Sign Up! Join our newsletters, get a FREE e-Edition
Considered one of the top lefthanded bats in the 2003 draft, Barton fell to the Cardinals with the 28th pick because of his bad body and fringy defensive skills. Signed for $975,000, Barton quickly established himself as the top prospect in the St. Louis system. In his first full season, he led the low Class A Midwest League in on-base percentage and finished fourth in slugging. Looking for a starter to headline their rotation, the Cardinals sent three players to the Athletics for Mark Mulder in December 2004. While Dan Haren would win 14 games for Oakland in 2005, Barton was considered the key player in the deal. General manager Billy Beane called Barton the best pure hitter in the minors after acquiring him. The A's decided the rigors of catching were hindering Barton's development, so they moved him to first base in spring training. He hit just .241 at high Class A Stockton in April but found his groove afterward. He hit .404 in June and earned a promotion to Double-A Midland before his 20th birthday. He went 9-for-16 in his first five games in Double-A and reached base in 50 of his 56 contests there. Hitting comes easy for Barton, who has natural ability to go along with a mature approach. He has a short swing and picture-perfect mechanics, with a fluid load and quick explosion through the zone. His pitch recognition is off the charts. He draws a large number of walks while still being an aggressive hitter, equally comfortable turning on inside fastballs or slicing outside breaking balls the other way. Barton holds his own against lefthanders. He took well to first base in his first year there and shows the potential for improvement. He has good instincts, soft hands and decent range. Barton's power potential is the subject of debate among scouts. He has a tendency to drop the barrel of the bat and slice balls into the gaps. The A's are convinced he'll eventually produce 25-30 homers on an annual basis, citing his hitting ability and the scouting axiom that power often is the last tool to develop. Others think he might top out at 15-20 homers, less than ideal production for a first baseman. Questions about his work ethic have dogged Barton in the past. His inability to remain a catcher was due more to lack of effort than lack of ability. He's a below-average runner, and his conditioning could improve. The A's have no immediate plans to move Barton back behind the plate, where his offensive skills would give him star potential, but they haven't completely ruled it out yet either. While his bat is nearly ready for the big leagues, Barton would need substantial time in the minors if he returned to catching. He'll begin the year playing first base at Triple-A Sacramento, and could make his major league debut before he turns 21 in August. Oakland almost certainly will have to make a decision as to how to get his bat permanently in the lineup by Opening Day 2007.
Herrera won MVP honors in the short-season Northwest League in 2004, but his encore was delayed when he was suspended after testing positive for a performance-enhancing substance before Opening Day. Once he returned, his natural talent took over. He earned a one-week May stint in Triple-A when Sacramento was decimated by injuries. Herrera's combination of raw tools outclasses that of any A's farmhand. A true five-tool talent, he can hit for average, flashes plus power and is a well-above-average runner. He took to the Oakland approach in 2005, dramatically improving his walk rate. He's a good center fielder with a plus arm. Herrera is still a work in progress when it comes to translating his tools to performance. He has a tendency to overswing, leading to high strikeout totals. He needs to improve his throwing accuracy and his routes in the outfield, especially on balls hit in front of him. The A's have a rare commodity in Herrera, a potential 30-30 man in center field. His progress will continue one step at a time with an assignment to high Class A in 2006.
After starring in the Cape Cod League in 2004 and leading Texas A&M in nearly every offensive category in 2005, Pennington became the first Aggie to be taken in the first round since 1999. Signed for $1.475 million, he was thrust into the leadoff spot at low Class A Kane County, where he scored 49 runs in 69 games. Pennington is a solid hitter who makes contact, occasionally drives the ball and shows a good understanding of the strike zone. He's an above-average runner and a dangerous basestealer with excellent instincts. He's a plus defender with good range to both sides and a strong, accurate arm. Like most top A's draft picks of late, he has outstanding makeup and an infectious enthusiasm for the game. Pennington has a small frame and probably never will hit for much home run power, but he still needs to work harder on driving balls instead of just serving them back up the middle. He can get a little out of control in the field, occasionally rushing his throws. With Bobby Crosby in Oakland, there's no need to rush Pennington, who will begin the year in high Class A. But he should move quickly regardless and likely will move over to second base and play alongside Crosby when he's ready for the majors.
Ethier was having a breakout season in 2004 when a stress fracture in his back cut him down in July. He spent the offseason working on his conditioning and earned Double-A Texas League MVP honors in 2005. He hit .361-9-39 in the first two months before pitchers stopped throwing him strikes. A gifted hitter, Ethier has simple swing mechanics, getting the bat into the zone quickly and keeping it there for a long time. He has average power, and he's a good corner outfielder with a solid arm. One of the keys to his breakout season was a change in attitude. Once considered a hothead who was easily flustered, he showed a more mature approach and consistent effort in 2005. He also won an award for his sportsmanship in the Arizona Fall League. Ethier doesn't have the speed to play center field and may not have the power teams desire from an everyday corner outfielder. He can become enamored with his power at times, causing him to overswing. A walk machine in college, Ethier has yet to show the same plate discipline as a pro. There's no clear opening for Ethier in a crowded Oakland outfield, so he likely will spend the majority of 2006 in Triple-A. Coming off a career year, he also could be useful as trade bait.
Buck entered 2005 ranked as one of the top college hitters available in his draft class, but he hit just .246 in his first 15 games. He rebounded to hit .419 afterward, helping Arizona State to the College World Series, but his early slump and disappointing power (six homers) dropped him to the A's with the 36th overall pick. After signing for $950,000, he hit .346 in pro ball. Buck has a knack for hitting, using a compact, line-drive swing to tag balls to all fields. He makes good adjustments from at-bat to at-bat and understands the value of a walk. He's a good outfielder with solid range and arm strength. He draws praise for his work ethic. Buck hit just three home runs in his debut, and needs to get more loft into has swing while incorporating his lower half better. Oakland thinks he can hit 20-25 homers annually once he improves his ability to recognize which pitches he can drive. The A's have a glut of good-hitting corner outfielders in their system, but Buck's bat was too good to pass up. He'll begin the year in high Class A.
The A's became excited about Melillo, a high school teammate of Rickie Weeks, when they were scouting 2004 first-round pick Landon Powell at South Carolina. Melillo helped the Gamecocks to three College World Series. As a pro he has provided the kind of power the injured Powell was supposed to deliver, leading the system with 24 homers in his first full season. Melillo has a quick, compact swing and surprising power, thanks to natural loft and a high finish. He has a nice feel for working the count and makes consistent hard contact. He's a good baserunner and can steal bases thanks to excellent reads and jumps. Melillo isn't very athletic and his defense continues to lag behind his bat despite his considerable effort at improving. His speed is average at best, his range is limited and his arm is below-average. While Melillo likely will begin 2006 in Double-A, Oakland doesn't expect him to finish the year there. If he keeps hitting, he could be in line for a big league look in 2007.
Garcia rocketed though the system in 2004 after a conversion to the bullpen, beginning the year at Low A Kane County and reaching Oakland by August. He continued to pile up strikeouts in 2005 but was dogged by inconsistency, including two blown saves in the Triple-A Pacific Coast League playoffs. Garcia's stuff is closer-worthy. He has an upper-90s fastball with plenty of movement and a plus-plus slider with late break that one scout describes as bordering on illegal. He's aggressive with both pitches and likes to pitch inside. He also has a solid changeup. Garcia still can be plagued by command problems at times. He can get flustered on the mound, beginning to nibble at the corners when struggling to throw strikes. While Huston Street is clearly the closer at the big league level for years to come, Garcia could give Oakland a devastating 1-2 punch in the bullpen. He'll return to Triple-A to begin the season, as the A's want his next callup to the bigs to be his last.
Italiano showed more velocity than any pitcher in the 2005 draft, but a bout with shoulder inflammation and questionable mechanics dropped him to the second round. The A's took him, the first of six high school pitchers they took with their next seven picks, and signed him for $725,500. Italiano's fastball immediately became the best in Oakland's system, sitting at 93-95 mph in the Rookie-level Arizona League and touching 96. His heater peaked at 98 in high school. He has refined his slurvy breaking ball into a true slider, which could become a plus pitch. Italiano short-arms the ball and has a maximum-effort delivery, leaving many concerned about his long-term health and projecting him as more of a power reliever. He rarely has thrown a changeup, and his fastball can be a little too straight at times. Italiano will join fellow 2005 draftees Jared Lansford and Vince Mazzaro to create that rarest of happenings in the Oakland system-- a low Class A rotation consisting mostly of teenagers. While his future may be in the bullpen, the A's will give him every chance to use his overpowering stuff as a starter.
A native of Hawaii, Komine helped put Nebraska's baseball program on the map. He led the Cornhuskers to back-to-back College World Series appearances while going undefeated as a senior in 2002. A heavy college workload resulted in back and shoulder woes, and Komine required Tommy John surgery in mid-2004. He returned last year to dominate in the Texas League playoffs and wow scouts in the Arizona Fall League. Komine has a full arsenal of pitches, starting with a low-90s fastball and a knee-buckling curveball that's his primary out pitch. He also mixes in a slider and changeup. He knows how to set up hitters and has outstanding makeup. Size and health are Komine's biggest obstacles. His listed height of 5-foot-9 may be generous, but he still does a good job of staying on top of his pitches. Whether he has the durability to be a starter remains questionable, though he would make a useful long reliever. Komine will start the year in the Triple-A rotation, but should be on the short list for a callup should the opportunity arise in Oakland. His first taste of the big leagues could come in the bullpen.
After selecting a pair of high school righthanders in the second round of the 2005 draft, the A's took another in the third with Mazzaro. They paid him a $380,000 bonus to sway him away from pitching at St. John's. While he signed too late to make his pro debut, he outpitched both second- rounders Craig Italiano and Jared Lansford in instructional league. Mazarro's lively, sinking fastball sits at 88-91 mph can touch 94. His corkscrew delivery and high three-quarters arm slot offer plenty of deception. He throws a power curveball with good break. While his makeup was questioned by some in high school, Oakland praises his work ethic. Mazzaro throws across his body, which hurts his control and could pose a long-term health risk. Like many young pitchers, he never really has needed a changeup, so it still ranks well behind his sinker and curveball. Mazzaro's performance in instructional league surprised even the A's, who think he's ready for full-season ball. He'll make his pro debut as a 19-year-old in low Class A.
Suzuki capped his Cal State Fullerton career in style, hitting .413-16-87 to earn All- America honors and delivering the championship-winning hit at the 2004 College World Series. He was slated to begin 2005 in low Class A until Landon Powell tore up his left knee in January. Bumped to high Class A, Suzuki delivered a solid performance in his first full pro season. Suzuki's offensive abilities are above-average for a catcher. He has a short, level swing and makes consistent contact. He works the count well and has occasional power. Defensively, he has an average arm and threw out 37 percent of basestealers last year. While his throwing is fine, Suzuki needs work on the rest of his defensive game, such as blocking balls and framing pitches. Though his effort and leadership skills are universally praised, he can be a little too headstrong at times. He'll argue with umpires, which doesn't help his pitchers' cause, and visibly shows frustration with poor play by himself or others. Most observers agree Suzuki will reach the majors, but whether he it will be as a starter or backup is still a question. Clearly the top catching prospect in the system, he moves up to Double-A this year.
Lansford's father Carney played in the majors for 15 years, including 10 with Oakland, and his uncles Phil and Jose were first-round picks. Carney indicated to most teams that Jared was only interested in beginning his pro career as a position player, but the A's correctly gauged his willingness to sign as a pitcher and selected him in the second round in June. Signed for $525,000, Lansford has a low-90s fastball that can touch 94, as well as a solid breaking ball and developing changeup. He commands all of his offerings well and shows a mature understanding of his craft, not surprising for a teenager who has spent much of his life exposed to the pro game. Lansford isn't overly physical and is more of a hard worker getting the most out of good stuff than a young arm who offers a lot of projection. He's slated to join fellow 2005 draftees Craig Italiano and Vince Mazzaro in the low Class A rotation.
Robnett received the top bonus ($1.325 million) of any A's 2004 draftee and also got an invite to big league camp, but his first full pro season was a mixed bag as he racked up 40 more strikeouts than hits. He was slowed early by a hamstring problem that kept him from getting into a rhythm. He made some adjustments in the second half, leading to 14 home runs in his last 60 games. Robnett offers one of the best packages of tools among Oakland farmhands. Compact and muscular, he has tremendous bat speed and above-average power, but he needs to make more contact and work the count better to take advantage of it. He has the athleticism to play center field and the arm for right, but he still needs work at both positions because of bad jumps and poor routes. He's an above-average runner, though he already has lost a step since college. The A's were happy with the improvement Robnett made during instructional league and believe he's close to breaking through. He'll likely return to high Class A in 2006.
Like Kurt Suzuki and Richie Robnett, Putnam was a 2004 draft from a premier college program whom the A's felt comfortable sending to high Class A for his first full season. He responded to being pushed by leading Stockton in runs, hits and RBIs. That earned him a promotion to Double-A for the Texas League playoffs, during which he hit .314 in nine games. He made a much better impression than he did in his pro debut. A Stanford product, Putnam played his high school ball at San Diego powerhouse Rancho Bernardo. Coached by Sam Blalock (Oakland GM Billy Beane's high school coach at San Diego's Mount Carmel), Rancho has produced six first-round picks since 1995 (counting Putnam) as well as Hank Blalock. Blessed with natural hitting ability, Putnam has a good approach, a quick bat and tremendous hand-eye coordination. He consistently drives the ball to all fields. The question is whether he'll produce enough to profile as an every day left fielder. His power is no more than average and he's limited to an outfield corner or first base because of a lack of speed and a below-average arm. Short and squat, Putnam will need to pay better attention to his conditioning as he matures. His swing has a lot of moving parts, but it has worked well for him so far. His showing this year in Double-A will help the A's determine if his future is as a starter or as a solid bench bat.
Windsor signed for $270,000 as a 2004 third-round pick after pitching Cal State Fullerton to a College World Series title, capping a 24-6, 1.82 two-year career with the Titans. Though he reached Double-A in his first full season, Windsor was plagued by inconsistency and biceps tendinitis, which ended his year in early August. Windsor's pinpoint command and ability to set up hitters make up for his fringe-average stuff. His fastball sits at only 85-87 mph and touches 90 only occasionally, but he spots it well in all four quadrants of the strike zone and can add cutting movement to it. He throws a big-breaking curveball for strikes and mixes in a slider. His out pitch is a plus-plus changeup that's capable of making hitters look foolish. Because he can't overpower hitters, Windsor is forced to pitch backwards, which proved to be a challenge against more experienced hitters in Double-A. Unless he regains the consistent 89-90 mph fastball velocity he showed in college, he projects as no more than a back-of-the-rotation starter or long reliever, though few doubt his ability to get to the majors. Windsor will begin 2006 back in Double-A.
Petit wowed Northwest League observers with his defensive prowess at shortstop in 2004, but he got off to a slow start in low Class A last year and missed a month with a fractured finger on his throwing hand. Moved to second base in the second half to accommodate first-round pick Cliff Pennington, Petit came alive with the bat, hitting .305 in the final three months. A good athlete with too much power for his own good, he finally responded to the organization's pleas to use the whole field. He still can turn on mistakes, but no longer tries to jerk every pitch and makes much more consistent contact. Already a plus defender at shortstop, Petit showed little trouble in moving to the other side of the bag and even impressed in some spot starts at third base. He doesn't have the power or on-base skills to profile as a top-of-the-order presence, but with his defensive skills and offensive potential, he has enough tools to emerge as a big league regular. Now on the same development path as Cliff Pennington, he'll stay at second base for now as they both move up to high Class A.
The son of former big league pitcher Jeff Sellers, Justin played at Marina High (Huntington Beach, Calif.) with top A's prospect Daric Barton. Marina also has produced big leaguers Kevin Elster, Marc Newfield, Steve Springer and Craig Wilson. Sellers' tools and feel for the game impressed many teams, but his lack of size dropped the Cal State Fullerton recruit to the sixth round. One A's official insists that if Sellers were even 6 feet tall, he could have been a late first-round pick. Signed for $150,000, he's fluid in all aspects of the game. He has a smooth, level swing that allows him to hit for a high average. A baseball rat with fantastic instincts, he's an excellent defender with good range to both sides and solid arm strength. He's also an above-average runner. Sellers isn't expected to fill out much because he has a small frame, and he offers little in the way of power. Oakland has worked with him to tame his approach at the plate and help him with his transition from metal to wood bat. With a good spring, he'll be the everyday shortstop in low Class A.
Shull was an eighth-round pick for the Diamondbacks in 2004, but returned to Cal Poly in an attempt to improve his draft stock. The gambit paid off as Shull found a couple extra ticks on his fastball and was the first college pitcher Oakland drafted in 2005, a fourth-rounder who received a $120,000 bonus. He led a successful short-season Vancouver staff in strikeouts in his pro debut. Shull has excellent command of an 89-92 mph sinker that can touch 94, but his best pitch is a plus slider that gives righthanders fits. His changeup is a work in progress, though it could become an average pitch. Shull can be a victim of his own command at times, becoming overly focused on throwing strikes and leaving too many hittable pitches over the plate. He has to learn he can afford to set up hitters a little better or try to lure them into chasing sliders out of the zone. Because he played four years of college ball, the A's believe Shull is ready for high Class A in his first full pro season.
Braden grew up in Stockton and played college ball at Texas Tech, not too far from Midland. He played at both stops in 2005, his first full pro season after signing as a 24th round pick the year before. He quickly merited his promotion to Double-A after recording four consecutive double-digit strikeout games in high Class A. The jump proved to be much more of a challenge for Braden, who was shut down in August with a tired arm. He gets hitters out with guile, command and a trick pitch. His screwball features so much break and deception that less-advanced hitters had no idea how to hit it. Unfortunately for Braden, it's his only above-average pitch. His fastball sits in the mid-80s and can touch 89, and he mixes in a below-average slider and a decent changeup. More advanced hitters were disciplined enough to lay off his breaking stuff and wait for his fastball, so he'll have to find a way to keep more patient hitters more off balance. He'll begin 2006 back in Double-A.
Powell had two draft dramas earlier in his career. In high school, advised by Scott Boras, he took the GED and became the first prep junior to enter the draft. Teams were hazy on his draft eligibility, and he became a free agent when he went unpicked in 2000. No club met his price, so he attended South Carolina. He had lofty draft aspirations as a junior in 2003, but a lackluster season dropped him to the Cubs in the 25th round. He performed better as a senior, and the A's made him their top draft pick (24th overall) in 2004, signing him for $1 million. Slated to begin 2005 in high Class A, he missed the entire season after tearing the anterior cruciate ligament in his left knee while working out in January. He wasn't ready to catch or run in instructional league, but should be ready to start 2006 at Stockton. Powell offers power potential from both sides of the plate while drawing a good share of walks. He has plus arm strength and is surprisingly nimble for his size behind the plate. Already a well-below-average runner, Powell could be an absolute baseclogger after knee surgery. His weight, always a concern, was up to 270 pounds in the fall, and the A's want him at 240-250 pounds like he was as a college senior.
Considered the key to the offseason Tim Hudson deal with the Braves, Meyer was expected to immediately step into the big league rotation and contribute. Considered the top lefthanded pitching prospect in Triple-A in 2004, he couldn't have been a bigger disappointment. He posted a 7.78 ERA in big league camp and a 5.36 ERA in Triple-A--nearly double his previous career mark. Worse yet, he batted season-long shoulder soreness that never was fully explained. Meyer was the system's biggest enigma, as every aspect of his game took a significant step backwards. Armed with a 91-94 mph fastball in 2004, he rarely hit 90 after the trade. His slider went from a plus pitch to a flat, easily hittable offering. Mechanically, Meyer became unhinged, flying open on nearly every pitch and landing sloppily on his front foot. In less than six months, he went from a projected middle-of-the-rotation starter to a pitcher who couldn't retire minor leaguers with any consistency. The A's aren't sure what to expect from Meyer at this point, but they'd be happy if he could just get 100 percent healthy so they can assign him to Triple-A in an attempt to rediscover his stuff.
Ray began his college career as a right fielder at San Diego City College, but his arm strength led to an experiment on the mound in his second year. He fired low-90s fastballs and showed a surprisingly effective curveball. Ray transferred to Azusa Pacific (Calif.) as a junior in 2005, becoming a full-time pitcher and seeing his stuff take another step forward. The A's took him in the eighth round--making him the third-highest pick in school history, behind big leaguers Paul Moskau and Jeff Robinson--and signed him for $70,000. Ray struck out nearly two men per inning in his pro debut, including a run of 32 strikeouts over 14 innings in his final 10 games. He has two plus pitches, a 93-95 mph fastball and a big breaking power curve. Because of his lack of time on the mound, Ray remains extremely raw for a pitcher with college experience. His mechanics are complicated and his control is spotty. He's also on the small side, so his fastball lacks much downward plane. Oakland is excited about Ray's potential but sees him as a reliever only. He'll begin the year in Class A.
After a disappointing full-season debut in 2003, Colamarino got into the best shape of his life and had a breakout campaign in 2004. He started strong in Double-A in 2005 but was unable to replicate his success in Triple-A, where he hit just .194 with one home run in his final 25 games. Colamarino has as much in-game power as any player in the system, thanks to a compact swing and tremendous natural strength. He's also the organization's top defensive first baseman, with soft hands and good reactions. Colamarino lost confidence in his abilities at Triple-A and began to press, leading to a pull-conscious approach that left him highly susceptible to good lefties. He's a well below-average runner. Colamarino had surgery on his non-throwing shoulder in the offseason, but is expected to be healthy by the start of spring training. Blocked by an organizational glut of players limited to first base or DH, he'll give Triple-A another shot in 2006.
Robertson was an offensive star at Birmingham-Southern, finishing his four-year career as the school's all-time leader in home runs (60) and RBIs (239). He also led the Panthers to the NAIA national championship as a freshman, winning MVP honors at the NAIA World Series and homering in the title game. He pitched just six innings in his first three years of college, but he became Birmingham-Southern's closer as senior and tied a school record with nine saves. In 2005, his first full season as a pitcher, Robertson averaged 14.4 strikeouts per nine innings and reached Triple-A briefly. His method of success, like his career path, has been unconventional. He throws an 88-92 mph sinker and a decent slider, and both pitches are very difficult to pick up. He turns to the side in his delivery, all but completely blocking his arm from the hitter's view, while a lightning-quick release adds to his deception. At 24, he's still a bit raw as a pitcher and needs to throw more strikes. He's expected to open 2006 in Double-A and could be a part of the Oakland bullpen in 2007 if his success continues.
Stavisky starred at Notre Dame and hit a game-winning homer to eliminate Rice in the 2002 College World Series. He has put together a solid pro career so far, winning high Class A California League MVP honors in 2004 and finishing third in the Texas League in RBIs and on-base percentage last season. Stavisky has excellent pitch recognition and a good feel for contact to go along with average power. He's maniacal in his preparation and a leader in the clubhouse, with some pointing to him as the key influence in Andre Ethier's turnaround. Stavisky isn't athletic, so his on-field value consists entirely of what he can provide with the bat. He's a poor runner and very stiff mechanically. While he hits the ball hard consistently, he has never learned to add loft to his swing, limiting his home run power. He has made some strides in the outfield, but is still well below average and has an arm that rates a 20 on the 20-80 scouting scale. The A's believe his offense alone can get him to the majors, and they'll send him to Triple-A this year.
The A's top pick (second round) in 2000, Bynum has taken a slow, steady path through the system. While his 2005 season was delayed by lingering problems from a blood clot near his ribcage that required offseason surgery, he made his big league debut in September. Though he may not have enough offensive firepower to be an everyday player, Bynum remains one of the top athletes in the system. He's a line-drive hitter with decent plate discipline and the speed to be a disruptive force on the basepaths. Oakland has been grooming him as a super-sub the last two years, giving him time at second base, shortstop, third base and the outfield. While he has the athleticism to play almost anywhere on the field, he's still erratic, even at his original position of shortstop. His winter season in the Dominican Republic was cut short by another blood clot, but assuming he can put that behind him, he'll get a shot at a bench job in spring training.
Rheinecker ranked No. 2 on this list entering 2003, but his command and consistency have slipped since. He seemed to be getting back on track in Triple-A last year, going at least seven innings while allowing no more than two earned runs in six of his seven starts. But then he came down with a mysterious finger injury that prevented him from pitching again in 2005. An irritation in the second joint of his left middle finger on his throwing hand originally was expected to cost him just a few weeks, but the pain never subsided. Even at the end of the season, Rheinecker was unable to even grip a baseball. He began testing the finger on a very light throwing program in instructional league, but it still bothered him, albeit to a lesser extent. At his best, Rheinecker is a crafty lefthander with good stuff. He gets plenty of movement on an 88-90 mph fastball and mixes in a cutter, a sharp-breaking slider and a usable changeup. He usually throws strikes, though he can be around the zone too much and very hittable because his stuff isn't overpowering. The A's hope he'll be fully healed by spring training and able to build on his early 2005 success when he returns to Triple-A.
Madden had a successful four-year career at Ohio State, going 24-9 overall and starting the 2004 Cape Cod League all-star game. But his small frame turned many scouts off and he wasn't drafted until 2005, when the A's took him in the 21st-round as a bargain-basement senior sign. He won the short-season Northwest League ERA title in his pro debut, allowing two or fewer earned runs in all but one start. While he gets by mostly on command and moxie, Oakland scouting director Eric Kubota describes Madsen's stuff as "anything but late-round pickish." Madsen has an average fastball, sitting at 89-92 mph, as well as a good curveball he throws for strikes at any point in the count. He shows good feel for a changeup that should become an average pitch. Because of his size and age, Madsen offers little in the way of projection. His fastball comes in a little too straight, which could be a problem at higher levels. Because the A's want to get their highly regarded teenage pitchers from the 2005 draft started in the full-season leagues, Madsen most likely will skip a level and begin the season in high Class A.
While the A's don't scout Latin America as heavily as other teams, they are excited about a pair of Venezuelan outfielders. Javier Herrera has been turning heads in the United States for three years, while Alvarado made his U.S. debut in 2005 as one of the top power hitters in the Arizona League. He might have won the AZL home run crown had a strained quadriceps not slowed him down in August. Alvarado is still raw, but his tools grade as at least average across the board. Long and lean, he has some juice in his bat, good pitch recognition and enough speed to swipe a few bases. He has a tendency to overswing and get pull-conscious. His arm is above average but his outfield instincts are poor, which may limit him to left field. His performance this spring will determine if he is ready to open the year in low Class A.
The younger brother of righthander Brad Baisley, a 1998 Phillies second-round pick who topped out in Double-A, Jeff attended South Florida, where he started alongside his twin brother Brian. Baisley expected to be drafted as a junior in 2004, but he tried to play through a stress fracture in his left foot and batted just .264. He rebounded to hit .356 with a school-record 26 doubles last spring, which got him drafted in the 12th round. He had a solid pro debut and shined in instructional league, where he earned MVP honors. Baisley's strengths are exactly what the A's like to see in hitters. He has a patient approach at the plate, good contact skills and gap power. While his range at third base is just average, he has soft hands and a plus arm. Baisley may not develop the power to profile as an everyday player at the corner, and at 23 he needs to move quickly through the system. He'll likely begin the year in high Class A, but Oakland would like to get him to high Class A at some point during 2006.