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Despite setting a West Virginia state record with 17 home runs as a senior at Parkersburg High, Swisher wasn't drafted in 1999. The son of former first-round pick and all-star catcher Steve Swisher, Nick starred at Ohio State, becoming the Big 10 Conference freshman of the year in 2000 and an all-conference pick the next two seasons. The highest June regular phase draft pick in Buckeyes history, Swisher was Oakland's No. 1 target and went 16th overall in the club's much publicized "Moneyball" draft in 2002. He made slow and steady progress in his first two years before breaking out at Triple-A Sacramento in 2004, leading the minor leagues in walks and tying Dan Johnson for the organizational lead in home runs. He spent September playing a significant role in Oakland's playoff push, performing admirably in his big league debut. The accomplishments were made all the more impressive by the postseason discovery that he played the entire season with a fracture and a torn tendon in his left thumb. Swisher is a prime example of what Oakland looks for in a batting prospect. He has a quick, quiet swing that generates plus power from both sides of the plate, and he projects to hit 25-30 home runs annually. His uncanny plate discipline should make him a productive middle-of-the-order hitter, with the ability to both score and drive in 100 runs annually. The A's believe his .269 average at Sacramento represents the low end of his capabilities. Swisher brings a major league swagger to the field and backs it up with an outstanding work ethic. He's a true baseball rat who spent many summers traveling with his father during the elder Swisher's career as a minor league coach and manager. Swisher is sound defensively with good instincts and an average arm. While he has played just six games at first base as a pro, he's a potential Gold Glove candidate at that position, though Oakland currently has no plans of moving him from the outfield. Swisher tends to chase outside pitches, especially from the left side of the plate. At times, he can be too patient, shown by a remarkable 43 walks in 28 June games. He changed his approach in the final two months at Sacramento, hitting 15 home runs in the season's final 50 games by focusing more on working himself into hitter's counts, as opposed to simply trying to draw walks. Primarily a center fielder in the minors, he has no better than average speed and will have to play on a corner in the majors. He's still learning to channel his intensity and can be too hard on himself, leading to extended slumps. The A's saved $14 million by declining Jermaine Dye's option, all but handing Swisher a starting job in 2005. He had thumb surgery in October and should be 100 percent for spring training. The A's think Swisher can match Dye's production immediately. He should be the first of the "Moneyball" picks to contribute at the big league level and is a prime candidate for 2005 Rookie of the Year honors.
Barton was considered one of the best high school hitters in the 2003 draft, but concerns about his defense dropped him into the lower half of the first round. He proved to be one of the better offensive prospects in baseball in his first full season, leading the low Class A Midwest League in on-base percentage while finishing fourth in slugging. While Dan Haren and even Kiko Calero will pay more immediate dividends, many consider Barton to be the real prize Oakland received in the Mark Mulder trade with St. Louis. General manager Billy Beane called him the best pure hitter in the minors after dealing for him. Barton has a fast bat, uses all fields and already shows plus game power. He has an advanced understanding of the strike zone, and his offensive approach fits in perfectly with the A's philosophies. While few doubt Barton's ability to reach the majors on his bat alone, his defensive future is a question mark. Behind the plate he has a below-average arm and receiving skills. He threw out 25 percent of basestealers last year. His lack of athleticism and quickness were going to make catching a stretch, and Oakland has decided it's more important to develop his bat. He'll move to first base at Oakland's new high Class A Stockton affiliate this year.
In 2003, his first season in the United States, Herrera crashed into the wall during a Rookie-level Arizona League game and temporarily lost all feeling in his legs. Fully recovered in 2004, he was named MVP of the short-season Northwest League, where he was the lone player to reach double figures in both home runs and stolen bases. On pure tools and athletic ability, Herrera has more upside than any player in the system. He grades out at average or above in all five tools. He already has translated his power to game situations and was successful on 23 of 24 steal attempts in the NWL. Defensively, he has the speed to play center field and the arm for right. Herrera's aggressive approach at the plate could use refinement, and he has trouble with good breaking balls. In the outfield, he often must use his plus speed to offset bad jumps. He's understandably still a little tentative going back on balls toward the wall. Javier is ready to showcase his skills at the full-season level. He should spend most or all of 2005 at low Class A Kane County.
When the A's traded Tim Hudson to the Braves, general manager Billy Beane insisted on getting Meyer, the top lefthanded pitching prospect in Triple-A last season. A supplemental first-round pick in 2002, he was the highest-drafted college player by the Braves since they took Mike Kelly second overall in 1991. Meyer does a fine job of throwing strikes and keeping the ball down in the zone, and though he's usually around the plate he's not easy to hit. He has two plus pitches in his 91-93 mph fastball and his tight slider, and his changeup is also effective. After using it mainly for show in the past, Meyer began relying on his changeup more often in 2004. He still could use some more depth on his changeup and more consistency with his slider. He made his major league debut with two scoreless innings in September, and Oakland will give him every opportunity to win a rotation job in spring training. If he doesn't make the cut, he shouldn't need too much more time in Triple-A.
Blanton took the system by storm in 2003, leading the Midwest League in strikeouts despite leaving for Double-A by the end of July. Bumped to Triple-A for 2004, Blanton proved to be more hittable, but he impressed the A's in a brief major league look in September. Blanton has solid stuff and impeccable control. His lively fastball sat at 89-91 mph for much of the year, but he threw 92-94 coming out of the bullpen in Oakland. He throws strikes with his slider and curveball. He has a durable frame and should eat up innings in the major leagues. Blanton's changeup is still developing. He doesn't have a true out pitch, and Pacific Coast League observers liked his command and tenacity more than his stuff. He's still learning to change speeds and out-think hitters, as he can't simply overmatch them as he did at the lower levels. With his September showing, he convinced the A's he was ready to pitch in the majors in 2005. They traded Tim Hudson, Mark Mulder and Mark Redman with the idea that Blanton would fill one of the rotation vacancies.
A late bloomer at Nebraska, Johnson has produced consistently as a pro. His 225 RBIs in 2003-04 top all minor leaguers, and he tied for the system lead in homers while winning the regular-season and playoff MVP awards in the Pacific Coast League. He hit .468 in seven postseason games as Sacramento won its second straight championship. Oakland called him up afterward, but Johnson came down with a case of vertigo that kept him from making his big league debut. He recovered in time to have a productive winter in the Mexican Pacific League. Johnson has power to all fields and a solid understanding of the strike zone. He makes consistent contact for a power hitter and mashes mistakes. He has worked hard to improve at first, and even put in time in left field late in the year, but he'll never be more than an adequate first baseman. He's lumbering on the basepaths. Oakland decided to bring both Scott Hatteberg and Erubiel Durazo back for 2005, so Johnson will have to be content with a reserve role at the start of the season.
Street holds the career saves records for Texas, Team USA and the College World Series. After signing for $800,000 on July 15, he was closing games in the Pacific Coast League playoffs by September. One scout who saw him in the Arizona Fall League opined that the A's would have made the playoffs had they promoted him in September. Street pitches mostly at 89-92 mph, but his fastball has heavy sink and he can dial it up to 94 mph when needed. His slider is more notable for its break than its velocity, but it's a major league out pitch. The ultimate competitor, Street has off-the-charts makeup. He won't beat himself with walks. Street doesn't have a classic closer repertoire, leaving some scouts to project him more as a set-up man. He still needs to find a consistent way to retire lefthanders, so the A's had him working on his changeup in the Arizona Fall League. Street could start his first full season as a big league set-up man and could become Oakland's closer in the very near future.
The Athletics always had faith in Garcia's stuff, but nagging arm troubles limited his innings and hindered his development. Moved full-time to the bullpen in 2004, he flourished. He shot from low Class A to the majors and led all minor league relievers with 14.9 strikeouts per nine innings. Garcia's pitches have drawn comparisons to Eric Gagne's. His fastball sits in the 93-95 mph range with good movement, and he consistently touches 97. His sharp-breaking slider is another plus pitch, and he has a strong changeup. Garcia's control fell apart after he left the Midwest League, as he failed to react well to getting hit and began aiming the ball. He needs to trust his stuff better while also learning that he can get hitters out with more than just his fastball. Like Street, Garcia is in a position to contribute in the majors in 2005. He does need a little more refinement, so he's more likely than Street to begin the year in Triple-A.
Robnett's draft stock rose more than most last spring, as he opened scouts' eyes with a 6-for-11 weekend against Rice's trio of first-round pitchers. After sitting out 2003 in junior college, he led the Western Athletic Conference in batting (.384), slugging (.699) and stolen bases (21). He received the top bonus ($1.325 million) in Oakland's draft class, and capped a strong pro debut by batting .321 in the Midwest League playoffs. Robnett offers a tantalizing combination of power and speed. He puts on a show in batting practice, and the ball makes that special sound coming off his bat. Despite his inexperience, he shows a solid understanding of the strike zone. He has a strong build and the speed to play center field. Robnett has a tendency to club at the ball, making his swing long and hindering his ability to catch up to good fastballs. He needs to improve his jumps in center, and may profile better in right field, where his arm plays well. The A's were excited about Robnett's summer and think he could move quickly through the system. He'll start 2005 at one of their Class A affiliates.
After a successful college career at Texas, Quintanilla has continued to do nothing but hit as a pro. He owns a career .330 average in 171 pro games, and registered a hit in all but two games after an August promotion to Double-A Midland. Quintanilla's line-drive stroke leads to consistent contact and surprising gap power for his size. He has soft hands and excellent fundamentals in the field, making plays on any ball he can reach. He's a better baserunner than his average speed might indicate. His instincts accentuate his tools. His aggressive hitting style leads to few walks, and Quintanilla has resisted a more patient approach because of the success he's achieved so far. He may lack the athleticism and arm strength to stay at shortstop, but would profile as a solid second baseman. With Bobby Crosby entrenched at shortstop, Quintanilla is Oakland's second baseman of the future. He'll stay on the left side of the infield for now and return to Double-A.
Suzuki turned down a scholarship to stay home at Hawaii in order to walk on at Cal State Fullerton so he could face top competition. He capped an All-America .413-16-87 season in 2004 with the game-winning hit in the College World Series. He signed for $550,000 and had a solid pro debut, marred only by an 0-for-13 showing in the Northwest League championship series. Suzuki has a mature approach at the plate, consistently working himself into hitter's counts and demonstrating gap power. He's a natural leader on the field and is exceptionally good at blocking balls and framing pitches. Suzuki needs to use all fields with his line-drive stroke. He has average power at best, but is still pull-conscious from swinging metal bats. His arm graded as above-average in college but regressed during the summer, which might be due to fatigue. Suzuki shared catching duties with Landon Powell at short-season Vancouver, but they'll be separated in 2005 to give them both plenty of time behind the plate. Two years younger than Powell, Suzuki will begin the year one step below him in low Class A.
The third time was a charm for Powell, whose first two attempted forays into pro ball ended in disappointment. He tried an unprecedented gambit as a high school junior, entering the draft after getting his GED diploma and becoming a free agent when he went unpicked. When no club met his price, he went on to a successful career at South Carolina but lasted until the Cubs took him in the 25th round of the 2003 draft because of concerns about his physique and signability. He hired a personal trainer and put up career-best .330-19-66 numbers as a senior. After Oakland took him 24th overall in 2004 and signed him for $1 million, an American League executive said, "Landon Powell is what Billy Beane thought Jeremy Brown was," referring to the 2002 supplemental first-round pick and darling of "Moneyball." Powell is a rare commodity, a switch-hitting catcher with power, plate discipline and defensive chops. He's surprisingly agile for his size and has a strong, accurate arm. Powell's body always will be a concern. He weighed as much as 260 pounds as a college junior, and he'll have to work hard to avoid getting too soft. He's slow but not a baseclogger. Two years older than 2004 supplemental first-round catcher Kurt Suzuki, Powell will be pushed a little harder, but his 2005 season will start late. He tore cartilage in his left knee while working out in January and was scheduled to have surgery, which will keep him out of spring training. When he is healthy, Powell will likely head to high Class A.
Putnam set career records for homers (33) and RBIs (118) at San Diego's famed Rancho Bernardo High program, which also has produced Hank Blalock and first-round picks Cole Hamels, Scott Heard, Jaime Jones and Matt Wheatland. Rancho Bernardo head coach Sam Blalock also coached Billy Beane at San Diego's Mount Carmel High. After high school, Putnam went to Stanford, where he blossomed into an All-American and a supplemental first-rounder who signed for $950,000. The A's had their sights on him all year and were pleasantly surprised when he was still available with the 36th overall pick. He had a disappointing debut but finished strong by leading all Midwest Leaguers with a .375 average in the postseason. Putnam was one of the best pure hitters in the 2004 draft. He has above-average bat speed and surprising power. Like most Oakland draft picks, he has an advanced understanding of the strike zone. His bat will be his ticket to the majors, as his weak arm and lack of speed limit him to left field. He can press when in slumps, and needs to learn to trust his tools and not tinker with his swing mechanics too much. The A's think Putnam is ready for a challenge and most will assign him to high Class A.
Baker is a poor man's version of Daric Barton, with a similar profile but four years older and with a lower ceiling. Both are offensive-minded catchers whose fringy defensive skills likely will force them to move. Baker continued to hit in 2004 and added power to his game, drilling 15 homers after totaling just eight in his first two seasons. He was impressive after a final-month promotion to Triple-A. Baker crowds the plate and uses a short stroke from the left side of the plate. He needs to improve his ability to go the other way with outside pitches, and his strike-zone judgment has deteriorated as he has risen through the minors. Baker has put in extra work to improve his defense, but he'll go only as far as his bat will take him. His arm is below average, and a labrum tear prior to the 2004 season only made things worse. He threw out just 17 percent of basestealers last year. His other defensive skills are also adequate at best, leaving first base as his only other logical position. Baker will begin 2005 in Triple-A and should make his major league debut at some point.
The A's zeroed in on Conor Jackson in the 2003 draft, but they doubted he'd fall to them in the late first round and were proven correct when the Diamondbacks selected him 19th overall. Oakland was happy to land its second-favorite hitter, Brian Snyder, who already had proven his ability to hit with wood bats during a solid Cape Cod League showing in 2002. After a lackluster pro debut, he had a successful first full season, finishing second in the Midwest League in on-base percentage despite missing time with shoulder and hip injuries. Snyder is a natural hitter and the A's expect him to gain power with experience. Other than Nick Swisher and Daric Barton, he has the best plate discipline in the system. Snyder sets up very far off the plate, leaving him susceptible to pitches on the outer half. He gained upwards of 20 pounds during the season, and his lack of physical conditioning may have contributed to his health problems. The weight gain also led to questions about his work ethic and his ability to stay at third base. Whether he'll have enough pop for the hot corner also is uncertain. Snyder's offensive skills are obvious, but his other tools regressed in 2004. The A's hope he'll have learned from the season, allowing him to jump to Double-A this year.
Until a stress fracture in his back shut him down at the end of July, Ethier ranked among the California League leaders in batting and hits during his first full pro season. The A's drafted him twice for his batting prowess, in the 37th round out of Chandler-Gilbert (Ariz.) CC in 2001 and in the second round out of Arizona State two years later. Ethier uses the entire field and should continue to hit for average. He has yet to show much power in games, but club officials and most scouts still see him hitting 20-plus homers annually once he learns how to drive the ball. While he drew 52 walks in 68 games in his final year at Arizona State, he has yet to show that kind of discipline as a pro. Ethier has average speed and fine outfield instincts, but he's not quick enough to play center field in the majors and his arm is a tick below average. He takes well to coaching, works hard and is driven to succeed. Ethier's back injury is not expected to have any long-term effects, and he'll advance to Double-A to begin 2005.
Windsor had an incredible two-year run at Cal State Fullerton, going 26-4, 1.82 and finishing his career as the Most Outstanding Player at the 2004 College World Series, where he capped a 5-0, 0.61 postseason with a complete-game victory in the title-clincher against Texas. Because they thought he had been worked hard in college, the A's used him sparingly out of the bullpen after signing him as a third-round pick for $270,000. He continued to shine, pitching seven hitless innings with 13 strikeouts during the Midwest League playoffs. Windsor is a classic overachiever, pitching beyond his ordinary stuff with excellent command and a strong competitive drive. His fastball regularly sits at 86-89 mph, though he hit 92 out of the bullpen when he didn't have to worry about conserving his energy. His circle change is his best pitch, featuring plenty of deception and a late break that makes hitters look foolish at times. He also throws a curveball and a slider, with his curve having more potential. He seems to pitch better in clutch situations. Though he lacks projection, the A's think Windsor could move as fast as anyone other than Huston Street from their 2004 draft class. He most likely will begin the year in high Class A but could get bumped to Double-A with a strong spring.
The A's signed Knox out of Central Arizona Junior College--the same place they found Rich Harden--where he was an integral part of a 2002 National Junior College World Series championship club. Oakland has brought Knox along slowly, but in his first taste of full-season ball last year he led the Midwest League in strikeouts, tied for top honors in victories and finished second to teammate Steven Bondurant in ERA. At 22 he was old for low Class A, but his stuff took a major step forward in 2004. He uses an average 89-91 mph fastball to set up his plus pitch, a knee-buckling curveball that he can break into the strike zone. His changeup is usable but needs improvement. Knox succeeds primarily on excellent command and the ability to change speeds, and there's some doubt as to whether that will be enough at higher levels. The A's still aren't sure what they have in him, but they like what they see so far. He'll be challenged in 2005 with a likely assignment to Double-A.
The Cardinals are thin on lefthanders, especially after including Chris Narveson in the Larry Walker trade, yet they gambled by not protecting Johnson on their 40-man roster this offseason. The A's pounced on him in the major league Rule 5 draft because they think he has a good chance to stick on their big league club--if he doesn't, they'll have to put him on waivers and offer him back to St. Louis for half his $50,000 draft price--and he immediately becomes the top lefty reliever in a system bereft of southpaws. Johnson led Cardinals minor leaguers with 15 wins in 2002, his first full season, before moving to the bullpen in 2003. His 4.79 ERA last year was deceiving, because he struggled with shoulder soreness early before posting a 2.04 ERA over the final three months following a short stint on the disabled list. Johnson thrives with a sharp-breaking curve, which grades as a plus-plus pitch. He sets the curve up with his 88-91 mph fastball, and rarely uses his mediocre changeup as a reliever. He needs to do a better job with his conditioning. Unless he bombs this spring, Johnson should break camp with Oakland.
Ogando represents another toolsy, high-upside player from the A's renewed focus in Latin America, which they see as another source of low-cost talent. While his numbers declined as he repeated the Arizona League, club officials were excited about the progress he made in his all-around game. More than one refers to him as "the kind of player you can dream about." With a skinny 6-foot-5 frame, he physically resembles a young Vladimir Guerrero. While Oakland wants him to fill out his frame, Ogando already displays plus power to all fields and can unleash tape-measure shots when he gets his arms extended. He runs well and his arm is the strongest in the system, rating close to an 80 on the 20-80 scouting scale. Ogando's approach at the plate is still raw, leading to too many swings and misses, though he was making progress in instructional league. He shortened his stride to quicken his bat, and also improved at recognizing breaking balls. With Javier Herrera and Ogando, Kane County should have one of the most exciting outfields in the Midwest League this year.
Rheinecker's prospect status has dimmed considerably since he ranked No. 2 on this list entering 2003. He has yet to find consistent success at the higher levels, as hitters have lit him up for a .298 average and 36 homers over the last two seasons. His control also regressed in 2004. Rheinecker has good stuff for a lefty, with an 87-90 mph fastball, a plus slider and a decent changeup. He added a cutter last year and showed good progress with it as the season wore on. He can be maddening to watch, as Rheinecker will look ready for the big leagues one inning and deserving of a demotion the next. The A's don't see converting him into a reliever because of his lack of a dominating lefty-on-lefty pitch, as well as the organizational shortage of southpaws. Rheinecker will return to Triple-A to begin the season.
Looking for some veteran pitching depth at the major league level after trading Tim Hudson and Mark Mulder, the A's dipped into the Asian market to sign Yabu in January. General manager Billy Beane first took note of Yabu when he pitched well against the Yankees in exhibition games before the 2004 season. An 11-year veteran of Japan's Hanshin Tigers, Yabu was the 1994 Central League rookie of the year. He signed a one-year contract with a $750,000 salary for 2005, plus either a $250,000 buyout or $1.5 million for 2006. A classic Japanese pitcher who has no single eye-popping pitch, Yabu throws strikes with a rich variety of offerings. His fastball sits at 88-90 mph, and he can dial it up to 92 on occasion. He also uses a cutter, splitter, slider and changeup. Oakland anticipates Yabu will have little difficulty adjusting to the U.S. majors and, at 36, won't require any minor league seasoning. He'll compete with youngsters Joe Blanton, Dan Haren and Dan Meyer for the open rotation spots behind Rich Harden and Barry Zito. The A's think Yabu also could succeed in a swing role if necessary.
Melillo played with Brewers top prospect Rickie Weeks at Lake Brantley High (Altamonte Springs, Fla.) before playing in three College World Series in four years at South Carolina. The A's had their eye on Melillo for years while also scouting Gamecocks catcher Landon Powell, and they took Melillo four rounds after Powell last June, signing him for $200,000 in the fifth round. Melillo projects as an offensive second baseman. Hitting comes easy to him, as he owns a short, line-drive stroke, developing power and a solid understanding of the strike zone. He lacks defensive instincts but has soft hands. He never has put any priority on his glovework, but the A's feel he can become adequate at second base if he puts the time in. Melillo's makeup is strong. He worked in instructional league shadowing Mark Ellis to learn what it takes to be a second baseman at the major league level, while also working on specific exercises to improve his speed. The A's feel he can skip a level and begin the year in high Class A.
Sullivan was the system's biggest disappointment in 2004, delivering just nine quality starts in 27 tries and getting battered around for a .303 average. He has yet to show the stuff he had as a Houston sophomore, when he projected as a possible top pick in the 2003 draft. He tailed off as a junior, allowing the A's to get him with the 25th overall pick. After throwing 91-93 mph in college, Sullivan has dipped to the high 80s and rarely has touched 90 as a pro. His slider, which is his best pitch, also decreased from the mid-80s to the high 70s. His mechanics fell apart in high Class A, as he consistently flew open with his front side. That gave batters a long look at his pitches, and led not only to the drop in velocity but also a disturbing loss of movement on all of his pitches. He also throws a curveball and changeup. Sullivan showed a strong work ethic throughout his troubles, but the lack of results frustrated him and led to a loss in confidence. He had trouble with breathing and with sinus headaches during 2004, attributed to a serious car accident he was in at age 10. Offseason surgery to remove a plate from his head and rebuild the bridge of his nose should correct those problems. Sullivan is ticketed to return to the high Class A California League this year.
The A's surprising top pick (second round) in 2000, Bynum has become a bit of a test-tube player. Drafted as a shortstop, he played every position but catcher and first base in 2004 as Oakland attempts to groom him as a supersub in the mold of Anaheim's Chone Figgins. Bynum is one of the top athletes in the system, with his plus-plus speed giving him above-average range at any position. He lacks power but has a solid line-drive stroke and the ability to leg out infield hits. His instincts and routes in the outfield were pleasant surprises. While Bynum has held his own offensively, he has yet to take the step forward to prove he can be productive against major league pitching on an everyday basis. He needs to focus more on playing the little man's game, improving his bunting and on-base skills. He still can be sloppy in the infield, relying solely on his athleticism to make plays. Bynum will return to Triple-A in 2004, but his ability to eventually free up extra roster spots provides value to the budget-minded A's.
In the first draft where they adopted a "Moneyball" approach, the Blue Jays made Perry their sixth-round pick in 2002. A proven wood-bat performer who led the Cape Cod League with eight homers in 2002, he joined the A's in a mid-2003 trade for former Yankees first-round pick John-Ford Griffin. Perry opened his first full season in the Oakland system in Double-A, but was dogged by back problems that affected him at the plate and eventually landed him on the disabled list. Once he returned, there was no room for him on the Midland roster, so he was demoted to high Class A. He dominated at that level, leading the California League in on-base percentage, slugging percentage and extra-base hits (64) despite playing in just 83 games. Perry has a track record of hitting for average and finally began to show the plus power that long had been projected for him. At 23 he was old for the Cal League, and he'll have his share of naysayers until he performs at the upper levels. He struggles versus good lefties and still struck out more than once per game even while he was mashing in 2004. He's not very athletic, limiting him to left field or first base, where he's just adequate. Perry held his own in the Arizona Fall League and will begin 2005 with a return engagement in Double-A.
Petit is another in a long line of Venezuelan shortstops known more for their glovework than their bat. He has Gold Glove potential with good range and instincts, soft hands and a strong, accurate arm. Unlike many young shortstops, he also takes pride in making the routine play and isn't susceptible to errors. As advanced as Petit is in the field, he still has a long ways to go offensively. He carried a .292 average a month into the Northwest League season last year, but hit just .234 the rest of the way. He has a decent understanding of the strike zone, but he can lose his concentration from at-bat to at-bat and is prone to strikeouts. He's a gap-to-gap hitter who probably won't ever hit for much power. With average speed, he's not much of a basestealing threat either. After putting on weight during the summer, he'll need to watch his conditioning. The A's think Petit has the potential to be a special defensive player with just enough bat to make it. He'll get his first taste of full-season ball in 2005 in low Class A.
Colamarino went to Pittsburgh's Central Catholic High and then played collegiately at Pitt, the same route that NFL Hall of Fame quarterback Dan Marino took. Colamarino tied a Panthers record with 19 homers in 2002, when the A's made him a seventh-round pick. In the bestseller "Moneyball," then-Oakland assistant general manager Paul DePodesta said, "No one else in baseball will agree, but Colamarino might be the best hitter in the country." No one would come close to agreeing two years later, though he did get his bat going in high Class A last season. After hitting .259 in each of his first two seasons, he reported to spring training in the best shape of his life, dropping 20 pounds. He was among the California League leaders in all three triple-crown categories--though old for high Class A at age 23--before a promotion to Double-A. Colamarino has a quick, short swing that generates good contact and power. While solid across the board offensively, he lacks one plus tool to profile as an everyday player. Colamarino is a surprising good athlete and the best defensive first baseman in the system. He's also ambidextrous, and is known to take fielding practice at third base and throw with his right arm. He's a below-average runner but not a clogger, and he has good instincts on the basepaths. He's headed back to Double-A.
Not only did Rouse watch Bobby Crosby cement himself as Oakland's shortstop in 2004, but he also was unable to fill-in for an injured Crosby in late April. Rouse missed the entire first month after spraining his right ankle during fielding drills in big league camp. Once he returned, he put up his usual solid numbers. Rouse understands his role offensively, hitting for a decent average, getting on base and showing occasional pop and OK speed. He's susceptible to breaking balls and after having no previous trouble with lefties, batted just .209 against them last year. Rouse doesn't cover a lot of ground at shortstop and his arm is average at best, but he's fundamentally sound and makes all the plays he gets to. He looked good in a handful of games at second base in 2004. Rouse got down about being blocked by Crosby, and scouts saw a lack of effort at time. He projects as no more than a utilityman with Oakland at this point and might be best served by a change in scenery. He'll return to Triple-A to begin 2005.
The son of former major league pitcher Hank Webb, Ryan became a story when Oakland took him in the fourth round last June. He became just the second high schooler the A's have taken in the first five rounds this decade, joining 2001 first-rounder Jeremy Bonderman. In another departure from most Oakland draft picks, Webb is all about projection. His fastball is in the 86-88 mph range but could increase considerably as he adds bulk to his long, skinny frame. For a teenager who is all arms and legs, he has a consistent release point and an uncanny knack for throwing strikes, as evidenced by just one walk in his pro debut. He shows a good feel for a changeup but still is trying to find a breaking ball he can trust. His slider is flat and slurvy. Webb isn't especially athletic, so he struggles to hold runners and field his position. The A's have no real roadmap for projectable teenage pitchers, so they'll take it slow with him. His performance in spring training will determine whether he begins the year at Kane County or Vancouver.