well behind the plate.

    @ProspectD2J (Toronto): Hi Jim, I saw A's catcher Ryan Ortiz play during the 2011 AFL and was impressed. Didn't know much about him, so checked out his stats, and he's performed well, however mostly in the hitter friendly California League. What's the book on this A's catching prospect? on base specialist?

Jim Shonerd: Ortiz's bat is ahead of his defense. He's got a feel for hitting and got closer to unlocking his 20-homer potential last year by using his legs better in his swing. Defensively, scouts didn't like his receiving (17 passed balls in the Texas League), and his arm strength hadn't bounced back from the surgery he had on his throwing shoulder in 2010.

    JD (AZ): Jim, thanks for the chat. What can you tell us about Dan Straily, is he in the top 30?

Jim Shonerd: Straily, a righthander, didn't make the Handbook, but he is interesting. A 24th-round pick from Marshall in 2009, Straily doesn't have anything overwhelming, but he can get his fastball in the 91-94 range with his slider rating as his best secondary pitch. He also has an early-count curveball and a changeup. He's gotten in better shape (he was up to 250 pounds in college) and mixes his pitches well.

    Frank (Chicago): How many of these guys are Top 100 worthy to you?

Jim Shonerd: The top five should be safe bets to be there, and I expect Green will be in the conversation as well.

    Rich (Oakland): Josh Whitaker seemed to come out of nowhere this year, is he someone we should be keeping an eye on?

Jim Shonerd: Whitaker hit .326/.402/.556 with 17 homers for Burlington last year, playing first base and right field. A 25th-rounder from Kennesaw State in 2010, he's got some athleticism and physicality and is a solid-average runner. He didn't make the Handbook, but he's got a chance to be a solid prospect.

    Hegenberger and 880 (San Mateo, CA): I was a little surprised to see Chris Carter projected as the A's 2015 first baseman. I don't have faith in him to ever stick at the big-league level, even with this 2012 team lacking much pop at the infield corners. Convince me he's going to be a factor -let alone an everyday big-league player- three years from now.

Jim Shonerd: That's more a function of there just not being other, more attractive options. We can only pick from players already in the organization when we're making those projected lineups. The A's think Carter needs to be more aggressive early in counts and was too passive previously. We'll see if tweaking his approach helps, but he's become a tough sell.

    @Jaypers413 (IL): About how many notches did Oakland's farm system rise after the Cahill and Gonzalez trades?

Jim Shonerd: It was definitely a bottom-five system before those deals. It's probably middle-of-the-pack now.

    Ryan K (Arlington, VA): With Crisp, Smith, Reddick and Cowgill already in the outfield— and little room for their extra first baseman like Chris Carter, Derek Barton and Kila Ka'aihue— where does Michael Taylor really fit in? Taylor certainly looks the part in a Fabio kind of way, but at this point he's pushing twenty-seven with just 30 MLB at bats. If the A's really had faith in him, wouldn't they make a little room for him?

Jim Shonerd: We'll see what happens in spring training, but it won't be a surprise if Taylor's back in Sacramento. The A's would certainly have hoped he and Carter would have established themselves by now. The fact that they haven't has really set them back.

    Jimmy (Oakland, CA): What do you think about Yordy Cabrera at this point?

Jim Shonerd: Still a prospect, but he was plagued by inconsistency both at the plate and in the field last year. The A's felt he found his groove in instructs, so we'll see if he can carry that forward. The power and arm strength are still in there, even though his power numbers from last year don't show it, as he tended to press and tinker with his stance too much.
    Eric (San Fran): After Gray, which 2011 draftee came closest to the top 10 and why? Thanks Jim.

Jim Shonerd: I like B.A. Vollmuth, the A's third-rounder from Southern Miss. He has a smooth swing and fits the profile of a power-hitting third baseman. He's still learning the position after playing shortstop his first two years in college, but he could skip a level and go to high Class A to start his first full year.

    Jeff L (Oakland, CA): Most undervalued player in the A's system?

Jim Shonerd: A guy I like is righthander Justin Souza. He lost his place on the A's 40-man after 2010, but he's got a power fastball and, when they're on, two quality secondary pitches in his slider and changeup. He's a reliever and has had some shoulder problems, but he should be in Sacramento's bullpen this year.

    Jeff (Burlington, VT): If Chris Bostick had been a 1st round pick, would he get more publicity? He had very impressive stats for an 18-year-old in the Arizona League.

Jim Shonerd: Yes, but Bostick was never projected to go that high. None the less, he was the only prep player the A's signed out of last year's draft, and he was a good one to get. Bostick has a chance to stick at shortstop and barrels balls up consistently. He mostly has gap power for now, but the A's think he could develop more as he gets older.

    Greg (Fullerton, CA): Who projects to be the best player the A's acquired this offseason (including the guys no longer with prospect status like Reddick)?

Jim Shonerd: I'd still take Parker over guys like Reddick and Seth Smith.

    @Jaypers413 (IL): What's the word on Vicmal de la Cruz, and how would you rate his tools?

Jim Shonerd: High ceiling player, who the A's signed for $800k in the 2010 July 2 class. One A's official called de la Cruz the most aggressive hitter in the system. Despite that, he drew more walks (37) than he struck out (27) in the DSL last year, and he's got a feel for the barrel. He hits to all fields and the A's believe he'll develop some power, though he hit only one homer last year. He's physical and showed he could handle center field fine.

    Halvy (Seattle, WA): Based on descriptions of his stuff, I was surprised to find that Tom Milone had struck out a batter an inning in Triple-A last year. Do you see him making 30 starts for the A's this year? What kind of strikeout potential does he actually have in the big leagues, and can you think of a good comp for him? Thanks much...

Jim Shonerd: It's possible he could make that many, though he'd have to beat out Parker and Peacock for a big league job to do it. He's not going to blow you away and I wouldn't expect him to rack up strikeouts in the majors, his triple-A numbers notwithstanding.

    Harry (Baltimore): Seems as though there's a real logjam at 1B in Oakland. What does this mean for Doolittle and Thompson, and who are you higher on between them?

Jim Shonerd: Sean Doolittle's converted to pitching full-time now. As for Thompson, he's still primarily a third baseman for now, but scouts weren't impressed with him over there and think he'll have to move at some point. Thompson has power potential, but there are some things he needs to iron out in his swing. He's a long way from figuring into the conversation at first base at the major league level.

    Sam (New Jersey): Between AJ Griffin and Blake Treinen, who came closer to your top 10?

Jim Shonerd: I like both those guys, though Griffin ranked higher since he's performed well over a full season in pro ball. They both could be mid-rotation starters, but they'll take different paths to get there. Griffin is more of a command and pitchability guy whose best offering is his changeup. Meanwhile, Treinen, the A's seventh-rounder from South Dakota State last year, can get up to 97 mph but doesn't have a reliable third pitch yet to go with his fastball and slider. Of course, that makes Treinen a candidate to move to relief at some point, but he'll stay a starter for now.

    Tommy (Denver, CO): Whereabouts does new acquisition 1B Miles Head rank on your top 30, if at all?

Jim Shonerd: Head arrived too late to figure into the Top 30 rankings for the Handbook. My feel is he would've been somewhere in the 11-15 range, but I can't say exactly where since, although we'll modify the Top 10 for trades that happen after the Handbook is finalized, we don't redo the whole Top 30.

    Drew (NoVA): Which A's 3rd base prospect—Tony Thompson, Stephan Parker, Yordy Cabrera, Nino Leyja, or Josh Horton—has the best chance to stay at 3rd in the majors, if any?

Jim Shonerd: The A's would protest you listing Cabrera as a 3b. They're insistent on keeping him as a shortstop — but I digress. I mentioned him earlier, but I've got Vollmuth as the best 3b prospect in the system. Of the group you list, Cabrera should have the most thump in his bat, so that would give him a chance. I like Parker. He can hit for average, but his power potential is questionable for a corner guy and his defense needs more work.

    Sam (Cupertino): How does Sean Doolittle rate as a pitching prospect? What does he throw?

Jim Shonerd: The A's were impressed with his arm, and he seemed to shake off the rust pretty quickly. He was 93-97 in instructs and snapped off some nice sliders at 83-84. He also threw some sinking changeups. The A's are going to start him off slow, but he's worth keeping an eye on.

    Kyle (Dallas): How much has your opinion of Michael Ynoa soured since he was first signed?

Jim Shonerd: My opinion of Ynoa is the same as it was last year. The upside is there, but it doesn't mean anything if he's never on the mound. He's got plenty to prove this year, both that he can stay healthy and perform.

    @Jaypers413 (IL): Are the A's looking to develop Omar Duran as a SP or a RP? Would you still consider him to be a sleeper?

Jim Shonerd: I still like Duran, although he's strictly a bullpen guy now, so that knocks his stock down a bit. He's still too inconsistent, but when he's on, he runs his fastball up to 94 mph from the left side and has a quality slider, so there's something there.

    Ben (Leland Grove): Is Renato Nunez likely to play in the states this year? How high are you on his upside?

Jim Shonerd: The A's brought Nunez, their top international signing from 2010 at $2.2 million, to the State for instructs last fall, and he'll be in the AZL this year, barring something unforeseen. He hasn't shown much power in games, but the A's believe it's in there and they like his balanced swing. His defense has further to go, but his hands and arm strength are solid.

    Kelly (St Cloud, MN): Adrian Cardenas - prospect or suspect?

Jim Shonerd: I really want to like Cardenas. He can flat out hit, but it's just hard to see where he fits in. His best position is second base, and the A's obviously are set there for awhile. He doesn't have the power to play on a corner, so I can't see him being more than a utility guy.

    Morrie (New Joisey): Where is your confidence in Max Stassi at right now, from 1 to 10?

Jim Shonerd: Probably a 5. On one hand, he hasn't been fully healthy for two years now. On the other, he also simply hasn't performed when he's been on the field. I still hear good things about his swing and bat speed, so there's hope, but he needs to get back on track. The other good news is he'll play this season in high Class A at age 21, so he's not behind the curve from that standpoint.

Jim Shonerd: That'll do it for me. Thanks for all the great questions. Come back on Friday for Conor Glassey's Mariners chat.