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Pena established himself as the top first-base prospect in the game last year. After driving in more than 100 runs in each of his first two full pro seasons, he slumped at the start of 2001. Hamstring and ribcage problems contributed to him hitting just .229 in his first 50 games. He got healthy and batted .326-15-50 in the second half and was impressive during his September callup with the Rangers, which included a two-homer game against Oakland. Because Rafael Palmeiro is still at first in Texas, Pena worked out in right field in the Dominican Republic this winter. He was born in the Dominican before moving to Boston with his family in 1992, later becoming a local star at Northeastern and in the Cape Cod League. Any chance that Pena might switch positions ended in mid-January, when the Athletics acquired him and Mike Venafro for four of their top prospects. Pena showed opposite-field power in the majors that was better than advertised. He had gotten into trouble in the past by trying to pull too many pitches. He has a silky smooth lefthanded stroke and always has maintained solid strike-zone judgment. Pena is a good athlete who runs well enough to leg out doubles and steal an occasional base. He's smart and has the character to be a clubhouse leader. He must stay back on breaking pitches to handle them better. He looks for fastballs too often, contributing to his average of 129 strikeouts the last three seasons. Big league lefthanders noticed and held him to one hit and five whiffs in 11 at-bats. Pena sometimes tries to be too flashy at first base, and he got caught in between hops on too many balls while in the majors. The Athletics are giving the daunting assignment of replacing Jason Giambi to Pena, who has the tools and makeup to handle it well. He's a leading candidate for American League rookie of the year and has the potential to be a perennial all-star.
Byrnes played his high school ball near Oakland in Mountain View, Calif., and has been impressive since turning pro. He batted .357 in his debut, was a California League all-star in 1999 and earned playing time in the majors the last two years. After earning a spot on the Athletics' 2001 playoff roster, he was MVP of the Dominican League in the offseason. Byrnes has hit at every stop, and the A's believe he has solid power potential that he'll unlock as he continues to develop his game. His speed is another asset. He also has an intense work ethic that has led to continual improvement, and he always exhibits all-out hustle. While Byrnes has improved greatly on defense the last two years, he has work remaining to become a top-level outfielder. Some still question whether he has the tools to become an everyday major leaguer or is just a supreme overachiever. The trade of Ryan Ludwick and Byrnes' huge winter have raised his standing in the organization, though. He'll come to spring training fighting for a big league job. Oakland hopes he'll become a leadoff man who can set the table for the rest of the order.
Harville tasted the majors barely two years after signing, then went through a bit of a lull. He came to spring training last year shooting for a job on the big league roster, only to land on the 60-day disabled list instead with a strained rotator cuff. He used the down time to develop a smoother delivery to reduce the strain on his shoulder. Harville threw 98 mph when he signed, but the injury and refined motion have dropped him to 95, albeit with better movement on his four-seam fastball. He also has a plus slider, giving him two hard pitches that could make him a major league closer. Last year he added both a low-90s two-seamer and a slow curveball, making it more difficult for hitters to sit on his hard stuff. He had a problem throwing his four-seam fastball at the knees, as it often would arrive thigh-high, but the difficulty was less pronounced after he expanded his repertoire. He's still learning to use all four pitches together. Oakland has been waiting three years for Harville to refine his skills and bring his heat to the majors on a full-time basis. He'll compete for a set-up job this spring.
German put up quality numbers during his first four seasons in the system, but there were reservations about his long-term ability. His long swing and propensity to hit pop-ups to the right side made the Athletics wonder if he'd adjust at higher levels. But in 2001, he concentrated on playing the little man's game and was Oakland's minor league player of the year. Speed is his game, and when he uses it he becomes an offensive force. He stole 83 bases in 2000, then 48 in 61 attempts last season. He has a knack for reading pitchers and getting jumps that make for a prolific basestealer. A prototypical leadoff man, he works pitchers well, can hit late in the count and has developed a propensity to reach base. After making more contact and hitting more balls on the ground, German needs to grow more comfortable with that approach. He also must become more consistent on defense, where he's limited to second base and isn't exceptional there. He has an outside chance at Oakland's second-base job this spring. More likely, he'll open the year at Triple-A Sacramento. He could be a better long-term fit in the leadoff role than Eric Byrnes.
As the son of Ed Crosby, the former A's scout who signed Jason Giambi and is now with the Diamondbacks, Bobby has a baseball pedigree. The 2001 Big West Conference player of the year, he played only briefly after signing because of a hip flexor injury. He reported to instructional league, but the organization decided he would be best off going home to recover. Crosby has the potential to become a big-time hitter for a middle infielder. He was arguably the top defensive player in the 2001 draft. The A's rave about his baseball instincts. He's a field general whose head is always in the game. Despite his reputation, Crosby will need more flexibility to become a fluid big league shortstop. At 6-foot-3, he's tall for the position and doesn't bend well to snare grounders. Nevertheless, he seemed to make all the plays during his brief stop in the California League. Crosby will return to high Class A to hone his skills during his first full year as a pro. The A's want to see him as a shortstop for a full season before deciding if he might be better suited for third base.
Oakland netted three players in a three-team deal with the Devil Rays and Royals in January 2001: Johnny Damon and Cory Lidle, who contributed to the club's wild-card run, and the lesser-known Ellis. Though he had played just seven games in Double-A, the A's sent him to Triple-A last season. He was impressive at Sacramento and again in the Arizona Fall League, where he hit .308 with nine steals. A consistent, effective middle infielder, Ellis is a heady player who rarely makes mistakes. Offensively, he uses the whole field, hits for average and draws his share of walks. Despite only average speed, he has the skill to steal bases and is an outstanding baserunner. The big question is whether he has the arm to play shortstop at the big league level. He helps his cause with a quick first step and release. He has ample arm to play second base, and that may be his position of the future if he's to become a regular. The presence of Miguel Tejada is another factor that will push Ellis toward second. He will compete with Esteban German, Randy Velarde and incumbent Frank Menechino at second this spring.
Because he was 18 and received his GED diploma, Bonderman was able to enter the 2001 draft and became the first high school junior ever selected. He drew scouts' attention the previous summer, when he was the ace of the U.S. team that finished second at the World Junior Championship. Hamstring problems and high expectations kept him at less than his best last spring. Negotiations with Oakland stalled before he signed for $1.35 million and went to instructional league. The A's have prospered by drafting college pitches, but Bonderman was too enticing to resist. With a fastball that ranges from 93-96 mph and a hard breaking ball that's a cross between a curveball and slider, his ceiling is in orbit. Bonderman pitched just three innings in instructional league and he's as raw as the wind off the Columbia River. His ability to throw strikes and come up with a changeup are unproven, and the A's haven't seen enough of him to know what else might need to be done. Oakland probably will start Bonderman in high Class A (their lowest level with a fullseason affiliate) on a tight pitch count, then send him to short-season Vancouver in June. They don't want to overwhelm him early in his career.
Bynum hit .521 and went 27-for-27 in steals at Pitt (N.C.) Community College in 2000, leading to his somewhat surprising selection as Oakland's top draft pick (second round). Managers rated him the No. 1 prospect in the short-season Northwest League during his pro debut, but continuing problems with his right ankle limited his progress in 2001. The A's moved him from shortstop to second base last year, and second may be a better fit because he has extra time to make plays. Bynum has the raw tools to make for an outstanding top-of-the-order hitter and middle infielder. He has a plus arm, plus speed, outstanding hand-eye coordination and remarkable range. He plays with an enthusiasm that becomes contagious to those around him. The recurring injuries robbed Bynum of needed experience against pro pitching to refine his stroke. He also needs to show more patience to bat early in a lineup. He struggled at shortstop, fumbling grounders, but at second base he was able to recover in time more often to get the out. Bynum will return to the California League in 2002 to make up for lost time. He needs to start converting his raw tools into skills.
German, who's not related to Esteban German, has gone through a metamorphosis from a slender teenager into a Lee Smith lookalike and throwalike. The A's added him to the 40-man roster in November, anticipating he could go in the major league Rule 5 draft despite never having pitched above Class A. Considering how well he pitched in his native Dominican this winter--he didn't allow a run and held opponents to a .075 average in his first 14 appearances--German likely would have been taken. A power arm with huge potential, German hit 97 mph during the regular season and 99 in the Dominican. His velocity has increased each year since he signed. He uses both a splitter and a changeup to complement his heat. His biggest weaknesses are his command and maturity, neither of which is consistent. But he made strides in both areas this winter thanks to working with Sacramento manager Bob Geren, the skipper of a rival Dominican club. Oakland will send German to Double-A this season and see how he develops. Though Billy Koch and Chad Harville are ahead of him for now, German could give the A's another closer option in two years or so.
A multisport star at his Iowa high school, Tritle ran in the state track meet and earned all-conference honors in basketball. He had several football scholarship offers as a wide receiver, which caused him to slide in the 2000 draft, but he signed with Oakland. He returned to the Rookie-level Arizona League last summer and was named the league's MVP and No. 1 prospect. Tritle is a five-tool player with a high ceiling. He led the AZL in homers and steals and has the potential to be a 30-30 player in time. He has the speed and ability to play center field, getting outstanding jumps on balls and showing fine instincts. Still a long way from the majors, Tritle will need time to develop. He has to make more contact, as breaking balls currently give him problems. More of a pull hitter at this point, he could use right field more effectively. Oakland hopes he proves ready for the California League in spring training. He's a player who really would benefit if the A's had a low Class A affiliate as opposed to two in high Class A.
Wood emerged as one of the big surprises of the 2001 draft, exhibiting a sinking twoseam fastball that drops from hitters' thighs to their ankles, the same sort of pitch that has lifted Tim Hudson to prominence. Wood was signed by John Poloni, the same area scout who tabbed Hudson as a sixth-round selection in 1997, so the comparisons are inevitable. Wood also throws a slider, splitter and changeup, giving him an effective fourpitch repertoire. After just five appearances in short-season ball, he was moved on to high Class A, where he continued to prove effective. During most of his pro debut, Wood pitched with a tired arm and worked in the mid-80s with his sinker. He threw in the low 90s in college, and the A's expect a return to that velocity after an offseason of rest and weight work. Wood walked on at North Florida an infielder before moving to the mound as a sophomore. He set a school record with 16 saves last spring as the Ospreys finished third in the Division II College World Series. He could reach Double-A Midland at some point in 2002.
Rheinecker would have been a high pick in the 2000 draft, but he tore the anterior cruciate ligament in his right knee while playing the outfield for Southwest Missouri State. He returned for his senior season and improved to the point where the A's probably wouldn't have gotten him with a supplemental first-rounder last June if he hadn't had some forearm tenderness late in the college season. Former scouting director Grady Fuson said Rheinecker was a priority pick for the A's, who had monitored him closely during his college career. He has very good stuff for a lefthander, with a lively 90-mph fastball and quality breaking pitches (both curveball and slider) that he can throw to both sides of the plate. He's a tough competitor who battles for every out, and his main need is to improve his command. He'll spend this year in high Class A.
Selected in the 16th round out of high school in 1999, Allegra signed as a draft-and-follow the next year after a stint at Manatee (Fla.) CC. He was named Oakland's most improved position player in the 2000 instructional league camp, where he altered his batting approach. When he proved unable to handle high Class A as a teenager last season, the A's moved Allegra to Vancouver, where he began to display the power potential they believe he has. He wows opponents during batting practice, showing thunder in the cage and excellent arm strength in the outfield. However, he's very raw and has trouble hitting inside pitches. He's going to have to severely upgrade his ability to make contact after fanning 165 times in 2001. Allegra is ready for another shot at the California League.
Cotts became the highest draft pick ever from Illinois State when the A's called his name in the second round last June. An all-Missouri Valley Conference selection as both a pitcher and a scholar-athlete, he outdueled John Rheinecker 2-0 in a conference matchup last spring that attracted droves of scouts. Cotts uses movement more than velocity, getting his high 80s fastball to run and sink toward the left side of the plate. He also throws a curveball and a changeup, decent pitches that need to get better. Cotts knows how to pitch and delivers strikes to both sides of the plate. Unfazed by the California League in his pro debut, he'll return there this season with the potential to advance quickly.
The first of three first-round picks Oakland spent on college pitchers in the 1997 draft, Enochs was revitalized by a move to the bullpen last year. A hip injury and tendinitis had hampered him for three consecutive seasons before he began regaining his form in 2001. His velocity returned to the point where he again was hitting the low 90s. With a better fastball came improved confidence. The A's now believe a relief role is most conducive to keeping him healthy. Enochs' delivery has been altered somewhat so he's no longer a drop-anddrive pitcher, and his arm angles have been changed. As a result, his curveball has regained its nasty bite and Oakland thinks he'll stay healthier. Enochs will move to Triple-A this year and may not be far from a big league opportunity.
With the Rangers looking for a second baseman and the A's trying to create an opening for Jose Ortiz, Oakland traded Randy Velarde to Texas in November 2000 for Harang and lefthander Ryan Cullen. Harang had gone 22-7 in 11⁄2 years in the Rangers organization, making a major step forward when Texas roving pitching instructor Al Nipper taught him a changeup. It's probably Harang's most effective pitch. He also throws a fastball in the low 90s and a good slider, plus he has the best command in the A's system. His poise and feel for pitching have impressed Oakland, as has his continuing maturation with his mechanics as well as the mental game. He has a strong and durable body. After surviving a year pitching his home games in a bandbox in an overall hitter's league, Harang is ready for Triple-A.
The brother of the oft-injured Red Sox righthander of the same name, this Juan Pena has great potential and a background of success. The California League strikeout leader in 2000, he learned to work the outside corner against righthanders in 2001, adding to his effectiveness. He has a low-90s fastball, plus a devastating changeup that he can throw as much as 20 percent of the time to keep hitters off balance. He still needs to develop his command as more advanced hitters are less likely to chase his pitches out of the strike zone. Improving his breaking ball is also on his agenda as he returns to Double-A in 2002.
The native of Brooksville, Fla., seemed headed for a job in the A's bullpen when his arm went bad last season. In April he had elbow reconstruction--Tommy John surgery--that shut him down for the year. The A's are hopeful he will be ready to report for limited duty, and the plan will be to spend the season working more on rehabilitation than development. There will be no timetable, just a plan to get him ready for future seasons. In 2000, he led all minor league relievers with an average of 13.05 strikeouts per nine innings. He lives by an exceptional slider, which he mixes with a sinking fastball to keep hitters off balance. He had been working on adding a splitter when the elbow injury took him down. He has the ability to enter a game and immediately throw strikes, a talent some in the organization believe make him best suited for those emergency situations in the 7th or 8th when a rally must be squelched. He graduated from Hernando High in 1995 before moving on to Vanderbilt, where he posted a 5-7, 4.78 his junior year, before getting drafted.
A former return specialist for the South Carolina football team, McBeth might have been the best defensive outfielder in college baseball last spring. He almost returned to the Gamecocks for his senior season, then signed just before classes began and reported to instructional league. After wowing the organization with his plus speed, arm and defensive instincts, not to mention his power potential, McBeth found out he had a separation in his non-throwing shoulder. The injury kept him out of hitting workouts the rest of the fall. The A's hope weight work will strengthen the shoulder and allow full extension on his swing. McBeth's drawback in college was that he didn't hit for average and stuck out too much, faults Oakland blames partly on his shoulder ailment. A lack of plate discipline and pitch recognition also were factors. Nicknamed "Shakespeare" for obvious reasons, he's considered intelligent. The A's would like him to develop at the plate so they could use his speed and baserunning skills in the leadoff spot. He should surface in high Class A in 2002.
After a miserable first year in the organization, Bowser arrived at spring training in 2001 with a new plate approach and became the talk of camp. He got off to a big start, hitting .357 in April and twice was named the organization's player of the month. He wasn't nearly as productive afterward, hitting .234 in the final three months as he stopped making consistent contact. He did enough overall to impress the A's with his power, then went to instructional league and began making the same adjustments that turned Jason Giambi into a top hitter; he learned to drive the ball to all fields. Bowser plays competent defense at the corner outfield positions, grading out with average speed and arm strength. He may just be beginning to come into his own and could have a huge year in Double-A, thanks in part to Midland's cozy Christensen Stadium.
After attending high school in British Columbia, Harden went to junior college in Arizona and caught the eye of A's scout John Kuehl. A 17th-round pick in 2000, Harden returned for his sophomore season and led national juco pitchers in strikeouts last spring before signing as a draft-and-follow. He's a power pitcher with a mid-90s fastball and a curveball that's outstanding when he can get it over the plate. After an impressive debut in the Northwest League, he spent instructional league developing a changeup. The A's say he has the raw ability to start in the major leagues one day, and they like his mound presence. He still needs much work, because his curveball and changeup are highly inconsistent. He also tends to challenge hitters by just throwing heat over the middle of the plate. Headed to high Class A, Harden will have to learn to pitch down in the strike zone against more refined hitters.
Frick is an Athletics kind of player. He enjoys working out and building his body. He goes right after hitters and shows no fear. He also knows how to use the strike zone, getting outs by pitching to all quadrants. In his pro debut last summer, the A's used him primarily as a reliever, the role in which he starred as a junior at Cal State Northridge. Frick's two-pitch mix of a low-90s fastball and a tough slider is effective out of the bullpen. He did so well in instructional league that when the Phoenix club in the Arizona Fall League needed another reliever, Oakland sent Frick. He allowed only one earned run in three appearances. He'll spend 2002 in high Class A, and the A's have yet to decide whether they want to test him as a starter.
After a highly impressive 2000 season, Adkins posted a 2.33 ERA in his first eight starts before Double-A Texas League hitters solved him. He wasn't able to adjust because his changeup didn't develop, which kept him as a two-pitch pitcher. He made too many mistakes, leaving hittable pitches in the strike zone. Drafted out of Oklahoma State in 1998 despite sitting out that spring to rest a partially torn elbow ligament, he had Tommy John surgery the following year. After rehabilitation, he had an improved fastball and slider. His fastball arrives in the low-90s and has good two-seam sink. His slider is also effective. The A's have been beseeching him to work on his changeup, without which he's destined to become a middle reliever. Oakland believes he needs to rededicate himself to the weight room like he did during his comeback. Demoted to the California League at the end of 2001, he still has something to prove in Double-A.
McDougall owns one of the great home run records in college baseball history, hitting six in one game against Maryland on May 9, 1999. He hit .419-28-106 and was the College World Series MVP that year, but still didn't get drafted until the Red Sox took him in the 26th round. The perception among scouts was that he lacked athleticism and owed a lot of his power to the aluminum bat. McDougall returned to Florida State for his senior year, then signed with Oakland as a ninth-round pick. A back injury limited him in his first pro summer, but last year he showed gap power and versatility in high Class A. The A's believe he has home run potential, especially after he shortened his swing and made better use of the opposite field in instructional league. He still needs to show more plate discipline. He's defensively sound at third base, plus he played all four infield positions last year. He tried the outfield during instructional league and may work out some at catcher in the future.
Known alternately during his career as Francis Gomez and Francis Alfonseca, the halfbrother of Antonio Alfonseca has yet to settle on the name he wishes to use. Even more difficult was his attempt to jump from Rookie ball to high Class A as a teenager last year. Alfonseca has exceptional tools, with excellent hands and range on defense and quick hands with the bat. A's officials repeatedly compare him to Miguel Tejada because of his defensive skills and power potential. Alfonseca is very aggressive, both with the bat and in the field, which is both a positive and a negative. He lacks plate discipline, makes too many errors and is very streaky. He's athletic and has shown the ability to play second and third base as well as shortstop. He'll get some more seasoning in the California League this year.
Not much has gone right for Holt since he positioned himself as an early first-round pick entering the 2000 season at Texas A&M. He slumped as a junior, dropped to the third round and had just about everything possible go wrong in 2001, his first full year as a pro. His statistics last year speak for themselves, as he hit for neither power nor average. He had difficulty dealing with failure, taking out his frustrations by yelling at umpires, then didn't get borderline calls the rest of the season. Holt rebounded by putting together an outstanding instructional league, improving his stroke and readjusting his mindset. The A's expect him to return to the California League improved in all areas. With an above-average arm and surprising speed for his size, he has the potential to become a fine right fielder.
Since moving into the bullpen in 2000, Galva has been both impressive and frustrating. He constantly pitches behind in the count and gets himself into trouble before finding ways to extricate himself. Despite his proclivity for putting himself in jams, he consistently gets results. He was effective last year as a secondary closer behind Tyler Yates, who was traded to the Mets for David Justice this offseason. Galva's biggest improvement in 2001 was his increased use of his changeup. His fastball, which has life and low-90s velocity, and his slider are both solid pitches. His arm is extremely resilient and allows him to pitch several days in a row. The A's expect he'll eventually become a setup man or lefty specialist because he lacks a dominant pitch to close. They hope that a year in Triple-A will help Galva develop the consistency to make the next step to the majors.
A free-spirited, happy-go-lucky player, Salazar is a favorite among teammates and coaches despite being an atypical A's player. He's a free-swinging, undisciplined hitter who doesn't walk often enough to suit the organization. Despite chasing pitches out of the strike zone, he has hit for some average and power during his tenure in the system. But in his second year in Double-A, his average dropped 33 points. Both Esteban German and Mark Ellis moved ahead of Salazar on the middle-infield depth chart last season. He can play second base, shortstop and third base, but has proven most adept at second. With his decent hands and a good arm, he can be a competent defender. If German or Ellis makes the majors, Salazar could get a shot at Triple-A this year. If not, he will most likely return for his third season at Midland.
After hitting .343 at his first two stops in the organization, Lockwood has hit a wall since leaving high Class A. He started 2001 in a 7-for-48 slump in Double-A and never quite got himself righted. When he's going well, Lockwood is a pure hitter who uses the entire field. To advance to the majors, he must regain his high-average swing and produce more power. He's a solid defensive left fielder who can play center if needed. His arm is fair but lacks the strength typical of a right fielder. His drive has been impressive, and the A's expect his tenacity will help him rebound in 2002.
After dazzling the organization in his first full pro season in 2001, Surkont hit a rough spot last year. A sore shoulder robbed him of his velocity, and he lost the sink and explosion on his fastball. The A's hope an offseason of rest will allow him to recover. The grandson of former big league pitcher Max Surkont, he has an excellent changeup and a fine breaking ball, though he needs to develop more consistency. As with most New Englanders, he hasn't had the mound time that players from warmer-weather areas have. He'll need more time to develop and build endurance. He didn't seriously consider a baseball career out of high school, choosing to attend academically oriented Williams (Mass.), an NCAA Division III school that's the alma mater of George Steinbrenner and Fay Vincent. Surkont even spent his junior year in Denmark rather than concentrating on baseball. He tore the anterior cruciate ligament in his right knee while abroad, and came back throwing harder after the surgery.