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Preview: Parker, Peacock and Ross Lead Rivercats Rotation in 2012

Raley Field in Sacramento

The opening day roster for the A’s Triple-A affiliate in the Pacific Coast League, the Sacramento Rivercats, hadn’t been officially announced as of Wednesday night. But with a few exceptions, it’s pretty clear how the Rivercats’ roster will shape up.

The Rivercats are likely to start the season with 13 pitchers, including top prospects Jarrod Parker and Brad Peacock, as well as right-hander Tyson Ross until he’s needed as the A’s fifth starter in mid-April. The offense will include five outfielders led by promising sluggers Jermaine Mitchell and Grant Green, five infielders anchored by first baseman Chris Carter and third baseman Stephen Parker, and a catching corps led by top catching prospect Derek Norris.

The Rivercats’ regular lineup is likely to include Norris behind the plate – backed up by veteran minor leaguer Joel GalarragaCarter, Wes Timmons, Adam Rosales and Parker around the horn in the infield – with minor league pickup Brandon Hicks backing them up – and Green, Mitchell, Michael Taylor and minor league veterans Brandon Moss and Jeff Fiorentino rotating in the outfield and in the designated hitter spot.

The Rivercats’ rotation will be made up of Ross, Parker and Peacock along with returning Rivercats Travis Banwart and Carlos Hernandez. Meanwhile, the bullpen will primarily be comprised of minor league veterans, all of whom will be at least 26 years old at the start of the season, and most of whom were signed as minor league free agents in the off-season.

You’ll find the Sacramento Rivercats’ likely roster, along with profiles of some of the team’s top players, below. And be sure to check back with A’s Farm throughout the season for daily updates on all the A’s minor league games and top prospects!

 

Jarrod Parker

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 this off-season, 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 benefit from a little more seasoning at Sacramento this year.

 

Brad Peacock

BRAD PEACOCK

Right-handed Starting Pitcher

Age On Opening Day: 24

Drafted 2006 – 41st Round

Of all the young hurlers the A’s acquired this off-season 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 Florida native seems to be a smart pitcher who’s figured out what it takes to win, and it’d be surprising if he didn’t get a chance to be pitching in the majors before the season’s through.

 

Derek Norris

DEREK NORRIS

Right-handed Hitting Catcher

Age On Opening Day: 23

Drafted 2007 – 4th Round

The only hitter the A’s acquired 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.

 

Chris Carter

CHRIS CARTER

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. But Carter will have to take the opportunity to open some eyes and really show the A’s what he can do at Sacramento in 2012.

 

Michael Taylor

MICHAEL TAYLOR

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.

 

Grant Green

GRANT GREEN

Right-handed Hitting Outfielder

Age On Opening Day: 24

Drafted 2009 – 1st Round

Green was originally selected by the A’s in the first round of the 2009 draft 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.

 

Jermaine Mitchell

JERMAINE MITCHELL

Left-handed Hitting Outfielder

Age On Opening Day: 27

Drafted 2006 – 5th Round

A six-year minor league veteran, Mitchell finally put it all together in 2011. The outfielder hit .332 with 29 doubles, 16 triples, 15 homers, and 27 stolen bases in 536 at bats between Double-A Midland and Triple-A Sacramento last season. He also posted an impressive .430 on-base percentage to go along with a .530 slugging percentage. The A’s brass thinks this talented player may have finally figured it all out and will be looking to his performance this year at Sacramento to determine whether or not he’s truly got what it takes.

 

-SACRAMENTO RIVERCATS LIKELY 2012 ROSTER-

 

STARTING PITCHERS

Tyson Ross

Jarrod Parker

Brad Peacock

Travis Banwart

Carlos Hernandez

 

LEFT-HANDED RELIEVERS

Fabio Castro

Pedro Figueroa

Erick Threets

 

RIGHT-HANDED RELIEVERS

Jim Miller

Justin Souza

Merkin Valdez

Neil Wagner

Evan Scribner or Travis Schlichting

 

CATCHERS

Derek Norris

Joel Galarraga

 

INFIELDERS

Chris Carter

Wes Timmons

Adam Rosales

Stephen Parker

Brandon Hicks

 

OUTFIELDERS

Michael Taylor

Grant Green

Jermaine Mitchell

Brandon Moss

Jeff Fiorentino

 

 

Be sure to check back with A’s Farm throughout the season for daily updates on all the A’s minor league games and top prospects

 

Exclusive: A’s GM Billy Beane Talks Trades and Prospects with A’s Farm – Part 1

A's GM Billy Beane is cornered by a horde of hungry sportswriters at the general managers' meetings in Florida (AP Photo/Phelan M. Ebenhack)

To very loosely paraphrase that old-time sports junkie Alfred, Lord Tennyson…“it’s spring training and a young man’s fancy turns to baseball!” Well, not just young men’s, but lots of middle-aged and old men’s too! It’s also a time for general managers and front office staffs to evaluate just what they’ve got to work with. And few of them will be casting their eyes on as vast a sea of unrecognizable faces as our own general manager, Billy Beane, who spent much of the offseason acquiring talented young prospects that most of us wouldn’t recognize if we were standing next to them at one of the Coliseum’s communal urinal troughs!

A’s Farm took the opportunity to talk with Mr. Beane late last week, just prior to his arrival in Phoenix for the start of spring training, and just shortly before the mandatory reporting date for pitchers and catchers. We wanted to get his take on all the hot young prospects he spent his winter working to get his mitts on. Neither his reported contract extension with the team nor the Yoenis Cespedes and Manny Ramirez signings were official at the time of this interview, so he couldn’t comment much on those subjects. But I think his passion for the team and his excitement over the talented core of young players he’s assembled clearly show through here. So without any further ado, let’s go to the tape…

AF: Just to start out with, can you talk about your new contract extension that’ll reportedly be keeping you with the A’s through the 2019 season?

BB: We’re putting some finishing touches on it. It’s not quite finished, but I anticipate it being finished very soon. Conceptually we’re in agreement on most of the issues now and we’re just finishing it up.

AF: And is there anything new to report on the whole situation with the potential move to San Jose?

BB: Unfortunately, no news on the San Jose, or stadium front, as I like to call it. We just continue to patiently wait for some decision. We’ve been told straight-up that it’s going to come soon. It hasn’t, but we still continue to wait. There’s been no new news recently.

AF: I guess you’ve been having to give that same answer for a while now.

BB: Yeah, unfortunately we have. But there’s nothing we can do about it. The powers that be have their own timetable and things that they have to do, so we just patiently wait.

AF: Though it’s not official yet, the A’s have reportedly signed Cuban outfielder Yoenis Cespedes to a 4-year deal. So what can you say about him at this point?

BB: He’s a very talented player that we’ve spent a significant amount of time scouting. He’s a center-of-the-diamond player. He’s got tremendous physical skill. He’s played at the highest level internationally on arguably the best amateur team in the world. And it’s hard to find that kind of talent out there.

AF: Well let’s get to all the big offseason deals. When you first started talking to Arizona about a potential trade for Trevor Cahill, was Jarrod Parker one of first names that came to your mind?

Will Jarrod Parker wind up in the rotation? (photo by Ezra Shaw/Getty Images)

BB: If we were going to give up a pitcher in our starting rotation, particularly someone of Trevor’s caliber, one of the places we were going to have to start was with someone we felt could replace Trevor in the rotation very quickly. The Diamondbacks have a number of good young pitching prospects, and Jarrod certainly was near the top of the list for us.

AF: What stood out most about him to you?

BB: He’s been a pretty high profile kid since he came out of high school. I believe he was the tenth player in the draft, so he’s always been on everybody’s radar screen. He had Tommy John surgery a couple years ago and he bounced back well from that. He’s not a real big kid, but he’s got a real explosive fastball. And of everything we know, he’s supposed to be a tremendous kid with great makeup and competitiveness as well. So we gave up a very good pitcher, and what we really did was turn back the clock a little bit in terms of the service time and the cost. So we were fortunate and happy to get Jarrod and fortunate that Arizona would consider moving him to us.

AF: Is there anything you feel he still needs to work on?

BB: Usually with young pitchers, it’s just refining their command of the strike zone. Most guys who get to the big leagues can throw a strike, but it’s also about throwing quality strikes. And that sometimes comes with experience. So I think in Jarrod’s case, it’s just being even finer with his command – and continue to work on his breaking ball, because he certainly has a major league fastball.

AF: And what do you think his prospects are for making the major league roster?

BB: Well he’s certainly going to get the opportunity, along with all the young pitchers. Some of it will be depending on where Dallas Braden is in his recovery. Jarrod Parker, Brad Peacock, Tom Milone, Graham Godfrey, Tyson Ross – those guys will probably get a shot at the rotation, because we’ve lost a couple guys and Dallas may not be ready, and we may take it slow with him. I think he’s doing great, and I think he anticipates being ready. But if we’ve got a lot of depth with young guys, we may opt to go very slow with Dallas and make sure he holds up all year.

AF: So do you consider it pretty wide open for the final two or, if Braden’s not ready, three spots in the rotation – with Milone, Peacock, Parker, Godfrey, and Ross?

BB: Yeah, I think so. Yeah.

AF: I know you’ve had your eye on outfielder Collin Cowgill for a while now. I think you drafted him once and have tried to trade for him before.

BB: Yeah, we had a long history with Collin. We’d drafted him the year before he signed [with Arizona] out of Kentucky, and he opted to go back to school. And over the course of the last couple years in pro ball, we’ve always liked him as a player. We just weren’t able to get him over in a deal. He’s a right-handed hitting outfielder who can play all three positions and is ready to take the next step in the big leagues. He was a good fit as well in terms of where he was at in his development. He’s got a lot of skills, he’s got a little bit of power, he’s a good hitter and a good defender. He’s a pretty balanced all-around player.

AF: Is there anything you’d like to see him work on at this point?

Has Collin Cowgill earned his shot? (photo by Christian Petersen/Getty Images)

BB: Right now, he just needs to get some at bats at the major league level. He’s proven himself at every minor league stop. So hopefully we can just get him enough at bats. The fact that he’s right-handed will help that, and he can play center field. For him, it’s just experience and feeling comfortable. He had some big league experience last year and he had some postseason experience too. But we do like him as a player and we think he could have a long major league career with us.

AF: What do you think his odds are of making the major league roster out of camp?

BB: Well I think he’s got a very good chance. He’s done everything at every minor league level. So it’s really about giving him that chance. But he’s earned his way to the big leagues, and I think he’s got a very good chance. He’s got a lot of versatility too. It’s nice to have a guy who can play all three outfield positions.

AF: Now the final guy in the Arizona deal was reliever Ryan Cook. What did you see in him that made you want to get him included in this deal?

BB: Well he’s a guy who made some huge strides last year. He was converted from a starter to the bullpen. He’s got a big arm. He’s the kind of guy you like to have in the bullpen – a big power arm. He got a little bit of big league time last year, but really took a step forward. It’s nice to have guys with that kind of velocity in your bullpen. And he’s a guy we actually tried earlier in the year to get in another deal. So we were happy to get him as well.

AF: How hard does he throw?

BB: He can get it up there 95-96mph. He’s definitely well above the 90 mark. He can get in the mid-90s.

AF: Will he have every chance of making the major league roster?

BB: Yeah, it’s hard to say. Someone of those things we’ll be sorting out during the spring. But he’ll be given a chance.

AF: Now when you started talking to Washington about the deal for Gio Gonzalez, was there one name on the top of your list that you were intent on getting included in that deal from the start?

BB: We liked all four players quite a bit. It was a challenge getting all four, but we knew we had a pretty good pitcher we were trading. And I think, to Washington’s credit, it was a pretty competitive trade market. There were a lot of teams interested in Gio. But I don’t know that we’ve had a deal since I’ve been here where we’ve really liked every player at the level we like these guys. We think all of them are going to be major league players. The three pitchers have a chance to be major league starters. And in Norris’s case, we think he’s going to be a front-line major league catcher. So to get that many guys you think are going to be major leaguer starters or front-line major leaguers, I think is pretty unusual, so we were very pleased with what we got back.

AF: Well that deal certainly did a lot to fortify your whole system and it looks like those three guys could be the core of your major league rotation for some time to come.

BB: Yeah, hopefully. With a small market club, you kind of have to develop your own pitching. And when you trade for it, you have to get it pretty young. We’re not going to make much headway going through the free agent market for pitchers. It’s expensive and it’s pretty risky. So this is the way we have to do it. Hopefully this group will be a group that stays together for a long time. A lot of it’s predicated on what our future is.

AF: So let’s break it down one by one. Tom Milone, a left-hander, seems to be a pretty smart pitcher who knows what he’s doing. What did you see in him that you really liked?

Can Tom Milone replace Gio in the rotation, and as Dallas Braden's favorite lefty friend? (photo by Ed Wolfstein/Icon SMI)

BB: He’s a little bit like Dallas Braden. He’s a pitcher who’s really dominated at every level he’s been at since he signed. He’s not going to wow you with his fastball velocity like Dallas. But he really knows how to pitch. He’s got great command. And ever since he came out of the draft, he really hasn’t hit any rough spots whatsoever.

AF: Now Brad Peacock was the lowest drafted of all the guys you got this offseason, but his minor league numbers were great. What did you see in him you really liked?

BB: Well he was a converted guy. So he really just started pitching. But he’s got a power arm and a real sort of heavy fastball. He had a great year and pitched a little bit in the big leagues. But he was one of the better pitchers in the Eastern League and one of the top prospects for Washington, so we were pretty excited to get him in this deal.

AF: He had an awful lot of strikeouts. What’s his best pitch, and how hard does he throw?

BB: He’s got an explosive fastball. The fastball’s the best pitch for anybody to start with. So it all starts with his fastball. And I think he was near the top in the minor leagues in strikeouts per nine last year, and that’s usually a pretty good indicator of how a guy might do in the major leagues. He can get it up there 93-94mph with some movement and it’s got some pop to it.

AF: Now the other pitcher in that deal was A.J. Cole. He’s very young, but people rank him very highly and think he’s very talented. What got you excited about him?

BB: He was a high-profile high school kid out of the draft. He’s got sort of a classic pitcher’s build – long, lean with a real loose arm. He’s got a tremendous amount of talent, starting with his fastball – which he can get up to the mid-90s – which again, is a great place to start. He’s the farthest away of anybody, but he could have the highest upside of anybody.

AF: Where do you see him starting out this year, probably in Stockton?

BB: It’s hard to say right now. That would be the logical next step for him. But I don’t want to make any commitments till I’ve gotten a chance to get to know the kid.

AF: The final piece in that deal was catcher Derek Norris. He seems like a classic guy you might be interested in. He gets on base, he has some power. I know he had a low batting average the last year or two. I don’t know much about his defensive skills. So tell me how you see him?

BB: Well, just as you said. It’s hard to find a guy at that position who hits for power and gets on base. He’s not dissimilar to the way Mike Napoli was when he was coming up with the Angels. His throwing was very good last year. He throws runners out at a very high clip. So he’s got a good combination of skills for that position. He’s very athletic. He actually runs pretty well. He probably runs well enough to be an outfielder if you needed him to be.

AF: Do you view him as a catcher though?

BB: Yeah, he’s definitely a catcher. It’s just unusual to find a catcher who runs that well and is as athletic as he is.

AF: Do you anticipate him ending up in Triple-A or do you think he needs any more time in Double-A?

BB: I think he’s about ready to take the next step. We’ll see how spring goes, but I don’t think we have any illusions about whether he’s going to go back to Double-A.

 

Be sure to check back tomorrow for Part 2 of our exclusive interview with A’s GM Billy Beane, in which he discusses the Andrew Bailey deal with Boston, what he looks for in minor league players, his favorite new bands, and his biggest catch of the offseason! In the meantime, feel free to share your thoughts and reactions in the comments section.

 

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