We’re now less than a week away from opening day, and Jemile Weeks has been optioned to Sacramento, Adam Rosales has been placed on the disabled list, and Hiro Nakajima has been struggling and is now dealing with a strained hamstring. And thanks to these recent developments, it looks like the A’s opening day roster may now be rounding into shape – and along with it, the Sacramento River Cats’ and Midland RockHounds’ rosters too. Of course, plenty can still change and nothing is etched in stone. There haven’t been any official announcements from the team yet and there probably won’t be until about 24 hours before opening day, but below are our projected opening day rosters for the A’s and their Triple-A and Double-A affiliates based on what we think we know at this point…
***UPDATE: In something of a surprise, the A’s have designated LHP Travis Blackley for assignment. This opens a spot in the A’s bullpen for either Evan Scribner, Pedro Figueroa, Mike Ekstrom or Hideki Okajima. Their spot in the River Cats bullpen will be filled by RHP Danny Otero, who was claimed off waivers.
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There was a lot of action at the A’s minor league camp on Saturday, with Michael Ynoa making the start in the Double-A game and Hiro Nakajima getting in a few innings at second base in the Triple-A game. Ynoa’s fastball was topping out in the mid-90s, and Nakajima blasted an opposite field home run.
Michael Ynoa on the bullpen mound before his start in Saturday’s Double-A game at Papago Park
Michael Ynoa warming up before Saturday’s start
Michael Ynoa is a towering figure on the mound at Papago Park
Michael Ynoa was throwing in the mid-90s in Saturday’s Double-A game at Papago Park
Hiro Nakajima sees what the world looks like from second base in Saturday’s Triple-A game at Papago Park
Not only did Hiro play second base and shortstop in Saturday’s Triple-A game, but he hit a home run as well
Grant Green at the plate in Saturday’s Triple-A game at Papago Park
The home run king of the A’s minor league system in 2012, outfielder Dusty Robinson hit 27 home runs between Burlington and Stockton last season
Players and coaches hanging out in and around the dugout during Saturday’s Double-A game at Papago Park
Major League Game vs. SF Giants at Scottsdale Stadium
The A’s topped the Giants 12-5 with Tommy Milone earning the win in his last start in Arizona this spring. But the big news was that Eric Sogard had another perfect day at the plate, going 3-for-3 with a home run in his underdog bid to overtake the favorites in the A’s heated second base competition.
Tommy Milone gave up 3 runs and struck out 4 in 5 1/3 innings to earn the win against the Giants in Scottsdale on Saturday
Jordan Norberto tossed a scoreless inning of relief in Saturday’s win against the Giants
The biggest A’s fans from Texas, Keri and Allie, supporting the Green & Gold in Scottsdale on Saturday
Stay tuned for more from spring training in Phoenix, including interesting insights from Bob Melvin, Grady Fuson, Derek Norris and more…
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24-year-old right-hander Dan Straily is generally considered to be the A’s top young pitching prospect heading into 2013 – and he earned that distinction on our own Top 10 Prospect List as well. But he wasn’t always quite so high on everyone’s radar. The Oregon native was drafted in the 24th round by the A’s back in 2009 out of Marshall University in West Virginia. And his numbers in the A’s system didn’t immediately open any eyes. But what did happen was that he just seemed to get better and better every step of the way. Rather than being challenged by each new level, each time the bar was raised, his performance seemed to kick up a notch.
Last year, after not even being invited to major league camp, Straily started the season at Double-A Midland, where he might have been expected to spend most of the year toiling away in the Texas League. But a funny thing happened, he started striking out batters at a rate of 11.4 per 9 innings while maintaining a 4.7/1 strikeout-to-walk ratio and an ERA of 3.38. About halfway through the season, the 6’2” right-hander was promoted to Triple-A Sacramento in the more hitter-friendly Pacific Coast League, where he proceeded to strike out hitters at a similar rate while notching an even more impressive ERA of 2.02. Straily finally got the call to Oakland late in the season where he went 2-1 in 7 starts while posting a 3.89 ERA in the heat of the A’s playoff run.
Conventional wisdom has it that there are currently five starters ahead of Straily on the A’s depth chart – Brett Anderson, Jarrod Parker, Tom Milone, Bartolo Colon and A.J. Griffin. And in a recent press conference, A’s assistant general manager David Forst referred to Griffin and Straily as the team’s 5th and 6th starters. Of course, spring training’s barely underway and anything can happen. But we do know that Bartolo Colon will be unable to make his first start of the season while he completes his suspension, which could very well mean that Straily will be in line for a start with the A’s the first week of the season no matter how everything else shakes out.
Of course, if any of the A’s other five starters should open the season without a clean bill of health, then Straily would definitely be well-positioned to stick around for a while after that first start. But if Straily does end up starting the season back at Sacramento, then he would definitely be one of the A’s top two pitching prospects at Triple-A, along with former 1st-round draft pick Sonny Gray, hoping to be the first called when a warm arm is needed.
One thing’s for certain, whenever the A’s call, Straily will be ready. He’s clearly a student of the game who appreciates the fine art of pitching and is hungry for the opportunity to continue practicing it at the highest level. For now, all he can do is focus on making the most of his opportunities this spring in Arizona where, when he’s not working hard in the A’s camp, he’s hanging out at the temporary home he shares with his wife Amanda and their new puppy, along with fellow A’s pitcher Tom Milone and his fiancée, and A’s catcher Derek Norris. It’s a full house, and a house full of young guys working to establish their place in the major leagues with a team that typically gives young players like them plenty of opportunities to do so. We talked to Straily this week just after he’d returned home from his fourth day ever in big league camp…
AF: Can you tell me a little bit about your basic repertoire of pitches you’re working with right now?
DS: Fastball command this year has been my biggest thing coming into the season. I noticed last year at the end of the year when I got tired, that was the first thing to go. So I’m making sure that’s dialed in. But fastball, changeup, slider and curveball are what I have to offer.
AF: What’s been your big strikeout pitch?
DS: It was really everything. There were some games it was the fastball. Sometimes it was the changeup. Sometimes it was just sliders. Whatever’s going for me that night – whatever happens to be the most “on” pitch. When you have four pitches, you’re going to have one off-speed pitch that’s going to stand out more than the others every night. It tends to be the slider. And then last year it seemed that the changeup was really kind of the equalizer, because guys had to think about that, and then they’d get the slider – or they’d think about the slider, and then they’d get the changeup. That’s my game. I don’t tend to fall into too many patterns. I just mix speeds and try to hit spots.
AF: Well, that’s good a thing because if you do fall into too many patterns, guys will start to figure that out and take advantage of it.
AF: Last year you had a really dominant season in the minor leagues, in Double-A and Triple-A, and that performance really put you on people’s radar. Was there anything it particular that really clicked for you last year?
DS: For me, mostly it was just the consistency. Every game, I kind of knew what I was going to get – my fastball command was consistent, changeup movement was consistent, slider was consistent. It was just everything you look for. You notice there’s not a whole big difference in terms of stuff from minor league guys, major league guys – the stuff is pretty much the same – it’s just the level of consistency. You know, each guy’s going to be different. For me, it was just finding the consistency of my delivery, and my stuff was there all the way through last year. I remember early on, I had a rough game in Double-A and they just reiterated to me, “You know, you’re not judged game to game – you’re judged over the course of the year.” And it starts to take that pressure off from trying to be perfect every single pitch to just going out there and trusting yourself and being confident in yourself. You’re going to give up home runs, you’re going to give up singles – it’s going to happen. But also the mental game, I was able to take that to a whole new level – talking with (Midland pitching coach) Don Schulze and (Sacramento pitching coach) Scott Emerson last year and just trusting myself and trusting the adjustments that we were making on the side. It wasn’t that I was a completely different pitcher, it’s that I was finally the complete pitcher that I am capable of being. I saw flashes of good changeups before, flashes of good fastball command, and then finally it all hit together.
AF: So it was really just a matter of integrating everything and just putting it all together consistently as opposed to doing something new or having some big revelation.
DS: Yeah, I never felt like I really did anything different. It’s not like anything really changed. I didn’t change my mechanics. I didn’t change anything else. It’s like I told some reporters last year when they called about all the strikeouts, I said, “I’m not doing anything different. They’re just missing them this year.” It’s more than that obviously. I learned how to set up hitters a lot better. I learned how to recognize swings. And I started paying attention more to what guys are trying to do and different things like that.
AF: It sounds like it was really all about just gaining command of all your pitches and then being able to execute what you wanted when you wanted. Am I right?
DS: Absolutely. Being able to trust myself, full count, bases loaded, throwing a changeup. Throwing changeups in counts when I normally wouldn’t throw them. Throwing that 0-2 fastball inside instead of just throwing a nasty slider because I know they’re going to swing and miss at it. Don Schulze came up to me one day in Double-A and just said, “You know what? No one’s going to care what you did in Double-A after you’ve been pitching in the big leagues for years. So don’t focus so much on your results today. Go out there and work on your fastball and your changeup today. Work on fastball command and throw your changeup. You have to develop your changeup if you want to be in the major leagues.” And I’d heard that so many times. It’s not like he was the first one to tell me that. But I just heard it so many times that it finally clicked. And I finally understood what he was trying to say. And he just happened to be the one who said it when I finally understood it. Yeah, no one’s going to care what I did in Double-A. Obviously, if you do bad, you’re not going to stay around. You have to be successful, but no one’s going to care about your success there. They just want to know that you can do it at the next level, and then at the next level.
AF: So at that point you just started to develop the confidence to throw whatever you needed to throw whenever you needed to throw it?
DS: Yeah, absolutely, like I used to only throw changeups to lefties and sliders to righties. And I finally just gained the confidence in my pitches, and the consistency and the command. You know, I can throw any pitch to anybody at any time. It’s really just trusting yourself, and that was something that I was really able to learn how to do last year.
AF: You mentioned your pitching coach at Midland, Don Schulze. Was anyone else key in contributing to your success last season?
DS: Well, Scott Emerson was really big on scouting reports and helping me learn how to prepare for a game. In Double-A, you don’t get a chance to really see a scouting report until you see a team once – you have to make your own. And in Triple-A, it’s a little better, a little more advanced. You see guys more often, guys have been around Triple-A for a few more years. So that was the first time I was ever introduced to scouting reports. So when I did get called up, it was a little easier for me to just go in there and read it and know what I was looking for and know how my stuff played into the scouting reports. It’s just a whole other part of the game I didn’t even realize really existed. So he was really big on that side of things for me.
AF: Can you tell me a little more about the differences between the various levels you were at last year - between Double-A and Triple-A, and then between Triple-A and the majors? Were there any specific things that you had to adjust to at each level?
DS: One of the biggest things between Double-A and Triple-A would honestly have to be the travel. You think it’s going to be great – no more riding buses, you’re going to be flying. But it’s not the kind of hours you’d expect. You’re not flying chartered airplanes – you’re flying the first flight out each morning and then having to play that night at 7:30. It’s a grind. And I wasn’t even there a whole season, so I can’t imagine what it’s like to be there for a whole year. But in terms of the actual play, a big difference is you notice guys start having approaches – not so much just one type of hitter. Guys aren’t just a power hitter, guys aren’t just an average hitter. You start getting more complete hitters. And then you get into some of these Triple-A PCL parks where the ball just flies.
AF: In terms of pitching, were there any adjustments you had to make when you finally got called up to the big leagues towards the end of the year?
DS: Not really. When I got called up, I was running on empty basically. But it was really good to figure out how to pitch when you feel like you just can’t get enough rest at the end. But then the day of your game comes up, you’re jacked up and you’re ready to go because you’re pitching in the major leagues that night. But you just get out there and don’t really see the names on the back of the jersey, you just see the scouting report and you see the game plan in your head of how you’re going to pitch certain guys and that’s really kind of what it boils down to. Obviously the media has built up certain players and their numbers speak for themselves but, as a pitcher, you don’t really see it that way, you just see the game plan and the scouting reports.
AF: You must have ended up pitching more innings last year than you had at any other time in your pro career.
DS: I threw 140+ innings my first year, then the next year I threw like 160, then in 2012 I threw 191. So I’ve had a steady upward climb.
AF: Towards the end of the year, you must have been aware that you’d thrown a lot of pitches over the course of the year.
DS: Yeah, at the end of the year, I was maybe just putting too much pressure on myself. But I definitely feel like, coming to camp now, it’s a whole different world to come in here and be a part of it from day one instead of just showing up in the middle of a playoff race and having to meet guys and be a part of a team at that point because you don’t know anybody there.
AF: Well, it must have been interesting to join the A’s late last year, with all that energy and excitement in a playoff run, and just step into the middle of all that.
DS: That was pretty cool. As a minor league player, you’re not so much noticing what they’re doing at the major league level. You’re more focused on your task at hand and your job and what’s going on at your level. So I didn’t even know about ‘The Bernie’ or anything like that. People don’t realize that you’re not focused on the big leagues when you’re in Double-A. You’re focused on what you’re doing to get yourself better. So it’s cool to get up there and actually learn about all the cool stuff that’s going on up there and just the fans’ energy that they’re bringing every night. The first night, my debut was in front of like 32,000 people on a Friday night in Oakland. And it was just a lot of fun to make your debut in that atmosphere.
AF: Last year with the A’s, you made 7 starts, won a couple of games, pitched well. But the one trouble spot was the long ball. You gave up 11 home runs. Have you had a chance to reflect on that and how you might be able to adapt to keep guys from being able to square up the ball like that?
DS: Yeah, I just did a terrible job of mixing up speeds. I kind of got away from my game and just let everything kind of speed up on me. And I was able to get home and kind of reflect on that and realize the game didn’t change at all, I’m the one who changed. It was frustrating, I can’t say it wasn’t. To be honest, it came up today in the clubhouse when I was talking with a reporter. They pointed out that I gave up 17 runs on the year (for Oakland), and I think 14 or 15 came via the home run. And I said, “Well, if I can figure out how to stop giving up home runs, I’ll be good to go!” But for me, it was just a lot of left-handers I’d fall behind in counts and leave the fastball out over the middle of the plate. And that’s what good hitters are supposed to do – if you fall behind and put a fastball right over the middle, they’re supposed to hit home runs. So it was kind of my own doing. But that’s not me – that was a fluke. Obviously, it happened – we all saw it. But that’s not who I am as a pitcher. And it won’t be like that again. It was embarrassing as a player. I remember the last time I threw against the Mariners, I gave up 3 hits – 2 of them home runs. It was very frustrating, to be pitching so well and then to throw a ball right over the middle – home run. I just didn’t do a good job of hitting spots.
AF: Well, I know no pitcher likes to be standing out there on the mound and have to turn around and watch one sailing over the fence.
DS: Yeah, and the weird thing was I think nine of them were in day games. And I have no idea why. I’ve pitched in plenty of day games and been perfectly fine.
AF: This is your first year in the big league camp, right?
DS: My first day of big league camp was Tuesday.
AF: So is there anyone around you’ve known for a while that you’re particularly friendly with who it’s just good to have around in camp?
DS: Well, my roommate’s Tom Milone. And you can’t get much more of an even-keeled type of guy than that. So it’s been good just to have him around everyday. Him, me and Derek Norris are all living together. It’s good – we’ve got a catcher and a couple of pitchers.
AF: How’s your relationship with A’s pitching coach Curt Young? You probably never got to spend that much time with him in spring before, but now I’d imagine you’re a lot more prominent on his radar.
DS: You know, he’s got a tough job. There are thirty pitchers or so here in camp. The only time I actually get to see him is when I’m pitching off a mound. I’m excited to hopefully be with him for a whole year – that’s the goal. From everything I heard, he’s just a great resource, which I saw last year when I was up – everything from holding the runners to pitch selection to how to take care of yourself. The guy’s been around the game so long he’s an amazing pitching coach.
AF: So is there anything in particular you’re working on or focused on this spring?
DS: I’m just focused on trying to make the team right now. I don’t get the luxury of working on something at this point. What I came with is what I have to go to battle with for the year. I’m sure, for some veterans, it’s more about getting ready for the season. Well I’m getting ready for the season as well, but I’m also fighting for a job. There’s only so many jobs available out there and more than enough guys to fill those positions. The last couple years I’ve had a little better idea of where I was going because it was pretty well laid out. But there’s no more room to go up anymore, so just trying to stay there is the hardest part.
AF: Well, I guess it’s pretty clear what the goal is now anyway.
DS: But the thing is, as much as you want to be there, if you’re not there, you can’t let it get you down because there’s a whole season ahead either way. So I keep telling people when they ask where I see myself going this year, I say, “That’s not up to me. That’s up to the front office.” My job’s to go out there and pitch, whether that’s in Sacramento, that’s in Midland or that’s in Oakland. It doesn’t matter – wherever they tell me to go, that’s where I’m going to be.
AF: I think everyone realizes the value of pitching depth at this point. I mean, the A’s used ten different starting pitchers last year. So wherever you are, if you’ve got a good arm and are pitching well, there’s a good chance you’ll end up in that rotation at some point one way or another.
DS: Yep, that’s what you’ve to remember either way.
AF: Well, it sounds like you’re just working on staying focused on your game, maximizing what you’ve got, and trying to continue making as good an impression as possible.
DS: Yeah, and so far from what I’ve felt, I just think it’s going to be a repeat and a little bit better from last year. You know, get a little bit better each year, throw a little bit harder each year, come into camp with a little better idea of how to be physically ready and mentally ready. I learned so much last year in every aspect of the game. And I’m just ready to go this year. I’m excited.
AF: Onward and upward!
DS: That’s right!
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There were lots of interesting quotes to come out of last weekend’s FanFest in Oakland. And based on what was said by A’s management, coaches and players, here are a few things that I think we can safely surmise…
* Coco Crisp will be the A’s primary center fielder and leadoff hitter.
* Chris Young will be in the lineup against lefties, give other starters regular days off against righties, and will move around in the lineup and see time at every spot in the outfield.
On Monday, we unofficially learned that shortstop Stephen Drew had agreed to a deal with the Red Sox and would not be returning to the A’s, and we also unofficially learned that the A’s would be filling the hole at shortstop by signing Japanese import Hiroyuki Nakajima. It was announced on Tuesday, after our last A’s Off-Season Transactions Update, not only that the Nakajima signing was official but also that, to clear room on the roster for their new shortstop, the A’s had traded outfielder Collin Cowgill to the Mets for Double-A third baseman Jefry Marte.
With the A’s new shortstop in the fold, it looks like their work is essentially done for the off-season and that the major league roster, barring any unforeseen (yet inevitable) injuries, is pretty much set. But it also seems that the Triple-A roster at Sacramento may be pretty much set at this point too. This really shows a remarkable level of certainty for an organization that’s typically had any number of question marks remaining at this time of year.
Below you’ll find a complete listing of the anticipated A’s and River Cats opening day rosters, barring any unexpected deals or injuries, as of this point in time almost 3 ½ months before opening day. Any changes should be minor, especially where the major league roster is concerned. I’d expect any changes to most likely come from potential moves involving some of the minor league pitchers or infielders. Following the roster lists below, we’ll go around the horn and discuss where things stand at every position for both the A’s and the River Cats…
Derek Norris: Catcher of the future or lumberjack in training?
As far as the 2013 A’s go, catcher and first base are two positions that are pretty clearly set. Right-handed hitter Derek Norris and left-handed hitter George Kottaras will make up the A’s catching tandem. This likely won’t be a strict platoon though, as the A’s view Norris as their catcher of the future. I’d expect Norris to get between 350-400 at-bats, with Kottaras getting somewhere between 200-250 at-bats – of course, performance on the field could have a big effect on playing time behind the plate. The first base platoon of Brandon Moss and Chris Carter will remain in place in 2013. This should be a pretty strict left/right platoon, unless Moss regresses and Carter starts coming on strong, in which case the big right-hander could end up stealing some at-bats from Moss.
Second base may represent the biggest question mark on the A’s roster. Jemile Weeks and Scott Sizemore both stand a decent chance of claiming the starting job, while prospect Grant Green appears to be a long shot. It’s my feeling that, as long as he can show in the spring that he’s ready to put it together, the edge will go to former #1 draft pick Weeks. But if Weeks looks like he hasn’t learned anything, then Sizemore should be ready to step in – though we do have to remember that he is coming back from an injury that sidelined him for a solid year and will be competing at a position that he hasn’t played much over the past two years. Whichever one of these guys doesn’t claim the major league job will probably end up at Sacramento with Green. At this point, my guess is that Weeks opens the season with the A’s, while Sizemore ends up at Sacramento waiting for a chance to come back and take over in the event that Weeks or Donaldson struggles – but that could very easily change based on what happens in the spring.
Your 2013 starting shortstop will be Hiro Nakajima, with Adam Rosales likely serving as his backup – as well as the backup at second at third. If Nakajima proves to be more of a “zero” than a “Hiro,” then Rosales will step in and start getting more at-bats at short. Josh Donaldson will be the starting third baseman unless and until he proves that his second-half surge last season was just a fluke. If that happens, then Sizemore is the most likely candidate to step in at third.
Josh Reddick: The undisputed champion of the ‘Bernie Lean’ dance competition
In the outfield, the A’s have five players (Cespedes, Reddick, Crisp, Smith and Young) to fill the three outfield spots as well as the designated hitter spot in the lineup. Those four positions should offer up about 2400 at-bats, which would mean there’s close to 500 at-bats to go around for each of them – that’s if they’re all healthy. Of course, they won’t all be healthy. I’d guess that at just about any point in the season, one of them will be dinged up enough to, if not warrant a stint on the DL, at least warrant a little time out of the lineup. So I wouldn’t spend too much time worrying about who plays where and when. I suspect it’ll work itself out one way or another and we’ll end up seeing plenty of all of them in the starting lineup.
As for the starting rotation, it’s important to remember that Bartolo Colon will be suspended for the first five games of the season and the A’s will play the first seven games of the season without a day off. That means that, barring injury, Brett Anderson, Jarrod Parker, Tom Milone, A.J. Griffin and Dan Straily will open the season as the A’s starting five. Of course, there’s a reasonable chance that one of those pitchers could have some nagging injury to start the season. In that case, Colon could be ready to step into the rotation after the first week. If, miracle of miracles, all five starting pitchers are fully healthy and functioning to start the season, then Colon could always kill time in the bullpen until one of them is sidelined with a balky elbow, shoulder, rib cage or back.
The A’s bullpen will be a crowded place though. Aside from Colon, there will be nine or ten legitimate contenders for the seven bullpen spots. On the right-handed side of things, Grant Balfour will be the closer and Ryan Cook will be the primary right-handed set-up man, while Pat Neshek will surely have a spot after signing a guaranteed contract, and Chris Resop is bound to get a spot after the A’s made a concerted effort to acquire him from the Pirates. That would push Evan Scribner to Sacramento.
On the left-handed side of things, Sean Doolittle and Jerry Blevins appear to be assured spots after their consistent performances throughout 2012, and Travis Blackley seems to be locked in as the long-man in the ‘pen. That would push Jordan Norberto and Pedro Figueroa to Sacramento. Of course, the odds that one of those seven relievers starts the season with some kind of injury is fairly high, which would open the door to one of those spots.
Daric Barton: Don’t worry, A’s fans – only in case of emergency!
2013 SACRAMENTO RIVER CATS
If we make the preceding assumptions about the major league roster, and take into account the fact that the Triple-A roster rarely includes more than 12 hitters and rarely has any fewer than 13 pitchers, then the River Cats roster starts to fall pretty clearly into place.
The A’s acquired two experienced minor league catchers – 29-year-old Luke Montz and 27-year-old Steven Hill – who should share the catching duties at Sacramento this year. Meanwhile, veteran Daric Barton will be standing in at first base, waiting for his chance should anything happen with Moss or Carter.
If Jemile Weeks doesn’t make the roster in Oakland, then he’ll surely be the starting second baseman at Sacramento. But if Scott Sizemore is the one to get sent down, as I suspect, then I’d expect him to get the majority of the starts at second base in Sacramento, preparing himself in case Weeks again struggles. Andy Parrino, who was acquired from San Diego in the Tyson Ross trade, is bound to be Sacramento’s primary starting shortstop this year. I’d expect to see the versatile Eric Sogard getting most of his starts at third base this year, while also picking up a few other starts around the infield. When Sogard’s not starting at third, then fading prospect Stephen Parker is likely to get some starts at the hot corner as well.
Grant Green: Still looking for a home
Scott Moore, who has been the A’s most promising minor league free agent signing this off-season, can play third base, as well as first base, second base and the outfield, but will probably end up seeing a lot of at-bats as the designated hitter for the River Cats. Sacramento’s starting outfield should be made up of on-base machine Shane Peterson in left, top prospect Michael Choice in center and former top prospect Michael Taylor in right. That just leaves our old friend Grant Green, whom the organization could make the River Cats’ regular second baseman, but I’m guessing that, when it’s all said and done, they’ll end up utilizing his versatility and giving him starts all over the field – preparing him for his most likely future role with the A’s as a versatile utility man.
There are three pitchers who, as long as they’re healthy, are sure to make Sacramento’s starting rotation – top prospects Brad Peacock and Sonny Gray, along with left-hander Andrew Werner, who was acquired from San Diego in the Tyson Ross deal. The rest of the River Cats’ rotation will be filled out by two of the following four hurlers – right-handers Jesse Chavez, Bruce Billings and Travis Banwart, as well as major league veteran and minor league free agent signee Garrett Olson. Of the two who don’t make the rotation, one will likely end up as the long-man in the River Cats’ bullpen with the other either DL’d, traded or released.
Sacramento’s 2013 bullpen ought to boast an impressive array of arms who could be ready to step in and help at the major league level at a moment’s notice. If all the major league bullpen arms are healthy, then the River Cats’ ‘pen should include names like Evan Scribner, Arnold Leon, James Simmons and minor league free agent signee Mike Ekstrom from the right side and Jordan Norberto, Pedro Figueroa and minor league free agent signee Justin Thomas from the left side.
On the whole, it looks like a River Cats roster that ought to be more than ready to defend its division title and, hopefully, so should the 2013 A’s!
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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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AF: Well, the final big off-season trade was the one with the Red Sox for Andrew Bailey and Ryan Sweeney. The main guy you got back in that deal was Josh Reddick. And I imagine you’ve got to be feeling pretty good about him at this point.
DF: Yeah, very good. I don’t think we knew ourselves that Josh would be capable of stepping right into the middle of the lineup and hitting the way he has and obviously hitting in the 3-hole for us pretty much all season. He’s really been our most consistent guy. We knew he was a good hitter, and we knew he was going to be an above average right fielder, but he has exceeded even our own expectations. So we’re very happy with Josh at this point, and I don’t see any reason why he wouldn’t continue to hit in the middle of the lineup here.
AF: It seems like he’s making a lot of fans in Oakland real quick.
DF: Yeah, he is a fan favorite as well. He’s got a little bit of personality to him, which never hurts.
DF: Well, I’ll have to see how many of those we can corner.
AF: The other hitter in that deal was infielder Miles Head, who’s been putting up great numbers at Stockton this year. You’ve got to be pretty pleased with him as well.
DF: Yeah, he’s been outstanding. He just turned 21 a week ago. To come into his first exposure at High-A and put up those kind of numbers has been outstanding. And playing third base for the most part, a position that he hasn’t played in a while, and he’s been pretty good over there too. He’s been the best guy on that Stockton team to date and one of our most consistent hitters in all the minor leagues. Miles has done a great job.
AF: Do you see him spending a full season at Class-A, or might he get bumped up if he keeps hitting like he has?
DF: I think we’re open to having him move. We’re talking about just a 100 plus at bats right now. And you’d like to see a guy do it for probably at least twice that long. Our history in terms of moving guys up from the California League to Double-A has been to make them do it for at least a full half-season and then see where they are because it is a huge jump. People talk about the jump from Triple-A to the big leagues obviously being the toughest. But to go from A-Ball to Double-A is a significant jump and you’re really facing a different level of pitcher there, so you want to make sure guys are ready before you make that decision.
AF: The final guy in that deal was pitcher Raul Alcantara, who’s just 19 years old. And he’s been a little inconsistent at Burlington so far.
DF: Yeah, Raul will pitch all year at 19, so age is very much on his side. But like you said, he’s been kind of inconsistent. He had a very good start two starts ago where he threw 6 shutout innings and then came out the other day and walked 7 guys in 4 1/3 innings. So it’s a pretty typical trend line for a young kid first time in full-season ball. We weren’t even going to send him out to a full-season team after spring training, but he had a good camp and our guys liked the progress he was making. He really is very much in the development stage, working on both his secondary pitches and fastball command – the basic fundamentals you need a young pitcher to work on. And while he’s there, he’s holding his own, which is what you sort of hope for out of a 19-year-old.
AF: Okay, now getting beyond the off-season deals, there are some other guys in the system who people are always interested in finding out more about. And the guy who’s always at the top of that list is former first-round draft pick Michael Choice, who’s been playing at Midland and just hit his second homer of the year the other day. (He’s since hit his third).
DF: I don’t totally know what to make of the power numbers right now, other than to say that we’re not at all concerned about him. I think one thing you know for sure with Michael is that he’s going to hit for power. So I would imagine that we’re going to see a spurt here at some point where he puts together 5 or 6 home runs in a week and brings those numbers right back up. The nice thing is he’s maintained the average in Double-A that he put together in A-Ball last year. He’s walking, his on-base has been right around .350 all year, and he’s out there everyday and healthy. So I think there are a lot of good indicators when it comes to Michael, and we have no doubt the power numbers will catch up.
AF: I’ve noticed he has been getting on base at a pretty regular clip anyway, which is always good to see. Another guy at Midland who everyone’s had their eye on who’s also been a little spotty so far is last year’s first-round draft pick Sonny Gray.
DF: Yeah, I think we all had high expectations because of where Sonny was drafted and frankly how well he came out of the gate last year with his 20 innings in Double-A, which no one really expected him to do. So when you look and his ERA’s in the mid-fours and he’s not quite striking out a batter an inning, we obviously all had high expectations. But again, in Sonny’s first year out, he’s holding his own in Double-A and his stuff has been very good every time out. (Director of player development) Keith Lieppman was in there recently and was raving about his breaking ball as a major league out pitch. And I think it’s just a matter of time before Sonny figures it out and his command gets better and he starts putting up some dominating starts at that level.
AF: Another guy at Midland who’s a really interesting story is Sean Doolittle, who started out great at Stockton and was bumped up to Midland and so far has looked really good there too.
DF: Yeah, Sean has the potential to be a great story. Obviously, everybody knows what a great prospect he was as a position player. Unfortunately, his body just didn’t allow him to do it. But he’s now put together, between Stockton and Midland, I think 14 innings where he’s struck out 28 guys or something, and he’s touching 95-97 mph just about every time out. Obviously with a guy like that, you know his fastball’s going to play and it’s just a matter of working on his changeup and breaking ball. And that’s something we’ve stressed with Sean – not to just throw fastballs by guys but make sure he’s working on that other stuff. But as long as he continues to have success like that, then he’s going to move up the chain.
AF: Besides A.J. Cole, there are a few other highly-regarded pitchers who’ve also been struggling at Stockton so far this year – guys like Ian Krol and Blake Hassebrock. I think they’ve both had some injury issues too. I know Krol’s on his way back, but is Hassebrock likely to be out for a while?
DF: He’s got an oblique issue that’s been bothering him, so he’s not quite back to throwing yet. He’s been out almost two full weeks now I believe. But yeah, Blake struggled a little bit before he went on the DL. We’re not going to see him pitch I would guess for another few weeks. And Ian just got back from his own DL stint. He pulled a groin a couple of outings ago and missed about two weeks, but he threw three innings the other night and seems to be back on track. That whole Stockton rotation right now is struggling. And it’s a tough place for pitchers. There are a lot of ballparks there where the ball flies, and you’ve got some older hitters spread out throughout the league. So it’s going to take some time for these guys to adjust. But their stuff is good and, for the most part, their arms are healthy. But Blake Treinen and T.J. Walz are doing a nice job. You’ve got a good group. I think it’s just going to take a while for them to put it together.
AF: Yeah, Walz has really been the best starter so far at Stockton. And then down at Burlington, Sean Murphy and Drew Granier have both looked really good. I don’t know if their performances have been a bit of a pleasant surprise for you.
DF: Yeah, they’ve definitely opened up some eyes with their performance there and are in the conversation to move up at some point. Both guys have done well. Burlington’s right around .500, with not a lot of offensive performance to date. So it’s clearly been the pitching staff’s that’s carried them, and those guys you mentioned have been as good as anyone.
AF: I think they were both 32nd and 33rd round draft picks.
DF: Yeah, exactly, and they went out and had decent summers last year. But you really can’t evaluate these guys until they get into full-season ball. And they’ve both been very good.
AF: The one guy who’s really been driving the offense at Burlington so far this year is outfielder Dusty Robinson, who’s been looking like a real power prospect.
DF: Yeah, his slugging numbers have been good from day one. He’s a guy we really did like out of the draft last year. He didn’t go in a premium position, but J.T. Stotts, our area scout, was very vocal about wanting this guy and feeling like his swing was going to play at the next level. And Dusty’s put up excellent numbers in what is typically a tough hitting environment, between the cold weather there in April and May and some tough parks to hit in. But he has been their most consistent offensive performer.
AF: Is there anyone I didn’t bring up who’s prominent on your radar screen and particularly worth mentioning from your point of view?
DF: Nope, you were pretty thorough. I think you’ve covered just about everyone who’s doing all right so far.
AF: Well, hopefully everyone who’s on your radar screen is on A’s Farm’s radar screen!
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Last month, A’s Farm compiled our A’s Consensus Top 10 Prospect List, gathered from a variety of many different A’s prospect lists currently available. At the time, we offered our own analysis of each of the players on our list. But we wanted to find someone who could provide even greater insight into the players who represent the future of the A’s. And when looking for someone to give A’s fans a real insight into the organization’s top prospects, it’d be hard to find anyone better-suited than the A’s director of player personnel Billy Owens.
In his position with the A’s, Owens plays as many roles as a super utilityman. He works with general manager Billy Beane and assistant general manager David Forst in identifying potential major and minor league trade targets, with scouting director Eric Kubota in profiling potential draft picks, and with farm director Keith Lieppman in keeping a finger on the pulse of the farm system.
Billy Owens, back when he was striking fear into the hearts of Carolina League hurlers (courtesy of checkoutmycards.com)
Owens first entered the world of professional baseball twenty years ago when he was drafted by the Baltimore Orioles in the third round of the 1992 draft. The slugging first baseman made stops at such exotic locales as Kane County, Albany, Frederick, Bowie, Rochester, Kissimmee and finally Jackson, Mississippi, where he claims to have made his best decision as a player evaluator when he decided to quit playing and get into the world of scouting.
Owens joined the A’s organization in 1999, working as an area scout and coaching short-season baseball over the next five years. The team eventually decided to elevate him to his current position in 2004, where he’s been able to put his knowledge of the game and its players to much more thorough use.
Now A’s Farm has the opportunity to take advantage of that too as we get his take on our A’s Consensus Top 10 Prospect List, as well as a few other players of particular interest. Owens’ knowledge of players inside and outside the A’s organization is broad and deep, but his genuine enthusiasm for the prospects currently stocking the A’s system should be very refreshing to hear for any true fan of the green and gold!
Acquired from Arizona in the Trevor Cahill trade, the Diamondbacks’ first-round draft pick in 2007 struck out 112 batters in 130 2/3 innings at Double-A Mobile last year after missing all of the 2010 season due to Tommy John surgery.
BILLY OWENS: He’s a fascinating prospect. He had a tremendous performance the other day in his first outing in major league camp. He was sitting comfortably at 91-93 mph. He had an opportunity to bury a fastball inside on a 2-2 count, and that fastball was at 95-96 mph. He’s got a tremendous repertoire. His changeup has a chance to be a plus major league pitch. His breaking ball actually has a chance to be an average to plus major league pitch as well. He’s a tremendous athlete. His arm slot’s probably unique – his arm slot’s a little bit higher than normal. From a body standpoint, you could draw a comparison to maybe David Cone. He’s 6’0” and a tremendous athlete. He’s able to field his position well, quick feet on the mound, with tremendous stuff. The Tommy John surgery set him back a few years ago. He was a top 10 overall pick in the draft out of high school inIndiana. And the sky’s the limit. With his stuff, he’s got a chance to really exceed expectations.
Probably the best pure power hitter in the organization, the A’s first-round draft pick in 2010 hit 30 homers and posted a .285/.376/.542 slash line while playing center field for Class-A Stockton last year.
BILLY OWENS: He’s a physical specimen. He’s got tremendous all-fields power. Armann Brown, our scout down there in Texas, did a tremendous job. Michael’s exciting. The bat gets through the zone in a blur. It’s hard to totally compare guys to major leaguers, but this guy’s bat speed is reminiscent of Gary Sheffield – it’s that explosive, it’s that powerful, it’s that quick through the strike zone. Michael’s only had a full season of A-ball, so there’s a lot of maturation process going forward. But he’s a tremendous kid. He’s smart. He’s got a thirst for knowledge. The foot speed is there to cover ground in the outfield. He’s a tenacious competitor, and he can hit the ball to the stratosphere. You don’t see power like Michael Choice everyday in the minor leagues.
Brad Peacock (photo by Christopher Pasatieri/Getty Images)
Acquired from the Nationals in the Gio Gonzalez deal, the 24-year-old right-hander turned heads by posting a 2.39 ERA while striking out 177 in 146 2/3 innings between Triple-A Syracuse and Double-A Harrisburg last season.
BILLY OWENS: He’s an athletic kid. He was a shortstop in junior college. He throws in the low ‘90s. He’s got a very repeatable delivery. He’s aggressive in the strike zone with the fastball. His curveball has shape – it has depth as far as the break, and it’s got some snap to it. His changeup is solid. And he had just a phenomenal year last year between Double-A, Triple-A and the major leagues for three or four starts. We started watching him all the way back in his junior college days with Trevor Schaffer, our scout out there in Florida. Personally, I saw Brad pitch in the Arizona Fall League in 2010. That’s when we saw him start to really make strides – pound the zone, use both sides of the plate, show that outstanding curveball, good changeup. And he’s got a chance to build upon last year and be a solid major league starter at some point. The ingredients are there. It’s just a matter of us finishing him off here in major league camp and deciding where the chips may fall. But the potential is definitely enormous.
A fourth-round draft pick of the Nationals in 2010, the 6’4” right-hander has struck out batters at a rate of 10.9 per 9 innings over his short minor league career, and many believe he could turn out to be the real gem of the Gio Gonzalez deal.
BILLY OWENS: He has tremendous potential. He’s tall, he’s lanky. He’s got that ultimate build that we think is going to fill out and be strong and have a chance to be a horse out there on the mound. He’s got a mid-90s fastball, good breaking ball, burgeoning changeup, and he’s a strike thrower. He’s a guy that we identified all the way back to the draft. Trevor Schaffer, our Florida scout, was also able to identify him in the draft process. And the Nationals made a good selection there. He went last year to the South Atlantic League and really set that league on fire. He was tremendous all year. And talking to the Nationals in this trade for Gio Gonzalez, who obviously was an outstanding pitcher, Cole was definitely one of the headliners of the deal. So we’re definitely excited to have him.
Sonny Gray (photo by Michael Zagaris/Getty Images)
Often compared to former A’s righty Tim Hudson, the team’s first-round draft pick in 2011 logged 5 starts at Double-A Midland late last summer, giving up just 1 run in 20 innings while striking out 18, and is expected to climb the ladder quickly.
BILLY OWENS: He’s a big-game pitcher. He was the Friday night pitcher at Vanderbilt from day one. He was a guy that our scouts out there in the southeast – Michael Holmes, Matt Ransom – they actually identified Sonny all the way back to high school. And everything he’s accomplished so far, those guys predicted back then. This kid’s as tough as nails. This kid’s a tremendous athlete, along the Tim Hudson lines. He’s a vivacious competitor. His skills on the mound are solid. He’s got a 94-95 mph fastball. He can run that two-seamer at 91-92 mph. He can snap off a very good breaking ball. His changeup’s improving – he’s starting to trust his changeup a lot more. And first and foremost, Sonny is just a gifted competitor. When something arises where you want that rock out there on the mound, you want a tough kid, you want somebody who’s going to be able to handle adversity, I vote for Sonny.
Originally drafted as a shortstop but moved to the outfield midway through last season, the A’s 2009 first-round draft pick consistently hits the ball hard and could earn a shot in the A’s outfield before long.
BILLY OWENS: Grant’s a gifted hitter. He’s probably a .300 career hitter so far, between A-ball and Double-A. He’s able to use all fields line to line. This guy can smoke a ball down the right field line, he can smoke a ball down the left field line, and eventually he’s going to be able to hit the ball to the wall. This guy has got a gift to square the baseball up. He’s a got a certain knack to hit the baseball with authority to all fields. I think the shortstop position was something that possibly he could have handled down the road, but his bat is going to be ahead of his defense, and so we made a decision to expedite what he does best, which is hit, and move him to the outfield. And hopefully we can get him to the point where he’s got that certain comfort zone in the outfield. His swing is reminiscent of Michael Young’s in Texas, and I think that he’ll be able to do that at the top level eventually.
The only hitter the A’s acquired in the Gio Gonzalez deal with the Nationals, the right-handed hitting catcher slugged 20 home runs at Double-A Harrisburg last season and sports an impressive career minor league OBP of .403.
BILLY OWENS: He’s a very athletic kid. He played primarily third base in high school. And so the strides he’s made in three or four years in the minor leagues have been tremendous behind the plate. His receiving skills have gotten better every year. His throwing arm is outstanding. I believe he’s led every league he’s played in professionally in throwing guys out percentage-wise. His average wasn’t the greatest last year at Double-A, but his walk numbers are phenomenal, so he still carries a high on-base percentage, And he’s got a little power – he’s got 20+ homer potential. He’s got a keen eye at the plate. He’s got an athletic body, and he’s got a throwing arm that a marksman would be proud of. So hopefully we’ll see him mature this year, build upon what he did last year in Harrisburg, and then after that, the sky’s the limit.
Originally acquired in the Dan Haren deal with the Diamondbacks, the right-handed slugger has 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.
BILLY OWENS: You’re talking about a 25-year-old kid who’s got 170 minor league home runs. I think his power potential is phenomenal. He’s got about 150 sporadic major league at-bats over bits and pieces of the last few years. At some point, whenever he gets comfortable, whether it’s this year, next year, this month, May, August, once Chris Carter gets comfortable in the major leagues, he will do damage. I can’t predict exactly when that’s going to be because nothing’s guaranteed and he’s got to compete for a job and earn a chance to play like everybody else. But if you look at Nelson Cruz, Jayson Werth, Michael Morse, Ryan Ludwick, those guys have proven right-handed power hitters normally don’t come to fruition over night. I like Chris Carter’s resume. And I really truly believe at some point he’ll do it in the major leagues. It’s not a matter of if, it’s a matter of when.
Acquired in the Gio Gonzalez deal with the Nationals, the left-hander posted a 3.22 ERA while walking just 16 batters in 148 1/3 innings at Triple-A Syracuse last season and he should get a shot to show the A’s what he can do in 2012.
BILLY OWENS: He’s got a certain savvy to him. His walk numbers last year were phenomenal. He only walked about 20 guys all year. His strikeout rate is tremendous. He’s got poise. He can use both sides of the plate. He can heat you up, he can slow you down. He can change you up. He can change your eye level with his breaking ball. He’s a tremendous athlete on the mound. He can pick you off. He can field his position well. He’s not a hard-thrower – you can turn the gun off. In the Dallas Braden mold, he’s not going to knock your socks off as far as true velocity. But he can put it inside your hands at the appropriate time. The kid can pitch. He’s a good athlete. The first pitch he ever saw in the major leagues went over the right field wall, so he’s got one more homer than the rest of us! This guy’s a competitor. He’s going to be a solid addition. He’s close to major-league ready, and I’m looking forward to seeing him out there at the Coliseum at some point.
After putting up stellar numbers in the Phillies system, the outfielder’s progress has stagnated a bit since coming to the A’s, but the 26-year-old does still have a .296/.371/.476 career minor league slash line along with some solid tools.
BILLY OWENS: Michael’s got a well-rounded game. He hit for a decent average two years in a row at Sacramento. Just looking at him, you can see the power potential. You know, the hardest level to get over in baseball is Triple-A to the major leagues. As much as we like to see guys develop between A-ball, Double-A, Triple-A, the ultimate goal and the best players in the world play in the big leagues. And in the big leagues, they hit their spots, they make adjustments, they will do certain things out there. So Michael has got to get to the point where he’s able to impress the big league staff, compete and earn that opportunity. The talent level’s there, and hopefully it manifests for us in the green and gold.
Collin Cowgill (photo by Christian Petersen/Getty Images)
The Diamondbacks’ fifth-round draft pick in 2008, the right-handed hitting outfielder barely missed making our Consensus Top 10 Prospect List, finishing just behind fellow outfielder Michael Taylor after hitting .354 with 13 homers and 30 stolen bases for Triple-A Reno last season.
BILLY OWENS: We drafted him actually the year before he signed out of Kentucky. He didn’t sign with us back then, so we gave him no choice and this time we traded for him. He’s got tremendous energy, he’s a feisty competitor. He can do a lot of things on the baseball field – he can defend, he’s got some power, he can hit for average, he runs the bases well. Cody Ross would be a very good comparison when looking at Collin Cowgill.
Josh Reddick (photo by Kelly O'Connor/sittingstill.net)
The key piece in the Andrew Bailey deal with Boston, the left-handed hitting outfielder hit .280 in 254 big-league at bats with the Red Sox last year, technically not qualifying as a prospect, but he is one of the most potentially exciting young players likely to make the A’s roster.
BILLY OWENS: He’s a rugged competitor. He’s got a nice power/speed/defense blend to him. He’s throwing very well so far in major league camp. The ball comes off his bat well. He hit 20+ home runs last year between Triple-A and the big leagues. Personally, I first saw Josh in the Arizona Fall League about three years ago, and he blasted a ball in the Fall League All-Star Game to dead center, and he hit it a mile. And we’ve been able to see that production manifest over time. And we were able to acquire Josh for a player, Andrew Bailey, who was a tremendous closer for us. So it was important to get a player back of Mr. Reddick’s caliber. And so far in big league camp, we’re excited to have him.
LATE ADDITION – YOENIS CESPEDES
Right-handed Hitting Outfielder
Age On Opening Day: 26
The year’s most-heralded Cuban free agent, the A’s signed the power-hitting outfielder to a 4-year/$36-million contract late in the offseason in the hopes that his talents will quickly translate to major league success.
BILLY OWENS: First off, he’s got a lot of syllables, so I might just call him YC for now! But he’s a tremendous athlete. Personally, I saw YC play at the Pan-American Games in 2010 in Puerto Rico. And just the speed, power, defense quotient was scintillating just watching that over five or six games down there in Puerto Rico. And it was a very calculated but educated gamble orchestrated by Billy Beane and David Forst to be able to acquire a player of this caliber. And the process goes back to Craig Weissmann and Chris Pittaro, two great scouts of ours, and Sam Geaney, our international coordinator. I think that we weren’t sure that he was going to be in our neighborhood as far as the dollars were concerned. But once YC got to our neighborhood, we felt that it was a unique opportunity to get a player of his caliber with his middle-of-the-diamond skills. It’s definitely a testament to Billy and David trusting our scouting acumen and seeing what he’s done over there in international competition and taking this opportunity and seeing how it works out. We think this guy’s a gifted defender. We think he’s got a throwing arm that’s going to be amongst the best out there. So the ability is there. But now you’ve got to go show it at a professional level, hopefully sooner rather than later, in the major leagues.
Sean Doolittle (photo by Christian Petersen/Getty Images)
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.
BILLY OWENS: He’s a world-class competitor. He’s actually the career win leader at the University of Virginia, who’ve had a ton of major league players over the years. So the pitching mound is not foreign to Sean Doolittle. We all thought that he’d be a tremendous first baseman/outfielder right now and hitting 25+ home runs. But due to injuries, that didn’t happen. But now he’s allowed to compete again, and the other day at major league camp, he was up to 93-94 mph. He showed a promising breaking ball. He filled the zone up. He fielded the position well. He’s just a very competitive kid who wants to go out there and do what he does best and compete on a baseball field. And that’s something he hasn’t been allowed to do the last two years, so he’s just waiting to break out. There’s no question about the toughness and the competitive skills of this kid. And now he’s got a left arm that just happens to have a rocket attached to it.
Thanks again to A’s director of player personnel Billy Owens for taking the time to offer his insights on some of the A’s most intriguing young prospects!
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.
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.
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)
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)
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)
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.
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)
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.
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.
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.
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.
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)
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.
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!