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With some pride, Crosby says, "I've never been the best player on any team I've played for." Crosby has the attitude that he always has to improve, and he has done just that at Long Beach State and in pro ball. He's the son of former big leaguer Ed Crosby, who signed Jason Giambi as an Athletics scout and now works for the Diamondbacks. The Big West Conference player of the year in 2001, he went 25th overall in that June's draft and earned then-scouting director Grady Fuson's highest compliment: "This guy's a baseball player." Crosby made an immediate impression by hitting .395 in 11 games at high Class A Modesto, then followed up with a solid first full season in 2002. He stunned the A's by being a much better player in 2003, a tribute to his aptitude and work ethic. He was the Triple-A Pacific Coast League's rookie of the year and will be a prime contender for the same award in the American League this year. If he hadn't been promoted in late August, he would have started at shortstop for Team USA in the Olympic qualifying tournament. Crosby won't be the run producer that Miguel Tejada was for Oakland, but he'll be better than most shortstops. He has a solid approach, using the entire field and drawing walks, and should hit for average with 20-homer power. Though he's not a spectacular defender, he's a consistent, dependable shortstop who gets the job done. Crosby reads the ball well off the bat, which gives him satisfactory range, and he rarely makes mistakes. His hands are outstanding and his arm is strong. He made significant improvement last year by learning to cut off balls on his side, quickening his ability to make play. From the day Crosby signed, the A's have talked about his instincts for the game, and they seem to keep improving. His desire to keep getting better allows him to do so. The A's are more conscious of plate discipline than any organization, and they'd like Crosby to chase fewer pitches out of the strike zone and to improve his two-strike approach. Those adjustments should come with experience. His speed is below-average for a shortstop and he doesn't have classic range for the position. He has battled nagging injuries during his tenure as a pro and must prove his durability. Having Crosby waiting in the wings eased Tejada's departure as a free agent. He won't quite fill his predecessor's shoes, but Oakland still will have a shortstop who's above-average offensive and defensively. "He's ready for the big leagues," Triple-A Sacramento manager Tony DeFrancesco says. "I think he will be in the class with the other great shortstops." That may be setting a high standard, but Crosby has lived up to every challenge he has faced.
Acquired with a first-round pick from the Yankees as compensation for Jason Giambi, Blanton is the best prospect from the A's 2002 "Moneyball" draft. He dominated the low Class A Midwest League last year, winning the strikeout crown despite being promoted in late July. Unlike Oakland's other 2002 draftees, he also made an easy transition to Double-A. Blanton has the makings of a classic power pitcher. He usually throws 93-94 mph and hits 96 with his fastball, and he has tremendous command of the pitch. MWL managers rated his slider as the league's best breaking ball, and his curveball also can buckle hitters' knees. Blanton is still learning the art of pitching. He sometimes relies on one or two pitches rather than using his full repertoire, and he must learn to sequence pitches to keep hitters off balance. His changeup is just beginning to develop. An intense competitor, he'll overthrow and lose control at times. There's some effort to his delivery. Blanton will return to Double-A Midland to start this season. He made dramatic progress during 2003, and similar improvement could land him in Oakland in 2005.
Undrafted out of high school and junior college, Johnson became a star at the University of Nebraska. He set school records for homers in a game (three) and season (25) and has continued to mash as a pro. He led the Double-A Texas League in homers, RBIs and total bases (271) last year. Power and patience are the organization's watchwords, and Johnson has both in abundance. He's a great fastball hitter with power to all fields and outstanding plate discipline for a slugger. After making major adjustments to shorten his stroke, he makes consistent, hard contact. Johnson is big and slow, limited to first base and DH. Though he has worked hard on his defense, he's only adequate. Some scouts remain skeptical whether his power will translate to the majors. The A's will send Johnson to Triple-A to see if he can continue producing as he has. If he does, he could be an upgrade for them at first base after they got just 16 homers and a .399 slugging percentage out of the position in 2003.
Sullivan came within 10 whiffs of becoming the first pitcher since the 1970s to successfully defend an NCAA Division I strikeout title, but he wore down late in the spring and slipped out of the top 10 picks. The A's were shocked when he was available with the 25th overall selection. After signing him for $1.36 million, Oakland handled him gingerly. Sullivan's darting fastball and hard slider are both plus offerings with excellent movement. His curveball also can serve as an out pitch at times. He's athletic, which allows him to repeat his delivery and field his position well. He has terrific feel for pitching and keeps hitters off balance by varying his arm slot, location and velocity. Sullivan also played first and second base for Houston in the NCAA playoffs, and he was exhausted when he joined the A's. The velocity on his fastball dipped from 91-93 mph to the high 80s, and his slider dropped from 82-85 mph to the high 70s. The hope is that he'll bounce back after a winter of rest. Oakland has revamped his mechanics to improve his durability. If he's 100 percent, Sullivan should be able to start this season at high Class A and reach the majors before most 2003 draftees. An optimistic ETA would be late 2005.
Released by the Tigers in 1997, Koonce spent two years in the independent Western League. He signed with the Padres in 1998 and has exploded since the A's took him in the minor league Rule 5 draft in December 2001. He led the minors in homers and was the Pacific Coast League MVP in 2003, and served as Team USA's first baseman in the Olympic qualifying tournament. Koonce is similar to Dan Johnson in many ways. As he has grown older, he has developed outstanding power. He's a good fastball hitter who uses the whole field. The A's particularly adore his knack for drawing walks. At 28, age is Koonce's enemy. He's slow and relegated to first base or DH. He's an adequate defender, slightly better than Johnson and adept at digging balls out of the dirt. Koonce will come to spring training competing for a big league job. He's known for his slow starts, and a continuation of that trend could send him back to Triple-A. He has the potential to offer a lot more production than Oakland got out of DH Erubiel Durazo and first baseman Scott Hatteberg last year.
The A's made Swisher their No. 1 target in the 2002 draft and were ecstatic to get him 16th overall. His father Steve was a first-rounder in June 1973 and an all-star catcher in 1976. Nick's transition to pro ball has been erratic. He struggled in his pro debut and again after a promotion to Double-A last year. Swisher works deep counts and can hit once he gets there. He has plus power potential from both sides of the plate. He has excellent instincts and an average arm in the outfield, and could be a Gold Glover at first base. But he has struck out too much as a pro because pitchers have learned he'll chase offspeed pitches out of the zone. He's a below-average runner who may lack the speed for center field. Other teams don't like his power as much as the A's do. He's too hard on himself, which has hampered his ability to make adjustments. Swisher will return to Double-A in 2004. His supporters see him maturing into a player who combines patience, power and defense. His detractors see him as a player who doesn't profile as a standout at any position.
Quintanilla was somewhat of a surprise as a supplemental first-round pick, but his strong pro debut was not. He had established a sterling track record at Texas, where he was the Big 12 Conference freshman of the year in 2001 and a key player on a College World Series championship team the following year. Quintanilla has solid all-around tools and knows how to get the most out of them. He's capable of producing for average and gap power. He has average speed and good baserunning instincts. Defensively, he has excellent hands and consistently makes the routine plays. He entered pro ball with tendinitis in his throwing arm, so Quintanilla never showed what he could do at shortstop. He's thick-bodied and will have to work hard to maintain his quickness, and even then may have to move to second base. He often hits in early counts, contradicting the A's preference for their hitters to take pitches and draw walks. Quintanilla will return to high Class A and try to build on his early success. The A's say he can stay at shortstop, and he'd still be an above-average offensive player at second base if he has to move.
A Big West Conference rival of Bobby Crosby at Cal State Fullerton, Rouse came from the Blue Jays in a November 2002 trade for Cory Lidle. After missing half of 2002 with a broken hamate bone in his right wrist, Rouse returned to Double-A last year and hit with more authority. When Crosby was unavailable, Rouse took over at shortstop and starred for Team USA at the Olympic qualifying tournament. With great hands and exceptional ability to read the ball off the bat, Rouse is a solid defender at shortstop. He has excellent focus, which helped him lead Texas League shortstops with a .967 fielding percentage. He handles the bat well, gets on base and runs OK. The A's believe he can reach double figures in homers. Rouse doesn't have the arm or range to make plays in the hole, and he'll probably wind up at second base. Oakland also wanted him to get stronger over the offseason. Rouse is ready for Triple-A and may get time at second base. The A's envision him as an everyday middle infielder, though he'll have to fight off Mark Ellis ahead of him and Omar Quintanilla behind him to earn that status in Oakland.
The A's drafted Ethier in the 37th round out of Chandler-Gilbert (Ariz.) Community College in 2001 and signed him out of Arizona State as a second-round pick two years later. In between, he earned all-Pacific-10 Conference honors in both years with the Sun Devils and finished his college career with a 23-game hitting streak. Ethier has tremendous hand-eye coordination, the basic natural ability that can make for a great hitter. Some scouts say he could compare with Shawn Green once he fills out. He has the patience at the plate that Oakland likes. He also has average speed and arm strength, and his excellent instincts allow him to play all three outfield positions. He's highly motivated. Ethier has a tendency to guide the ball with the bat, slightly pulling off rather than attacking it. He made outstanding progress learning to drive pitches in instructional league. He doesn't cover a lot of ground for a center fielder and might fit best in left. Ethier is ticketed for high Class A, and Oakland is eager to see what develops. Some club officials say he has the highest ceiling among their farmhands.
A car crash after the 2001 season led to back problems that ruined Duchscherer's first year in the Oakland system. He bounced back in 2003 to become the Pacific Coast League's pitcher of the year and wins leader. He was at his best on Sept. 9, shutting out the Angels for seven innings to earn his first win for the A's. Duchscherer is a poised and crafty control pitcher. He upsets hitters' timing by changing speeds on his fastball and curveball. His curve is his best pitch, and his changeup is right behind. None of Duchscherer's pitches grades better than average, and his fastball doesn't even rate that high. He pitches at 85-87 mph and rarely breaks 90. He needs to improve his cutter so he can work inside to righthanders. He has little margin for error. While his total package was devastating against Triple-A hitters, how well it will translate to the majors remains a major question mark. The A's say Duchscherer could emerge as a successful big league starter after gaining a couple of years of experience at that level. Oakland's offseason trade for Mark Redman paves the way for Duchscherer to learn in a middle-relief role in 2004.
A dominant Triple-A performance and promising outings in the majors last year have returned Harville to the A's bullpen mix for 2004. Because he's out of options, he'll either have to make the Oakland roster or risk being lost on waivers. With Chad Bradford the only established righthander in the A's relief corps, Harville has a good shot at earning a set-up job. When he first came to the A's, he was a young blazer with a fastball that hit 97 mph and a propensity to throw it thigh-high instead of at the knees. After seven years of experience, he has developed a sinker in the low 90s, and still occasionally busts a 95 mph four-seamer. He also has added a slow curve to mess with hitters' timing. Command has never been his strong suit, and he has had problems throwing strikes during his various stints with Oakland. Harville also has a history of injuries, including rotator-cuff tendinitis in 2001 and elbow inflammation in 2002.
Though Wood was undrafted out of high school and went to NCAA Division II North Florida as a walk-on infielder, he reached the majors little more than two years after turning pro. But after he succeeded at every stop in the minors, big league hitters were able to tee off on his mid-80s pitches. Wood has a devastating sinker that the A's have compared to Tim Hudson's, and the same scout (John Poloni) signed both pitchers. Oakland now believes his best role might be as a reliever who enters in double-play situations. Wood reached 91 mph as a college closer but his velocity has been down to 86-89 as a pro. He also throws a splitter and changeup, both highly effective pitches, and has good command of the strike zone. Wood probably will begin 2004 in the Triple-A rotation, waiting for an opening in the Oakland bullpen.
Rheinecker ranked No. 2 on this list behind Rich Harden a year ago, and he won 11 games while reaching Triple-A in 2003. Yet his stock has slipped significantly. He allowed a minor league-high 233 hits in 180 innings, raising questions as to whether he can miss enough bats to be an effective big league starter. Rheinecker is a good battler who often fights his way out of trouble. When he commands his 88-89 fastball, he can dominate games, but he doesn't do that often enough. While he doesn't beat himself with walks, he leaves his pitches up in the strike zone too often. His slider is his best pitch, and he also uses a cutter and changeup. Like many of Oakland's top pitching prospects, Rheinecker is a fine athlete who was a two-way player in college. He would have been an early pick in the 2000 draft if he hadn't torn the anterior cruciate ligament in his right knee while playing the outfield. He'll pitch out of the Triple-A rotation in 2004, trying to improve his pitch sequencing and his ability to work down in the zone.
Perhaps no player in baseball inspires more diversity of opinion than the squat catcher from Alabama. No other team evaluated him as an early-round pick in 2002, yet Oakland drafted him 35th overall. Saving money with seven first-round picks was a factor, as Brown's $350,000 bonus was the lowest in the top 66 choices. But the A's probably could have taken him five rounds later and signed him for $10,000. They say he'll be a top-flight big league catcher, putting up outstanding offensive numbers while functioning well on defense. Scouts outside the organization point to his lack of athleticism and fear he won't have the mobility to block pitches out of the strike zone, which would prevent him from becoming an everyday catcher. Those limitations became more apparent when he advanced to Double-A last year. The A's put Brown on an intense agility program over the winter, hoping to increase his flexibility. After a spectacular pro debut in 2002, Brown continued to pile up walks in Double-A, but his average slipped and his power fell off dramatically. He earns high marks for calling games and working with pitchers, but his sluggishness behind the plate also detracts from his slightly above-average arm. He threw out just 21 percent of basestealers in 2003. Brown missed the second half of the season and instructional league with a strained left thumb. He may need to return to Double-A at the start of this year.
In "Moneyball," scouting director Eric Kubota said, "I hate to say it, but if you want to talk about another Jason Giambi, this guy could be it." Teahen hasn't lived up to that assessment yet, but the biggest excitement generated in instructional league camp came when he began driving the ball. Suddenly the tall third baseman went from power-deprived to potentially powerful, a major leap forward. Teahen had shown line-drive hitting ability but not the pop required of a third baseman. In instructional league, the A's got him to incorporate his legs more in his swing and to pull pitches more often. He has good plate discipline and exceptional hand-eye coordination, though he needs to make more contact. Defensively, Teahen is a solid third baseman with average speed and a plus arm for the position. The hope is that the lessons he learned in instructional league will carry over this year in Double-A.
Oakland's surprise top pick (second round) in 2000, Bynum has made progress but at a slower pace than the A's would have hoped. After an encouraging performance at the plate in 2002, he regressed in Double-A last year. He still has the tools to develop into an exciting leadoff man and second baseman, but he still has a lot of work to do. Bynum has excellent speed and a line-drive approach. He won't ever hit for much power and has to tighten up his strike zone. Primarily a shortstop in his first two pro seasons, he has found a better fit at second base the last two years. He certainly has enough range and arm strength to play shortstop, but his hands and inconsistent throwing accuracy held him back there. Oakland is toying with moving him to center field, a weak spot in the system. He probably would benefit from repeating Double-A but may move to Triple-A in 2004.
One A's official put it succinctly: "He had a crappy year. But there's something special about Ben that makes you think he'll get it eventually." Fritz battled shoulder tendinitis in 2003, his first full pro season, leading to erratic performances and getting him shut down after July 1. Another former two-way player among Oakland's best pitching prospects, Fritz also caught and played first base at Fresno State. His arm strength, power and agility made him a legitimate catching prospect, but teams liked him even better on the mound. When healthy, Fritz has a 92-94 mph fastball, a decent slider and two variations of a changeup. His fastball has good life, which combined with his easy delivery leads to a lot of late or checked swings. He'll need to improve his command and stay healthy in 2003, which he'll probably begin back in high Class A. Some club officials believe his best long-term role may be as a closer, because he has the makeup to thrive in that role.
Baker ranks as the best defensive catcher among Oakland farmhands, though that's more a reflection of the state of the system than any Gold Glove prowess on his part. He's an offense-first player with power to both alleys and good plate discipline. He does a good job of putting the sweet spot of the bat on the ball, though he could make more consistent contact. Low Class A pitchers were no match for him, though he cooled off after a promotion to Double-A. Baker didn't begin to catch until his sophomore season at California, but he's highly intelligent and learns quickly. The A's have been pleased with his defensive progress, as his receiving skills are average and his blocking ability is adequate. The biggest question is his arm, which is fringe average at best. He threw out just 23 percent of basestealers in 2003 before straining his shoulder late in the season. He was limited to DH duty in instructional league. Baker likely will begin 2004 in Double-A, where he may split time behind the plate with Jeremy Brown.
McCurdy had one of the best offensive seasons ever for a college shortstop, hitting .443-19-77 at Maryland in 2002. Some scouts believed his breakthrough was an aberration, but the A's saw some Jeff Kent in him and took him with one of their seven first-round picks. McCurdy didn't do much offensively in his pro debut or for most of last season, but he hit .391 in the final month and continued to show improvement in instructional league. He finally started to prepare to play every day and learned to put mistakes behind him. At his best, McCurdy is a fierce hitter with power to all fields. At his worst, he loses the strike zone and hits routine groundouts. He doesn't walk as much as a typical Oakland prospect. McCurdy's defense always will be an issue, and several Midwest League observers couldn't figure out why he played shortstop and relegated Francis Gomez to second base at low Class A Kane County last year. McCurdy has arm strength and soft hands, but his range and footwork are ordinary and he lacks consistency. Second base might even be a stretch, and his best fit could come at third base. He could switch position this year in high Class A.
Lehr spent his first three college seasons mostly catching at UC Santa Barbara, then transferred to Southern California and served as the No. 2 starter behind Barry Zito. After five years in the minors, Lehr is close to getting a major league shot. His fastball jumped from 91 mph previously to 94-95 in 2003. He also did a much better job of throwing quality strikes to the first batter he faced after entering a game. Lehr backs up his fastball with a slider, and also has a splitter and changeup from his days as a starter. He has found a home in the bullpen after moving there full-time in 2002. His calm demeanor serves him well in tense late-inning situations. After making major progress, Lehr will get a chance to win a job in Oakland this spring. He led the Puerto Rican League with eight saves this winter, helping his cause. In time, he could develop into a setup man.
Just two years ago German was one of the premier prospects in the organization, considered the cream of a deep middle-infield crop that also included Bobby Crosby, Mark Ellis and Freddie Bynum. He was Oakland's minor league player of the year in 2001, but his stock slipped the following year, when it also was discovered that he was 11 months older than previously believed. German rebounded in 2003, but still will have trouble pushing Ellis or Crosby aside to earn regular big league playing time. German has the tools to become a solid leadoff man, with plus speed and on-base ability. He also has good bunting skills. He recognizes that he has little power and doesn't try to drive. Defensively, German has to play second base because he lacks the arm for shortstop. He doesn't read balls quickly off the bat and doesn't cover as much ground as might be expected for a player with his speed. He did make strides last year with his double-play pivot and range to his right side. German could claim a big league utility job if he performs well this spring.
At 27, Grabowski has done just about everything possible to prove he can play in the majors, but he never has gotten much of an opportunity. He has just 16 at-bats over the last two seasons in Oakland. Grabowski has hit for average and power and reached base consistently throughout his pro career. He doesn't project to have quite enough offense to hold down a regular job as a corner outfielder, but he's versatile enough to have played every position but second base and pitcher as a pro. He has an average arm and runs slightly below average. Grabowski's ability to produce at the plate and fill in at a variety of positions could make him a useful big league reserve. He's out of options, so the A's risk losing him on waivers if he doesn't make their club in spring training.
A college star at Nebraska, Komine set a slew of school records, finished fifth on the alltime NCAA Division I strikeout list (510 in 431 innings) and twice was named Big 12 Conference pitcher of the year. But because he's 5-foot-9 and had a history of back problems, he lasted until the ninth round of the 2002 draft. Komine stayed healthy and pitched well in his first full pro season. His biggest asset is that he's a strike machine who can throw his fastball, curveball and changeup at any point in the count. Komine had an 89-94 mph fastball and a hard slider when he was at his best for the Cornhuskers, but he usually pitches at 88-89 mph these days and has dropped the slider. He wore down in the final month of last season, and given his past he just may not have the durability to be a starter. He'll stay in that role this year in Double-A, however.
Kiger has instincts and work ethic similar to David Eckstein and Mark Ellis, who preceded him as shortstops at the University of Florida. He also may have more pure talent than those two. Kiger had a 44-game hitting streak and hit .497 to win the California community college batting title as a Grossmont CC freshman, and he batted .403 as a Gators senior. Thus the A's were surprised when he didn't do much offensively in his pro debut, but Kiger shortened his stroke in instructional league and fared much better last year. He led Oakland minor leaguers in pitches seen while showing a propensity for drawing walks and hitting for gap power. He does need to cut down on his strikeouts, however. Kiger split time between second base and shortstop in 2003 and is better suited for the former. He's can play short adequately but doesn't quite have the arm for the position. His decent range and exceptional hands play well at second base. Kiger has a great chance of progressing as a utilityman, and the A's have a history of turning their utility players into regulars. He'll start in the middle infield at Double-A in 2004.
After an All-America season at Stetson, Snyder projected to go as high as 13th overall to the Blue Jays in the 2003 draft. The A's were happy to get him with the 26th choice, making him the fourth recent Wellington (Fla.) Community High alumnus to go in the first round, joining Bobby Bradley (1999), Sean Burnett (2000) and Justin Pope (2001 after attending Central Florida). Most teams considered Snyder a second- or third-round talent, but Oakland loved his Atlantic Sun Conference-leading .505 on-base percentage. Though he had difficulty adjusting to pro ball at short-season Vancouver, the A's weren't concerned and said minor injuries were partly to blame. He hit well with wood bats in the Cape Cod League in 2002, and he made major progress in instructional league. Snyder has an excellent eye for drawing walks and hits for gap power, though he'll need to make more consistent contact. There are questions as to whether he'll have enough pop for the hot corner and where he fits best on the diamond. Though he's stocky, he's more athletic than he looks and second base could be a possibility. He didn't play well there at Stetson last spring, however, and showed better instincts and reactions at third base. His hands are good and his arm is adequate for the position. Snyder should reach high Class A by the end of 2004.
Ramos was the A's top pitching prospect when they included him in the January 2002 Carlos Pena trade with the Rangers. But after going 30-9, 2.88 in the Oakland system, he was shellacked to the tune of a 12-19, 5.74 with Texas, including a brief stint in the majors last June. When the Rangers tried to remove Ramos from their 40-man roster this offseason, the A's reclaimed him on the waivers. They're hoping to resurrect his career by reuniting him with the pitching coaches who helped him rise. His changeup is his best pitch, but he foolishly tried to overpower hitters following the trade and never has regained his confidence. His fastball sits at 85-88 mph, so he must survive by varying speeds and throwing strikes. He also mixes in a curveball. The most likely scenario is that Ramos will begin 2004 in Triple-A, where he has struggled mightily the previous two years after pitching well there in 2001.
The 2003 season was an exercise in frustration for the most athletic player in the system. After a disastrous start in high Class A, McBeth reported to extended spring training for a hitting tutorial. It took him a while to find a groove at low Class A Kane County, and shortly after he did he broke his right index finger diving for a fly ball. A former kick returner at South Carolina, McBeth is an outstanding center fielder with tremendous arm strength and foot speed. His problem has been making hard contact at the plate. He showed dramatic improvement during instructional league in 2002, seeming to conquer his propensity for swinging at pitches out of the zone. However, once the 2003 season began, his control of the strike zone disintegrated. He has raw power potential but has been unable to tap into it. There's some thought that McBeth should be moved to the mound to utilize an arm that grades as an 80 on the 20-80 scouting scale. For now, he'll take a second crack at high Class A as an outfielder.
Of the players on this list who signed their first pro contract with Oakland, Herrera and Esteban German are the only ones who aren't college products. Herrera has five-tool potential, but drew the most attention in 2003 when he ran into the center-field fence during a Rookie-level Arizona League game on July 1. He had to be airlifted to a Phoenix hospital after losing all feeling in his legs. Herrera made a complete recovery but wasn't as electric once he returned. He has center-field speed, a plus-plus arm and early signs of power. He's unpolished and will need a lot more experience and adjustments. He tends to play out of control and is overaggressive at the plate. He'll probably return to the AZL in 2004.
In two seasons at Texas, Majewski led the Big 12 Conference in hitting (.401) in 2002 and in RBIs (85) in 2003. He and fellow A's draftee Omar Quintanilla were the offensive leaders as the Longhorns made back-to-back College World Series appearances and won the 2002 national title. They're similar in that they both work hard to get the most of solid but not great tools. Majewski's sound swing and approach and his ability to make adjustments will allow him to hit for average. He uses the entire field and has gap power. He doesn't have true center-field speed, but he runs well and gets good jumps. Majewski might be a tweener who lacks the defense for center and the home run power for the corners, but in that case he'd still make a good fourth outfielder. He could make the jump to high Class A in 2004.
Brooks emerged as a legitimate relief prospect in 2003, changing addresses three times in the process. The Phillies traded him to the Pirates in July for Mike Williams. The Mets took Brooks fourth overall in the major league Rule 5 draft at the Winter Meetings, then immediately sent him to the A's for a player to be named later. Brooks won't blow hitters away, but he has good command of an 88-91 mph fastball and curve. His deceptive delivery makes it tough to pick up his pitches, though he sometimes works high in the strike zone and becomes vulnerable to homers. A situational lefty, Brooks may find it tough to stick with Oakland after the club's subsequent moves to stockpile southpaws. The A's re-signed Ricardo Rincon, traded for Chris Hammond and signed Arthur Rhodes as a free agent. Before sending Brooks to the minors, Oakland would have to place him on waivers and offer him back to Philadelphia for half the $50,000 draft price.