Monthly Archives: February 2013

Getting To Know: A’s Top Prospect Addison Russell

arhi-res-162044917_display_imageWell, last week, we brought you an interview with the A’s top pitching prospect on our Top 10 Prospect ListDan Straily. And this week, we took the opportunity to have a little chat with the organization’s top hitting prospect, shortstop Addison Russell.

The A’s top draft pick in 2012 got off to a phenomenal start last year, posting a slash line of .415/.488/.717 with 6 home runs and 9 stolen bases in just 106 at-bats in the rookie-level Arizona League. Russell was quickly promoted to Vermont in the short-season NY-Penn League, where he put up a .340/.386/.509 slash line. But after just 13 games there, the Florida native was sent packing for Burlington in the Class-A Midwest League, where he hit .310/.369/.448 over the final 16 games of the season. Russell finished the year with a combined slash line of .369/.432/.594 with 10 doubles, 9 triples, 7 home runs and 16 stolen bases in 217 at-bats at three different levels. He didn’t disappoint in the field either, showing nice range and a good arm. And by all accounts, Russell is hard-working, takes direction well and has a great attitude.

The young phenom garnered plenty of attention in the off-season, even making the cover of Baseball America. And having just turned 19 last month, Russell is the youngest player in major league camp this year. Viewed as the A’s shortstop of the future, he’s already become something of a fan favorite amongst the A’s faithful. It looks like Russell could start the season at High-A Stockton in the California League and, if all goes well, the hope is that he could be ready for arrival in Oakland by 2015. As long as he maintains a good attitude, a solid work ethic and a desire to constantly learn and improve, there’s no reason that shouldn’t be a likely scenario for Russell – and a likeable scenario for A’s fans. We took the opportunity to check in with the A’s top prospect at the end of his first week in big league camp, just a day before the A’s first spring training games were set to begin…

 

AF:  Well, you’ve had a chance to be in camp for a week now. So what are your first impressions of big league camp at this point?

AR:  It’s fun. It’s definitely a good experience. The guys are really, really nice. It’s pretty cool. I get to see some of the big league guys perform and get to learn from them. So it’s a pretty good experience overall.

AF:  Is there anything you’ve seen or experienced so far that’s really opened your eyes?

AR:  Yeah, just basically the work ethic. Some people think that the guys who have made it to the big leagues don’t have to work as much. But that’s definitely not true. Every big leaguer I see here and every minor leaguer I see here is working really hard to get better and get to the next level.

AF:  Is there anyone in camp who’s been particularly friendly or taken some time with you or taken you under their wing a bit?

AR:  I would say probably Coco Crisp a little bit – and Jed Lowrie also.

AF:  And is there anything that you’re particularly focused on this spring?

arfPCk2bFI2AR:  Yeah, I just want to learn as much as I can while I’m here. I’m just trying to see what the guys are doing to make themselves better, and then see if I can do that. I’m just trying to be a sponge and soak everything up.

AF:  You’re a very multi-dimensional player. You can do a lot of things – you can hit, you can play shortstop, you’ve got speed. Is there any particular aspect of the game that you enjoy more than anything else?

AR:  Playing shortstop is probably the most fun. For me, playing shortstop, it should always be a good day. Sometimes on those days I struggle at the plate, I look forward to having a good day in the field and just performing on the defensive side of things.

AF:  You were primarily a shortstop in high school, but you’d played other positions too. When the A’s drafted you, did they initially say anything to you about keeping you at shortstop?

AR:  I don’t recall any of that. But they drafted me as a shortstop, and I’ve been playing shortstop. I haven’t really experienced any other position here in the A’s organization yet.

AF:  So I guess you’ve been pretty happy to be out there at shortstop everyday then.

AR:  Exactly.

AF:  Once you got drafted last year and started to play, what were your first impressions playing pro ball for the first time?

AR:  There’s a lot more speed in the game. There’s a lot more thinking. It’s a lot more about mental ability and being able to keep yourself composed whatever situation you’re in.

AF:  Well, you obviously had a great year and were very successful in your first season. But was there anything in particular that was a challenge for you last year?

AR:  Just getting adjusted. I was never really in one spot for a long time. So making that adjustment of moving from one spot to another and then also being able to perform the next day. Being able to meet all the guys and meet all the managers going through the minor league system. So that was probably the biggest thing I had to do.

AF:  Things have changed quite a bit for you in the span of a year. You’re in major league training camp right now. But what were you doing at this time last year?

AR:  Just getting ready to graduate, planning for prom and all that stuff.

AF:  It seemed like you got an awful lot of hype and attention this off-season. That must have been nice for your family to see anyway. I imagine your family’s been very happy about the way your baseball career’s gotten going.

AR:  Yes, sir. My mom and dad were probably the most excited but, at the same time, sad because their 18-year-old kid was just off on his own now. But they were happy for me and they’ve always been my biggest supporters.

araddisonrussell2AF:  Are there any interests or hobbies that you have outside of baseball when you have a little free time?

AR:  I definitely like to shoot my bow. I have a whole bunch of targets. Other than that, I guess just watching Duck Dynasty episodes and Prison Break episodes. But I’m just looking for some off-season hobbies now.

AF:  Well I’m sure you’ll be pretty busy from now through September anyway.

AR:  Yeah.

AF:  So were there any of your fellow draftees you got to be particularly tight with last year?

AR:  Oh yeah, for sure – me, Matt Olson and Daniel Robertson were pretty much inseparable during the season until we got moved through the system. They’re actually coming out here March 10th, and Daniel has a condo set up for me and Matt to come stay with him. So it’s going to be fun.

AF:  So the top three picks are sticking together then?

AR:  Yeah, definitely!

 

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Be sure to like A’s Farm’s page on Facebook and follow us on Twitter @AthleticsFarm to keep up with all the news down on the farm!

Getting To Know: A’s Top Pitching Prospect Dan Straily

dsstraily-dan324-year-old right-hander Dan Straily is generally considered to be the A’s top young pitching prospect heading into 2013 – and he earned that distinction on our own Top 10 Prospect List as well. But he wasn’t always quite so high on everyone’s radar. The Oregon native was drafted in the 24th round by the A’s back in 2009 out of Marshall University in West Virginia. And his numbers in the A’s system didn’t immediately open any eyes. But what did happen was that he just seemed to get better and better every step of the way. Rather than being challenged by each new level, each time the bar was raised, his performance seemed to kick up a notch.

Last year, after not even being invited to major league camp, Straily started the season at Double-A Midland, where he might have been expected to spend most of the year toiling away in the Texas League. But a funny thing happened, he started striking out batters at a rate of 11.4 per 9 innings while maintaining a 4.7/1 strikeout-to-walk ratio and an ERA of 3.38. About halfway through the season, the 6’2” right-hander was promoted to Triple-A Sacramento in the more hitter-friendly Pacific Coast League, where he proceeded to strike out hitters at a similar rate while notching an even more impressive ERA of 2.02. Straily finally got the call to Oakland late in the season where he went 2-1 in 7 starts while posting a 3.89 ERA in the heat of the A’s playoff run.

Conventional wisdom has it that there are currently five starters ahead of Straily on the A’s depth chart – Brett Anderson, Jarrod Parker, Tom Milone, Bartolo Colon and A.J. Griffin. And in a recent press conference, A’s assistant general manager David Forst referred to Griffin and Straily as the team’s 5th and 6th starters. Of course, spring training’s barely underway and anything can happen. But we do know that Bartolo Colon will be unable to make his first start of the season while he completes his suspension, which could very well mean that Straily will be in line for a start with the A’s the first week of the season no matter how everything else shakes out.

Of course, if any of the A’s other five starters should open the season without a clean bill of health, then Straily would definitely be well-positioned to stick around for a while after that first start. But if Straily does end up starting the season back at Sacramento, then he would definitely be one of the A’s top two pitching prospects at Triple-A, along with former 1st-round draft pick Sonny Gray, hoping to be the first called when a warm arm is needed.

One thing’s for certain, whenever the A’s call, Straily will be ready. He’s clearly a student of the game who appreciates the fine art of pitching and is hungry for the opportunity to continue practicing it at the highest level. For now, all he can do is focus on making the most of his opportunities this spring in Arizona where, when he’s not working hard in the A’s camp, he’s hanging out at the temporary home he shares with his wife Amanda and their new puppy, along with fellow A’s pitcher Tom Milone and his fiancée, and A’s catcher Derek Norris. It’s a full house, and a house full of young guys working to establish their place in the major leagues with a team that typically gives young players like them plenty of opportunities to do so. We talked to Straily this week just after he’d returned home from his fourth day ever in big league camp…

 

AF:  Can you tell me a little bit about your basic repertoire of pitches you’re working with right now?

DS:  Fastball command this year has been my biggest thing coming into the season. I noticed last year at the end of the year when I got tired, that was the first thing to go. So I’m making sure that’s dialed in. But fastball, changeup, slider and curveball are what I have to offer.

AF:  What’s been your big strikeout pitch?

DS:  It was really everything. There were some games it was the fastball. Sometimes it was the changeup. Sometimes it was just sliders. Whatever’s going for me that night – whatever happens to be the most “on” pitch. When you have four pitches, you’re going to have one off-speed pitch that’s going to stand out more than the others every night. It tends to be the slider. And then last year it seemed that the changeup was really kind of the equalizer, because guys had to think about that, and then they’d get the slider – or they’d think about the slider, and then they’d get the changeup. That’s my game. I don’t tend to fall into too many patterns. I just mix speeds and try to hit spots.

AF:  Well, that’s good a thing because if you do fall into too many patterns, guys will start to figure that out and take advantage of it.

dsf8TRLGK5bDS:  Absolutely.

AF:  Last year you had a really dominant season in the minor leagues, in Double-A and Triple-A, and that performance really put you on people’s radar. Was there anything it particular that really clicked for you last year?

DS:  For me, mostly it was just the consistency. Every game, I kind of knew what I was going to get – my fastball command was consistent, changeup movement was consistent, slider was consistent. It was just everything you look for. You notice there’s not a whole big difference in terms of stuff from minor league guys, major league guys – the stuff is pretty much the same – it’s just the level of consistency. You know, each guy’s going to be different. For me, it was just finding the consistency of my delivery, and my stuff was there all the way through last year. I remember early on, I had a rough game in Double-A and they just reiterated to me, “You know, you’re not judged game to game – you’re judged over the course of the year.” And it starts to take that pressure off from trying to be perfect every single pitch to just going out there and trusting yourself and being confident in yourself. You’re going to give up home runs, you’re going to give up singles – it’s going to happen. But also the mental game, I was able to take that to a whole new level – talking with (Midland pitching coach) Don Schulze and (Sacramento pitching coach) Scott Emerson last year and just trusting myself and trusting the adjustments that we were making on the side. It wasn’t that I was a completely different pitcher, it’s that I was finally the complete pitcher that I am capable of being. I saw flashes of good changeups before, flashes of good fastball command, and then finally it all hit together.

AF:  So it was really just a matter of integrating everything and just putting it all together consistently as opposed to doing something new or having some big revelation.

DS:  Yeah, I never felt like I really did anything different. It’s not like anything really changed. I didn’t change my mechanics. I didn’t change anything else. It’s like I told some reporters last year when they called about all the strikeouts, I said, “I’m not doing anything different. They’re just missing them this year.” It’s more than that obviously. I learned how to set up hitters a lot better. I learned how to recognize swings. And I started paying attention more to what guys are trying to do and different things like that.

AF:  It sounds like it was really all about just gaining command of all your pitches and then being able to execute what you wanted when you wanted. Am I right?

DS:  Absolutely. Being able to trust myself, full count, bases loaded, throwing a changeup. Throwing changeups in counts when I normally wouldn’t throw them. Throwing that 0-2 fastball inside instead of just throwing a nasty slider because I know they’re going to swing and miss at it. Don Schulze came up to me one day in Double-A and just said, “You know what? No one’s going to care what you did in Double-A after you’ve been pitching in the big leagues for years. So don’t focus so much on your results today. Go out there and work on your fastball and your changeup today. Work on fastball command and throw your changeup. You have to develop your changeup if you want to be in the major leagues.” And I’d heard that so many times. It’s not like he was the first one to tell me that. But I just heard it so many times that it finally clicked. And I finally understood what he was trying to say. And he just happened to be the one who said it when I finally understood it. Yeah, no one’s going to care what I did in Double-A. Obviously, if you do bad, you’re not going to stay around. You have to be successful, but no one’s going to care about your success there. They just want to know that you can do it at the next level, and then at the next level.

AF:  So at that point you just started to develop the confidence to throw whatever you needed to throw whenever you needed to throw it?

DS:  Yeah, absolutely, like I used to only throw changeups to lefties and sliders to righties. And I finally just gained the confidence in my pitches, and the consistency and the command. You know, I can throw any pitch to anybody at any time. It’s really just trusting yourself, and that was something that I was really able to learn how to do last year.

dsHG2gG83y3AF:  You mentioned your pitching coach at Midland, Don Schulze. Was anyone else key in contributing to your success last season?

DS:  Well, Scott Emerson was really big on scouting reports and helping me learn how to prepare for a game. In Double-A, you don’t get a chance to really see a scouting report until you see a team once – you have to make your own. And in Triple-A, it’s a little better, a little more advanced. You see guys more often, guys have been around Triple-A for a few more years. So that was the first time I was ever introduced to scouting reports. So when I did get called up, it was a little easier for me to just go in there and read it and know what I was looking for and know how my stuff played into the scouting reports. It’s just a whole other part of the game I didn’t even realize really existed. So he was really big on that side of things for me.

AF:  Can you tell me a little more about the differences between the various levels you were at last year -  between Double-A and Triple-A, and then between Triple-A and the majors? Were there any specific things that you had to adjust to at each level?

DS:  One of the biggest things between Double-A and Triple-A would honestly have to be the travel. You think it’s going to be great – no more riding buses, you’re going to be flying. But it’s not the kind of hours you’d expect. You’re not flying chartered airplanes – you’re flying the first flight out each morning and then having to play that night at 7:30. It’s a grind. And I wasn’t even there a whole season, so I can’t imagine what it’s like to be there for a whole year. But in terms of the actual play, a big difference is you notice guys start having approaches – not so much just one type of hitter. Guys aren’t just a power hitter, guys aren’t just an average hitter. You start getting more complete hitters. And then you get into some of these Triple-A PCL parks where the ball just flies.

AF:  In terms of pitching, were there any adjustments you had to make when you finally got called up to the big leagues towards the end of the year?

DS:  Not really. When I got called up, I was running on empty basically. But it was really good to figure out how to pitch when you feel like you just can’t get enough rest at the end. But then the day of your game comes up, you’re jacked up and you’re ready to go because you’re pitching in the major leagues that night. But you just get out there and don’t really see the names on the back of the jersey, you just see the scouting report and you see the game plan in your head of how you’re going to pitch certain guys and that’s really kind of what it boils down to. Obviously the media has built up certain players and their numbers speak for themselves but, as a pitcher, you don’t really see it that way, you just see the game plan and the scouting reports.

AF:  You must have ended up pitching more innings last year than you had at any other time in your pro career.

DS:  I threw 140+ innings my first year, then the next year I threw like 160, then in 2012 I threw 191. So I’ve had a steady upward climb.

AF:  Towards the end of the year, you must have been aware that you’d thrown a lot of pitches over the course of the year.

DS:  Yeah, at the end of the year, I was maybe just putting too much pressure on myself. But I definitely feel like, coming to camp now, it’s a whole different world to come in here and be a part of it from day one instead of just showing up in the middle of a playoff race and having to meet guys and be a part of a team at that point because you don’t know anybody there.

AF:  Well, it must have been interesting to join the A’s late last year, with all that energy and excitement in a playoff run, and just step into the middle of all that.

DS:  That was pretty cool. As a minor league player, you’re not so much noticing what they’re doing at the major league level. You’re more focused on your task at hand and your job and what’s going on at your level. So I didn’t even know about ‘The Bernie’ or anything like that. People don’t realize that you’re not focused on the big leagues when you’re in Double-A. You’re focused on what you’re doing to get yourself better. So it’s cool to get up there and actually learn about all the cool stuff that’s going on up there and just the fans’ energy that they’re bringing every night. The first night, my debut was in front of like 32,000 people on a Friday night in Oakland. And it was just a lot of fun to make your debut in that atmosphere.

dsDan+Straily+Seattle+Mariners+v+Oakland+Athletics+nroAWrXWO0ql2AF:  Last year with the A’s, you made 7 starts, won a couple of games, pitched well. But the one trouble spot was the long ball. You gave up 11 home runs. Have you had a chance to reflect on that and how you might be able to adapt to keep guys from being able to square up the ball like that?

DS:  Yeah, I just did a terrible job of mixing up speeds. I kind of got away from my game and just let everything kind of speed up on me. And I was able to get home and kind of reflect on that and realize the game didn’t change at all, I’m the one who changed. It was frustrating, I can’t say it wasn’t. To be honest, it came up today in the clubhouse when I was talking with a reporter. They pointed out that I gave up 17 runs on the year (for Oakland), and I think 14 or 15 came via the home run. And I said, “Well, if I can figure out how to stop giving up home runs, I’ll be good to go!” But for me, it was just a lot of left-handers I’d fall behind in counts and leave the fastball out over the middle of the plate. And that’s what good hitters are supposed to do – if you fall behind and put a fastball right over the middle, they’re supposed to hit home runs. So it was kind of my own doing. But that’s not me – that was a fluke. Obviously, it happened – we all saw it. But that’s not who I am as a pitcher. And it won’t be like that again. It was embarrassing as a player. I remember the last time I threw against the Mariners, I gave up 3 hits – 2 of them home runs. It was very frustrating, to be pitching so well and then to throw a ball right over the middle – home run. I just didn’t do a good job of hitting spots.

AF:  Well, I know no pitcher likes to be standing out there on the mound and have to turn around and watch one sailing over the fence.

DS:  Yeah, and the weird thing was I think nine of them were in day games. And I have no idea why. I’ve pitched in plenty of day games and been perfectly fine.

AF:  This is your first year in the big league camp, right?

DS:  My first day of big league camp was Tuesday.

AF:  So is there anyone around you’ve known for a while that you’re particularly friendly with who it’s just good to have around in camp?

DS:  Well, my roommate’s Tom Milone. And you can’t get much more of an even-keeled type of guy than that. So it’s been good just to have him around everyday. Him, me and Derek Norris are all living together. It’s good – we’ve got a catcher and a couple of pitchers.

AF:  How’s your relationship with A’s pitching coach Curt Young? You probably never got to spend that much time with him in spring before, but now I’d imagine you’re a lot more prominent on his radar.

DS:  You know, he’s got a tough job. There are thirty pitchers or so here in camp. The only time I actually get to see him is when I’m pitching off a mound. I’m excited to hopefully be with him for a whole year – that’s the goal. From everything I heard, he’s just a great resource, which I saw last year when I was up – everything from holding the runners to pitch selection to how to take care of yourself. The guy’s been around the game so long he’s an amazing pitching coach.

AF:  So is there anything in particular you’re working on or focused on this spring?

DS:  I’m just focused on trying to make the team right now. I don’t get the luxury of working on something at this point. What I came with is what I have to go to battle with for the year. I’m sure, for some veterans, it’s more about getting ready for the season. Well I’m getting ready for the season as well, but I’m also fighting for a job. There’s only so many jobs available out there and more than enough guys to fill those positions. The last couple years I’ve had a little better idea of where I was going because it was pretty well laid out. But there’s no more room to go up anymore, so just trying to stay there is the hardest part.

AF:  Well, I guess it’s pretty clear what the goal is now anyway.

dsdan-straily-landov2DS:  But the thing is, as much as you want to be there, if you’re not there, you can’t let it get you down because there’s a whole season ahead either way. So I keep telling people when they ask where I see myself going this year, I say, “That’s not up to me. That’s up to the front office.” My job’s to go out there and pitch, whether that’s in Sacramento, that’s in Midland or that’s in Oakland. It doesn’t matter – wherever they tell me to go, that’s where I’m going to be.

AF:  I think everyone realizes the value of pitching depth at this point. I mean, the A’s used ten different starting pitchers last year. So wherever you are, if you’ve got a good arm and are pitching well, there’s a good chance you’ll end up in that rotation at some point one way or another.

DS:  Yep, that’s what you’ve to remember either way.

AF:  Well, it sounds like you’re just working on staying focused on your game, maximizing what you’ve got, and trying to continue making as good an impression as possible.

DS:  Yeah, and so far from what I’ve felt, I just think it’s going to be a repeat and a little bit better from last year. You know, get a little bit better each year, throw a little bit harder each year, come into camp with a little better idea of how to be physically ready and mentally ready. I learned so much last year in every aspect of the game. And I’m just ready to go this year. I’m excited.

AF:  Onward and upward!

DS:  That’s right!

 

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Be sure to like A’s Farm’s page on Facebook and follow us on Twitter @AthleticsFarm to keep up with all the news down on the farm!

Spring Has Sprung!

Day 1 of A's spring training camp was a decidedly overcast affair

Day 1 of A’s spring training camp was a decidedly overcast affair (photo from Kate Longworth’s Twitter @KLongworthCSN)

Well, as you may already know, Monday was the big day for A’s pitchers and catchers to report to the team’s spring training camp in Phoenix. As usual, lots of other players chose to show up on Day 1 to join their pitching and catching comrades. The reporters covering the A’s beat showed up as well. And among the news trickling out on the first day of camp thanks to those beat writers…

*The team has reportedly agreed to a minor league deal with left-handed Japanese reliever Hideki Okajima that includes an invitation to the major league camp.

*Catcher Derek Norris has shed a few pounds and has also made some alterations to his swing.

*New shortstop Hiro Nakajima said that manager Bob Melvin told him not to worry about the Jed Lowrie trade, that he was his shortstop.

*Third base and infield coach Mike Gallego has apparently been working Nakajima out over the past week and is “pleasantly surprised.” He also noted that the shortstop has great hands, above average footwork and an average arm.

*Top prospect Michael Choice is ready to go after missing the second half of last season with a broken hand.

*Pitching prospect Michael Ynoa is still in the Dominican Republic suffering from a case of chicken pox.

*Coco Crisp arrived with a beatbox, and it wasn’t long before the ‘Bernie Lean’ music was blasting in the A’s clubhouse.

 

Here’s a sampling of photos from Day 1 of spring training camp from various A’s beat writers…

A's Manager Bob Melvin holds court on Day 1

A’s Manager Bob Melvin holding court on Day 1 (photo from CSN’s Twitter @CSNAthletics)

Coco Crisp takes a casual approach on Day 1

Outfielder Coco Crisp takes a casual approach on Day 1 (photo from Casey Pratt’s Twitter @CaseyPrattCSN)

Hiro Nakajima: Mr. Popularity!

Hiro Nakajima: The A’s Mr. Popularity! (photo from John Hickey’s Twitter @JHickey3)

Pitcher Tom Milone desperately trying to think of something news-making to say on Day 1

Pitcher Tom Milone desperately trying to think of something newsworthy to say on Day 1 (photo from CSN’s Twitter @CSNAthletics)

Daric Barton shows off his insane facial hair in an attempt to fit in

First baseman Daric Barton shows off his insane facial hair in an attempt to fit in (photo from Jane Lee’s Twitter @JaneMLB)

Derek Norris and Brandon Moss wonder why no one else wants to play catch with them on a cloudy day in Phoenix

Derek Norris and Brandon Moss wonder why no one else wants to play catch with them on an overcast Phoenix day (photo from CSN’s Twitter @CSNAthletics)

 

See what the A’s beat writers have to say in their Day 1 columns…

Susan Slusser/SF Chronicle

Jane Lee/MLB.com

John Hickey/Bay Area News Group

Casey Pratt/CSN Bay Area

 

Be sure to like A’s Farm’s page on Facebook and follow us on Twitter @AthleticsFarm to keep up with all the news down on the farm!

A’s Farm’s Consensus Top 10 Prospect List for 2013

Last year's top prospect Jarrod Parker - who will be the next to make it big?

Last year’s top prospect Jarrod Parker – who will be the next to make it big?

With the first A’s players set to report to spring training camp just days from now, it’s time to present A’s Farm’s Consensus Top 10 Prospect List for 2013. We’ve combined a total of eight different A’s prospect lists to come up with a consensus list that reflects the broadest base of wisdom where A’s prospects are concerned.

You can find the prospect lists that we used to compile our consensus list at the very end of this piece. Some of the eight lists we’ve selected are better known and some are lesser known, but they’ve all been selected because they represent intelligent and informed opinions about the A’s system. For the purposes of this list, we’ve looked at the top ten picks from each list and assigned points to each player as follows: 10 points for each first place finish, 9 points for second, 8 for third, all the way on down to 1 point for each tenth place finish.

It’s important to note that most prospect lists were compiled before pitching prospects A.J. Cole and Brad Peacock were dealt away. A few folks have updated their lists since then, but most have not. So rather than have the pair included on some older lists and not on some of the newer ones, we’ve chosen to use the original prospect lists that included them both for the sake of comparison.

Now that that’s clear, the other thing that’s clear is that the list breaks into a few clear groupings. The top group of vote-getters was comprised of young shortstop Addison Russell, right-handed hurler Dan Straily, outfielder Michael Choice and right-hander A.J. Cole, who was dealt back to the Nationals in the John Jaso trade – these four players were included in the top half of most lists. The next group was comprised of pitching prospects Sonny Gray and Brad Peacock along with hitting prospects Grant Green and Miles Head – and these four players were included in the bottom half of most lists.

After that, the selections start to get a little more unpredictable, with infielders Daniel Robertson and Renato Nunez clearly being the most popular vote-getters amongst the next group of players. And since Cole and Peacock are no longer with the organization, we’ve decided to include the next top two vote-getters – Nolan Sanburn at #11 and Chris Bostick at #12 – as bonus additions to the list.

So without any further ado, let’s take a look at A’s Farm’s Consensus Top 10 Prospect List for 2013…

 

A’S FARM’S CONSENSUS TOP 10 PROSPECT LIST (+2)

#1 – Addison Russell (SS) – 78 points / 8 lists

#2 – Dan Straily (SP) – 64 points / 8 lists

#3 – Michael Choice (OF) – 63 points / 8 lists

#4 – A.J. Cole (SP) – 61 points / 8 lists *

#5 – Sonny Gray (SP) – 41 points / 8 lists

#6 – Brad Peacock (SP) – 39 points / 8 lists *

#7 – Grant Green (IF-OF) – 32 points / 7 lists

#8 – Miles Head (3B) – 25 points / 8 lists

#9 – Daniel Robertson (SS-3B) – 18 points / 7 lists

#10 – Renato Nunez (3B) – 10 points / 4 lists

————————————————————

#11 – Nolan Sanburn (SP) – 3 points / 2 lists

#12 – Chris Bostick (2B-SS) – 3 points / 1 list

————————————————————

* No longer with organization

 

arfPCk2bFI2#1 ADDISON RUSSELL

(78 points / 8 lists)

Right-Handed Hitting Shortstop

Age On Opening Day: 19

Drafted 2012 – 1st Round

Making the top spot on 7 of our 8 lists, the A’s top pick in last year’s draft was not only the star of the A’s 2012 draft class but was also the star of the team’s entire minor league system. And it didn’t take long for Russell to quickly become a favorite amongst A’s fans who had their eyes on the future. The Florida native earned it by tearing through three levels of minor league ball at the age of 18, and he’s currently expected to start 2013 with the Stockton Ports in the High-A California League at the age of 19. In 217 at-bats in the Arizona League, the NY-Penn League and the Midwest League in 2012, Russell had 10 doubles, 9 triples, 7 home runs and 16 stolen bases with an impressive .369/.432/.594 slash line. He didn’t disappoint in the field either, showing nice range and a good arm. The bottom line is that Russell is very young, very talented and very hard-working, and there’s no reason that he shouldn’t rise as quickly as his performance demands.

Likely To Start 2013 With: Stockton Ports (A)

 

dsstraily-dan3#2 DAN STRAILY

(64 points / 8 lists)

Right-Handed Starting Pitcher

Age On Opening Day: 24

Drafted 2009 – 24th Round

The former 24th-round draft pick started the season as a bit of an unknown quantity in the A’s system and didn’t make anyone’s top 10 list prior to the 2012 season. But Straily put himself on the map rather quickly last year and didn’t let up, starting the season at Double-A Midland and ending it in Oakland. The Oregon native led all A’s minor leaguers in strikeouts (190), ERA (2.78) and WHIP (1.00) in 152 innings between Double-A and Triple-A, and posted a 3.89 ERA in 7 late-season starts with the A’s. With five starters ahead of him on the team’s current depth chart, Straily’s expected to spend the early part of the season at Sacramento. But like most #6 starters, it likely won’t be long before his services are needed, and we can probably expect to be seeing the right-hander back at the big league level again before long in 2013.

Likely To Start 2013 With: Sacramento River Cats (AAA)

 

mcmichaelchoiceoaklandathleticsphotodaynwngr_fbjvxl3#3 MICHAEL CHOICE

(63 points / 8 lists)

Right-Handed Hitting Outfielder

Age On Opening Day: 23

Drafted 2010 – 1st Round

Big things were expected this year from the A’s 2010 1st-round draft pick after Choice hit 30 home runs at High-A Stockton in 2011. But the right-handed slugger got off to a slow start in the first half at Double-A Midland, showing very little of the power that had garnered him so much attention in the first place. Then just when it looked like he might have been starting to come around, Choice suffered a broken hand when he was hit by a pitch, and that was the end of the outfielder’s season. He finished with 10 home runs and a .287/.356/.423 slash line in 359 at-bats. The A’s still believe in Choice though and currently plan on having him play center field for Sacramento in 2013 and letting him show what he’s capable of doing at Triple-A.

Likely To Start 2013 With: Sacramento River Cats (AAA)

 

#4 A.J. COLE

(61 points / 8 lists)

Right-Handed Starting Pitcher

Age On Opening Day: 21

Drafted 2010 – 4th Round

When he was acquired from the Nationals last year in the Gio Gonzalez deal, Cole was considered a highly prized prospect. But the big right-hander got off to a horrific start with High-A Stockton, going 0-7 with a 7.82 ERA in 8 starts, before being demoted to Class-A Burlington. He quickly turned it around in the Midwest League though, striking out 102 in 95 2/3 innings while posting a much more impressive 2.07 ERA. Cole’s rough start may have planted enough seeds of doubt in the minds of the A’s front office though that the team was willing to ship him back to Washington as part of the deal to get their mitts on catcher John Jaso.

Likely To Start 2013 With: Potomac Nationals (A-Washington)

 

sgsonnygray_large1#5 SONNY GRAY

(41 points / 8 lists)

Right-Handed Starting Pitcher

Age On Opening Day: 23

Drafted 2011 – 1st Round

Just like Michael Choice, Gray was a former A’s 1st-round draft pick whom the team was expecting big things from at Double-A Midland in 2012. And just like Choice, Gray got off to a bit of a shaky start. But the right-hander looked better as the season wore on and he seemed to gain greater command of his stuff. Gray finished up at Midland with a 4.14 ERA in 26 starts before getting one final start at Sacramento, where he’s expected to begin the season as the A’s top pitching prospect right behind fellow right-hander Dan Straily.

Likely To Start 2013 With: Sacramento River Cats (AAA)

 

bp140238660_display_image#6 BRAD PEACOCK

(39 points / 8 lists)

Right-Handed Starting Pitcher

Age On Opening Day: 25

Drafted 2006 – 41st Round

Peacock came over from the Nationals last year as one of the three young pitchers the A’s received in the Gio Gonzalez deal. He ended up kicking off the season in Sacramento and was looking like he might be just about ready for the big leagues when he hit a horrible stretch for about a month and a half in the summer. Peacock was getting knocked around badly just about every time out, and the word was that his fastball command had completely deserted him. The right-hander seemed to get it back together again during the last month or so of the season, but he still finished the year with an ERA of 6.01 in 134 2/3 innings. Most of that damage to his ERA occurred during that rough month and a half in the summer, but it obviously was enough to make the A’s a little more comfortable including him in the package of players they shipped to the Astros in the Jed Lowrie trade.

Likely To Start 2013 With: Oklahoma City RedHawks (AAA-Houston)

 

#7 GRANT GREEN

(32 points / 7 lists)

Right-Handed Hitting Infielder/Outfielder

Age On Opening Day: 25

Drafted 2009 – 1st Round

The fourth 1st-round draft pick to appear on our list, Green was originally selected by the A’s in 2009 as a shortstop but has since been tried at almost every other position on the diamond. Last year, Green started off playing center field before moving over to left. But he spent most of the second half bouncing around the infield, with 19 games at shortstop, 19 games at second base and 11 games at third base. The organization hasn’t felt totally comfortable with Green at any position in the field, but his newfound versatility could aid his chances of eventually making the roster. The southern California native had a bounce-back year at the plate in 2013 after seeing his numbers drop off a bit at Double-A Midland in 2011. Green finished 2012 with 15 home runs and a slash line of .296/.338/.458 in 524 at-bats at Sacramento. And he figures to start 2013 there again, waiting for an opening to finally find his way on to the big league roster.

Likely To Start 2013 With: Sacramento River Cats (AAA)

 

mh542535_10150896496846662_1633034326_n#8 MILES HEAD

(25 points / 8 lists)

Right-Handed Hitting Third Baseman

Age On Opening Day: 21

Drafted 2009 – 26th Round

Head was acquired, along with Josh Reddick and minor league pitcher Raul Alcantara, from Boston last year in the deal that sent Andrew Bailey and Ryan Sweeney to the Red Sox. The big third baseman had an unbelievable first half at High-A Stockton, bashing 23 doubles and 18 home runs in just 267 at-bats while posting a truly impressive slash line of .382/.433/.715. The Georgia native spent the second half at Double-A Midland, where he put up a much more mortal .272/.338/.404 slash line in 234 at-bats. Head will likely get the chance to master the Texas League again in 2013. He played all but a handful of games at third base last year, and the team hopes that Head will stick at third, but it’s still quite possible that he could end up at first base before all is said and done.

Likely To Start 2013 With: Midland RockHounds (AA)

 

drdanielrobertson_mlb_display_image#9 DANIEL ROBERTSON

(18 points / 7 lists)

Right-Handed Hitting Shortstop/Third Baseman

Age On Opening Day: 19

Drafted 2012 – 1st Round

Robertson was the A’s second overall draft pick last year, right behind fellow shortstop Addison Russell. And like Russell, Robertson got off to a solid start in rookie ball, posting a .297/.405/.554 slash line in 101 at-bats. He was pushed to third base while he and Russell were both on the squad but, once Robertson got to Class-A Vermont, he spent most of his time back at shortstop. Robertson had a little more trouble at the plate in the NY-Penn League though, putting up a .181/.238/.234 slash line and striking out about once every three at-bats. Robertson should start the season there again, where his innate talent will undoubtedly allow the 19-year-old to figure things out over the course of the year and do whatever he needs to do to get ready to advance to the next level.

Likely To Start 2013 With: Vermont Lake Monsters (A)

 

rnnc3bac3b1ez-renato3#10 RENATO NUNEZ

(10 points / 4 lists)

Right-Handed Hitting Third Baseman

Age On Opening Day: 19

Undrafted – Signed as International Free Agent

The A’s invested heavily in Nunez when the team reportedly gave the young Venezuelan slugger $2.2 million to sign back in 2010. And there’s no question that Nunez seems to have a pretty special bat. Last year in rookie ball, he put up a .325/.403/.550 slash line with 18 doubles in 160 at-bats. But in the field, Nunez made 7 errors in just 30 games at third base, botching 1 in every 10 chances at the hot corner. He’ll move up the chain as fast as his bat can carry him, but the A’s will obviously have to figure out how and where to make sense of him in the field.

Likely To Start 2013 With: Vermont Lake Monsters (A)

 

nsresized_99261-5csanburn3colbw_47-15782_t728#11 NOLAN SANBURN

(3 points / 2 lists)

Right-Handed Starting Pitcher

Age On Opening Day: 21

Drafted 2012 – 2nd Round

The A’s fifth overall draft pick last year, Sanburn was the first pitcher selected by the A’s in the 2012 draft. A hard-throwing right-hander out of the University of Arkansas, Sanburn didn’t sign right away but got off to a good start last year while making it into 7 games with Class-A Vermont. Sanburn posted a 3.86 ERA while maintaining a 3:1 strikeout-to-walk ratio, and the A’s hope that the 21-year-old has what it takes to move up the ladder quickly.

Likely To Start 2013 With: Beloit Snappers (A)

 

cbC.-Bostick2#12 CHRIS BOSTICK

(3 points / 1 list)

Right-Handed Hitting Second Baseman/Shortstop

Age On Opening Day: 20

Drafted 2011 – 44th Round

Bostick was hardly high on anyone’s radar when he was drafted in the 44th-round in 2011, but lots of folks seem to think he does a lot of things the right way – and baseball people like that. Bostick spent most of last season playing second base at Class-A Vermont but also spent a little time at shortstop. His .251/.325/.369 slash line wasn’t remarkable, but he was still just 19 last season. And if Bostick keeps playing the game the right way, he’ll continue to be given the chance to go out there and play and see how far his talents will take him.

Likely To Start 2013 With: Beloit Snappers (A)

 

Last Year’s Consensus Top 10 Prospect List

 

Baseball America’s Top A’s Prospects

Jonathan Mayo’s Top A’s Prospects

John Sickels’ Top A’s Prospects

Oakland Clubhouse’s Top A’s Prospects

Bleacher Report’s Top A’s Prospects

MLB Dirt’s Top A’s Prospects

Bullpen Banter’s Top A’s Prospects

Prospect 361’s Top A’s Prospects 

 

 

Be sure to like A’s Farm’s page on Facebook and follow us on Twitter @AthleticsFarm to keep up with all the news down on the farm!

A’s Swap Spare Parts For Second Shortstop!

Jed Lowrie: From worst to first?

Jed Lowrie: From worst to first?

As we pointed out in our analysis of the John Jaso trade just recently, the A’s are clearly in “WIN NOW” mode. And the team made another “WIN NOW” move on Monday, dealing part-time first baseman Chris Carter, minor league pitcher Brad Peacock and minor league catcher Max Stassi to the Houston Astros for infielder Jed Lowrie and right-handed reliever Fernando Rodriguez.

Lowrie is a 28-year-old former 1st-round draft pick out of Stanford. The switch-hitter hit a career-high 16 home runs in 340 at-bats with the Astros last season. He’s played primarily at shortstop in his 5-year major league career but has also spent time at third, second and first, and his versatility provides the A’s with added depth at every infield position.

Rodriguez is a hard-throwing right-handed reliever who has some control issues but who also managed to strike out an average of 10 batters per 9 innings last year. The 28-year-old has a tendency to give up the long ball and posted an ERA of 5.37 in 70 1/3 innings with the Astros last season. Rodriguez will likely have to battle with Pat Neshek and Chris Resop for a spot on the right side of the A’s bullpen.

To acquire the pair, the A’s parted with three players who’ve all spent far more time in the minors than the majors: Max Stassi, the most highly rated catching prospect in the system who has been praised for his abilities behind the plate but who has also been hampered by injuries and has yet to progress beyond A ball; Brad Peacock, who was slated to be one of the top starters at Sacramento this season but who had his ups and downs last year and ended up posting a 6.01 ERA with the River Cats; and Chris Carter, who was supposed to be the right-handed half of the A’s first base platoon this year. Carter, the only one of the three who was expected to start the year on the major league roster, had formerly been a top prospect but, despite his strong power numbers in the second half last year, his September struggles strengthened the A’s doubts about his potential for long-term success.

Fernando Rodriguez: International Man Of Mystery

Fernando Rodriguez: International Man Of Mystery

About coming to A’s, the Stanford alum Lowrie was quoted as saying, “I’m excited to come to a team that won one of the better divisions in baseball last year. I’m excited to have an opportunity to come back and play baseball in the Bay Area.” He graciously neglected to mention the fact that he’s also undoubtedly excited not to be playing for the Astros, who will likely be bringing up the rear in their new division this year.

With Lowrie’s addition, the A’s infield situation suddenly becomes a bit murkier. Lowrie has played short, second, third and first. Scott Sizemore has played second and third. Hiro Nakajima can play short, and possibly even second. And then there’s also Jemile Weeks, who can play second, and Josh Donaldson, who can play third.

Being a switch-hitter, of course, only increases Lowrie’s versatility. But his left/right splits are somewhat curious. For his career, he has an OPS that’s .154 points better against lefties. But last year, he had an OPS that was .196 points better against righties. Lowrie claims that his previous struggles as a left-handed hitter were primarily related to lingering injuries, and his minor league splits do lend some credence to that claim. But it would be nice to see his splits even out a bit given the fact that he’s likely to be seeing plenty of action against both righties and lefties for the A’s this season.

But how exactly will the A’s use Lowrie this year? Well, they’ve certainly got plenty of options. But in a conference call with reporters, A’s general manager Billy Beane said that he and manager Bob Melvin had discussed their options and that they view Japanese import Hiro Nakajima as their shortstop. Beane also mentioned that he could see Lowrie as a nice right-handed complement to Brandon Moss at first base, much like Chris Carter had been.

Chris Carter: The object of the Astros' affections

Chris Carter: The object of the Astros’ affections

If we take Beane’s comments to heart, that then raises the question of where Lowrie would play against right-handers. The most obvious answer would be at second base, where there’s already a great deal of uncertainty, and where the top two current candidates, Scott Sizemore and Jemile Weeks, have both performed better against lefties than righties in recent times – Sizemore, who seems to be the favored candidate, even more so, which could make him a perfect platoon partner with Lowrie at second base.

Lowrie could also be available to back up both Nakajima at shortstop and Donaldson at third base if either struggles or just needs some time off. Of course, if Nakajima, whose defensive ability at shortstop is still a big question mark, spends much of the spring butchering balls at short, Lowrie could always take over the spot full-time and push Nakajima into duty at second. But wherever he plays, as long as he’s healthy – and that’s been something of an issue in the past – it looks like Lowrie will be in the lineup. So he should end up getting into a lot more games for the A’s than Chris Carter would have this year, which ought to make him a productive addition to the major league roster.

One of the biggest winners in this trade could turn out to be the A’s former first baseman Daric Barton, who now stands a decent chance of making the roster as the only true first baseman on the squad. Moss and Lowrie only have a combined 68 major league games at first base between them, and teams often like to have a little defensive certainty on the roster. Before this trade, Barton’s chances of landing a roster spot rested on something happening to either Moss or Carter – and now something has most definitely happened to Carter. Of course, it’s possible that Barton still doesn’t make the roster, but it’s certainly a whole lot more likely that he does now.

Brad Peacock:

Brad Peacock: Now standing tall for the last-place Astros

On the other side of the coin, one of the biggest losers in this deal could be infielder Adam Rosales. With his guaranteed contract and major league experience, Rosales was the favorite to land the utility infielder role. But now – with Lowrie, Nakajima, Donaldson and either Weeks or Sizemore likely to make the roster – the A’s will have at least two available options at each infield position, making another spare infielder somewhat redundant. Both Weeks and Sizemore could both be losers in this deal too since whoever wins a roster spot will undoubtedly have his at-bats at second base reduced by Lowrie’s arrival. The deal doesn’t do anything to help Eric Sogard’s and Grant Green’s prospects either as it just pushes both of them further down the infield depth chart.

As far as position players on the major league roster go, this deal might just boil down to Lowrie and Barton replacing Carter and Rosales on the A’s 2013 roster. As far as the pitching end of things goes, Beane clearly likes Rodriguez, referring to him as “a real big arm” and saying that he was a key to getting the deal done. But the hard-throwing righty will have to compete for a roster spot with fellow right-handers Pat Neshek and Chris Resop in an already crowded A’s bullpen that’s also likely to include right-handers Grant Balfour and Ryan Cook along with left-handers Sean Doolittle, Jerry Blevins and Travis Blackley – with guys like Jordan Norberto, Pedro Figueroa, Evan Scribner, Arnold Leon and James Simmons waiting in the wings.

Max Stassi: Taking 'the tools of ignorance' to Houston

Max Stassi: Taking the ‘tools of ignorance’ to Houston

Another beneficiary of the deal could be former 1st-round draft pick Sonny Gray, who will no longer have to compete for attention with fellow prospect Brad Peacock at Sacramento this season. If he pitches well at Triple-A this year, the odds of Gray getting the opportunity to see some time in Oakland before the season’s through have just greatly increased with Peacock out of the equation.

Vying for time with Gray in the River Cats rotation this year will be last year’s phenom Dan Straily, new acquisition Andrew Werner, veteran lefty Garrett Olson, and long-time minor leaguers Jesse Chavez, Bruce Billings and Travis Banwart. It’s my guess that Straily will end up in the major league rotation before long, like most 6th starters do, due to injury, and Banwart will start the season in the Sacramento bullpen, leaving the River Cats with a rotation of Gray, Werner, Olson, Chavez and Billings.

But this deal clearly wasn’t about the minor league roster; it was all about the major league roster – increasing the A’s infield depth and versatility and having a solid backup plan in place just in case Nakajima doesn’t pan out at short, Donaldson regresses at third, or nothing else works out at second. It’s clearly a “WIN NOW” move, just like it was with the Jaso deal. Peacock, Cole and Treinen represent a lot of young arms to give up – not to mention Carter and Stassi – in the two deals. But the A’s focus is clearly on winning now while the window of contention is open. And Beane admitted as much in his conference call with reporters, saying “Given where the club finished last year and where we see it having a chance to compete this year, we wanted to do everything we could to help ourselves right now.”

And for the A’s, the future is clearly NOW!

 

 

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What Did We Learn From A’s FanFest?

There were lots of interesting quotes to come out of last weekend’s FanFest in Oakland. And based on what was said by A’s management, coaches and players, here are a few things that I think we can safely surmise…

cccoco-crisp.6* Coco Crisp will be the A’s primary center fielder and leadoff hitter.

* Chris Young will be in the lineup against lefties, give other starters regular days off against righties, and will move around in the lineup and see time at every spot in the outfield.

* Seth Smith will get most of the at-bats at DH.

* The Brandon Moss/Chris Carter platoon will remain in effect at first base.

* Something will have to happen to Brandon Moss or Chris Carter for Daric Barton to make the roster.

* The A’s have a lot more confidence in Hiro Nakajima‘s bat than they do in his glove and his arm.

Oakland Athletics vs Los Angeles Angels* Jemile Weeks and Scott Sizemore will be in direct competition for the second base job in spring training.

* Shooty Babbitt really isn’t a big fan of Jemile Weeks.

* Barring injuries, the A’s starting rotation will consist of Brett Anderson, Jarrod Parker, Tom Milone, A.J. Griffin and Bartolo Colon (after missing his first start while serving out his suspension).

* If the starting rotation is healthy, Dan Straily will be at Sacramento until he’s needed in Oakland.

* After Dan Straily, the next go-to guys at Sacramento if needed will likely be Brad Peacock and Sonny Gray.

* Top prospect Michael Choice will start the season at Sacramento.

* Billy Beane loves John Jaso, almost as much as he loved Erubiel Durazo.

DSC02363b* Everybody loves Addison Russell, and the 19-year-old will be invited to attend the major league camp in spring training.

* Josh Reddick didn’t bother wasting any money on razors this off-season.

* Coco Crisp is committed to upholding Oscar Gamble‘s ‘fro-tastic legacy.

* Chris Young is still in the early stages of his Bernie Lean lessons.

 

 

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