Results tagged ‘ Gio Gonzalez ’

A’s Deal Pitchers of the Future for Catcher of the Present

John Jaso: Along with the hirsute Derek Norris, the A's could boast the most bearded catching tandem in the major leagues in 2013

John Jaso: Along with the hirsute Derek Norris, the A’s could boast the most bearded catching tandem in the major leagues.

It was announced on Wednesday that the A’s had acquired catcher John Jaso from the Seattle Mariners as part of a three-team deal that sent A’s minor league pitchers A.J. Cole and Blake Treinen, along with a player to be named later, to the Washington Nationals, who sent first baseman-outfielder Michael Morse to the Mariners. As a result of the trade, catcher George Kottaras, who had just signed a $1 million deal with the A’s earlier in the week, was designated for assignment. Kottaras, and his contract, will presumably be traded by the A’s sometime within the next ten days.

The left-handed hitting Kottaras became expendable with the arrival of Jaso, who also bats left-handed. Kottaras and the right-handed hitting Derek Norris were expected to split the A’s catching duties fairly evenly in 2013. But with Jaso, who hits right-handers far better than he handles left-handers, now in the fold, the arrangement is likely to become much more of a strict platoon, with Jaso getting most of the starts against right-handed pitchers and Norris getting most of the starts against left-handers – who represent no more than a quarter of all major league starters. This will give the 23-year-old Norris the chance to develop at his own pace, without the pressure of having to carry too much of the load right away.

Many A’s fans had been clamoring for an upgrade behind the plate, and this deal gives them just that. But some hard-core A’s followers were upset that the team gave up so much promising young pitching talent in the trade. The loss of Cole, who came over just last year in the Gio Gonzalez deal with the Nationals (to whom he now returns), particularly rankled many fans. The 21-year-old right-hander was considered one of the A’s top three pitching prospects, along with Brad Peacock and Sonny Gray, while Blake Treinen was the A’s 7th-round draft pick in 2011.

A.J. Cole: Back from whence ye came

A.J. Cole: Back from whence ye came!

The 24-year-old Treinen was a little inconsistent at High-A Stockton last year. While he had a 4:1 strikeout-to-walk ratio, he posted an ERA of 4.37 and gave up a little over 10 hits per 9 innings while barely managing 100 innings between the starting rotation and the bullpen. Meanwhile, Cole had a disastrous start to his season at Stockton, going winless in 8 starts while compiling an astronomical ERA of 7.82. But after being sent down to Class-A Burlington in the Midwest League, he bounced back to post an impressive 2.07 ERA while striking out 102 in 95 2/3 innings. And his late-season turnaround gave many A’s fans great hope for his future.

The bottom line though is that neither of these two pitchers has ever thrown a pitch above A ball. And while they may one day develop into quality pitchers, they both still have a long way to go. The 29-year-old Jaso may not be an All-Star, but he is a major leaguer, and at least the A’s feel they know what they’re getting with him. The team clearly preferred a major league catcher in the hand to two minor leaguers in the bush leagues!

As for Jaso’s past performance, since he’ll really only be expected to carry the load against right-handed pitchers, the fact that he’s never shown any ability to hit left-handers is irrelevant. All that really matters is what he can do against righties. And last year, Jaso carried an impressive .302/.419/.508 slash line against right-handers. That’s compared to Kottaras’s .207/.335/.434 slash line against righties last year. Though neither Jaso nor Kottaras is likely to win any Gold Gloves, it’s a clear upgrade at the plate from the catching position for the A’s.

Jaso has a particular knack for getting on base – last year he walked an average of once every 6 plate appearances against right-handers while batting over .300 against them. He also has a knack for hitting doubles – last year Jaso doubled once every 15 ½ at-bats while Kottaras doubled just once every 28 ½ at-bats. So if nothing else, the A’s should expect to see Jaso standing on first base and second base a lot more than they saw Kottaras at those two locations!

The main conclusion that can be drawn from this deal though is that A’s general manager Billy Beane wants to win now! If he can unload part of the A’s pitching future to make an upgrade to the major league roster, he’s not going to hesitate to do it. If the A’s had finished in last place last year, it might be another matter and this deal might not have happened. But the A’s were the A.L. West champions last year, and you better believe that Billy Beane wants to turn them into the two-time A.L. West champions.

Beane clearly stated as much in a post-trade conference call with reporters when he said, “We’re shifting all of our focus on the major league club and trying to take as much advantage as we can of the opportunity we have.” In other words, “Win now!” – which, after having endured some years of rebuilding, ought to be a welcome rallying cry for most A’s fans!

 

 

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Getting To Know: Derek Norris – A’s Catcher Of The Future

 

Derek Norris – Fear the beard! (photo by Christian Petersen/Getty Images)

When the A’s dealt away Gio Gonzalez, one of the team’s most popular players, in the off-season for pitchers Tommy Milone, Brad Peacock, A.J. Cole and catcher Derek Norris, four minor league players most A’s fans had never heard of, some fans were clearly skeptical. But just five months after that trade, while the 20-year-old Cole has been struggling at Class-A, Milone is leading the A’s pitching staff in wins, Peacock is the River Cats’ wins leader, and catcher Derek Norris has been hitting up a storm at Sacramento. The former 4th-round draft pick has been hitting close to .300 for most of the season, currently sports a healthy .503 slugging percentage, and has been looking like he may be the successor to current A’s catcher Kurt Suzuki sooner rather than later.

A’s assistant general manager David Forst recently told me about Norris, “He got raves from the coaching staff from day one on how he handled pitchers and his receiving skills. His throwing numbers have never been in question. He’s always been one of the best guys in the minor leagues as far as throwing out baserunners.” He summed up his impression of the 23-year-old receiver by saying, “We feel very good about Derek.” And A’s fans who’ve been paying attention seem to share that sentiment.

 

AF: So tell me a little bit about where you grew up and where you went to school.

DN: I was born and raised in Goddard, Kansas. I went to school at Goddard High School – a 6A school in a small town. I grew up playing three sports (baseball, football and basketball), but baseball was always my passion. I played it throughout high school. And then I signed with Washington, five years later I was traded, and here I am.

AF: What was your favorite baseball team growing up?

DN: The Kansas City Royals were always my favorite team when I was growing up. George Brett was always the talk of the town, and I grew up idolizing him.

AF: Well that’s as good a hitter to model yourself after as anyone.

DN: Yeah, I know, right?

AF: Were you always a catcher in high school?

DN: No, I didn’t catch a whole lot till my senior year mostly. I had a couple guys in front of me in my freshman and sophomore years who were Division I prospects, so I played third base and pitcher my first couple years, and then I transitioned to catcher later on.

AF: How did you feel about catching? Was it something that you were eager or reluctant to do?

DN: It wasn’t a huge transition because I had done it before. But it’s obviously going to be a lot more difficult when guys throw harder and their pitches move more and they’re a lot better than what I was used to. It’s definitely a tough transition at first. But it seems like every game that goes by, the more I catch, the better I get. I’ve come a long way from where I was, and I definitely want to keep striving to be where I want to be.

AF: I imagine you were surprised about being traded. How’d you hear about the trade to the A’s and what was your reaction?

DN: I was actually at the gym working out and I got a text message from one of my teammates from last year, Cory VanAllen. And he said, “I just read an article about you and Brad Peacock possibly being in a trade for Gio Gonzalez.” Well, I hadn’t heard anything – I’d just talked to my agent a few days previously. And he said, “We haven’t heard anything, but if something comes up, we’ll definitely be in touch.” And then the next day, I got a phone call from my agent and he goes, “Hey, rumors have been picking up, but they’re just rumors as of now.” And then, I’d probably say within an hour, it was finalized. So it happened very quick. And it was definitely really strange. I’ve never really been through anything like that before. And it was definitely a cool experience though – it was real cool.

AF: Had you ever been in the big league camp with the Nationals before?

DN: Yeah, I was in camp with the Nationals in 2010 and 2011.

AF: Obviously that was in Florida, and I think you’d previously spent all your time playing on the east coast. So how was it different spending your first spring out in Phoenix with the A’s and having a whole new coaching staff to work with this year?

DN: It was great. The coaching staff, from the manager all the way down to the bullpen coach, every coach there treated me well. I had no complaints – everybody was great. And the weather’s obviously a lot better. You don’t have to worry as much about rain or hurricane winds or anything like that. So it was definitely a plus. I liked it a lot.

Derek Norris – keeping his eye on the ball       (photo by Sara Molina/Sacramento River Cats)

AF: I guess a lot shorter drives too!

DN: Yeah, definitely. On the east coast, you drive two and a half hours and you take batting practice on the field. Over in Arizona, you take batting practice at your home field and then travel over and just play. So that was definitely different too.

AF: Well since A’s manager Bob Melvin was a catcher too, was he able to speak to you in your own language?

DN: Yeah, definitely. I didn’t get to talk to him a whole lot, because he’s concerned with his big league lineup and trying to figure out things with that. But in the time that I got to speak with him, he was very positive. And I know he’s well-liked in the clubhouse, and I enjoyed every minute that I got to speak with him about the game in general and just everything.

AF: Was there anything in particular you learned or took away from your experience this spring?

DN: Just adapting to a different environment and different players. I went from having Pudge as the starting catcher in Washington with all his knowledge. And then you go from that to Kurt Suzuki, who’s also one of the premiere catchers in the major leagues, so that was definitely a plus as well.

AF: So both those guys were very open and had a lot to share with you?

DN: Oh, definitely. Kurt couldn’t have been any better to me in spring than he was. He was very open. Any question I had, he answered, and he was always there for anything that I needed.

AF: This is your first year in Triple-A and you’ve been hitting well and hitting for power at Sacramento. In the past, your profile was that of a guy who walked a lot and had a high on-base percentage but didn’t really hit for a high average. But it seems like it’s been just the opposite this year. You’ve been hitting right around .300 all year, but I think it took a while before you even got your first walk this season. So I’m curious to know what’s changed in your approach at the plate.

DN: Yeah, I got with my hitting coach this off-season back home. And we pretty much just broke down my last season because I was very upset with the way that it went. We pretty much just started from scratch and weighed the pros and cons of my season and it just came down to the percentages of me hitting were always with two strikes. And anybody who knows baseball knows that if you’re hitting with two strikes a lot, you’re not going to be hitting for a very good average. So being able to know the difference between seeing pitches and getting in good hitters’ counts and seeing pitches and getting in good pitchers’ counts. So we pretty much just broke that down into, if you get a good pitch to hit early in the count, your percentages are way better of getting a hit than later in the count when there’s two strikes. So that was one of the biggest things – just swinging the bat more at good pitches to hit, but not going out of your strike zone to try and get base hits.

AF: So basically it sounds like just finding those good pitches to hit earlier in the count was the key for you.

DN: Right, instead of later in the count – for sure.

AF: So have there been any particular challenges this year that you feel you’ve really had to work on at this level?

DN: I’m a firm believer that if you come out and you just keep playing everyday, you’re going to get better as long as you don’t take anything for granted. The more you play, the better you get. The more pitches you see, the more innings you play, the better you’re going to get. And that’s really my ultimate goal – to just keep getting better everyday.

AF: Well it seems like they’ve had you behind the plate in Sacramento almost everyday as it is!

DN: Yeah, that’s one thing that I really pride myself on is being back there everyday. I want it to be a surprise when I’m not in there.

Derek Norris – he’s got it, he’s got it! (photo by Sara Molina/Sacramento River Cats)

AF: How do feel about your work behind the plate as a catcher, both defensively and also in terms of game-calling and working with the pitching staff there in Sacramento?

DN: A lot of the guys on this team who I’ve had to work with so far, a lot of us are on the same page, which is pretty hard to do, especially early on in the season because you don’t know a guy’s tendencies and things that they like to throw. As far as game-calling, it’s been pretty smooth thus far, knock on wood. And it’s going pretty well as far as defensively, working with our manager Darren Bush – he stays on me all the time with my work, and it just keeps improving everyday.

AF: How have you enjoyed playing in Sacramento and playing at Raley Field?

DN: Well, it’s been great so far. We’ve had pretty good crowds. And we’ve put together a pretty good team to put out there every night. And our team, they’re just a great group of guys, and we meld together real well, and it’s been a great experience so far.

AF: So who are your best friends on the team? Who do you usually spend your free time hanging out with?

DN: I try to get to know different guys as much as I can. But I actually lived just down the road from Travis Banwart. We went to the same high school and everything – we kind of grew up together. So if I were to pick one guy, it’d probably be him.

AF: That’s right, I forgot he was a Kansan too. So do you have any particular goals for yourself for the rest of the season? Is there anything in particular you’d like to accomplish?

DN: I try not to set myself any particular goals, except for just coming out here and giving 100% everyday and just try to win every ballgame.

AF: And try and get in every ballgame too I guess!

DN: Yeah, try and get in every ballgame I can – that’s right!

 

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Exclusive: A’s Assistant GM David Forst Gives the Lowdown on Off-Season Acquisitions and A’s Top Prospects – Part 1

David Forst: The future’s so bright he’s gotta wear shades

Now that we’re almost a month and a half into the season, it seems like a good time to reflect on the A’s big off-season moves and try to get a read on how all those new acquisitions have panned out. Of the ten players the A’s acquired in their three big deals with Arizona (for right-hander Trevor Cahill), with Washington (for left-hander Gio Gonzalez), and with Boston (for reliever Andrew Bailey and outfielder Ryan Sweeney), five of those players are currently on the major league roster, two are playing at Triple-A, and three are in Class-A. And we decided to get the lowdown on all these players from someone who’s got his finger on the pulse of not only the A’s major league roster but of all the minor teams as well – A’s assistant general manager David Forst.

Forst grew up in southern California, captained the Harvard University baseball team, and played independent ball in the Frontier League before landing an entry level position in the A’s baseball operations department in January of 2000. He’s currently in his ninth season as the A’s assistant general manager and general manager Billy Beane has entrusted him with a broad range of responsibilities that cover just about every aspect of the organization. So he’s the perfect man to give us the inside scoop not only on last off-season’s key acquisitions but also on all the top prospects down on the farm. So without any further ado, let’s go to the tape…

AF: Well, I know the amateur draft is coming up next month. So are you spending a lot of your time prepping for the draft at this point?

DF: I’m actually on the road probably two or three days a week now, but I’m discussing it a lot more than that with (scouting director) Eric Kubota and the guys in the office. The draft is sort of the top of our list right now.

AF: Well you’ve got a lot of high picks this year.

DF: Yeah, we have two comp picks and then an extra second round pick as well.

Jarrod Parker

AF: I wanted to start out getting your take on the players the A’s acquired in all the big off-season deals now that you’ve had a chance to see them up close. So let’s start with the guys you got from Arizona in the Trevor Cahill trade. And obviously the key guy for you in that deal was former first-round draft pick Jarrod Parker, who’s already in the major league rotation for you.

DF: Jarrod’s come a long way just from the beginning of spring training. We knew when we traded for him that the further he got away from that surgery, the more he was going to resemble the prospect that everybody had in the top ten in the game. The second half in Double-A last year, he was getting better – he obviously was good enough for the Diamondbacks to call him up – and we’ve sort of seen that progress continue before our eyes. He had a nice spring training, but he certainly didn’t dominate. In fact, he made one start at the end where he was very disappointing. But he quickly made some adjustments in Triple-A. I think he made four starts down there at Triple-A. His command was better and his stuff was consistently good. We knew we were going to need a fifth starter, and it was the right time to give him an opportunity here. And he’s been outstanding up here. He’s shown no fear here in his first sort of regular stint in the big leagues, and he’s thrown strikes – which are really the two things that you worry about with a young kid coming into this environment, and he’s been outstanding.

AF: And I think he’s got a lower ERA than Trevor Cahill at this point too.

DF: Well, you try not to make that direct comparison. These trades are made for the long haul. But we’re happy with what Jarrod’s given us at the big league level.

Ryan Cook

AF: The other pitcher involved in that deal was reliever Ryan Cook, who’s turned out to be a big part of the A’s bullpen.

DF: Well, I can’t say I expected him to start out with 16 scoreless innings to begin the year, but Ryan’s been phenomenal. We saw a lot of him last year in the minor leagues. We discussed him at the deadline when we made the Brad Ziegler deal, so we had pretty good information on Ryan. In fact, when we made the deal, (Arizona GM) Kevin Towers was very reluctant to part with him. That was sort of the last piece that fell into place for us. We thought we had a good young pitcher on our hands, and he has answered every challenge so far. I think when you look at his stuff and what he’s been able to do in the eighth inning, he’s a guy you can project to be at the back of the bullpen for a long time.

AF: When you look at what he’s done so far, I assume you’ve got to see a potential future closer out there.

DF: Yeah, it’s something we’ve discussed. You never know how guys react until they’re actually there and have to get the last three outs. But just from a pure stuff standpoint, we certainly think Ryan has the potential to do it down the road.

AF: The other guy in that deal was outfielder Collin Cowgill, who is back up with the A’s now. He obviously had great numbers in Triple-A last year. But what do you think of what you’ve seen of him so far?

Collin Cowgill

DF: Collin’s been exactly what we expected. He had a great spring training and made our club out of the gate. Unfortunately, there just weren’t enough at bats for him with the glut of outfielders we had. But he’s come as advertised – he plays the game hard, he’s aggressive, he’s smart in the outfield. I think this guy has a chance, when things sort of shake out, to start in the outfield for us here in the big leagues.

AF: How do you feel about his ability to play center field?

DF: He’s been one of our better guys in center field. Obviously, when Yoenis Cespedes went down, after Coco Crisp having already gone on the disabled list, and we were looking for someone, we called Collin up because we knew he had that skill.

AF: I remember Billy Beane telling me in the spring that you can never have too many guys who are capable of playing center field, and it looks like that’s played out very quickly for you this year.

DF: For sure, not everybody can do it for whatever reason. And we’ve hammered through our depth in that spot pretty quickly.

AF: The next big off-season trade was the one with Washington for Gio Gonzalez. One of those four guys you got in that deal is in the major leagues right now, and that’s Tommy Milone.

Tommy Milone

DF: Well, we knew Tommy was advanced as far as prospects go. And we knew it wouldn’t be long till he was in the big leagues just because when you look at the line he put up last year – you can’t walk 16 guys in a full Triple-A season without really knowing what you’re doing as a pitcher. When we made that deal, he was sort of painted as the fourth guy, and even as the potential throw-in by some outlets. But we knew he had the best chance to impact our major league team right away just because he really had nothing left to prove at Triple-A. And he’s been excellent. It’s no secret he doesn’t have overwhelming stuff or a plus fastball or whatever, but he doesn’t make a lot of mistakes. And he’s basically had seven quality starts, a couple of rough ones in the middle, but even in those, he still made some progress and has sort of fit nicely in the middle of our rotation.

AF: I was talking to Anthony Recker in spring training about Milone. And he said that his command was so good that he’s always able to put his pitches where he wants and at least execute the game plan.

DF: For sure, yeah, he’s fun to watch for that reason. You know when he does miss, he meant to miss and it’s for a reason. And I can understand why Recker said that. From a catcher’s standpoint, he’s exactly the kind of guy you want to work with.

AF: And I think he actually has one more win that Gio does at this point.

DF: Well, Gio’s having himself a pretty good year. I’m sure Washington’s very happy with him.

Brad Peacock

AF: Another pitcher who came over in that deal was Brad Peacock. He had a bit of a rough spring and isn’t currently on the major league roster, but he’s been pitching very well at Sacramento so far this year.

DF: Yeah, like you said, much like Jarrod, he didn’t exactly dominate in the spring. But he has gone down to Triple-A and pitched well. He just hasn’t quite gotten that consistency together. He’ll put together two good starts in a row then hit a little bit of a speed bump. But overall, his numbers are good. His ERA’s in the mid-threes and he’s striking out almost one an inning. So for us, watching Brad every time out, you want to see a guy put together four, five, six good starts in a row before you feel pretty good about having him here. And I imagine that time is probably not that far off.

AF: Another guy in that deal who’s currently at Sacramento is catcher Derek Norris. He’s been hitting close to .300 for most of the year. I’m not sure how he’s been looking behind the plate, but his numbers sure have been looking good.

Derek Norris

DF: Derek has sort of turned his offensive numbers on their head a bit. The knock on him was that he couldn’t hit for average, all he did was walk.  I think he got all the way through three or four weeks of the season before getting his third walk of the year, but he was hitting like .360 at the time. And he got raves from the coaching staff from day one on how he handled pitchers and his receiving skills. His throwing numbers have never been in question. He’s always been one of the best guys in the minor leagues as far as throwing out baserunners. He’s in a little bit of a funk right now. I think his average has dropped below .300 for the first time this year. But we couldn’t be happier with his progress on both sides of the ball. He just turned 23 years old and he’s just getting his first taste of Triple-A and he’s hitting close to .300 most of the season and catching every day. We feel very good about Derek.

AF: Do you view him as being major league ready at this stage of the game?

DF: Yeah, I mean you always like a guy to get as much experience in Triple-A as possible, particularly for a catcher, who has to handle a game plan at the highest level and still bring his offense along with him. So if we were in an emergency situation, I think we could feel comfortable with Derek catching everyday up here, which is a good feeling. But it’s also nice to have the luxury of having two guys up here with experience and knowing that you can have him spend time in Triple-A and not lose anything.

A.J. Cole

AF: The final piece of that deal was A.J. Cole, who a lot of folks really considered the top prospect of the bunch and were very excited about. But he’s really been struggling at Stockton so far this year.

DF: Well, yeah, he obviously hasn’t performed how anyone would hope. I know A.J. himself is frustrated. And I’ve spent some time talking with (minor league pitching coordinator) Gil Patterson and (director of player development) Keith Lieppman over the last couple weeks about A.J. to make sure we get a good read on what’s going on. His stuff continues to be outstanding. His fastball tops out at 95 mph almost every time out. Gil saw him pitch just the other day and said his secondary pitches were good. Just for whatever reason right now, he’s getting hit, and it’s pretty consistently every time out. We have actually spent some time talking about the best thing for A.J. – whether that’s heading back to the Midwest League or getting some time off from the rotation, something just to make sure he gets some success under his belt. But the good thing is he’s healthy and his stuff is good. We just need to make some adjustments and get him back on track as far as results are concerned.

Be sure to check back tomorrow for Part 2 of A’s Farm’s exclusive interview with A’s assistant general manager David Forst, in which he gives us the lowdown on Josh Reddick, Miles Head, Michael Choice, Sonny Gray and more top A’s prospects.

Preview: Cole, Krol, Head & Stassi to Star for Stockton in 2012

 

Banner Island Ballpark in Stockton

The opening day roster for the A’s Class-A affiliate in the California League, the Stockton Ports, was announced on Monday. The most intriguing prospects playing for the Ports this season will include left-handed pitching prospect Ian Krol, right-handed flame-thrower A.J. Cole, acquired from the Nationals in the Gio Gonzalez deal, catching prospect Max Stassi, and slugging third baseman Miles Head, acquired from the Red Sox in the Andrew Bailey trade.

Other notable players on the Ports’ roster this season include right-handed pitching prospect Blake Hassebrock, who posted an impressive 2.64 ERA at Class-A Burlington last year, and former first-round draft pick Sean Doolittle, who’s attempting to convert to pitching after suffering a string of injuries while serving as a first baseman and outfielder.

You’ll find the Stockton Ports’ complete roster, along with profiles of some of the teams’ top players, below.

 

A.J. Cole

A.J. COLE

Right-handed Starting Pitcher

Age On Opening Day: 20

Drafted 2010 – 4th Round

A top high school draft pick in 2010, the lanky, 6’4” Cole appears to be all arms and legs. But his right arm seems to have the power mesmerize mortal men, striking out batters at a rate of 10.9 per 9 innings over his short minor league career. Acquired from the Nationals in the Gio Gonzalez trade, the Florida native could turn out to be the gem of the deal. Just 20 years old, Cole has plenty of upside and will be working to make the most of it at Stockton in 2012.

 

Ian Krol

IAN KROL

Left-handed Starting Pitcher

Age On Opening Day: 20

Drafted 2009 – 7th Round

A coveted high school pitching prospect, Krol really opened some eyes in 2010 when he posted a 2.80 ERA while walking only 28 batters between Class-A Kane County and Stockton. Between injuries and a suspension due to inappropriate tweeting, 2011 ended up being a complete washout for Krol. But he’s now set to rebound at Stockton, where he finished off his impressive 2010 campaign.

 

Blake Hassebrock

BLAKE HASSEBROCK

Right-handed Starting Pitcher

Age On Opening Day: 22

Drafted 2010 – 8th Round

An eighth-round draft pick out the University of North Carolina in 2010, Hassebrock was named a Midwest League All-Star in his first full year of pro ball. He posted an impressive 2.64 ERA while striking out 110 batters in 139 2/3 innings for Class-A Burlington, and the organization has high hopes of Hassebrock replicating his 2011 performance at Stockton in 2012.

 

Sean Doolittle

SEAN DOOLITTLE

Left-handed Pitcher

Age On Opening Day: 25

Drafted 2007 – 1st Round

Originally drafted by the A’s as a first baseman in the first round of the 2007 draft, injuries have limited his mobility and kept him completely off the field for the past two seasons, but he’s now looking to make his mark on the mound as a hard-throwing lefty. Doolittle was a successful college pitcher, so the pitcher’s mound isn’t completely new to him. And after throwing well in spring training, he’s looking to take the next step this season at Stockton.

 

Miles Head

MILES HEAD

Right-handed Hitting Third Baseman

Age On Opening Day: 20

Drafted 2009 – 26th Round

Head is a talented young hitter whom the A’s targeted in the Bailey trade with Boston. Last year while playing in Class-A, he opened eyes by hitting .299 with 37 doubles and 22 HRs to go along with an .887 OPS. Originally drafted as a third baseman, he’s spent most of his time in the Red Sox system playing first base, but the A’s are planning to return him to third. And if he continues to hit at Stockton, there’s no reason Head shouldn’t be able to move up through the A’s system pretty quickly.

 

Max Stassi

MAX STASSI

Right-handed Hitting Catcher

Age On Opening Day: 21

Drafted 2009 – 4th Round

A top high school catching prospect, Stassi was viewed as an eventual replacement for Kurt Suzuki as soon as he was drafted by the A’s. Injuries have slowed his progress though and, since being drafted in June of 2009, Stassi’s accumulated fewer than 600 at bats in the A’s system. But the native northern Californian will have every chance to show what he can do both at the plate and behind the plate for Stockton in 2012.

 

-STOCKTON PORTS 2012 ROSTER-

 

PITCHERS

Josh Bowman

Jacob Brown

A.J. Cole

Sean Doolittle

Jose Guzman

Blake Hassebrock

Connor Hoehn

Ian Krol

ArnoldLeon

Nate Long

Zack Thornton

Blake Treinen

T.J. Walz

 

CATCHERS

Petey Paramore

Max Stassi

 

INFIELDERS

Michael Gilmartin

Miles Head

A.J. Kirby-Jones

Nino Leyja

Ryan Pineda

Tony Thompson

 

OUTFIELDERS

Rashun Dixon

Eliezer Mesa

Myrio Richard

Josh Whitaker

 

 

Exclusive: A’s GM Billy Beane Talks Trades and Prospects with A’s Farm – Part 2

Billy Beane, pondering the A's outfield picture

Yesterday, we brought you Part 1 of our exclusive interview with A’s general manager Billy Beane, where he discussed the talents of Cuban outfielder Yoenis Cespedes, the Trevor Cahill deal with the Diamondbacks, and the big Gio Gonzalez trade with the Nationals. In today’s episode, we’ll cover the Andrew Bailey deal with the Red Sox, what he looks for in minor league players, his favorite new bands, and his biggest catch of the offseason. Now let’s get back to the action – we rejoin our game, already in progress…

AF: Now let’s take a look at the Boston deal for Andrew Bailey and Ryan Sweeney. You got Josh Reddick, Miles Head and Raul Alcantara. Obviously, Reddick is the guy we’re expecting to see first. So what did you really like about him?

BB: He had a real good year last year with Boston just coming up – he’s still very young. We were at the time certainly still in desperate need of some young outfielders who were ready to step in. Josh is a great defender and a very, very athletic kid, and a guy that we always liked even before this year. So given the need at the position and some of the success that he had his first year out, we thought he’d be a good fit for us.

AF: I guess you’re looking at him as primarily a corner outfielder at this point.

BB: Probably most of the time, but Josh has the ability to play center too. So that’s nice to have, particularly if you need to give guys rest. But he’s an outstanding corner guy and he’s a very capable center fielder, which is never a bad thing.

AF: It sounds like you’re going to have a lot of capable center fielders on the roster this year.

BB: Yeah, well it’s nice to have. You’ve got to give guys rest. And if someone goes down, you really don’t want to be stuck with just one because it creates this huge hole. So having guys you can move around if needed is great to have as a manager.

AF: Guys getting injured? Imagine that!

Josh Reddick: To shave or not to shave? That is the question! (photo by Kelly O'Connor/sittingstill.net)

BB: Yeah, exactly!

AF: I’m assuming Josh Reddick’s going to have every shot at being a starting outfielder for you in the major leagues this year, right?

BB: Yeah, that’s the thought. Yes.

AF: Now Miles Head is someone people weren’t quite as familiar with. I think he’s only had one full year in the minors. What about him got your attention?

BB: Well, he took some big strides forward with the bat this year. He had a very good offensive year. His original position was third, and we’re going to move him back over to third. And if he can combine his offense with some capable defense, he’s a pretty interesting prospect. But he made some huge strides last year offensively, and that’s what brought him to our notice.

AF: The final piece of that deal was Raul Alcantara, a very young pitcher. What did you like about him?

BB: Well we saw him in the Gulf Coast League a couple times and he was very impressive down there. Once again, he’s got a very good fastball, a good arm, and showed himself very well for a young kid. And we were very impressed with him.

AF: Now when you’re looking at minor league hitters, whether your own players or other people’s, what are the key things you’re looking for?

BB: Well, I think the whole game is about controlling the strike zone, whether you’re a pitcher trying to get hitters to swing outside the zone or you’re a hitter trying to shrink the strike zone. And it’s a skill set that translates from the minor leagues to the major leagues very well, so that’s certainly one of the first things we look at. And let’s face it, it’s still hitting, so the ability to make solid contact on a consistent basis is always pretty important.

AF: What about minor league pitchers? What are the first things you’re looking at when evaluating them?

BB: I think you always like to see strikeouts, swings and misses, because it’s not dependent on anything else. And it’s also a good indicator of a guy’s future success in the major leagues. So it’s nice to see guys who strike guys out and miss bats.

AF: Well it seems like a lot of the guys you’ve gotten this offseason are pretty hard throwers and have some pretty good strikeout numbers, so it sounds like that’s really the direction you’re going.

BB: Let’s put it this way, you don’t have to throw hard to strike guys out, but it helps. There’s certainly a correlation between strikeouts and velocity. But strikeouts are a good indication of what a guy’s stuff is like. And if guys can’t hit it, it must be pretty good.

AF: Now this offseason, you acquired a lot of young pitchers, and a few young hitters. You’ve also had some young hitting prospects in the system for the last few years. And it seems like you’ve opened up plenty of opportunities for the young pitchers to play and make it at the major league level this year. But you’ve also gone out and acquired some major league hitters and maybe not opened the door quite so wide for some of your young hitting prospects. So what was the thinking behind that?

BB: Well our feeling is, you’ll get the opportunity when you sort of earn that. If we thought guys were ready or had proven they’re ready with their minor league performance, we would give them that opportunity. But in many cases, that just isn’t what’s happened. Minor league players don’t stay minor league players for very long if they hit well. It’s really that simple.

AF: If you earn it, it will come!

BB: Yeah, absolutely.

AF: I’m curious to know how the season looks from a general manager’s perspective. What’s the slowest time of the year for you when you can maybe turn your focus away from baseball for a minute and take a vacation or do something else?

BB: Nowadays, I’m not sure there is. There’s never a day when there’s not something for you to do. But probably the time when a lot of the industry will at least take a little bit of a break is between Christmas and New Year’s. But there’s very little time other than that when you’re not really working on something. Even when I go on vacation, usually I’m working. We take the family to Hawaii every year, but every year I’m usually up early in the morning making calls and trying to get things done before we get out for the day. But it’s turned into probably a 360-day-a-year job. And with the access to general managers through mobile phones and e-mail, it really never shuts down.

AF: I guess it’s not like the old days when you could go on vacation and people couldn’t find you.

BB: It actually works out good because when you are away, you don’t feel disconnected. Sometimes vacations are no fun if you know there’s a lot of stuff piling up on your desk. I think it works out good because I think you actually have more freedom now because you can get a hold of people so much easier than you could ten years ago. So I actually think it’s a good thing.

AF: So you don’t have to rush back to the office to deal with everything.

BB: Yeah, exactly.

AF: So what’s the busiest and most intense time of the year for you?

BB: When the World Series ends up through Christmas is by far the most intense and busiest time as far as the workload goes. Every year, that period is the one when you’ve always got something to do and your day never seems to end – right up to the Winter Meetings and even up until Christmas – that’s by far the busiest time.

AF: And when do you start preparing for the draft?

BB: Right after the start of the year. The scouting department is getting everything ready. They’re having their meetings.

AF: I’m assuming you’re in a pretty intense mode leading up to the draft in June.

BB: Yeah, for the scouting department it’s intense for them until the draft. And for myself and David Forst and some of the other guys, it’s pretty involved just making sure that we see some of the guys we can in April and May leading up to the draft in June.

AF: So what’s the most interesting non-baseball experience you’ve had this offseason?

Billy Beane's biggest catch of the offseason?

BB: Catching a 30-pound salmon on a fly rod! That was probably the most interesting and the most fun non-baseball thing.

AF: Where were you fishing at?

BB: Up near Redding on the lower Sacramento River.

AF: So I guess you’ll also be headed out to Hollywood for the Oscars soon, right?

BB: Yeah, that’s next weekend. So that should be fun. It’s been an interesting year with the movie and everything. And this will be sort of a bookend to it all. And it’s a great honor for the people who put the movie together, certainly for Brad Pitt and all the people who were nominated. I think it’ll be a lot of fun. And my wife and daughter are going to be there with me, so it’ll be a great experience.

AF: Any good new music you’ve been listening to lately?

Hey ho, let's go A's!

BB: I like that new M83 stuff that’s out – it’s a little different. I like the Dum Dum Girls. It’s got a little bit of that Raveonettes kind of sound – that wall of sound. I still like that National album that came out. The other band I like I’ve been hearing that I think is an L.A. band is Bleached. Those are a couple of the more recent ones.

AF: Well, you know the Johnny Ramone autobiography is coming out April 1st?

BB: Aw man, that’ll be great. I’ll look forward to it. It’s still hard to believe three of the original Ramones are no longer with us.

AF: But the drummers are all still alive!

BB: I know! I was just thumbing through this book on the Ramones, and I was looking at pictures of Johnny and Dee Dee and Joey, and they look so young. It just doesn’t seem like that long ago.

AF: I know. It’s amazing how quick they all went.

Shortly after that, like the Ramones, our connection was lost, as our intrepid general manager traversed the desert on his way to Phoenix. So that concludes our pre-season check-in with the A’s main man. Hopefully we’ll have some pleasantly surprising new developments to discuss when we check in again in the post-season. In the meantime, feel free to share your thoughts and reactions in the comments section. And be sure to check back in at A’s Farm this weekend, when I’ll be re-posting my Billy Beane/Johnny Ramone joint interview from the memorable Moneyball/winning streak season of 2002!

A’s Farm’s Consensus Top 10 Prospect List for 2012

Former top prospect Jemile Weeks - who will be the next to make it big? (photo by Ezra Shaw/Getty Images)

It seems like there’s a new top prospect list popping up from someone everyday for A’s fans to chew over and debate. There are usually certain similarities amongst them that you can count on, like Jarrod Parker and Michael Choice being somewhere in the top tier. Each of them usually has its own particular peculiarities though, like slotting someone in the top 10 whom no one else even bothers to mention.

So it occurred to me to take a look at a sampling of credible top prospect lists and construct a consensus top ten prospect list for the A’s. I’ve chosen to include half a dozen lists from sources that seem credible to me, including Jonathan Mayo/MLB.com, Baseball America, Oakland Clubhouse/Scout.com, John Sickels, Baseball Prospectus, and Top Prospect Alert. All of them have been updated in the last month to include all the prospects acquired in the deals with the Diamondbacks, Nationals and Red Sox.

For the purposes of this list, I’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.

You’ll notice that half of the consensus top ten prospects are pitchers, including four of the top five prospects. Half the list is also made up of new players acquired in the deals with the Diamondbacks, Nationals and Red Sox, showing just how much these deals served to rejuvenate the A’s minor league system.

Interestingly enough, all four of the prospects acquired in the Gio Gonzalez deal with the Nationals made the consensus top ten, showing that no matter how reluctant some A’s fans were to accept life without Gio, his trade could really end up forming the basis of a highly effective A’s starting rotation for many years to come.

Since some of these players also appeared in a recent “new prospects” roundup on this blog earlier in the week, some of these player profiles might seem a little familiar to you. But hey, you might as well start getting familiar with these guys ‘cause, with any luck, you’ll be looking at them for a long time to come! So without any further ado, let’s take a look at the A’s consensus top ten prospect list…

 

#1 Jarrod Parker (photo by Ezra Shaw/Getty Images)

#1 JARROD PARKER

(58 points / 6 lists)

Right-handed Starting Pitcher

Age On Opening Day: 23

Drafted 2007 – 1st Round

Arizona’s first-round draft pick in 2007, Parker missed all of the 2010 season due to Tommy John surgery, but came back in 2011 to post a 3.79 ERA with 112 strikeouts in 130 2/3 innings at Double-A Mobile. Acquired in the Trevor Cahill trade, the 23-year-old clearly has the stuff to eventually end up as a top-of-the-rotation starter for the A’s, but he could still benefit from a little more seasoning. There’s no need for the team to rush him, but it’d be a surprise if Parker didn’t lay claim to his spot in the A’s rotation by 2013.

Likely To Start 2012 With: Sacramento Rivercats

 

#2 Michael Choice (photo by Ezra Shaw/Getty Images)

#2 MICHAEL CHOICE

(46 points / 6 lists)

Right-handed Hitting Outfielder

Age On Opening Day: 22

Drafted 2010 – 1st Round

The A’s first-round draft pick in 2010, Choice has done little to disappoint since his signing. The 22-year-old hit 30 homers and posted a .285/.376/.542 slash line while playing center field for Class-A Stockton last year. His 134 strikeouts provide the only potential cause for concern. But he’s worked to shorten his swing and, as the best pure power hitter in the organization, the slugging outfielder should be able to quickly move up through an A’s system that’s not currently clogged with power-hitting outfielders.

Likely To Start 2012 With: Midland Rockhounds

 

#3 Brad Peacock (photo by Christopher Pasatieri/Getty Images)

#3 BRAD PEACOCK

(45 points / 6 lists)

Right-handed Starting Pitcher

Age On Opening Day: 24

Drafted 2006 – 41st Round

The lowest draft pick on the A’s consensus top ten prospect list, Peacock was selected straight out of high school by the Nationals in the 41st round in 2006. But he’s definitely found a way to turn heads, posting a stellar 2.39 ERA and striking out 177 in 146 2/3 innings between Triple-A Syracuse and Double-A Harrisburg in 2011. Any pitcher who manages to go from the 41st round to the top three prospects of any organization obviously has a pretty good idea what he’s doing out there on the mound, and it wouldn’t be a surprise to see Peacock in the A’s rotation before the 2012 season is through.

Likely To Start 2012 With: Sacramento Rivercats

 

#4 A.J. Cole

#4 A.J. COLE

(42 points / 6 lists)

Right-handed Starting Pitcher

Age On Opening Day: 20

Drafted 2010 – 4th Round

Another high-school draft pick, the lanky, 6’4” Cole appears to be all arms and legs. But his right arm seems to have the power mesmerize mortal men, striking out batters at a rate of 10.9 per 9 innings over his short minor league career. Acquired from the Nationals in the Gio Gonzalez trade, the Florida native could turn out to be the gem of the deal. Like most 20-year-old pitching prospects, Cole still has a few things to work on. But at his young age, he’s got plenty of upside and plenty of time to maximize it.

Likely To Start 2012 With: Stockton Ports

 

#5 Sonny Gray (photo by Michael Zagaris/Getty Images)

#5 SONNY GRAY

(37 points / 5 lists)

Right-handed Pitcher

Age On Opening Day: 22

Drafted 2011 – 1st Round

The A’s first-round draft pick in 2011, Gray has already managed to log 5 starts at Double-A Midland, giving up just 1 run in 20 innings while striking out 18. The 5’11” right-hander has been compared to Tim Hudson in that while he’s not all that physically impressive, his confident, gritty and fearless attitude sets him apart from the competition. With a good fastball and curve, it shouldn’t take long for the tough 22-year-old to fight his way into the A’s starting rotation.

Likely To Start 2012 With: Midland Rockhounds

 

#6 Grant Green

#6 GRANT GREEN

(34 points / 6 lists)

Right-handed Hitting Outfielder

Age On Opening Day: 24

Drafted 2009 – 1st Round

The fourth first-round draft pick on the A’s consensus top ten prospect list, Green was selected by the A’s in 2009 as a shortstop but has since been moved to the outfield. Midway through the 2011 season, Green took over in center field for Double-A Midland, where he turned in a .291/.343/.408 slash line. But his home run numbers dipped from 20 at Class-A Stockton in the 2010 season down to just 9 last year. His plate discipline has been an issue too, as he’s struck out three times as often as he’s walked in his minor league career. Still, he hits the ball hard and Green could earn a shot in the A’s outfield before long.

Likely To Start 2012 With: Sacramento Rivercats

 

#7 Derek Norris (photo by Al Bello/Getty Images)

#7 DEREK NORRIS

(27 points / 6 lists)

Right-handed Hitting Catcher

Age On Opening Day: 23

Drafted 2007 – 4th Round

The only hitter the A’s picked up in the Gio Gonzalez deal with the Nationals, Norris certainly fits the A’s mold in that he’s a power hitter who has a propensity for drawing walks. His career minor league OBP of .403 no doubt got the A’s attention. But while he slugged 20 home runs at Double-A Harrisburg last season, he managed to hit only .210. If he can just keep his average above the Mendoza line, Norris could serve to bridge the gap between Kurt Suzuki and young catching prospect Max Stassi.

Likely To Start 2012 With: Midland Rockhounds

 

#8 Chris Carter

#8 CHRIS CARTER

(16 points / 5 lists)

Right-handed Hitting First Baseman

Age On Opening Day: 25

Drafted 2005 – 15th Round

Acquired in the Dan Haren deal with the Diamondbacks, it was originally hoped that the slugging first baseman would be anchoring the heart of the A’s lineup by now. He’s put up big power numbers in the minors, clubbing 31 home runs at Triple-A Sacramento in 2010 and posting a career minor league slugging percentage of .540. Carter could finally have a legitimate shot at showing what he can do in the majors at either first base or designated hitter for the A’s in 2012.

Likely To Start 2012 With: Oakland A’s

 

#9 Tom Milone (photo by Ed Wolfstein/Icon SMI)

#9 TOM MILONE

(6 points / 3 lists)

Left-handed Starting Pitcher

Age On Opening Day: 25

Drafted 2008 – 10th Round

The oldest and most experienced pitcher on the A’s consensus top ten prospect list, Milone is probably the most ready to step into the A’s major league rotation in 2012. The left-hander was acquired in the Gio Gonzalez deal with the Nationals after he posted a 3.22 ERA in 148 1/3 innings while walking a paltry 16 batters at Triple-A Syracuse last season. Milone won’t blow anyone away with his stuff, but he’s a smart lefty who knows how to make the most of what he’s got, and he should get a shot to show the A’s what he can do in 2012.

Likely To Start 2012 With: Oakland A’s

 

#10 Michael Taylor (photo by Ezra Shaw/Getty Images)

#10 MICHAEL TAYLOR

(4 points / 2 lists)

Right-handed Hitting Outfielder

Age On Opening Day: 26

Drafted 2007 – 5th Round

Along with Carter, Taylor had lots of expectations thrust upon him as soon as the A’s managed to pry him away from Philadelphia. And while the 6’5” outfielder put up stellar numbers in the Phillies system, his progress has stagnated a bit since coming to the A’s. But Taylor does still have a .296/.371/.476 career minor league slash line along with some good tools. At 26 though, 2012 may be his last real opportunity to show the A’s just what’s he’s capable of.

Likely To Start 2012 With: Sacramento Rivercats

 

Honorable Mentions: Collin Cowgill (OF) 3 pts. / Jermaine Mitchell (OF) 3 pts. / Yordy Cabrera (SS) 3 pts. / Aaron Shipman (OF) 2 pts. / Renato Nunez (3B) 1 pt. / Ian Krol (SP) 1 pt. / Raul Alcantara (SP) 1 pt. / B.A. Vollmuth (3B) 1 pt.

 

Looking at this list, if the A’s are able to move into a new stadium in 2015, the team could be looking at an extremely talented starting rotation consisting of Jarrod Parker, Brad Peacock, Tom Milone, Sonny Gray and A.J. Cole, along with a promising outfield made up of Grant Green in left, Michael Choice in right and either Josh Reddick or Collin Cowgill in center. And if things go according to plan, that seems like a pretty good plan to me!

 

A’S CONSENSUS TOP 10 PROSPECT LIST

#1 – Jarrod Parker (SP) – 58 points / 6 lists

#2 – Michael Choice (OF) – 46 points / 6 lists

#3 – Brad Peacock (SP) – 45 points / 6 lists

#4 – A.J. Cole (SP) – 42 points / 6 lists

#5 – Sonny Gray (SP) – 37 points / 5 lists

#6 – Grant Green (OF) – 34 points / 6 lists

#7 – Derek Norris (C) – 27 points / 6 lists

#8 – Chris Carter (1B) – 16 points / 5 lists

#9 – Tom Milone (SP) – 6 points / 3 lists

#10 – Michael Taylor (OF) – 4 points / 2 lists

 

Jonathan Mayo’s Top A’s Prospects

Baseball America’s Top A’s Prospects

Oakland Clubhouse’s Top A’s Prospects

John Sickels’ Top A’s Prospects

Baseball Prospectus’ Top A’s Prospects

Top Prospect Alert’s Top A’s Prospects

 

 

The Kids Are Alright! – The Low-Down On The A’s Hot New Prospects

As every A’s fan who doesn’t spend the winter hibernating already knows, the A’s acquired a major haul of young prospects in this off-season’s deals that sent away popular players Gio Gonzalez, Trevor Cahill, Andrew Bailey and Ryan Sweeney. In return, the A’s restocked their organization with six young pitchers and four young hitters, not a one over the age of 25.

But who are these talented youngsters that the A’s are pinning their future hopes and dreams on, and where will they end up in the coming year? Well, wonder no more! Without any further ado, let’s meet this year’s freshly-minted Athletics…

 

Crafty lefty Tom Milone (photo by Ed Wolfstein/Icon SMI)

TOM MILONE

Left-handed Starting Pitcher

Age On Opening Day: 25

Drafted 2008 – 10th Round

The oldest and most experienced of the A’s young pitching acquisitions, Milone had a 3.22 ERA in 24 starts at Triple-A Syracuse and a 3.81 ERA in 5 major league starts for the Nationals in 2011. A master of control, the California native walked a paltry 16 batters in his 148 1/3 Triple-A innings last year. At this point, he’s probably the most ready to step into the A’s major league rotation. The talented Mr. Milone is certainly not going to blow anyone away with his stuff, but he’s a smart lefty who knows how to pitch. And how many guys have had a very long career with that kind of profile? Paging Mr. Jamie Moyer, please pick up the crafty lefty courtesy phone!

Likely To Start 2012 With: Oakland A’s

 

Strikeout machine Brad Peacock (photo by Christopher Pasatieri/Getty Images)

BRAD PEACOCK

Right-handed Starting Pitcher

Age On Opening Day: 24

Drafted 2006 – 41st Round

Of all the young hurlers the A’s acquired who pitched above Single-A last year, Peacock had the lowest ERA and the best strikeout rate of them all, turning in a stellar 2.39 ERA and striking out 177 in 146 2/3 innings between Triple-A Syracuse and Double-A Harrisburg last year. He earned a late-season call-up with the Nationals and gave up only 1 run in 12 innings of major league action. The lowest draft pick of the bunch, the Florida native seems to be another smart pitcher who’s figured out how to put it all together. And it’d be surprising if he didn’t get a chance to be pitching in the majors before the season’s through.

Likely To Start 2012 With: Sacramento Rivercats

 

Future star Jarrod Parker (photo by Ezra Shaw/Getty Images)

JARROD PARKER

Right-handed Starting Pitcher

Age On Opening Day: 23

Drafted 2007 – 1st Round

Probably the most talented of all the A’s young pitching acquisitions, Parker was a first-round draft pick in 2007 who underwent Tommy John surgery in 2009 and ended up missing all of the 2010 season. He returned to Double-A Mobile in 2011 and turned in a 3.79 ERA in 26 starts, striking out 112 in 130 2/3 innings. After earning a late-season call-up with the Diamondbacks, he gave up no runs in his only major league start. Parker should eventually end up as a top-of-the-rotation pitcher for the A’s, but he could probably benefit from a little more seasoning. And if the A’s are going to treat any of their new young pitching prospects with kid gloves, it’ll probably be Parker.

Likely To Start 2012 With: Sacramento Rivercats

 

Young stud A.J. Cole

A.J. COLE

Right-handed Starting Pitcher

Age On Opening Day: 20

Drafted 2010 – 4th Round

Along with Parker, Cole is considered one of the best raw pitching talents in the A’s off-season prospect haul. At 6’4”, the young right-hander appears to be all arms and legs. But his right arm seems to have the ability to mesmerize mortal men, striking out batters at a rate of 10.9 per 9 innings over his short minor league career. Like most 20-year-old pitching prospects, he needs to work on developing his secondary pitches. But the lanky right-hander has tremendous potential and, at his young age, plenty of time to achieve it.

Likely To Start 2012 With: Stockton Ports

 

International man of mystery Raul Alcantara

RAUL ALCANTARA

Right-handed Starting Pitcher

Age On Opening Day: 19

Signed As International Free Agent

The youngest of all the A’s new pitching prospects, the team was reportedly willing to include Ryan Sweeney in the Andrew Bailey deal in order to get their mitts on this talented youngster, who checks in at just 19 (let’s hope his Dominican birth certificate checks out!). Alcantara’s shown impeccable control for his age, walking just 20 batters in 125 2/3 minor league innings. Like Cole, he needs to work on his secondary pitches. But he’s another hurler with tremendous upside and plenty of time to get where he needs to go.

Likely To Start 2012 With: Burlington Bees

 

Man in the middle Ryan Cook (photo by Christian Petersen/Getty Images)

RYAN COOK

Right-handed Relief Pitcher

Age On Opening Day: 24

Drafted 2008 – 27th Round

The only reliever the A’s grabbed in their off-season prospect haul, Cook turned in a nifty 2.21 ERA while striking out 62 batters in 61 innings between Triple-A Reno and Double-A Mobile last season. The Fresno-area native struggled a bit in his brief audition in the Diamondbacks bullpen last year, giving up 6 runs in his 12 appearances. But Cook did manage to strike out 7 major league batters over 7 2/3 innings. He throws hard and could ultimately prove to be an effective set up man behind future A’s closer Fautino De Los Santos.

Likely To Start 2012 With: Oakland A’s

 

Hustler Josh Reddick (photo by Kelly O'Connor/SittingStill.net)

JOSH REDDICK 

Left-handed Hitting Outfielder

Age On Opening Day: 25

Drafted 2006 – 17th Round

The key piece of the Bailey deal with Boston, Reddick compiled a .280 batting average while playing in 87 games for the Red Sox last year, primarily as a right fielder. Reddick has shown good power in the minors, clubbing 14 homers in just 191 at bats at Triple-A Pawtucket last season. And he did manage to hit 18 doubles in a part-time role with the Sox last year, so he could be counted on to chalk up a few more two-baggers in the slightly more spacious Coliseum. He does tend to strike out a lot more than he walks though. The Georgia native has been characterized as a gritty, go-go, Eric Byrnes type of player, as well as a colorful character – and he does seem to be slightly fond of crazy hair! Reddick will be given the first shot at spending the 2012 season as the A’s primary right fielder, so he should get a chance to win over the A’s faithful and show the A’s brass just what he’s capable of.

Likely To Start 2012 With: Oakland A’s

 

Over-achiever Collin Cowgill (photo by Christian Petersen/Getty Images)

COLLIN COWGILL

Right-handed Hitting Outfielder

Age On Opening Day: 25

Drafted 2008 – 5th Round

A speedy right-handed hitting outfielder who throws with his left hand? Could it be the second coming of Rickey? Probably not. But Cowgill could end up finding a spot in the A’s outfield this season, even if it’s just as the A’s fifth outfielder. The team has had their eye on Cowgill for quite a while, attempting to draft him and trying to trade for him once before. He hits for average, steals bases and has shown surprising pop for his 5’9” / 185 lb. stature. Cowgill hit .354, stole 30 bases and hit 13 home runs for Triple-A Reno last season. And the good news is his numbers have improved each of the last few years as he has moved up the ladder from South Bend to Visalia to Mobile to Reno, his OPS rising from .705 to .819 to .825 to .984 last year at Triple-A. He got 100 at bats in the Diamondbacks outfield last season, turning in a .239 batting average in his time with Arizona. Cowgill should get a chance to come to the plate more often for the A’s in 2012, most likely serving as the fifth outfielder and getting some starts in right field behind Josh Reddick.

Likely To Start 2012 With: Oakland A’s

 

Walk machine Derek Norris (photo by Al Bello/Getty Images)

DEREK NORRIS

Right-handed Hitting Catcher

Age On Opening Day: 23

Drafted 2007 – 4th Round

Norris certainly fits the A’s mold in that he’s a power hitter who has a propensity for drawing walks. He has a career minor league OBP of .403, which no doubt got the A’s attention. But while he clubbed 20 home runs at Double-A Harrisburg last season, he managed to hit only .210. The previous year in the Single-A Carolina League, he hit just .235. In each of the last two seasons though, Norris managed to chalk up more walks than hits, so he’s found his way on base one way or another. Expect him to try to improve on his batting average at Double-A Midland this year. If Norris can just keep his power numbers up and manage to get on base enough, he could serve to bridge the gap between current A’s catcher Kurt Suzuki and the A’s even younger catching prospect, Max Stassi.

Likely To Start 2012 With: Midland Rockhounds

 

Young slugger Miles Head (photo by John Sullivan/Daily News)

MILES HEAD

Right-handed Hitting Third Baseman/First Baseman

Age On Opening Day: 20

Drafted 2009 – 26th Round

Head is a talented, but still very young, hitter whom the A’s decided to target in the Bailey trade with Boston. Last year while playing in Single-A, he opened eyes by hitting .299 with 37 doubles and 22 HRs to go along with an .887 OPS. Originally drafted as a third baseman, he’s spent most of his time in the Red Sox system playing first base, but the A’s are planning to return him to third. Some are skeptical about the 6-foot / 215-pounder’s ability to stick at third, but it can’t hurt to give it the ol’ college try! Just 20, Head’s still a few years away from making an impact at the major league level, but if he continues to hit, there’s no reason he shouldn’t be able to move up through the A’s system pretty quickly regardless of his ultimate position.

Likely To Start 2012 With: Stockton Ports

 

 

A’s Deal Gonzalez To Washington For Four Prospects

The A’s have traded starting pitcher Gio Gonzalez and minor league pitcher Robert Gilliam to Washington for four of the Nationals’ top prospects. With the deal, the A’s will add three talented pitchers along with a power-hitting catcher to their system.

Left-hander Tom Milone had an ERA of 3.32 and struck out 155 in 148 1/3 innings last year at Triple-A Syracuse. Right-hander Brad Peacock had an ERA of 2.39 and struck out 177 in 146 2/3 innings while splitting the season between Triple-A Syracuse and Double-A Harrisburg. 19-year-old hurler A.J. Cole had an ERA of 4.04 and struck out 108 in 89 innings last year at Single-A Hagerstown. And catcher Derek Norris hit 20 homers in his first season at Double-A Harrisburg.

Milone and Peacock will compete for spots in the A’s starting rotation this season.

Check out all the important coverage of the trade:

Baseball Nation analyzes the developments that led to the trade

John Sickels profiles the prospects in the trade

MLBTradeRumors.com sums up the trade

The San Francisco Chronicle’s Susan Slusser thinks the A’s got a major haul in the deal

MLB.com’s Jane Lee says that three of the new players are better than most of the A’s current prospects

19-year-old hurler A.J. Cole

Baseball-Reference.com offers up the 4 players’ minor league stats: 

Tom Milone

Brad Peacock

A.J. Cole

Derek Norris

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